Ask the Matriarch - Showers and Weddings and Gifts - Oh My! Edition
As clergypersons, we are privileged to share in significant events in the lives of our congregation and community members. But this privilege carries responsibilities with it, among them attendance at the celebrations and the giving of gifts. This week we negotiate our way through the parties and the presents, in the hopes of drawing some boundaries with regard time and spending.
Hi! I'm an associate pastor at a 700 member congregation, and I'm beginning to get invited to more and more weddings and wedding-related celebrations of congregants and congregants' children. Since it is usually my colleague who does the officiating, I am typically invited as a guest and not as the pastor. So far, I have attended the weddings that I've wanted to and been able to, and I've tended to pass on the showers/parties beforehand and sometimes the receptions. But as more invitations are arriving, I'm finding myself increasingly resentful of giving up the weekends (not to mention the money for gifts and shower gifts!). Even knowing that many of these decisions must be made on a case by case basis, dependent upon the level of relationship I have with the couple, I'd be interested in knowing how others handle situations like these. How do you graciously beg out of pre-wedding parties and showers? If you are the officiating pastor, is it poor etiquette to not attend the rehearsal dinner and/or the reception? Is it ok not to attend the wedding of children of congregants (I don't know the children at all but am fairly close to the parents).
Also, I would love to hear if others have suggestions for meaningful, relatively inexpensive gifts to give for weddings (or, for that matter, baby showers!). I like the idea of having a small, standard gift that would be particularly meaningful and appropriate to receive from a pastor--somehow that seems more appealing than forking out a bunch of money at Bed, Bath, and Beyond.
Thanks in advance for the help!
Earthchik who blogs at www.earthchicknits.wordpress.com notes: This is a tough one! I wish I had an easy answer, but I haven't yet figured out the perfect way to handle this. When I am the officiating pastor, I almost always bow out of both the rehearsal dinner and the wedding reception (and any pre-wedding showers), unless it happens to be a couple I'm particularly close to, and I think that's just fine. I simply tell them that I'm sorry but I have another commitment. In a congregation your size, it is unrealistic for every couple to expect you to attend their weddings and parties, but it is nice that they would want to include you. I think you have to decide which ones you can make the time to go to, and leave it at that, graciously declining the other invitations. You certainly should not feel like you need to attend the weddings of the congregants' children.
I was raised under the etiquette that you send a wedding gift whether or not you attend the wedding. I know that this expectation is loosening up somewhat, but I still find it a bit of a quandary. In your position at such a large church, it seems a bit much to expect! I will be interested to see what others suggest for a small, standard, meaningful gift. What about something from Ten Thousand Villages? There are some really beautiful items there - colorful wall crosses from El Salvador, clay nativity sculptures and ornaments from Peru - that are not too costly and would make a meaningful gift from a pastor, plus the money goes for a great cause.
This is a tough one because it touches on the whole area of congregants treating you like a friend. On one level this is great and enhances your pastoral relationship, on the other hand it takes away time from your real (ie non-congregant) friends & your family – and you need that time, as your feeling of resentment is telling you.
As you say, there’s a bit of case-by-case about this, but I reckon that by the time I have married a couple we have spent about 5 hours together and I have spent a further couple of hours preparing for the ceremony. I don’t ‘owe’ them anything, so if I want to go to the reception, I go: my own test tends to be if I only really know the immediate family I don’t go unless I want to work – because chatting to the other guests whom I don’t know is work to me! If I don’t want to go, I simply say ‘it is lovely to be invited, but I’m afraid I can’t come’ - I have never had couples react badly to that and some of them have seemed downright relieved (if you don’t really belong to the church, who do you pick to sit by the minister, for goodness sake).
One church I served used to give couples a photo of the church as a wedding present – they all seemed quite pleased with that as it’s a great reminder of a good day and a link with the place and people of the church (and the official photos will tend to show the doorway but not the whole church). For babies I have tended to give a good ‘toddlers Bible’ - on the grounds that others might give a presentation Bible but this can be colourful and useful.
Hope this is some help & that Easter brings you great joy
And from Jennifer who blogs at An Orientation of Heart I think it’s a lovely thing that members of your congregation want to include you in their celebrations!I think it’s perfectly appropriate to make decisions based on the closeness of your relationship with the couple or family, and that it’s completely unnecessary to send gifts for occasions that you will not be attending. I try to send gifts that are meaningful and reasonably priced (not budget-breaking!).Because I often have to preach on the day after an evening wedding, if I’m officiating, I typically choose to accept the invitation to attend either the rehearsal dinner or the reception, but not both, and if it’s a reception where I can attend a pre-dinner reception, but not a sit-down meal, I explain to the family that it’s a work night” and I would love to celebrate for a short time with them, but will need to leave before dinner.Hope this helps. It’s a happy problem to have, compared with some of the tense conflicts that we’ve responded to at ATM!
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May you live in God's amazing grace, especially in this Holy Week+