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When a wedding list company collapses is it fair to blame the bride?

August 7th, 2008

Dr Petra

Here’s a modern-day question of wedding-day etiquette. What do you do when the people who are managing your bride book go bust?

That’s a dilemma facing hundreds of couples who placed their wedding list with WrapIt – a company that recently went bankrupt. This led to couples not getting their gifts and having to explain to friends and family they had to try and reclaim the money they had paid out for wedding presents. WrapIt blamed the bank HSBC for not offering enough financial support which led to the company going under.

And so yesterday a group of angry brides and grooms marched on HSBC’s offices at Canary Wharf to protest and hand in a petition. You can read more about the demonstration – including a film clip – here.

What has been interesting about this story is the way the media have chosen to cover it. While it’s undoubtedly true that a wedding list company going out of business is not on the same par as human rights abuses in China, debates around the future of the Church of England, or our current housing crisis, your friends or family losing money over gifts they thought they’d bought you is definitely something to cause unhappiness.

Given the press are often happy to give uncritical coverage over ‘lite’ issues – particularly where relationships are concerned – you might have thought there would be some sympathy for the couples affected by the closure of WrapIt.

On this occasion the media have decided they’re going to be critical, and have been largely unsympathetic to those protesting. Although couples were protesting the media focus has mainly painted a portrait of spoilt, posh brides boo-hooing about not getting loads of expensive gifts. There’s been a subtext of blame within a lot of coverage suggesting if you’re in a position to ask for lots of presents then it’s divine retribution if you don’t get them.

It’s part of our wedding tradition to give gifts. This applies across history and within most cultures. Some couples like guests to decide what gifts to bring, in some cultures people pin cash to couples, and in others a bride book invites people to select presents that are wanted (or needed) by a couple. Traditionally the role of the wedding gift, either in cash or gift form, was designed to help set up a couple on their road to married life – particularly when people were not well-off.

Of course we’ve all probably been annoyed by a wedding list where gifts seemed too expensive for our budget, or irritated by couples who seem set on outdoing each other with increasingly costly demands for gifts. But we are always in a position to give something off-list should we wish.

Is this story really worth all the coverage? Probably not. But since the media had decided to give it space it’s a shame the focus had to revolve around mocking people who have clearly been distressed by something that’s not their fault.

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