Saturday, May 07, 2005

Wedding Greed

Excerpted from
To Have and to Hit Up
by Jennifer Saranow For The Wall Street Journal, May 6, 2005

Guests invited to the wedding of Wesley Puryear and Valerie Hernandez will be treated to a $51,000 nuptial extravaganza, with a serenading string quartet, a cigar expert dressed in Cuban garb to roll stogies and a blazing Venetian dessert. Some of them will have paid for these lavish extras themselves -- to the tune of $150 a head. That's how much the future Mr. and Mrs. Puryear hope to collect from their deeper-pocketed invitees to pay for the August wedding in New York.

"It's like wedding education for guests," says Mr. Puryear, a 25-year-old bond trader who plans to foot more than half the total bill himself. "They need to understand the cost."

Puryear says he won't be hitting some people up at all: For out-of-towners and friends he believes make less than $40,000, his invitations will include information about standard gift registries. For others, he's encouraging monetary gifts by sending "subliminal" messages, telling friends how expensive the wedding will be.

Given the spiraling costs of getting hitched, couples say they have little choice but to turn to their guests. An average wedding in the New York area costs about $38,000...

Some point to cultures where honored guests pitch in to pay for wedding expenses; others cite the recent spate of highly publicized ceremonies in which brides and grooms had their weddings funded in part by companies in exchange for publicity. And then there's the growing number of late-marriers, who say they've already accumulated a lifetime supply of dishes and toasters.

'Inexcusably Rude'

But specifying outright which elements of the ceremony you want your guests to fund is another matter ... Peggy Post, who writes about etiquette, calls asking guests to pay for elements of the ceremony and party "inexcusably rude..."

For entrepreneurs, creating a registry where the bride and groom can solicit guests for specific items is a way of grabbing a slice of the growing $125 billion wedding industry. charges couples 7% of the money it collects and deposits in a couple's account on PayPal..., which launched last year, operates on a similar model, but charges couples a flat $9 fee after a month, then allows the betrothed couple to make specific monetary requests: Current ones include a $1,200 wedding cake, $450 for favors and a $250 pastor.

One of the first sites to test out the guests' chipping-in concept was, a wedding resource site, which launched a "create-a-gift" program in 1998. That service allowed couples to specify what they want to receive and to ask guests for American Express Gift Cheques in increments of $50 to pay for the items.

Not all guests comply with the requests, as Carrie Draghi found out last July. The 31-year-old was hoping to get friends and family to foot her approximately $4,000 photography bill. So she had her bridesmaids slip information into shower invitations asking guests to consult a registry with her photographer, Brian Ambrose. About six of 300 guests did so, for a total of about $600.

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At 6:40 AM, Blogger Karen said...

Well I never! Thought I'd heard everything...

Here via Michele this morning!

At 7:55 AM, Blogger kenju said...

I am not surprised at anything relating to weddings anymore. As a professional wedding florist, I am exposed to all forms of greed, including that which desires thousands of dollars in flowers, but expecting to pay much less than they are worth.

I would answer to the brides referenced in that article: One always has a choice. If the average wedding in NY is $38,000, one can always go to a JP or a magistrate and elect to have a small wedding with family only. Of course, that would take away the reason for their greed: ever larger and more expensive presents!

At 7:58 AM, Blogger Mirty said...

I'd much rather attend a very plain and simple wedding where I was wanted as a friend, than some lavish to-do where my checkbook was the honored guest.

At 8:36 AM, Blogger Prochein Amy said...

When I got married, we registered with a Travel Agency and ask if people would help us with our honeymoon. It was spread by word of mouth... If someone asked me, I told them and other did the same. That was 10 years ago and I had a few people give me some flack about it. That it was rude to ask for money. But my thought was that we did not need household items, both of us were established. But even then, it was not an extravagent honeymoon. We went to Houston for a few days. The gifts paid for flight, rental car, and hotel.

I don't have a problem with giving towards a bigger gift. We do it at work for baby showers and end up getting very nice gifts that our friends would otherwise not get and could use. (Like a stroller.)

But to ask others to pay for your wedding or hint strongly about gifts is rude. IMO.

At 11:44 AM, Blogger phoenix said...

My hubby surprised me with my wedding. I was 6 months pregnant and not really looking to marry him. Not everything about him pleased my inner woman and I wish now I had paid attention to her!

This was the first and last romantic thing he ever did for me. His cousin was a Judge in Gatlinburg, TN. We went up there just to visit. Then out of the blue he hands me a ring and asks me to marry him. In less than one day, we had gone to get the marriage license, his cousins wife bought my dress, and we were married by another distant cousin on the first cousins back porch. There were only 5 people present. The gift was the wedding. She also made our cake and bought me the very simple, but beautiful flowers I carried. The whole wedding may have cost 300.00 total including the dress.
It is another one of those memories that will stay with me forever, but sadly is tainted by my rash decision to marry the man.

At 9:29 PM, Blogger Badaunt said...

In Japan you don't give gifts at weddings (and funerals), you only give money. But you RECEIVE gifts. The return gift is (I think) worth about half what you gave, and is generally something nice but useless.

The amount of money to give is determined by the relationship you have with the bride and groom, and if you don't know how much to give you can look it up or ask a wedding planner. It is all made easy for you. The set amounts also mean that the bride and groom don't need to buy a lot of gifts, just a bunch in each category.

I suspect, though, that most Japanese people, if you asked, would want to keep the money gift part but forget about the return gift. After all, how many brand name matching towel sets does anybody really want?

At 10:38 PM, Blogger phoenix said...

Hello again!! Just stopped by and thought I would let you know I was here :)

At 11:14 PM, Anonymous janey said...

Rude is too mild a word. And I'm here from Michele's.

At 10:56 AM, Blogger scrappintwinmom said...

I got here via kenju today. This boggles my mind! I paid for my wedding myself, and wouldn't have it any other way. If you make the decision to have a gaudy wedding at $200 a head, expect that you won't "make your money back". I am in the NY area, and got married about 3 years ago. The whole thing (HM included) cost me about $24k. And I played it fairly conservative. Crazy!

At 1:24 PM, Blogger Ruby said...

I will be much happier (and less poor) having a cheap wedding. It doesn't have to be simple, just resourceful.

My current budget is about $5,000 but I think we might even do it for less.

At 5:27 PM, Blogger Lora said...

Obviously, a case of "me,me,me" syndrome. I believe that one should plan your wedding by what you are willing to pay, not by what you want to have. Once my husband and I started looking at costs we completely changed our plans.

At 12:02 PM, Blogger AJ said...

Greed aspect aside, this is fascinating. But it does make me cringe on more than one front, the most important of which is the realization of how unprepared I am to pay for my daughter's wedding (whenever it may happen (hopefully far) into the future. :)

At 12:56 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

greed greed greed what an ass hole

At 9:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Granted, that wedding and that groom are ridiculous. However, parents do need to realize that weddings are big business these days (eg, everyone charges A LOT), and kids--out of college with major loans to pay off from school--cannot really have a $500 (or even a $2000) wedding unless it involves the courthouse and Arby's, UNLESS family is willing to really pitch in and do things to help out. Even then, it's hard.

My fiance and I are trying to keep our wedding under $5k. Our parents--combined--are giving us $3k. A decent photographer alone costs over a thousand dollars, conservatively. I'd be tempted to elope if my fiance weren't the first grandkid to get married....

It's frustrating trying to be frugal yet have something nice without much help.



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