Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Carolyn: My boyfriend and I (both men) are getting married and are setting up our online registries, sending invitations, etc. We recognize that were fortunate to live in a state that allows same-sex marriage, so weve decided that in lieu of gifts wed like guests to make a contribution to a gay rights organization.
We both have fairly conservative branches of our family and wonder if we need to offer an alternative. My position is that we dont; my boyfriend thinks it would be considerate. Id rather have a guest who doesnt support gay marriage skip the wedding altogether or not bring a gift than get some bogus coffee maker and tacit disapproval. Maybe Im just overanalyzing everything. What do you think?
If I put on my happy hat, then I want to advise you to back off the buyers of the bogus coffee maker (which makes fake coffee?). When a conservative relative who opposes gay marriage actually goes out and buys a kitchen gadget for a gay relatives wedding, that could just as easily be cast as progress to be encouraged, versus insufficient applause to be swatted down.
Wearing my justice hat, I can see that incomplete gestures I dont like gay people, except this one I happen to know really well, hes OK are begging to be called out for the hypocrisies they are.
Under my etiquette hat, I recoil (imperceptibly to the naked eye) at the idea of forcing your guests either to pony up for your chosen political cause or stuff it. Are you going to engrave on the invitation: Donate to this cause as a gift to us, or stay home?
Fortunately, the sheer impracticality of your idea trumps all. You cant make the donation a condition of attending your wedding, so dont. You cant (or at least shouldnt) put any gift information in the invitation, so dont.
What you can do is tell people who inquire about a registry that youd love people to donate to X in lieu of a gift. If youd like to expand your bogus-housewares collection, then you can open a small registry as well which, again, you tell guests about when they ask.
Email email@example.com. Chat online at 10 a.m. Fridays at www.washingtonpost.com.