fireflies and cottonwood

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Into the fray: registry “inserts” January 16, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — girldogtorch @ 8:17 pm
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I have to admit: I have always been interested in etiquette.  I think I’ve read Emily Post’s 1922 book a few times, and noticed scenes having to do with manners in novels and storybooks.  For some reason, as a child, I thought it might be important to _know_ the different places the different knives went.  I also memorized a few key phrases in French, just in case.  (As a child in rural Illinois, who knows when I thought I might _need_ these phrases.)

And because I love parties, and invitations, and stationery, I still pay attention to many of those old-fashioned dictates regarding the rules of style and manners.  Of course, a wedding is the perfect place for all of these “rules” to come together.

Earlier this week, I noticed a post on the Indiebride etiquette board.  The writer was wondering why she shouldn’t put the registry insert into her invitations.  She admitted: I know, I know, it’s supposed to be bad manners, but really–what’s the big deal, and wouldn’t people like to _know_?

For the uninformed: When you register at department stores, they will give you some lovely little cards, on fine paper, with a phrase like, “The bride and groom are registered at Macy’s.”  They suggest that you include them in your invitations.

Also for the uninformed: You are never, never supposed to mention where you are registered, or even _if_ you are registered, anywhere _near_ the invitation.  People may ask those around you, and family and friends may offer the correct information, but to put it with the invitation makes it look like the invitee is required to bring a gift.  Brides and grooms are even discouraged from putting phrases like, “No gifts, please,” on the invitation, as this again assumes that they are getting a gift.

Okay– I get it.  I agree that it’s rude to seem grabby, and I would never want to make a guest feel as though they need bring a gift (or a particular gift, from a particular place) if they want to come to my wedding.  For the record, we probably will not be using the registry inserts.  (Unless the majority of friends and family suggest that they are helpful.)

Onto the dust-up.  As I was reading the writer’s question, I thought to myself, “Yeah.  What’s the big deal?  Given all the other supposed rules we discard when they don’t suit us, why does this rule make so many people upset.”  Because truly– even on Indiebride, these (mostly) women get vicious and name-call-y about the insert rule.  Those who feel it’s tacky will carry no truck with anyone who might even wonder aloud about using them.  Another commenter wrote, for example:

“To include the registry info with the invitation conveys to me that the couple is as interested in getting loot as in having me join the celebration: “you’re invited to give us a present!” And that does bug me. Not that I would cut you out of my life for doing so, but like some others here, the maneuver would reduce my esteem of you…”

I wanted to know why we are willing to suspend other rules, but not this one–why this one matters so much.  So I wrote:


“I have to say… I’m kind of changing my mind on this. 

For many years, I would have said it was totally, totally tacky. 
Like, this is how much of a stickler for etiquette I am: you know those tiny pieces of tissue paper that sometimes come with an invitation, inside the envelope? You know what those are for? 
Those are for if your invitations are _engraved_, and engraved only– because the raised, inked letters can rub off, otherwise. And yes, I rub my finger along the back of invitations with tissue to see if they are actually engraved, or just aping the tradition of having tissue. (This is a confession on my part– I would never voice such cattiness in person.)

And yes, I have engraved personal stationery– and when you do, you actually get to keep the piece of metal that is imprinted with your name and information, because the printer can’t use it for anyone else, so she might as well give it to you.

All of that said! I find the outcry over registry inserts kind of self-righteous. Look, if we were being totally, totally upper class (like, out of sight upper-so upper they wouldn’t notice us), we wouldn’t register _at all_. A few discreet shop and boutique owners would know our preferences. Or our preferences would be obvious: Oh, his family has always used this silver. Registering is kind of middle class object collecting consumer-y. (And I’m registering! I’m just playing this out for the argument.)

And if we were totally, totally playing by the strictest manners, we would not be pregnant if marrying, we would not get married in a bar/restaurant or on the beach (unless the family house is already beachfront, and the beach is way down the hill and has been there for a century or so), and we would not be offering menu options, either. Etiquette mavens have ruled out menu options _for years_– because at a dinner you’re giving in your home, you don’t give options; you shouldn’t treat a fine dinner party (reception) like a restaurant takeaway where people _choose_ what they will be given…

I could go on and on. (And seriously, I am never ever this judgmental-sounding–these are just etiquette factoids.) The point is– there are _many_ points of etiquette that have equal footing with the registry insert, and yet the registry insert is the one everyone gets upset about.

I’m just saying… we don’t look at a pink wedding gown and gasp, “Tacky! Strumpet!” or say regarding the bride or groom’s children in the wedding, “How dare they?” 
I know, I know… we have to pretend we don’t want gifts, that we’re not thinking of gifts at all. But isn’t that kind of faux-blushing facade worth re-considering?”


I thought I made sense, and sounded reasonable, and raised an interesting question.  I should have known better about the Internet.  Those who did not agree with me didn’t answer any of my questions, but just continued to insist that registry inserts were tacky; the conversation basically revolved around that point–a few people suggesting that it might be okay in some circumstances, and then others insisting that it is not ever okay.  The conversation continued for another page.  I’m determined to stay out of it at this point, mainly because another person posted a link to a fabulous, funny, and encouraging article by Offbeat Bride entitled, “Your Wedding is Tacky,” which I think sums up my main feeling about the matter.

What do you think?  Is it still a big no-no to be free and easy with the registry situation?  Would you think ill of a friend or family member if, upon opening the invitation, you saw the little card from Bed, Bath, and Beyond?



3 Responses to “Into the fray: registry “inserts””

  1. Shelly Says:

    I just think this whole thing is so much part of the “if you have money, you don’t talk about money” WASP thing. You know who’s not embarrassed to talk about money? People who are poor! I think “faux-blushing” is a really good way to describe this. I want gifts at my, um, Big Party Thing That Celebrates Love. In part, this is because I know the people who would come, and some of them have millions of dollars. Honestly? They SHOULD buy me the Kitchenaid mixer I will never in a million years be able to afford on my own. It’s like me buying a quarter-candy. I mean, I think the system that says that you have to have a wedding or a Big Party That Celebrates Love in order for this gift exchange to happen is messed up. But the registry insert issue is a non-issue. This is also part of the weddings-make-people-ridiculous-often issue. No one behaves like this, really, right? In public? For the other 99% of their lives? “Oh, please, no, no, no don’t tell me that this beautiful bracelet has a PRICE?! I must not see it. The pricetag will wilt my fragile little being. I will just whisk it away to my home. Please intuit psychically my credit card number and we will never speak of this again.” Please.

  2. Christy Says:

    When I am faced with deciding on a rule of etiquette I try to determine if breaking the rule is Rude or merely Tacky. I think the general purpose of etiquette is to enable one treat others with respect, while still maintaining a line of defense against the possible demands of those same beloved others.

    No, we needn’t give wedding guests menu options because we are hosting a private dinner party, not opening a restaurant. However, it is not rude to offer a meat, a fish, and a vegan option if we choose. Someone somewhere may call us tacky, but we haven’t offended any of our guests, and maybe we’ve even afforded someone the opportunity to feel superior–something she clearly needs while we do not.

    Including a registry insert says not only “Buy us presents!” but also “Here are the presents you may buy us!” Demanding gifts is rude. Demanding specific gifts is worse. No, our rich relatives SHOULDN’T buy us the standing mixer just because they can afford it easily and we want it. Why should they? If they feel so inclined to do so it is lovely and thoughtful of them, but they in no way owe us lavish presents simply because we are getting married.

    If our friends and family choose to celebrate our wedding with gifts, we will appreciate the gesture, however grand or small.

    I’m somewhat uncomfortable with registering at all, but we’ll probably do so because it IS expected in American wedding culture, and some people feel obligated by the gift-giving tradition and prefer the simplicity of choosing something off a registry (plus I need to compromise with my fiance), or the assurance that they are choosing something we truly need. But we never want to imply to our guests that they are obligated to choose a gift from a pre-approved list.

  3. Shelly Says:

    Here’s the deal: I don’t have any rich relatives. I am not ever having a “wedding” – I might have a Big Party someday, because I love dresses and dancing. But I am really not at all for wedding culture. Wedding culture freaks me out. I think all that white does weird shit to ladies’ brains. BUT! I think the heart of a Big Party like this is that a whole big community of people decides, collectively, to show up for the birth of a new family. It is not just two people getting hitched: it is a community vowing to support a new family unit, a new family structure. The words said on that day change the social order. It’s a big deal. And part of that deal is helping that new family get going. This is why money gifts for the new family to save for a down payment on a house are often given. This is why KitchenAid mixers are given. That mixer will make bread for them for the next 40 years – for their kids and maybe their grandkids. It is not an economy-stimulus thing. It is not a greed thing (or it shouldn’t be). It is about serious investment – putting your money where your mouth is, if you have it – in a new life, a new birth.

    At church, we do not demand an entrance fee. But we do invite people to pledge to the church, to declare membership financially. And it makes a difference in one’s spiritual practice and commitment to make that financial commitment. This is because money is not some abstract symbol of something: it is a person’s time and energy (or evidence of their luck or privilege). Asking someone to give a gift is asking them to contribute financially to the success of your relationship. To pretend like money doesn’t matter when starting a new life is bullshit. WASPy, pretentious bullshit. The only people who can afford to pretend that are PEOPLE WHO ALREADY HAVE MONEY.

    I’m not going to have a fancy party. I think my ideal day would be some kind of afternoon party in a backyard, with a priest. I’d like to go thrifting or ebaying to find a few super elaborate and hilarious dresses for really cheap (NO WHITE). Maybe hire a taco truck for the afternoon. Cases of Three Buck Chuck. I would not ever register for plates or silverware or tablecloths or anything else I could get from the Value Village or Goodwill in good condition, because I believe in reusing and recycling. But! I will register for things like a KitchenAid mixer, for towels, for things I cannot afford and that I will use for a lifetime. I might register for things I might need when I am blessed with a baby. I will also give people the option of donating to a charity (or six) that my partner and I know are in desperate need of money. I also know that my partner and I may have to save money just to help people we love fly to where we want to be, because we do not have many friends with money, and that’s fine, that’s awesome – we’re not expecting gifts from those folks. We’re not *expecting* gifts from anyone – but we are not going to pretend like there are things we cannot afford that we want and need, that some people who are coming can easily, easily afford and would like to give us.

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