Thu, 26 May 2005

Wedding Gift Stagnation

It pays to get married young. From my experience, wedding gifts tend to not keep pace with inflation. My friends, Gina and Kat, recently got married. Since they've been living together for a while, they don't really need kitchenware and linens; so, instead, they asked for cash to help pay for their honeymoon. I don't really like the idea of giving cash as a gift. We wanted to give them a gift certificate that they could use while on their honeymoon, which would show at least some thought went into the gift. But we started a bit late in the search for an appropriate venue from which to purchase a gift certificate, and didn't find anything that we were sure that they would appreciate, so we ended up just giving them cash.

I think the standard wedding gift price is $100. To me, this amount is neither too rich nor too poor. But this is the same amount that I've been giving since 1998 when my friends started getting married. (If you've received a wedding gift valued at less than $100 from me, sorry, I might have been low on funds at the time. Sometimes people don't design their gift registry to optimize the gift value per gift-giver. I wouldn't want to give a $70 frying pan with three washclothes, for example. When picking out items for a gift registry, one should come up with appropriate bundles of items that come close to $100 in value. That said, I've never set up a gift registry. I think it's more tacky than asking for cash. The last time I went through a catalog listing things I wanted someone to buy me was when I listed just about every toy on the market for Christmas, 1984.)

My point was that, in terms of gifts received, you would have been better off getting married in 1998 than in 2005. Unless, of course, you asked for computer hardware or consumer electronics for your wedding, in which case a dollar goes a lot further today. This observation isn't solely based on my generosity (or cheapness) in gift giving. About a year after Denisa and I got married, we had a reception in Slovakia so we could share the joy of our matrimony with her family and friends; and so the Krizan (Denisa's maiden name) family could get a return on the investments they made in the marriages of various cousins. The investments turned out to not be very profitible in real terms though. It seems SKK 5000 is the standard Slovak wedding gift from family members. (This was about $100 when Denisa and I met, but due to the falling dollar was closer to $200 when we got it.) But this is the same amount as Denisa's parents gave the cousins 10 years earlier. Slovakia had double digit inflation for a while which means 5000 Sk isn't nearly what it used to be. While wedding gifts aren't being devalued quite as quickly in the US (unless you're planning an international honeymoon), you're better off getting married sooner rather than later.

What should those considering marriage and those considering attending a marriage keep in mind for the future? If inflation stays low, there's not likely to be a revaluation of the wedding gift anytime soon. A few people might bump up their gifts to be $100 plus tax, but the next big gift amount is probably not until $200. If inflation picks up, gifting might move up to this level ahead of inflation. Those looking to get married would probably be better off during a recessionary period though. It is unlikely that there is much downside in the gift level so a fall in consumer prices would increase their gift values in real terms. Alternatively, a stronger dollar may increase the amount of linens from China that a dollar purchases (and prevent an undergarment war).

culture | Comments | Permanent Link

The state is that great fiction by which everyone tries to live at the expense of everyone else. - Frederic Bastiat