Monday, April 21, 2008

What Jews and Asians love to talk about

Who pays?
Last night my husband, sister and I got into a very spirited discussion with my in-laws about who should pay for what and how to make that a reality without awkwardness.

Who pays for dinner? How much?
First topic, dinner with a big group. Obviously if it's at your house, you pick up the "tab". But if you invite someone out to dinner to a restaurant and it's for an event like your birthday or because you won some kind of award, then I think it's a little tricky. My in-laws cited an event where they thought the person organizing should have picked up the tab but the bill was split among "guests". My sister thinks that if it doesn't take place in your home, you always split the bill. I think the most awkward thing is that if all you had was a salad or a Coke and the rest of the group consumes a lot more food and drinks, should you pay the average?

Dang it you people who order the most expensive thing on the menu or you lushes that hold your alcohol well because you're increasing my cost to hang out with you....
I do take an internal mental note of people who order the most expensive thing on the menu and then casually pay the average (why don't they loudly cheer what a good deal they're getting?). I think people should put in the average and subtract a little less or add a little more depending on what you ordered. That means you have to pay attention to prices and what you ordered; For some people, it's pretty hard to do and it's not how they eat out or celebrate -- I can appreciate this lifestyle difference. I read in an etiquette book somewhere that if you can't deal with the unfairness of the situation of paying more than what you ate/ordered then you shouldn't go because hanging out with the group harmoniously supersedes fairness. I do think it's an arbitrage situation at the expense of the group for some people who would never order the most expensive thing on the menu if they had to foot the entire bill. So boo on them.

Who pays for what a wedding? Who buys a gift for whom?
The second topic was who foots the bill for what at a wedding and who gets a present for whom. The whole thing is a joke to me. I guess it makes sense to have all these arcane rules if you marry young because you don't have a lot of money so you rely on various people to pay for various parts of your wedding. (Bride's parents pay for the wedding, groom's parents pay for the honeymoon, blah blah blah) A lot of it can be inefficient. My husband served as an usher for a wedding so he had to pay for the tux rental. As his gift he received a men's grooming kit that he's tucked behind some drawer, never to see the light of day. What if the couple just pays for the tux rental and we forget about the "gift"? Or we split the cost of the tux rental with them? As a guest, I don't mind helping to pay for parts of it, I just don't want to be party to these inefficient customs that create more waste for landfills.

I doubt I'll get elected on this platform -- Wedding couples pay for everything. And no gifts!
I didn't get my bridesmaids gifts but I also didn't make them pay for the dresses that they wore. (I did make them pay beaucoup bucks to fly to Thailand.) Instead of having rules of who's supposed to pay for what, I'm of the mind set that the couple pay for everything (except transportation, hehehehe) and if you can't afford it, then no wedding or a smaller scale wedding. And I hate that the default is to get a gift for the couple. How about no gifts as the default? I'm sure a lot of people would tomato gun that idea.

Prescriptions for behaviors (especially my wallet) - Blech!
I hate having to get someone a gift out of custom, I prefer gift-giving when the mood strikes or when I come across something appropriate. Gift giving should be fun and meaningful for both parties, but often it's stressful for both the gifter and giftee because of ridiculous social confines and screwed up expectations.

1 comment:

js said...

I'm working towards breaking down those "customs" of gift giving on anniversary-like occasions - I'm starting at home.