Q: My partner and I have been together for 11 years now and have been in the same cozy one bedroom apartment for most of them. As you can imagine, space is tight and we've got just about everything we need since we weren't going to wait till we could get legally married to buy our silver or dinner service. Of course, we've got the requisite blender, Cuisinart, waffle iron, quesadilla maker -- not to mention Champagne flutes and crystal vases! So, now that we're planning to get married, we'd like to ask our friends and family for cash -- especially since my partner may be laid off soon. I know it's considered tacky to do so, but is there a "polite way" to let our guests know about our preference?
A: No, my friend, there's no "polite" way to ask for Benjamins from your guests. (And you certainly wouldn't want Andrew Jacksons!) You're right, it's tacky to ask for cash; actually, it's not cool to ask for any kind of wedding gift. But, manners to the rescue, there is a workaround for folks in your position.
The key is simple: don't ask, but do tell. What I mean is this: Let your closest friends and family members know -- and then share -- your preferences with your befuddled friends who will be asking, "What can we possibly give them? They've been together forever. They must have everything!" In turn, they can reply: "In fact, Joanie and Marge don't need anything, but they are saving for a rainy day (....or a honeymoon.... or a baby). I know they would love if you could help them."
The same answer works equally well if either of you is prompted: "Well, we have pretty much everything we need, but we're saving up for 'X' from this store. If you'd like to contribute, then a gift card would be awesome. But more than anything we're looking forward to seeing you."
No matter what, however, you two must maintain the pretense that you don't expect a gift from anyone. If you wouldn't ask someone outright for the quesadilla maker of your dreams (and you wouldn't, since that would be, well, cheesy), you certainly wouldn't ask them for cold, hard cash.
Still, over here on the "manners desk," I took the temperature of my trusty, snarky and usually wise Facebook friends and fans. I wanted to double check that the culture, thanks to one recession and perhaps another, hadn't done a 180 on this question or that there isn't a special rule for gays. (I'm just kidding.) Alas for you, 100% of the respondents said asking for cash was "distasteful," "tacky," and "so very not OK." I did love the ingenuity of Eliza Byard, executive director of the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network ,who playfully suggested:
"There may be a new idea here... a Wedding Registry at your local retail bank. 'The happy couple has indicated that they would like a set of eight $100 bills ... two dozen tens... etc. etc.'"
OK, back to basics -- and reality. First off, remember that weddings are not about gifts but having your loved ones witness your union. (Thus the adage: "Your presence is our present.")
And second, gifts are never required and shouldn't be expected. They are voluntarily given as a (small or large) token of our affections. But the reality is that gift-giving is traditional (and mannerly) for anyone invited to a wedding. The registry business owes its existence to couples who want to "manage" those gifts. So your situation is a good example of why I love manners: They provide us with so many charades -- oops, I mean workarounds -- to get what we actually want.
Finally, guests, please take a hint from me. If you have friends who are planning a ceremony, step up and ask them (or their best friends) the question directly: "Is there anything in particular that you might like for a gift?" And when in doubt, it's always acceptable to give cash, a gift card, or a check -- just don't forget to pen a sweet note. And here's one last suggestion: Even though Eliza Byard of GLSEN didn't mention it, I will: It's always good manners to suggest a donation be made to a favorite charity or non-profit - especially an LGBT one.
Talk about it: For those of you planning a partner ceremony (legal or not)
Steven Petrow's Complete Gay & Lesbian Manners and can be found online at www.gaymanners.com. Got a question? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.