Brides and grooms are cracking down on wedding guests and publicly shaming those who don’t comply with their gift registries and dress codes

Brides, grooms, and expectant parents have gotten more particular about what they’d like for their guests to wear and the gifts they’d be happy to receive. — Getty Images/Traci Beattie/The New York Times

Thanks to social media, the bar for big life events – like getting married or welcoming a baby – is higher than ever.

Desires for picture-perfect weddings, bachelor and bachelorette parties, or baby showers have led to skyrocketing costs and increased stress around planning for new parents or engaged couples. But now, guests are feeling the pressure as well.

Recently, brides, grooms, and expectant parents have gotten more particular about what they’d like for their guests to wear and the gifts they’d be happy to receive, and they’re becoming increasingly more demanding of their expectations on their special day.

Taking things a step further, some are also publicly shaming their guests on forums like TikTok and Reddit.

Sending back ‘disrespectful’ US$100 Venmo

One bride berated a guest for sending her US$100 (RM471) on Venmo a few days after the wedding, saying it felt a “bit disrespectful”, according to a Reddit thread, which also said the guest had been late to the wedding.

Out of disappointment, the bride sent back the money, saying she had expected more. In a similar fashion, another bride took to Reddit after sending an email to eight of her wedding guests, who had given the couple just one combined US$50 (RM235) gift.

Guests are pushing back on the higher expectations too, leading to tensions. One bride asked her guests to dress in fantasy- and renaissance-themed clothing for her wedding and took to Reddit to ask users if she was in the wrong for doing so.

She and her partner had met at a renaissance fair and wanted that to be part of their wedding, so they included an addendum to their invitation detailing the types of clothing they wanted people to wear. This included “photos, descriptions, (and) budget categories”, which upset many of her guests.

“I reached out to them after their names were mentioned and they said I am ruining what is supposed to be (a) happy day by demanding people dress up like idiots,” the bride wrote in the post. “They said everyone should be allowed to dress in what makes them feel comfortable and I am being very controlling.”

Another couple got backlash for including a QR code to the groom’s Venmo account in their wedding invitations, while another bride and groom got roasted on social media for including a 14-point list of rules for their wedding day with their invites. Plus, mothers-to-be have also started publicly shaming their friends and family for not buying gifts from their baby shower registries.

“When people don’t buy from your registry, you can’t return them for credit for other things that you need on your registry,” one TikTok user complained. “If you are attending a baby shower in the future, just buy from a registry.” Several recently wedded couples have also taken to social media with similar complaints about guests buying gifts that weren’t on their registry.

All of these occurrences – and many more – have sparked debate about proper etiquette for events. Fortune spoke to wedding planners and etiquette experts to find out whether their requests are warranted and the proper way for guests to react to seemingly controlling requests.

The rules of the registry

Wedding registries have evolved, particularly in the past 10 years, Bryce Carson, events director with Roberts & Co. Events, tells Fortune. Gone are the days of the traditional gift registry where couples request fine china and random kitchen utensils; in are cash-focused gifts such as honeymoon funds and first-home funds. Indeed, cash is the most popular gift that to-be-weds register for, with 74% of registry creators including cash on their wish list, according to The Knot’s 2023 Registry Study.

“This is definitely because couples are getting married a little bit older in life. They’re already combining their homes,” Carson says. “They do not need two sets of everything, so we see it less as a cash grab and more as an opportunity for couples to make their transition into married life as easy as possible.”

Now that wedding registries are largely online, it’s also made it easier to split large-ticket items among several guests instead of relying on a rich aunt or uncle to buy the high-end cookware or outdoor grill the couple has been wanting. And while wedding registries have changed, it’s no excuse to buy rogue gifts that aren’t on the requested list, Carson says.

“The etiquette has been and always will be that you need to purchase off the registry as a guest,” he says. “You do not know what they have in their home or combined homes. The registry is there to help guide you and prevent any duplicates or prevent them from getting something that they do not need.”

If the registry has few options left by the time a guest gets around to purchasing a gift, one thing that guests can do to stay within their budget is to include a nice card and gift card to the store where the couple is registered, Lisa Lafferty, a luxury wedding planner, tells Fortune.

“This way, the couple can choose something they genuinely need or want,” Lafferty says.

At the end of the day, experts agree that the bride and groom should be grateful and express gratitude for any gifts they receive – even if they weren’t on their registry.

“A gift is a present given without payment,” Lisa Mirza Grotts, a certified etiquette expert with 25 years of experience, tells Fortune. “If brides and grooms are taking this inconsiderate approach to friends and family, the shift is in sharp contrast to the reason for a wedding celebration: love, community, (and) commitment.”

Wedding guests also sometimes struggle to know the proper etiquette for gift-giving if they’re invited to multiple events such as a bridal shower or bachelor/bachelorette party. This may hurt your wallet, but those in the wedding party or people invited to multiple pre-wedding events are expected to purchase gifts for each one.

“While some couples may take into account the expenses that wedding party members incur for dresses, grooming, and other preparations, it can still be seen as thoughtful and courteous to give a small gift for both occasions,” Lafferty says. “This gesture acknowledges the couple’s generosity and contributes to the spirit of the events.”

In terms of the average cost incurred by guests to attend a wedding, including travel expenses, attire, gifts, and other expenses such as childcare, Carson says to expect to spend at least four figures – and to spend at least the value of the wedding meal on a gift. Today, most wedding meals cost three figures per guest, Carson says.

What not to wear

While it’s long been customary for brides and grooms to request either cocktail or formal wear at a wedding, more couples have started asking guests to dress to a theme or colour scheme. This trend has led to backlash from both wedding-goers who think the requests are unreasonable – and from couples who aren’t happy with guests who don’t adhere to their rules.

“This is definitely a trend that the Internet is pushing more and more towards as couples are trying to look at their an event as a fashion event and as something that they want photographed” for social media, Carson says.

However, brides and grooms need to recognise that guests will “go rogue” and wear things outside of the guidelines “because it’s already a hefty cost to attend a wedding in this day and age”, he adds. “Asking for an extra outfit is definitely a big ask,” Carson says.

On the other hand, some couples argue that a dress code can actually be helpful for wedding guests.

“By creating guidelines for registries and dress codes, the couple is attempting to alleviate this burden, allowing guests to focus more on having fun and less on pre-wedding stress,” Hannah Nowack, senior editor at The Knot, a wedding vendor marketplace, tells Fortune.

She’s seen everything from asking attendees to dress in cool tones like blue and green to a “kitschy, glitzy, Vegas, ‘camp’ clothes” wardrobe request “where flowy sundresses and linen suits were encouraged”.

“These kinds of shifts let the couple showcase their personalities and priorities while guests get to have some fun while breaking from the traditional wedding mould,” Nowack says. – New York Times

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