The evolving etiquette around asking wedding guests for money


arielmstallings
These days, it's more common for folks to ask guests to contribute toward wedding planning with concepts like honeymoon funds. This honeymoon fund box is from Etsy seller CountryBarnBabe

The Atlantic recently interviewed me for an article about Stag & Doe parties: The Pre-wedding Parties Where Couples Charge Admission.

For those of you unfamiliar with the concept, here's Julie Bogen from The Atlantic, explaining how these events work:

Parties like this are not the norm in North American wedding culture, but in some communities they have become a tradition. “[Where we’re from] people ask when you get engaged, ‘Okay, when’s the wedding?’” Reid told me. “Pretty much the second question is, ‘When is the stag and doe?’” That’s one name for these parties, which are known elsewhere as “Jack and Jills” or—as was popular with some same-sex couples I spoke with—“stag and drags.” They seem to be particularly common in the Northeast and parts of Canada, especially in small towns.

While the names vary, the festivities usually operate within a somewhat standard set of parameters: A couple gets engaged and then settles on an event space—church halls and community centers are popular because they can fit large groups of people at non-exorbitant rates. Then hundreds of people are invited to buy tickets that cover food and entertainment for the night, and donations are collected from local businesses, sometimes in the form of raffle items or catering.

The Atlantic article is super thorough, and I'd definitely recommend checking it out if you're curious about the concept… But Stag & Doe parties are just one example of how etiquette is shifting around couples asking wedding guests for money. Julie and I got into a huge conversation about the issue, and of course very little of it made it into the finished article — she had a lot of ground to cover! I got Julie's permission to share the conversation here, though. We cover stuff like how honeymoon registries fit into this, Amanda Knox's wedding crowdsourcing, and why you can do whatever the hell you want… as long as you're accountable for the social consequences.

JULIE: How did Stag & Doe of events first get on your radar?

ARIEL: An Offbeat Bride reader submitted a guestpost about it — and I had never heard of the concept! It was completely foreign to me, which is

saying something because, running a non-traditional wedding website, I hear about a lot of wedding concepts. It’s actually a treat when I hear about something I'm totally unfamiliar with! It’s not like, "Oh, we’re gonna have a scuba-diving wedding where we’re inviting our polyamorous girlfriend to officiate underwater." My response to that is more like, "Oh, cool! I love those kinds of weddings!" I'm familiar with that kind of thing.

…But Stag & Does were a cultural tradition that I was just like…I had no idea!

That’s the joy of the internet: we hear about things we would not otherwise be exposed to…  and Stag & Doe parties were definitely one of them for me!

Do you personally have an opinion about the events?
The increasing prevalence of these kinds of things is something that’s starting to feel less surprising to me. These days, we are very much in the era of GoFundMe and crowdsourcing. Even with sponsorships… I think that, thanks to Instagram and the rise of influencers, we're culturally more aware of people asking for money.

Recently Amanda Knox used crowdfunding for her wedding. Of course, people love to get their panties in a wad about that kind of thing, but ultimately it was someone recognizing, “This is a thing I want to do. I don’t have the resources to do it. There are people who might want to help. I’m just gonna put it out there.”

Culturally, we’re reaching a place where there’s less shame in that. You can just put it out there, and if folks doesn’t want to participate, they just don’t participate. It’s a great big world out there. So events like Jack & Jill parties and Stag & Doe parties are becoming more popular (or at least more visible) because culturally we have more of a context for people asking for money.

Even with honeymoon registries… I remember when Offbeat Bride did our first post a honeymoon registry in 2008, readers were freaking mortified — even on a liberal wedding blog! People were just horrified at the audacity of saying, “I don’t want plates or a candlestick. How about you just contribute some money towards our honeymoon?" The response at the time was: “It’s a gift grab, it's a cash grab.” 10 years later, we're all pretty used to it.

Now, would I personally crowdfund a wedding? No, because my values are around “live within your means, only do what you can afford, and if you can’t afford it, then shift your vision to be within what you can afford.”

So for me, personally, it’s not a fit with my financial values, but in terms of the etiquette of asking for money? The way I see it, as long as you’re not holding a gun to someone’s head, and there’s full consent and no undue pressure that anyone should contribute, then people can ask if they want to.

If there are social consequences—stuff like losing contact with friends or being judged—then ultimately the couple gets to deal with those consequences. But I don’t think there’s anything wrong with asking as long as they’re accountable for the consequences.

As is anything with weddings: go for it, do what you want! But you gotta be accountable for the fact that people may have questions, people may just have judgments, and as long as you feel good about the decision you’re making? Cool, then you can be accountable for any judgments that may happen.

 

It sounds like you are under the impression that these are gaining in popularity. Is that correct?

Yeah. The idea of finding cute ways to ask people to contribute to the wedding is definitely gaining in popularity, whether that’s under the guise of a GoFundMe or crowdsourcing or Stag & Doe.

I would lump honeymoon registries in this same trend, honestly, because it’s saying “we’re getting married and there’s something we want to do that we can’t afford. As your wedding gift, would you like to contribute in some way financially?”

It used to be that people would ask the father of the bride to do this, and now we’re not doing that as much. I think that’s a good thing, but the challenge is we still have these visions of opulent weddings, and where is the money gonna come from if it’s not coming from the patriarch?

We're moving away from marriage as a patriarchal concept. The woman isn’t property, the dad doesn’t have to pay for the wedding and hand off a dowry. Most of us can agree that it's good to move away from these patriacal traditions, but the price you pay is having less resources to work with when you’re trying to plan a beautiful wedding, and this is an expression of that challenge. It’s a good challenge, but still a challenge. 

What do you think about asking guests to contribute financially toward your wedding, whether it's via a Stag & Do, honeymoon fund, or something else?

  1. I am of the opinion that a wedding is simply a large party where the bride and groom are a host/hostess (host/host, hostess/hostess) to their guests. Inviting someone to your party but asking them to come to the pre-party and "oh by the way bring cash so I can have the things I want" seems way out of bounds when you are playing host or hostess to your guests. I rarely allow people to bring food when hosting even a dinner party because they are my guests.

    I think that anything that may cause your guest to become uncomfortable, be it the cash requirement or the seating arrangement or even the music that only suits you and your partner has really missed the mark.

    We spend a lot of time telling brides & grooms that it's their day and they should do or have what they want and what has resulted is a very self-centered, rather short-sighted group, in some cases. We do the brides& grooms we know a disservice by encouraging them to yeah, skip those grandmother's corsages and order that extra garland for your table when really taking a minute to remind a couple of how much their grandmother has waited for this extra special day and maybe repurposing an outdoor garland for your table so the grandmothers can feel special in return.

    Weddings are about community. Everyone who loves and cares about this couple is coming together to offer a benediction of sorts, a blessing, to show their support for this union…for their whole life.

    How do we, as brides and grooms, give back the gratitude we feel at such a moment? I personally don't think it is asking for anything, especially money. I think it is just to think carefully about in what way we can be the most thoughtful to those special persons who are giving us the gift of a lifetime of support.

    • "Weddings are about community. Everyone who loves and cares about this couple is coming together to offer a benediction of sorts, a blessing, to show their support for this union…for their whole life." – Yes, it is.

      And for some communities the way they want to show their support is with money and celebration. Stag and Doe's are very common in our neck of the woods and they're as much about raising funds as they are about partying and building excitement.

      A lot of times, they're a way to afford to celebrate with your wider community when you cannot afford to celebrate with them at a wedding. It's akin to having a birthday party at a bar and then your friends come and buy you drinks all night. People want to contribute and want to celebrate.

      I actually felt like I needed to apologize because we are most definitely not doing a Stag and Doe (too little time, too much anxiety).

  2. I'm in Norway, and it seems to be pretty normal to ask for money as wedding presents, though usually for the honeymoon. We're gonna ask for money so we can buy our own home. I think that's a way more meaningful gift than giving us kitchen stuff we don't need. We've lived together almost since we started dating, we have triple of everything! If there are people not into that, we will probably put gift certificates for IKEA and such, and thoughtful and personal physical gifts.

  3. I have long been someone who asked for experiences rather than stuff for gifts, whether it’s just a day out or dinner or a whole ass vacation, I’d rather do those things than get more *stuff* I don’t need, and when I do need/want something I’ll put that on my gift list too. I live with my partner, we’ve got a lot of the *stuff* that goes on registries already and certainly don’t need any more. So for me helping to enable the experience of a honeymoon or something we would not be able to do otherwise makes sense.

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