Wedding Woes

Sometimes, wanting to hold on to tradition makes you an asshole.

Dear Prudence,

Every year at Christmas, my family exchanges gifts. Everyone buys a present for everyone else, meaning that each person is responsible for 10 to 12 presents, not including in-laws or friends. This year, money is very tight for my partner and me. We bought a house, we have a young toddler in full-time day care, and we live in a very expensive city. We also have to travel internationally for the holiday and hire a dog-sitter while we’re away. We can’t buy 24 gifts without taking on additional debt. We are the only family members with children and a mortgage, and we’re the only ones traveling from another country.

I explained our situation to my family and asked whether we could come up with some way of limiting the number of presents each person is responsible for buying. Privately, a few people have said that it would be a relief not to have to buy so many gifts. However, my sister “Kristen” hates the idea of interfering with tradition. It seems that no one is willing to make a public statement for fear of upsetting her. In fairness to them, it’s pretty awful when she gets upset (think adult temper tantrum), and her relationship with my parents is often strained.

I have now asked twice about the present situation, and I’m not getting any traction aside from possibly-insincere declarations that we don’t have to buy presents. My partner strongly feels that it would be rude of us to sit and receive presents without giving anything in return, and I agree. She has also expressed her reluctance to attend my family’s Christmas in future years if they can’t be understanding about our finances. What do you think I should do? I shudder at the thought of adding to our debt, but I also don’t want to be seen as the family Scrooge. Help!

—“Bah Humbug”

Re: Sometimes, wanting to hold on to tradition makes you an asshole.

  • We went to $50 limit white elephant exchanges on both sides of the family.  We also do a stocking exchange on my side.  It's so much better than trying to come up with something for everyone.  

    Kristen should suck it. 
    SP29
  • This sounds like my friend's in-laws. They're NOW doing 'pulling names' but every year it was people buy 1 gift plus 2 stocking stuffers. It's ridiculous.

    Pull names or maybe even lower budget?
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  • edited November 9
    Yes. By all means. Keep a tradition that puts adults into actual debt to avoid Kristen's adult temper tantrums. That's a solid solution. /s 

    We dealt with something similar with my ILs and Thanksgiving this year. On odd years, we are with them for Thanksgiving. We spent over $5K on travel and other shit for my SIL's wedding this year and decided we would not spend another $2K to travel to them again, 2 months later, for Thanksgiving. We welcomed anyone who wanted to come to our home and were told my SIL that we were "wrecking the holidays" and "ruining tradition." Tough titties, sweetie. Come or don't. And actually, consider the "don't" option. Might be a nicer Thanksgiving.
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    charlotte989875SP29
  • Hi, Kristen, you sound like my former MIL.  Who got pissed when I got the entire family on board with the "pull the name" gift and magically kept forgetting to do the name pulling.

    Christmas is about family.  Which is people, not gifts.  So, OP, don't buy any fucking presents, enjoy your evening and thank the people who buy you things profusely.  It worked well for me when I was in your almost exact shoes.  
    short+sassySP29
  • GBCKGBCK
    Knottie Warrior 5000 Comments 500 Love Its Name Dropper
    member
    you know, you can suggest something, and change it WITHOUT complete buy-in.

    "OK, since nobody is interested in changing tradition, we want to let you all know that we will be bringing small budget home-made gifts for everyone rather than buying gifts.  We are not excepting you to reciprocate gifts since we are not buying.
    I just wanted to let all of you know before you did your shopping.  See you all on Christmas, expect cookies!"
    charlotte989875short+sassyernursej
  • If it wasn't for the international travel component, i totally could have written this about ILs. Kristen is OSIL. 

    as of ~4-5 years ago (after Wolverine was born and we had moved to TX) I asked DK to pitch something similar to his family. DK is the youngest of 4 kids, both of his sisters were married, and had several kids each. (They both have 3 now, but this may have been when they each had 2.) His brother is 42(?) single and lives at home. So with MIL & FIL, as a family, we were looking at getting presents for 11 people.  

    1) this is just a pain in the ass time-wise. I have no idea WTF to buy for half of these people, because i see it as pointless just exchanging gift cards, and i don't know what people already have. 
    2) this is expensive. Even if you're spending around $20-25/person, you're still looking at ~$200-300, not including shipping. We can afford it, but I know it would be a strain on ySIL's family and BIL. 
    3) we're adults with good jobs, who are financially comfortable. if we want something, we'll buy it. we struggle to get smaller things for each other at times, so we really don't need people to feel obliged to get us trinkets that we'll likely never use. (Basically everything OSIL has ever sent me has ended up in the trash or in a white elephant gag exchange- it's not even worth regifting/donating.)


    I brought this suggestion up (tactfully) to YSIL and asked if she would mind if we skipped adult gifts going forward and just sent something for the kids, and they could send something for Wolverine if they wanted. She was 5000% on board with this. I told her DK was going to talk to his other sister and brother about it.

    DK sent his brother and OSIL an e-mail. DK told BIL that we thought it would be nice for "Wolverine" to send her uncle a gift, but that he shouldn't feel obligated to buy for us. He told OSIL the same thing that I told YSIL. He said his brother wasn't thrilled with the idea (that was surprising because we figured it would save him time and money when it came to DK and I) but OSIL threw a fit (basically because it meant she was getting less gifts.) Dk was like, Ok, sorry you feel that way, but starting this year, we're only buying for your kids, and please don't get us anything. I think he was wavering a little at first, but i'm happy he stood his ground. 

    So several years later, we still buy for our nieces and nephews (all 6 of them), MIL and FIL, and BIL. OSIL still sends me trash every year, and probably steals the gourmet cookies that I send to her kids.
    I've also taken to getting cookies for the kids every year since they get enough toys and books and stuff from their grandparents. 
    short+sassycharlotte989875OliveOilsMomSP29
  • That’s totally crazy.  I couldn’t imagine having to buy presents for every adult in my family.  LW should recruit some others to stand up to Kristen and propose a Secret Santa...or else like banana said everyone would be getting a candle.  
    I dislike the clutter that too many gifts bring...so for me, receiving 12 gifts would bother me as much as buying so many.
    *Barbie*short+sassycharlotte989875
  • People will get a lot less of a wedgie if she shows up without that many gifts in-hand and just does it...  OR, set a budget and stick to it, one gift each from the family, or say, a $5 bill for everyone.  Since when does a gift mean "go in to debt"...  
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    short+sassyeileenrob
  • MesmrEwe said:
    People will get a lot less of a wedgie if she shows up without that many gifts in-hand and just does it...  OR, set a budget and stick to it, one gift each from the family, or say, a $5 bill for everyone.  Since when does a gift mean "go in to debt"...  

    Yaaassss!  It should not.  It never should.  Gifts should always be that.  Gifts.  Not expectations.  In essence, gifts are "wants"...by the giver.  No one "needs" to give gifts, especially if it isn't in their budget.

    Who are these adults that insist they need gifts?!?!  Especially when a family member is saying they can't afford it.

    How is a new sweater or bottle of perfume more important than a loved one's financial stability?

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    mrsconn23eileenrob
  • MesmrEwe said:
    People will get a lot less of a wedgie if she shows up without that many gifts in-hand and just does it...  OR, set a budget and stick to it, one gift each from the family, or say, a $5 bill for everyone.  Since when does a gift mean "go in to debt"...  

    Yaaassss!  It should not.  It never should.  Gifts should always be that.  Gifts.  Not expectations.  In essence, gifts are "wants"...by the giver.  No one "needs" to give gifts, especially if it isn't in their budget.

    Who are these adults that insist they need gifts?!?!  Especially when a family member is saying they can't afford it.

    How is a new sweater or bottle of perfume more important than a loved one's financial stability?

    To the bolded...This is why I struggle with getting or giving gifts.  If I want something, I buy it for the most part and everyone else is the same way. 

    I am glad we went to the exchange on both sides.  It's way more fun and less stressful. 
    charlotte989875short+sassySP29
  • CharmedPamCharmedPam Chicagoburbs
    1000 Comments 500 Love Its Second Anniversary First Answer
    member
    edited November 10
    this reminds me of our situation.  Last year we gave small (very small) gifts to my SIL and BIL and chipped in on a new stove for my in laws.  When Christmas eve came everyone gave us gifts and I felt bad since ours were SO small.
    But traveling to NY is no chump change.  We  had to get  a rental car, flights and hotel rooms (since no one offered to put us up in their houses) so we kinda felt our presence was our gift to them (H hasn't been home for Christmas in YEARS)

    We're flying to Canada (from the states) in January for my Grandfather's 90th.  I'll throw some scratch offs in a card, but the same thing applies.  My family Fights for us to stay with them when we travel.  Quite opposite of DH's side. But we have flights that are $600/person and we'll need a rental too.  that's pretty much our gift.  Family.  Together.  I thought, as you grew older that's what everyone wanted anyway? to be with family?  It's all I want.  Memories. 

    short+sassySP29
  • We're flying to Canada (from the states) in January for my Grandfather's 90th.  I'll throw some scratch offs in a card, but the same thing applies.  My family Fights for us to stay with them when we travel.  Quite opposite of DH's side. But we have flights that are $600/person and we'll need a rental too.  that's pretty much our gift.  Family.  Together.  I thought, as you grew older that's what everyone wanted anyway? to be with family?  It's all I want.  Memories. 
    Where are you going? January is a rough month in Canada for weather.
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  • CharmedPamCharmedPam Chicagoburbs
    1000 Comments 500 Love Its Second Anniversary First Answer
    member
    @misskittydanger, Winnipeg! aka Winterpeg.  DH is going to love it, he LOVES cold weather and snow.  crazy, I know.

    SP29
  • @misskittydanger, Winnipeg! aka Winterpeg.  DH is going to love it, he LOVES cold weather and snow.  crazy, I know.
    Omfg!! I love that you know it's called Winterpeg <3
    He better love it. It gets colder there than where I am. Damn prairies 
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  • CharmedPamCharmedPam Chicagoburbs
    1000 Comments 500 Love Its Second Anniversary First Answer
    member
    edited November 10
    @misskittydanger, Winnipeg! aka Winterpeg.  DH is going to love it, he LOVES cold weather and snow.  crazy, I know.
    Omfg!! I love that you know it's called Winterpeg <3
    He better love it. It gets colder there than where I am. Damn prairies 
    Well, I'm from there, so..... LOL!

    One of my friends started to date someone from Toronto and she found out I was also from Canada, and she goes "where is she from?"
    "Manitoba"
    "OMG! A prairie girl!"

    honestly, living and growing up in the city, I never thought of me as that.  When I think prairie I think:




    MissKittyDangerSP29ernursej
  • @misskittydanger, Winnipeg! aka Winterpeg.  DH is going to love it, he LOVES cold weather and snow.  crazy, I know.
    Omfg!! I love that you know it's called Winterpeg <3
    He better love it. It gets colder there than where I am. Damn prairies 
    Well, I'm from there, so..... LOL!

    One of my friends started to date someone from Toronto and she found out I was also from Canada, and she goes "where is she from?"
    "Manitoba"
    "OMG! A prairie girl!"

    honestly, living and growing up in the city, I never thought of me as that.  When I think prairie I think:



    I keep forgetting you're from there :D lol

    Yep. That's what the rest of Canada thinks of the prairies also :)
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  • mrsconn23 said:
    MesmrEwe said:
    People will get a lot less of a wedgie if she shows up without that many gifts in-hand and just does it...  OR, set a budget and stick to it, one gift each from the family, or say, a $5 bill for everyone.  Since when does a gift mean "go in to debt"...  

    Yaaassss!  It should not.  It never should.  Gifts should always be that.  Gifts.  Not expectations.  In essence, gifts are "wants"...by the giver.  No one "needs" to give gifts, especially if it isn't in their budget.

    Who are these adults that insist they need gifts?!?!  Especially when a family member is saying they can't afford it.

    How is a new sweater or bottle of perfume more important than a loved one's financial stability?

    To the bolded...This is why I struggle with getting or giving gifts.  If I want something, I buy it for the most part and everyone else is the same way. 

    I am glad we went to the exchange on both sides.  It's way more fun and less stressful. 
    Same here. 

    My ILs are gift people. They like to give physical gifts that they pick out: tchotchkes, fuzzy socks, strange jewelry, and other things I will donate immediately (in the box/with tags). What I really want is a gift card to my salon, a gift card to get my dog groomed, a gift card to Costco, a Nordstrom gift card so I can get new work shoes (that I will pick out myself), etc. If I wanted weird junk I'd buy it myself. 

    And it's weird. Gift giving in my family is very honest and frank. Everyone saves receipts and if you don't like something, it's totally cool to be like "oh this really isn't my style." Great. Here's the receipt. Go buy something you want. In DH's family, this would cause serious drama. Like someone would be personally offended. It's so annoying.
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    image
    SP29
  • MesmrEwe said:
    People will get a lot less of a wedgie if she shows up without that many gifts in-hand and just does it...  OR, set a budget and stick to it, one gift each from the family, or say, a $5 bill for everyone.  Since when does a gift mean "go in to debt"...  

    Yaaassss!  It should not.  It never should.  Gifts should always be that.  Gifts.  Not expectations.  In essence, gifts are "wants"...by the giver.  No one "needs" to give gifts, especially if it isn't in their budget.

    Who are these adults that insist they need gifts?!?!  Especially when a family member is saying they can't afford it.

    How is a new sweater or bottle of perfume more important than a loved one's financial stability?

    This reminds me of when my mom's oldest brother told the family he was just DONE with Christmas gifting as a whole.   The point was that he felt it had taken a lot of the message of Christmas out of it and turned it into a competition.    So he said count him out and that didn't make him a bad guy at all.

    We'll see how things start to go with family now that we're all having kids on DH's side.   At this point I'm even thinking of trying to minimize the crap Santa brings. 
     
  • This is my ILs.  DH hates getting gifts from MIL and SIL because they spend tons of money and it is stuff they think he should have and never anything they know he would actually want or use.  It was stressing him out, so I suggested he ask that they no longer do gifts.  They ignored him (as in, when he emailed they didn't respond and when he asked to their face they acted like he didn't say anything).  So the next year, I told him to suggest setting a limit.  Still nothing.  So finally, we stated that we would be setting a limit on how much we would spend, suggested they do the same, and it was their choice if they wanted to go over budget.  I would be more than happy to get nothing for Christmas, but the ILs love shopping and just want to buy stuff, so I get gifts that I don't need.
    imageimage
    short+sassy
  • Same here. 

    My ILs are gift people. They like to give physical gifts that they pick out: tchotchkes, fuzzy socks, strange jewelry, and other things I will donate immediately (in the box/with tags). What I really want is a gift card to my salon, a gift card to get my dog groomed, a gift card to Costco, a Nordstrom gift card so I can get new work shoes (that I will pick out myself), etc. If I wanted weird junk I'd buy it myself. 

    And it's weird. Gift giving in my family is very honest and frank. Everyone saves receipts and if you don't like something, it's totally cool to be like "oh this really isn't my style." Great. Here's the receipt. Go buy something you want. In DH's family, this would cause serious drama. Like someone would be personally offended. It's so annoying.
    Both my mom and I are "gift receipt" people.  We both discreetly include the gift receipt, with the gift.  No need for an awkward conversation or keeping/donating an unwanted gift.
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    MissKittyDangerILoveBeachMusiccharlotte989875
  • Same here. 

    My ILs are gift people. They like to give physical gifts that they pick out: tchotchkes, fuzzy socks, strange jewelry, and other things I will donate immediately (in the box/with tags). What I really want is a gift card to my salon, a gift card to get my dog groomed, a gift card to Costco, a Nordstrom gift card so I can get new work shoes (that I will pick out myself), etc. If I wanted weird junk I'd buy it myself. 

    And it's weird. Gift giving in my family is very honest and frank. Everyone saves receipts and if you don't like something, it's totally cool to be like "oh this really isn't my style." Great. Here's the receipt. Go buy something you want. In DH's family, this would cause serious drama. Like someone would be personally offended. It's so annoying.
    Both my mom and I are "gift receipt" people.  We both discreetly include the gift receipt, with the gift.  No need for an awkward conversation or keeping/donating an unwanted gift.
    I always include a gift receipt for clothes or something the person highly wanted {in case someone else bought it for them as well}
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    short+sassy
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