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Friday, July 11, 2008


Couples in Israel can now rent an ATM at their wedding hall in order to accept gifts. Strikes me as extremely tacky. I know the rules are changing, but this is over the line for me. What do you think?

And on a related note, a year ago almost to the date I asked my readers if Thank You Cards have become passe (not in our home, mind you!). Recently I received two thank you cards thanking me "for the check" and "for $18." My mother always told me when thanking someone for a monetary gift it is best to work around such by saying "thank you for the (generous) gift, it is very much appreciated." I recently read it is appropriate to write a bit how the gift intends to be used, e.g. "we are looking forward to buying a home to share" or something of that nature. I imagine it is best to make sure you know your audience when stating intent of use. Reminds me of a thank you card I received from a Bar Mitzvah boy in my Hebrew School class. He thanked me for my gift and told me he bought a tape of a heavy metal band. Perhaps he didn't know my feelings towards metal. Oh well. :)

Another note: There is something very uncomfortable about over exaggeration. This week I received a call from a well known tzedakah. The lady starts flattering me for my "very generous gift" from last year and asks if they can "count on me again." I thought to myself, she must be mistaken about who she is calling we didn't give anything "very generous" although I do recall giving $18 through a local school charitable drive. Turns out the amount on her record was $18. Please, don't try to flatter me too much. I think a simple "thank you for your gift" would suffice for $18.


Anonymous said...

My wife and I used to think so much about the "perfect" wedding present that we would forget to give one. Now we just give a check, along with a copy of Dave Ramsey's Total Money Makeover. We enclose a note saying it helped us and we hope it helps them. We just bought a box in bulk from his website ($10 each) to make it our standard gift. That way they get the money and a proper perspective on how to spend (save) it.

Commenter Abbi said...

Sorry, SL, but you need to some cultural context on the Israeli ATM thing. At Israeli weddings, particularly secular and DL, presents are definitely NOT appreciated. People want checks. In fact, at a recent chiloni wedding, the safe was overflowing and the wedding present cart had maybe one or two presents. Wedding registries have barely taken off here, probably because pple just want money.

Tacky or not, that is the cultural norm here. I think it's also much more cost effective- many pple did give us presents at our wedding here and many were cheap and useless. (cheap sets of pots and pans and sets of dishes, after we had bought a lot of this stuff in the US and planned on bringing it on a lift) And you can't get money back here for returned presents- just a store credit. And it's simply a waste of time to have to schlep to stores returning and exchanging.

Lion of Zion said...

just to add to what abbi said, unless a present comes from a registry, it is most often regifted and/or not what is most desired. if possible, cash/check is best. let the recipient decide what he/she needs.

"I recently read it is appropriate to write a bit how the gift intends to be used"

i really think this is not necessary. i personally don't really care how someone spends my gift. i also don't think it is realistic for someone to sit and allocate potentially thousands of dollars for individual purchases so they will be able to be so specific in the note.

so you teach hebrew school?

שבוע טונ

ProfK said...

While the list I posted suggested mentioning something specific when thanking someone for a check, it is not necessary to be so exact. One can use a more general "Thank you for your generous gift. We are putting it towards furnishing our home" and use that for almost all the cards sent out.

SL--the people who do the phone canvassing are following a prepared script. They will thank you for your generous donation of last year even if you have never given anything to that particular tzedaka before. Some people do give "generously" to that tzedaka so the phrase covers them. And given that many people give them nothing or a dollar or two, $18 is generous by comparison. They use "generous donation" to not so subtly get you in the mood of donating a lot.

SephardiLady said...

LOS-I've taught Hebrew School in the past. But I was actually referring to a classmate of mine, lol.

anonymous mom said...

Tacky? Yes. But, then, the two Israeli weddings I went to were not the picture of elegance. I see it as a cultural thing. Oh, and the Tzedakos always thank me for contributions I have not actually given and I always respond: "Your welcome. Please send me an envelope."

The Rebbetzin's Husband said...

Re: Flattery -
This really gets me; see my rant from a few weeks back at The Condescending Tzedakah Collector...

ora said...

In a lot of sephardi communities here it's standard to invite everyone who is even distantly related, all the friends, etc, hundreds of people, and then as a gift people give enough to cover the cost of their dinner, plus maybe a bit more. So you invite 900 people, 650 come, and almost all give around 120 shekels. That way the community can take part in the event, nobody is offended by being cut from the list, the parents don't go broke, and the bride and groom get a big fun wedding with no pressure to reduce their guest list (of course, if they wanted a small intimate wedding they're out of luck). An ATM does sound tacky, but giving money is so standard at these weddings that I don't think the assumption is tacky in and of itself.

JS said...

By American standards it's tacky, but Israel is Israel.

We only state an intended use for the gift if it's an actual item and usually if it's something food related state how we can't wait to have the person over for a meal. We always thought it was a bit awkward to state a use for money - either you're talking about buying something small or how their gift (combined with lots of others) will help you buy something.

The post hit on it tangentially, but I always get really annoyed when people register for ridiculously expensive items. I've seen registries with $120+ place settings, $100+ flatware setting, pots and pan sets for $500+, etc. And what kills me is that 9 times out of 10 the people are not well to do or inviting many well to do guests, they just want fancy stuff.

JLan said...

"The post hit on it tangentially, but I always get really annoyed when people register for ridiculously expensive items. I've seen registries with $120+ place settings, $100+ flatware setting, pots and pan sets for $500+, etc. And what kills me is that 9 times out of 10 the people are not well to do or inviting many well to do guests, they just want fancy stuff."

I can understand that. At the same time, I prefer it when people register for gifts that are in my pricerange (partially, I must admit, because most Bed Bath and Beyond coupons are 20% off of one item).

Ariella said...

Some experts even consider it a breach of etiquette to enclose a note of where the couple has registered with the wedding invitation. The reason is that a gift is by definition given voluntarily. So anything that indicates one is anticipated and makes an attempt to direct the giver is not top form. On the other hand, though, people argue for practicality. How are people supposed to know what the couple needs or wants if they don't know where they are registered. While almost every couple would opt for a check rather than a piece of silver or crystal, though, it really is not considered correct to ask for it. I would think that a guest who really want to buy something that will be appreciated could initiate an inquiry about what the couple needs and make that the gift, though it would not be polite to say, "just give us the money, and we'll buy what we need."

I haven't run across a discussion of ATMs in connection to American weddings. The raging debate in secular wedding etiquette books seems to be about cash bars. Apparently, the bar bill can grow very high. So some suggest keeping an open bar only for the reception or some set duration and then a cash bar for the rest of the time. In other words, the guests who wish to indulge will have to pay for their own liquor rather than drinking up at the host's expense. Some consider this practical, while others deplore it as tacky.

The most recent frum wedding I've been to did not have any liquor -- not even wine. It is not only a good cost-cutting measure but something that may be considered socially responsible.

Shira Salamone said...

Good for them. We had only wine at our wedding, but going "dry" is even better, given that most people don't go home from a wedding by subway.

A Living Nadneyda said...

It's true... people in Israel want money. More recently, some have begun using gift registries, especially those who came to Israel from the U.S. or England. These days, many marrying couples are older (thank G-d, they are getting married after years of being single) and they have already purchased apartments and furnishings, so their needs are really specific. Alternatively, they are in a rush to start a family and so will need something saved away.

As for ATMs, maybe it's a bit tacky, but I'm sure people once felt that way about having a safe, and nowadays no wedding hall would dream of leaving that one out.

Bottom line: in Israel, people really appreciate convenience. There are periods here (for example, from Shavuot until early July) when you could be invited to a wedding or other simcha several nights a week.... and after you've come home early from work, found a babysitter, rushed to make the kids supper and get dressed and been in the car for an hour, a a convenient gift-giving process feels really welcome.