Hat Tip: Ari Kingsberg for pointing me to the Wolf's Post who gave credit to DAG who pointed readers to the Machberes section of the Jewish Press
Plenty of blog ink has been spilled about ridiculous engagement and wedding gift expectations, but I just can't pass up leaving another note on the subject. This time the note is from the Chassidish world. The Jewish Press reports about a meeting in Williamsburg, Brooklyn dedicated to getting the cost of marriage under control. It reports (emphasis mine):
On Monday, June 4 a large assembly took place, of Williamsburg Satmar yeshiva students, all of marriageable age. The focus of the meeting was the ongoing effort to stem the accelerating costs of marrying off children, particularly the cost of a shtreimel. Traditionally, the father of the kallah purchases two shtreimels for his future son-in-law. One, more expensive, is an elegant shtreimel meant to be worn under the chuppah, as well as for special occasions. The second, somewhat cheaper, is called a raigen shtreimel meant to be worn in inclement weather, thus preserving the other more costly shtreimel. The price of a first class, top-shelf shtreimel has exceeded $4,000.00.
The students at the meeting, future chassanim agreed to become part of Ateres Chassanim, and will not accept any shtreimel costing more than $1,200. The less expensive shtreimel is made from less rare furs, a distinction that only an experienced furrier could determine. This is a giant step in the battle to tide wedding expenditures.
Chevra Kol Chassanim, was recently established for students at the Kiryas Yoel Yeshiva for the specific purpose of “eliminating the pressure and high costs” of marrying off children, with its first target, the traditional chassan shtreimel. They, too, agreed to cap acceptance of shtreimels
to the $1,200 level. Both Ateres Chassanim and Chevra Kol Chassanim are admirable initiatives in the battle to limit unnecessary expenditures in the marrying off of children in chassidishe communities, very much in line with the “Simcha Guidelines” effort in yeshivish circles. Chassidishe communities, and Satmar in particular, are more cohesive, and the prognosis for successfully reducing luxury spending is promising.
Now I won't make any economics predictions about whether a group of bochurim will be successful in bringing down the price of a streimel, nor will I dare suggest that Satmar do away with the minhag of wearing a streimel. What I will say is: who put the bochurim in charge?
I respect the bochurim for taking steps to help bring down the cost of getting married. But, the idea that a future chatan thinks he can dictate the terms is just downright scary! It hardly seems tzniut, nor does it seem to jive with the concept of kibud av v'em.
Here in my world, when someone gives you a gift, the correct response is "thank you very much," not I've picked out the [item of choice] and you can go pay for it at your convenience.
But, of course, the social expectations of the Orthodox world have made it so that gifts aren't really gifts. In both the Chassidish and non-Chassidish (even Modern Orthodox) world, providing gifts is an exercise in meeting social expectations. While we all have expectations (e.g., a diamond engagement ring is standard), there is a point where one should just say dayanu!
Ariella blogged about her son's 7th grade class being taught what they will receive when they get married. (For those out of the loop, a chatan can expect an expensive watch among an entire laundry list of other gifts).
While parents throughout history have provided their children with gifts upon marriage, creating inflated social expectations (applied nearly equally across the board) is highly insensitive. But socializing our children to expect these gifts is cruel. Should they not receive, they will believe they are missing something. Should they receive, they won't be able to fully appreciate the gift. On top of that, many young couples don’t even have a reference point to appreciate what they are receiving.