Complexities of wedding gifts; Thoughts?

post by shawbe · 2022-02-17T06:43:09.603Z · EA · GW · 7 comments

This is a question post.

I am getting married in July of this year and would love for guests to contribute to an effective charity of my choosing rather than give us personal gifts - both for the direct benefit of the contributions, and the opportunity to discuss Effective Altruism with guests. My family have correctly pointed out that many guests will likely give less to a charity than they would to us personally, or not donate at all and just give us a gift (that we likely don't want or need). We could solve this problem by simply asking people for money to be given to us personally, and then making a large donation from that money, but right or wrong this feels disingenuous to me, not to mention the lost opportunity to discuss effective altruism with guests (before and after the wedding of course).

Any thoughts or suggestions would be greatly appreciated. I'm particularly interested to hear from anyone who has already had a wedding with these considerations and what you ended up doing.

Cheers

Answers

answer by Larks · 2022-02-17T20:00:30.007Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

We could solve this problem by simply asking people for money to be given to us personally, and then making a large donation from that money, but right or wrong this feels disingenuous to me

I'm not sure this would be disingenuous. When we give someone money as a gift we typically don't expect any real future control over how they spend it; elsewise they would have given you specific objects or gift cards.

answer by Ramiro · 2022-02-17T13:09:41.829Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

We could solve this problem by simply asking people for money to be given to us personally, and then making a large donation from that money, but right or wrong this feels disingenuous to me

I did both: we asked people to donate to recommended charities (only people who couldn't come did it) or to give us the money and we would donate it ourselves (my ex-wife's family was pretty generous with this).

The pro of asking them to donate directly is that you can elicit more engagement - if just one of your guests likes the idea and decide to copy afterwards, you already have a higher impact. If you want to do this, perhaps you could have an online campaign - like a crowdsourcing campaign. In Brazil, we often use doesuafesta to do it for birthdays - people can see others are donating, they can donate even if they can't attend, etc.

comment by Devon Fritz (DevonFritz) · 2022-02-17T13:58:31.202Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Was going to suggest this exact thing: do both. And I don't see anything disingenuous with donating money people give to you unless you tell them you are going to do something else with it.

Replies from: Andre_Barbe
comment by Andre (Andre_Barbe) · 2022-02-17T15:57:17.556Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Agreed on it not being disingenuous. If I gave someone money as a wedding present, I personally would not feel any expectation that they spend it in some particular manner.

answer by dominicroser · 2022-02-18T06:24:10.336Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

One thing to keep in mind: for most people the point of a gift is not to transfer an economic resource to you but to express something about the relationship they have with you (and they're willing for this expression to cost something; and, generally, we're willing as a society for this expression to come with economic inefficiencies: often, the giver chooses a gift (though less so at weddings) and the giver has much less information about the preferences of the receiver than the receiver). 

I think gift-giving is a psychologically tricky issue. I also think one shouldn't downplay the symbolic value in gifts -- rather, one should see the economic costs of a gift as a necessary cost for creating the symbolic value (rather than primarily as a cost for making a new coffee machine stand in the receiver's kitchen).

I just say this because often, donations to charity aren't a full substitute for a gift to the receiver: they don't fully create the same symbolic meaning. (I'd actually love to see a more general discussion of this: many EAs create fundraisers for their birthdays and I, personally, think such fundraisers partly miss the point of gift-giving)

 

answer by david_reinstein · 2022-02-17T20:46:46.348Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

I did something like this for my wedding. Aside: it was to a global health charity that let us show a tangible impact, not a charity that was rated for effectiveness. I didn't know as much about EA at the time.

People did give generously. I suspect they might have given less than they would have spent on gifts, but I can't be sure, as we didn't have a traditional wedding either. I also do suspect that "many guests will likely give less to a charity than they would to [you] personally" but I'm not sure why that is. On one hand it seems strange to me; do you have any theories?

I didn't get any negative responses to my face, and some positive ones, although I got some vague impressions from family that some people might have been like "this is weird and pretentious" (but I'm not sure).

One reason to do this rather than asking for cash and donating it: it ties your own hands, if that's an issue. It can be hard to commit yourself to donating/hard to actually write those checks to the charity. (But that's not an issue for everyone).

answer by calebp · 2022-02-17T18:45:55.879Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

I don't have plans to get married soon but I have thought a bit about whether there could be a way to substitute some gift for the equivalent amount of time from the person. I then can ask the person to read an article or watch a short video or similar as the gift to me.

So, for example, my friends would probably spend something like £40 on a gift for me if I were getting married now. I imagine that they value their time pretty low so I could maybe get between 1-4 hours of their time instead. I can think of quite a lot of content that they could read/watch in that time that I think would be great e.g. a few chapters of DGB/the precipice.

Maybe just making it into a nice web app would be enough to put it inside their Overton window? Probably not.

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