A British man named Ben Farina is being raked over the digital coals after it was revealed on Thursday that he asked family and friends to help fund his wedding. Farina requested guests pay a £150 deposit each (about $200) so he and his soon-to-be wife could afford their dream wedding at a resort in Derbyshire, England. The guest contributions would cover the majority of costs, with the couple’s parents chipping in a sizable portion, and the couple shelling out £2,000 (roughly $2,700) of their own.
Farina tells the BBC he needs the contribution to afford the wedding, but that hasn’t stopped people from criticizing him and his fiancée as cheap and tacky.
But Farina’s request doesn’t necessarily make him gauche. Instead, it’s illuminated our culture’s complete inability to have an open, honest conversation about money, and the discomfort that sets in when one dares broach the subject.
Not to mention the complicated, counterproductive math around weddings.
That’s why none of this seems that crazy to me. If anything, it’s perfectly acceptable when you consider that wedding guests are already expected to help the bride and groom pay for the wedding — only we don’t call it that, and the method we use is indirect.
Wedding etiquette dictates guests cover the cost of their plate (about $100 to $150, depending on size and extravagance) via a gift or straight cash. This tradition turns weddings into a bizarre shell game, where networks of family and friends shuttle money back and forth without ever recognizing the ridiculousness of the practice.
Your friend gets married, and you give them $150. Then you get married, and your friend gives you the $150 right back, all in service of some antiquated tradition. No one gets ahead, but the veneer of decorum and respectability is maintained. It reminds me of Donnie Brasco, where for Christmas, the mobsters exchange envelopes full of cash.
Gifts are even expected in cases when the bride and/or groom’s parents foot the wedding bill, in which case the gifts are meant to help the newlyweds buy and furnish their first home together.
Either way, guests are supposed to pony up. And we do this because there’s a tacit understanding that weddings are absurdly expensive, and that the very least a guest can do is pay their own way and lessen the financial burden on the newlyweds.
The only difference is Farina had the gall to ask for this fee upfront. (The wedding he envisions is a modest one: There are 60 adult guests, and it costs about £13,000, or half the cost of the average American wedding.) And that, for some reason, makes him tacky.
Which he is. It is tacky to discuss money matters so frankly. But that’s not Farina’s fault—it’s ours.