“Chi ha moglie ha doglie”

We were last discussing what common denominator ties weddings together world-wide. If not flowers, cakes, veils, or favors…what could it be?

That only leaves one thing!

Well, technically that leaves a lot of things…but today we are talking about il regalo di nozze, otherwise known as, the wedding present. This can mean different things to different people and is the source of confusion, anticipation, and concern for many a gift-giver

How much money should I spend?

Should I purchase from the gift registry?

Will the couple like my gift?

Speaking from experience with American gift-giving, any couple worth a present, will like and appreciate your present…although that doesn’t necessarily ease the stress of gift buying. Unfortunately, there is no sure-fire formula to help you determine gift value. However, while researching for this post, I found an interesting discussion about the same topic. Enjoy!

In Italy, particularly in the south, WHAT to give isn’t nearly as important as HOW MUCH to give. That’s right! It’s all about the busta, or soldi, or, in other words – the cold hard cash! A wedding guest is expected to present the sposi with an envelope containing those cute, brightly-colored, odd-sized Euros. Bunches of ’em.

In this case there is a formula.

You should consider how much the couple spent on your meal and compensate accordingly, not forgetting to add in a little extra to help them get started. If you are very close to the couple, or if you are in the wedding, you should add even more.

My American-self has problems accepting this, not out of a dislike for tradition, but rather out of the sheer distaste of the expectation. In fact, I have heard some to-be-wed couples express concern that their guests wouldn’t present them with an adequate busta to cover their expenses.

That was tough… .

Speaking of lovely wedding presents, though, I received my FIRST regalo a few weeks ago from one of my English students…

A beautiful, hand-carved, wooden elephant with the trunk up (indicating good fortune) was waiting for me after class. Che bello. And, in other wedding present news…a real life Wedding Crasher takes off with $1,500 CASH!! Ouch!

What are your favorite ideas or suggestions on wedding presents? What do you think about the Italian wedding busta and / or the expectation to give one?

“Who has a wife has strife.”

BTW – Please let it be known that I think this Italian wedding proverb is cazzate, but…Pep thought it was “funny.” Boh!

23 Responses
  1. Delina

    I completely agree with you that if you can’t afford a big wedding, then don’t have it. Why should the guests have to pay for a ten course meal?!

    If the bride and groom want the guests to pay for the meal then they should have the guests decide on the food and venue and time, etc too

  2. Cherrye

    Delina. One thing that Pep says often is that the bride and groom want to have a big wedding “to show everyone that they can.” But, what I don’t understand is that they aren’t paying for it – so where is the “show” here???

    Are weddings in England more similiar to America than Italy?

  3. Farfallina - Roam 2 Rome

    Definitely!! It’s one’s wedding! and if someone can’t afford it, they shouldn’t have it!

    Is this “soldi” expectation the same all over Italy? wow!

    Hey, wait a minute! Maybe I shooould get married in Italy after all!! (kiddin’…:)

  4. sognatrice

    Well you know how I feel about the busta. I don’t think money is generally an inappropriate gift even in America, but it’s the amount that gets to me about the system here. If you figure that as a (girl) wedding guest, you may need a new dress, shoes, purse, jewelry–and many also get hair styled–PLUS the busta? That’s like a *really* nice piece of jewelry from Tiffany’s for me thankyouverymuch…and if I want a 10-course dinner, well, I just as soon make one and keep the cash.


  5. Stephanie

    Believe it or not, I have seen an invitation where it states, “Please give gift of money”. How horrible is that? I believe if you can’t afford the wedding don’t have one. What happened to “celebrate with us!!” That is why so many people dread being invited to weddings. They worry about the expense of the gift, clothes (that’s another subject). One of the doctors I work with is from Lebanon, he said that in Lebanon you are not allowed to bring a gift. The reason that you are invited is to celebrate with them….My nephew got married in Sicily and we were ‘required’ to give 500 euro and we didn’t even get a piece of cake. Go figure!!!

  6. Cherrye

    Ha ha…farfallina! Very funny. Maybe you should! lol…PS, I think it is the same throughout Italy. I originally, thought it was a Southern thing, but people from Rome and up say the same thing.

    Sogn – I hear you! Should we tell them about the busta you are supposed to give when a kid has his baptism or first communion? I don’t think money is inappropriate, either, although I prefer to give a present b/c I can put more “effort” into it. My issue, like Steph says below, is the expectation. 🙁

    Steph – 500 E. That is just insane. Truly. I actually feel quite guilty here going to weddings and giving such nice “busta” presents, because I have never given my friends back home that kind of gift. Can anyone say “toaster”!! 🙂

  7. Maryann

    The last invitation we got stated that the couple had everything they needed for the home, so could we please give cash instead? How rude! But the formula you spoke of when giving money is the standard practice here in Italian families. If you want, you can give a gift instead.
    And Cherrye..point that elephant toward your front door for extra good luck.

  8. Carla

    Considering a lot of people there don’t make that much money, I think expecting such a big gift is ridiculous. But I have seen some people there give jewelry for a wedding gift, which I always thought was kind of random.

    I agree with Michelle, that us girls spend so much money just getting ready for the wedding! Then you have to give the busta!?!

    Here I have seen invitations that say “Greenback wedding” or “Monetary gifts are appreciated” which I don’t think is good etiquette. I mean, I have heard of giving at least as much your meal costs, but I guess it’s just preference. Of course if I get married I would want money too, but I wouldn’t expect if from everyone and especially not so much (I can’t believe Stephanie had to give 500 euro)…yikes!!!

    Basically like you stated, if you can’t afford a big wedding, don’t have one!!

    Lovely gift by the way!

  9. Delina

    Hi Cherrye,

    From what I’ve seen UK weddings seem closer to American ones than to Italian weddings.

    There is very much a show off attitude in the south of Italy I think. The bigger the better in order to show how much money the family has – or has borrowed.

    My cousin got married not too long ago in England and becasue they have lived together for a while and have everything they need they asked for no presents. I think the majority of the guests still gave gifts becasue they wanted to but I thought it was sweet that there was no pressure of a specific gift quota.

  10. j

    Hmmmm…maybe that’s why Italians have big weddings.

    Maybe it’s because I’m a guy or maybe it is my circle of friends, but I have never felt pressure about wedding presents. The best gift I got at our wedding was a nice pair of thermoses. They are great for coffee. I would think any Italian would like that.

  11. Judith in Umbria

    LOL obviously you are not alone! And I agree. A party is a party and you don’t charge admission. A gift is a free offering and is NEVER required and never ordered up, like gimme that chair. This seems to be a southern thing, because around here it would be considered classless.

    I like to think I am clever enough to come up with a gift a couple will like. If I don’t know them well enough to be able to buy them something, why am I invited?

    When forced to give money or a gift from a list, I invariably spend less than when left to my own imagination.

    So, I guess I won’t be invited to a lot of weddings, eh?

  12. Cherrye

    Maryann – I turned my elephant!! 🙂 Thanks for the tip.

    Carla – I have never seen something that said greenback wedding…WOW! I dont think I would go! That is crazy!!

    Delina – That must have been nice to go to a wedding without the big expectation. Whew, huh?? And, yes – Pep says it is all about the show!!

    J – Boys are so lucky! And, yes – that prob is why Italians have huge weddings…they aren’t paying for it!

    Hey Judith! Very funny about the admission charge. I read (thank goodness I dont know this person) about a girl who sent one of the groomsmen a “bill” for the wedding because they hadn’t given her a present yet. The groomsman’s justification was that it was a very expenisive, destination wedding and he was going to save up to give them a nicer present, assuming he had the “one year” average to present the couple with a gift. Can you imagine getting a BILL after you go to a wedding!?!?

  13. MB

    I agree that if you can’t afford the wedding, you shouldn’t have it, but unfortunately, around here you can’t have a small one either. That’s one reaason why we probably won’t ever get married. If we do, it will most likely be a quick trip to Vegas. Even the flight from Italy will be cheaper than a wedding reception here.

    But, back to the money, the busta is one of my biggest pet peeves. Especially when we’re talking about a Communion or Confirmation. I’m sorry, but it seems ridiculous to me to give a 10 year old an envelope containing 200 euro. But, it’s the same deal. You’re expected to pay for the meal and if you don’t you’ve made a brutta figura. (To which I always want to say, “Did I ask to be invited to a 12 hour gluttony-fest?)

  14. Nadine

    I agree about the expectation that your guests help you cover the cost of your wedding. I have heard of this before. Growing up in NY where big weddings were the norm, it was never mentioned by the bride or groom, but it was the normal formula you used in gift giving.

  15. Just visiting

    I wonder how much has changed. Young people are much more materialistic–and entitled–everywhere, including in the US.

    I grew up in an all-Italian-American environment. Yes, we gave cash for weddings, but never on such an absurd scale. Nor were weddings so over the top, ever. Most were cocktail weddings, with “cookie-cakes” and hors d’oevres. If you wanted your guests to eat a huge feast, your family cooked it.

    Perhaps the busta is yet another old wedding tradition corrupted by too much greed.

  16. Linda

    It’s very interesting how cultures are so different. I agree with that a guest shouldn’t have to pay for the wedding.

    My sarcastic question would be if I’m paying for my part of the wedding and they are serving a lot of seafood throughout the meal (I’m not a huge fan of seafood & I don’t like shellfish), would I get a pro-rated busta I ask???

    I work with a lot of people from India and it is the custom for the whole town to be invited to the wedding, you could be talking about hundreds of people. They log all gifts and when you go to a wedding of that family you give a equally or slightly higher gift in value.

    Thanks for sharing your wedding planning with us, interesting and enlightening.

    Best of luck.

  17. KC

    I also can’t stand the expectation that guests pay their way by giving a gift that at least equals that cost of lunch or dinner. As Judith puts it, it’s like charging admission. A wedding celebration is supposed to be an opportunity to share a special day with family and friends, not a spectacle. I dread weddings here because we really can’t afford the exorbitant buste that are expected.

    I like Linda’s question, and I ask myself the same thing. I ate just one course and a bit of (horrid) cake at the last wedding I went to. Where can I get a percentage of my 100 Euro gift rebated? 🙂

  18. Kataroma

    I feel the same way. It’s just crass expecting your guests to pay for your wedding.

    I often travel pretty far to go to weddings and buying an expensive gift on top of the hotel, airfare, dress etc can make the costs go through the roof!

  19. Cherrye

    MB – I have been lucky (so far) about the kiddie presents, but I totally think that is ridiculous. In Texas, we do usually have a meal after an important Christian sacrament, but it is most likely a BBQ at MawMaw’s, ya know? If that!!

    Nadine – I saw that in the link I attached to this post. (That ppl mentioned a gift equal in value to your dinner. That was the first time I had heard about that in America. I guess we are country down in Texas! Yee Haw!

    Just Visiting – you are so right! Weddings (at least in America) have drastically changed over the years. Growing up I went to weddings that had a wedding cake, punch, some nuts and mints! I personally really enjoy the bigger weddings, with meals and dancing, but I don’t think the guests should have to pay for the bride and groom’s rich tastes. I would love to know where / how the “busta” originated.

    Linda! ha ha VERY funny! At one wedding I went to the waitstaff “skipped” our table for one of the “first plates” of pasta. I think 10% back is fair, don’t you?!?!

    The tradition in India sounds like it could get carried away and expensive, too. I’d love to know more about that!!

    True, True, KC. How sad is it that we were crossing our fingers hoping to NOT get invited to a wedding??

    Kataroma – when you add in air fare (or driving), hotel, and extra meals it REALLY makes the costs go up. I love weddings (well, most of them anyway) but it makes me sad when the B&G don’t realize the sacrifice people are making just to GET there. We are getting married in Texas, and very few Italians are making the trip. It’s Pep’s family, so I he should be the one to address this, but I will be soooo embarassed if they give a busta. They are flying half-way across the world to be with us on our wedding day. What better present could we have?

  20. Leanne

    All these comments about big Italian weddings are true – especially on the other side of the world a.k.a Australia. They may have left the country behind but not the customers or culture.

    We have such a massvie Italian population, especially in Melbourne and I have been to hundreds of ‘Italian’ weddings where to have 300+ guests is not uncommon. It is not important that you know everyone invited…it is important (to most) how your wedding compares to the other weddings going on…

    Of course I generalising here…not all Italians are the same.

  21. Cherrye

    Leanne. That is interesting that Italians do the same things in Australia. Interesting. Of course, we are all generalizing. I should have said that I went to a beautiful Italian wedding (the one where I was the witness) and had an amazing time. There were only about 60 people, and by the end of the weekend everyone felt like friends or family.

    Of course – we still gave a big busta! 🙂

  22. Shan

    We have a formula for wedding gift giving. If we are close to the couple then we are fairly generous with a gift card. I like that so much better than cash. If we aren’t close to the couple then I keep an eye out for an expensive looking present that is on sale or better yet clearance.

    My youngest daughter’s godmother is Italian and she gives a handsome amount of cash if she is attending a wedding solo, and doubles that amount if she is bringing a date.

    I think we were both surprised with each other’s formula when we actually discussed it after being invited to the same wedding.

    Another thing that shocked me is what she was planning to give us for her God daughter’s baptism. Something we politely told her wouldn’t be necessary.

    The amounts are just craziness. Although I know my Polish relatives out west can be just as bad.

  23. Domina

    Hi Cheerye,

    Italians are not the only ones with that tradition – the Chinese do it too. All wedding guests give money that is expected to cover the cost of their invite and more.

    My dad told me that when planning for his wedding, he approached his eldest brother for advice because the wedding costs were spiralling out of control. My uncle just said to him, why the hell are you worrying? Don’t you know that your guests’wedding ‘gifts’ will pay for it and more so?

    And my dad confirmed that that was what indeed happened. There was even enough money left over for him and my mum to migrate to Australia afterwards.

    Being born and bred in Australia, this revalation also surprised me (Aussie weddings are like American weddings). But I am surprised to know that Italians are like that also.



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