couples

When did asking for money as a gift become okay?

There are times I’m happy hand over my hard-earned to friends and family. When things have become unpleasantly tight and a big payment is due. When I feel like shouting lunch. When they are under 10 years old, and $10 in a birthday card is a seriously big deal.

Hell, call me an enabler, but I’ve even handed over a lazy $50 at the pub when the ATM is down.

But there are times when I’m not inclined to hand over my money. And a baby shower is one of them.

I simply cannot get my head around this new trend: the ‘silent baby shower’.

It works like this: ‘guests’ (and I use the term in the loosest possible way) are sent an invitation to celebrate the imminent arrival of a gorgeous little bundle of joy. But  they don’t have to go anywhere. There is no gathering.

What they do have to do is send money. Moolah for the parents-to-be. The invitation is explicit in its intent. No presents of the unwrapping kind.

Just cash.

There's a very large scream in my head and it's saying 'Where are your manners!!!"

A slightly smaller scream is saying 'It would never have happened in our day'. And I've never been more certain about that.

Back in the olden days, this is how a baby shower was done: A sister, mother-in-law or close friend bought a standard pack of invitations from the newsagency. They probably featured a stork with a baby-filled bundle in its beak. In real life the weight would have sent the bird plummeting to earth. But in real life, a stork doesn't actually deliver the baby. Hey-ho.

The shower would be held on a Sunday afternoon. There would be tea and sandwiches with no crusts and scones and probably a sponge. The crowd would include women of all ages - and it was a strictly female event.

Presents were small and simple. A three-pack of washers with embroidered ducklings in the corner. Little packets of teeny-weeny socks. A home-made hamper with a bottle, booties and a packet of disposable nappies. Things that would be, you know, useful. Then there would be great discussion of possible names, a few daggy games and war stories from old aunts who'd seen babies roll off change tables and live to scream another night, or watched angry little bundles turn blue, uncertain they'd ever inhale again, only to experience the sweetest relief of all when they did.

The baby shower in Friends is how a baby shower is supposed to work.

But in the great show-off-y display brought on by social media and outlandish expectation, the baby showers I went to would be nowhere near good enough today.

I suppose it was inevitable. First hen's parties morphed from a night out with the girls at the local pub to a whole weekend at a place in the mountains that would stretch the budget if you were going with your partner, let alone a random group of friends/vague acquaintances/complete strangers.

Then the cellar party nudged its way into the scene as an 'added extra' on the bridal calendar. And if I'm honest, I liked the thought of the happy couple curling up with a glass of cab sav and talking through their day.

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Then do-gooding couples asked us to donate to a charity instead of giving them a wedding gift (Mea culpa: On two occasions I forgot to do it, even though the invitation was stuck in a prominent position on my fridge. Confession: I'm not really sorry.).

And then? Well then couples decided 'bugger the charity'. They decided they were the charity most deserving, and just straight out asked for a donation to the honeymoon/mortgage/life in general.

And it was maybe the most awkward thing ever. Because if you're a good shopper, you can buy a beautiful gift for $50 in full knowledge it looks like it cost double that. But if you're giving cash, $50 is $50 is $50. And you will forever be branded a tightwad in their minds.

There are a couple of things at issue for me in all of this. First, how much is the right amount for a wedding? Is $200 too little? Is $500 was too much?

But at least for weddings a  strange kind of etiquette has evolved. Wedding planners have the rules down pat: Lynzie Kent told CTVNews.ca the general rule is to give a gift that at least covers the cost of your dinner at the reception.

"It used to be $100 a head is kind of the going rate, but these days I think it's anywhere between $150 and $250 per person," Kent said.

Glamour magazine went further, providing more complex guidelines. Not able to go to the wedding? You can get away with giving a bit less. Going single rather than with a partner? Be prepared to stump up proportionately more than your coupled friends. Has the bride or groom been married before? You can give less—but not too much less if it’s the first trip down the aisle for the other person. Another site offers the condescending suggestion that if a person is unemployed, the couple tell them 'No presents. Your presence is enough'.

Charlotte in Sex and the City went a little overboard.

But how the hell much do you give at a 'silent baby shower'? Because the $7.50 my cuppa and scone would cost seems a little lousy, but $100 seems a bit extravagant when I'm going to buy the baby (and possibly the mum) a pressie when it arrives.

And anyway, what happened baby showers being a celebration of love, hope and general wonderfulness?

Take a look at some other options for Baby shower wishing wells:

Call me romantic, but I want it to be about the my friends, the expectant parents. I want it to be about the little baby who's about to transform lives and hearts.I want the day to be less about presents and more about them. And if it is about the presents, I want the receiver to know some care and emotion went into choosing it in the hope they might look at it one day and think 'I love that'. I don't want it be, well, lazy - on both sides.

The last gift I took to a baby shower I went halves with a friend in a little hand-knitted blanket, soft and snuggly and made from organic cotton. We sipped champagne and caterers did the food and the other presents were incredible.

But It was gratifying when I ran into the new mum and her gorgeous firstborn a few months later and there he was, tucked tight and sleeping peacefully in our beautiful gift.

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