Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

“My Friends Asked My Fiancé to Pay for My Birthday Gift From Them”

From the forums:

Birthday cupcake

Last week my two closest friends surprised me with a belated birthday trip to the spa. We spent the whole day there and I got a massage and a manicure. Afterward, they took me to a restaurant where the rest of my friends met us and we had dinner. Overall, it was an incredibly beautiful day where I felt really appreciated and loved. I told them about how fortunate I felt to have friends like them.
Today, I found out through my fiancé, after I worked on our budget, that they asked him to contribute $80 for the spa day, which he agreed to. I just moved in with my fiancé to an expensive city a few months ago after finishing grad school. I am still looking for work so we are living on one income and definitely don’t have much money. My fiancé already took me to a nice dinner and bought me a present so this $80 was completely unplanned for in our budget. When my friends broached the spa idea, I told them that I didn’t want them to spend a lot of money for my birthday. I would have been perfectly happy with a simple dinner.

After I found out they asked my fiancé to contribute $80, I went on the spa website and discovered that my entire treatment/spa cost was $135!!!! So they had my fiancé pay the majority of the spa and they each just paid $27.50. They are both married and make very decent money. I don’t understand why they would plan an event that they couldn’t afford, and, to top it off, why they would ask the person who is already paying for all of my expenses to contribute anything, let alone a significant portion of it. I AM SO DISAPPOINTED!!!

I want to talk to them about it, but I don’t know how to do it without sounding like I am ungrateful for all of the planning and thoughtful surprise. Please advise! — Disappointed Birthday Girl

One time, a few years ago, I was invited to my friend’s birthday party that her fiancé was throwing for her. It wasn’t a milestone birthday or anything, but she’d had a rough year and her fiancé wanted to do something special, so he decided to hire a chef to cook an amazing meal and invited about 15 of her closest girl friends over to enjoy the food and some cocktails. Sweet, right? Well… he asked each friend to kick in $30 for the cost of the chef, food, and the booze. Now, $30 is probably less than we all would have spent had we gone out to dinner and treated the birthday girl. Thirty bucks wasn’t going to break anyone. But, out of principle, I just couldn’t participate in this total breach of etiquette. I made up some excuse for why I had to miss the party and I took my friend out for a birthday dinner at a different time (and, yes, spent more than $30).

All of this is to say, I totally understand why you’re offended by your friends asking your fiancé to kick in $80 to pay for a birthday gift they’re taking full credit for. I’d be offended, too. But I absolutely do NOT think you should say a thing to them about your feelings. To do so would be a bigger breach of etiquette and would make YOU the bad guy. And really, there aren’t any bad guys here at all. At least, not that bad. Your friends did something tacky, but it shouldn’t negate their good intentions. They wanted you to feel special and pampered. And you did! You said yourself you felt appreciated and loved. And that’s what they wanted. And beyond that, they also paid for their own expenses at the spa, a tip for your services, and (I’m guessing) dinner for you later (all of which added up to far more than the $27.50 you’re giving them credit for, I’m sure). They also cleared their schedule for the entire day and evening and made sure many of your friends showed up for the dinner to celebrate you. Those are all thoughtful things that show they care about you.

Let the $80 go. It’s a lot of money, sure — maybe a week’s worth of groceries for you and your fiancé, or a monthly cell phone bill, or a mid-range haircut in an expensive city. A lot, yes, but $80 isn’t going to break you. Even on one income, $80 probably isn’t going to be the difference between eating or not eating, and for that you should be grateful. Let it go, and in the future plan your own birthday party or let your significant other plan and pay for it if he offers. If friends are insistent on doing something, pick an affordable bar and ask if they’re free to join you for drinks. Isn’t this what most adults do?

On a related note: I don’t have any issue with grown adults making a big fuss over their birthdays — even those who do it every year and not just for milestone birthdays (which I think should sort of be fussed over just a little bit; they only happen every 10 years); I just believe that if you’re going to make a fuss over your birthday, you make it fun, fairly convenient, and super affordable for your guests (like, if you throw a big party, you pay for the whole thing, or, if you want to take a trip, you find a good deal and treat your guests to some part of the trip like their ski passes [for example] or a nice dinner or something to show your appreciation). I have one friend who has thrown himself a birthday party for the last several years and he invites many of his out-of-town friends to come. And every year, five or six of us show up at his place from various cities ready to have a good time. Why do we show up? Because it’s fun, fairly convenient, and super affordable (we all crash at his place slumber party-style, cook meals and make cocktails together, hang out at the beach, and use borrowed bikes or cabs or public trans or our feet to get around). It’s become less about a birthday and more about a reunion of friends. And those are exactly the kinds of birthday get-togethers I like. Just don’t ask me to kick in $30 for a private chef for a party you’re throwing — that’s where I draw the line.

***************

You can follow me on Facebook here and Twitter here.

If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy@dearwendy.com.

90 comments… add one
  • avatar

    lets_be_honest January 27, 2014, 9:53 am

    Oh man, tough one. I think the worst thing is that they “took credit” for the whole thing. They could’ve at least let you know so you could thank your fiance.
    Things like this are so strange to me. I can’t imagine ever calling my friend’s significant other to ask him to pay for something for his own partner. Or planning anything and telling other people to pay for it. I felt weird the other night when my friend had to pay me back for something she asked me to pick up for her.

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    • bagge72

      bagge72 January 27, 2014, 1:20 pm

      I feel ya, I work at a retail store, and people are always asking me to pick up small items, that end up costing my like $3-$10, and I usually feel weird asking for the money for that stuff.

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      • avatar

        lets_be_honest January 27, 2014, 1:48 pm

        Exactly! The small things. If I pick up a pack of cigarettes for a friend, I usually say don’t worry about it. Its self-induced awkwardness, but awkward nonetheless.

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  • avatar

    Kelly L. January 27, 2014, 9:57 am

    There have definitely been times in my life when $80 would, literally, have meant the difference between eating or not.

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    • avatar

      lets_be_honest January 27, 2014, 10:02 am

      Yea, but your billing paying partner/fiance probably would have said he couldn’t have afforded chipping in then. I hear you though!

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      • veracityb

        veracityb January 27, 2014, 10:10 am

        Well, apparently he felt awkward about it, but it was a request from her two best friends, so agreed. It’s the social pressure, I imagine, and not knowing them well enough to be able to say no, plus not wanting to be seen as cheap and denying his fiancee a nice day with her friends..

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      • avatar

        lets_be_honest January 27, 2014, 10:20 am

        That’s a really good point I hadn’t thought about. I could see myself feeling the same way.

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    • Amanda

      Amanda January 27, 2014, 10:08 am

      I was thinking the same thing. Before I had the job I have now, an unexpected $80 would have definetly meant the difference between food or not (and if I’m being honest, probably the difference between rent or not).

      That being said, if I was still in that situation and somebody asked me to chip in $80 I would’ve said no.

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    • Stonegypsy

      Stonegypsy January 27, 2014, 10:28 am

      Especially on one income.

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    • avatar

      Morgan January 27, 2014, 11:04 am

      Tell me about it. I’m home today trying not to lose the toes on my right foot, and not having the 80 bucks I would have made today (actually though, it would have been 80 bucks) is throwing a serious wrench in my paying rent and student loans plans.

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    • possumgirl

      Jenn January 27, 2014, 2:18 pm

      Agreed, however, if he took her to a nice dinner in an expensive city, it means that even one income, $80 doesn’t mean the difference between food or no food. It might be a blow to the budget, but it’s not going to mean the electricity is getting shut off.

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  • avatar

    joanna January 27, 2014, 10:04 am

    I think it’s fine to give something from multiple people if credit is given to each giver and all the credited people give money towards it.

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  • avatar

    Sara January 27, 2014, 10:10 am

    Admittedly, I’m a bit of a “Pollyanna” when it comes to people’s intentions. It is possible that your friends didn’t know that your boyfriend had done/planned so much for your birthday on his own. Maybe they don’t think men are good at planning nice days for other people, so they decided to do something from the three of them. I wonder this because I’m not sure how your friends took all the credit – they probably assumed (correctly) that you and your bf would talk about how the gift was from him, too, especially as your finances seem to be connected. And, for what it’s worth, your friends *did* spend much more than $27.50 (tip, dinner) for the whole day – and took a lot more time to plan/call everyone up. To prevent this from happening in the future, all your bf has to do is say that he already planned something really nice for just the two of you, but that they are welcome to plan a separate event. Or, contact him earlier in the future, in which case the three of them can truly plan the day (and budget!) together.

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    • avatar

      csp January 27, 2014, 1:14 pm

      This is exactly what I was thinking. My friends mean so much to me, I would always look at the best possible case instead of the worst.

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    • possumgirl

      Jenn January 27, 2014, 2:10 pm

      Isn’t if funny how it all boils down to communication?

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  • dabbler

    dabbler January 27, 2014, 10:11 am

    It sounds like it’s less about who gets “credit” than the fact that they asked the fiancé to pay a significantly bigger portion of *their* gift than they were willing to pay themselves. On top of the fact that they (presumably) have more disposable income than the fiancé.
    I’d be pretty irritated about that too. It sounds like she wouldn’t have taken her friends up on the spa day to begin with, had she known she’d be financing the bulk of it herself…

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    • veracityb

      veracityb January 27, 2014, 10:33 am

      Yeah it does sound like it only matters more because she and the fiance are on a tight budget, and she would have said no to this little bit of “nice but unnecessary luxury” if she knew that it would actually be coming out of their joint budget.

      I suppose this is about having your control over your finances a bit encroached on under the auspices of being a ‘good friend’, who presented it as full gift (in all senses) from themselves. And it was presented this way, as the LW didn’t know until she found out by doing their budget (and the friends must’ve fully accepted her thanks and appreciation when she expressed it at the time without mentioning the fiance’s help – isn’t it weird NOT to give credit and made her aware then if they were ever planning to?).

      If money wasn’t tight, I imagine it’ll just be a bit rude but not so annoying.

      In this way, it’s a little different from Wendy’s scenario – I wouldn’t mind if someone was saying ‘hey I’ve got an idea to do this for x, do you mind chipping in $30 to help’ because at least Wendy got to say ‘no thanks’ and decide how she spends her money (I personally probably wouldn’t have minded and joined in).

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      • avatar

        Anonymous January 27, 2014, 10:38 am

        Exactly!
        Except, if money wasn’t an issue, I don’t think it’d be rude to ask to contribute, but I still think it’s weird that they asked him to contribute more than double what they did.

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      • dabbler

        dabbler January 27, 2014, 10:38 am

        Exactly!
        Except, if money wasn’t an issue, I don’t think it’d be rude to ask to contribute, but I still think it’s weird that they asked him to contribute more than double what they did.

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      • veracityb

        veracityb January 27, 2014, 10:52 am

        Oh they probably had a budget in mind to spend, y’know dinner, drinks and tip and whatnot, and thought a spa day would be nice too, but could only spend x on it, so let’s ask fiance to help with the rest, cos he obviously cares about her and would want her to have a lovely day etc etc.. i.e. understandable thought processes, but wrong outcome, really. As in, I don’t think they were malicious there.

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      • avatar

        lets_be_honest January 27, 2014, 10:54 am

        If you can only afford to pay for dinner and drinks, then maybe not plan a spa day for yourself, ya know?

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      • veracityb

        veracityb January 27, 2014, 10:58 am

        They probably really didn’t think they were doing wrong here, just wanted her to have a lovely ‘surprise spa!’ day. As in, didn’t really realise the impact of asking.

        Also, I get the impression they would have had to pay for their own spa entry, but just couldn’t fully cover the cost of the LW’s spa day (treatments etc).

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      • avatar

        lets_be_honest January 27, 2014, 11:00 am

        I’m sure you’re right, its just weird to me personally. I’d love for all my friends to have a surprise spa day, you know? That doesn’t mean I’m booking a spa day for all of us and asking their husbands to pay for most of it. But again, I’m sure you’re right and they didn’t think anything of it other than it being a nice idea.

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      • veracityb

        veracityb January 27, 2014, 11:11 am

        Yeah absolutely, this isn’t a thing that would ever cross my mind to do either, but in order not to remain upset with your friends, it’s best to cast a generous light on how the situation came about.. but I would also say something – generously, lightly, and still appreciating their thoughtfullness in their planning and wanting to make her feel great – but that y’know, a little heads up in future would be awesome.

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      • bagge72

        bagge72 January 27, 2014, 1:30 pm

        Know what is weird, I have a friend who is marrying a really really rich person, we are talking about a trust found from a family of a major us company, and for his 30th birthday, she picked the cheapest place in our town, that none of us have been to, because it is full of crack dealers, and then made it pot luck. Samething for their engagement party they had us all over to their family’s 4 million dollar estate, and had everyone bring their own booze, and food. You would think it is just because they are good at saving money, and that is why they are rich, but that just isn’t true, because she had my friend quit his job so he could be home with her all day, and her parents are trust fund kids too, and have nothing to do with the actual business.

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      • avatar

        lets_be_honest January 27, 2014, 1:57 pm

        That’s so strange!

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  • Addie Pray

    Addie Pray January 27, 2014, 10:13 am

    But did the friends try to take credit for it? I missed that part. I definitely think it’s tacky of the friends but there’s something about this letter that rubs me the wrong way.

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    • avatar

      WAPS January 27, 2014, 10:20 am

      Yes! I feel weird because almost nobody else seems to think so, but something about this letter is just off. There’s a reason my screen name is WAPS.

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    • avatar

      jlyfsh January 27, 2014, 12:36 pm

      yeah i think the money/contributions/etc aren’t maybe the heart of the issue and it lays more in the fact that she feels like a non contributing member of the household?

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      • avatar

        lets_be_honest January 27, 2014, 1:14 pm

        I missed that!!! I just reread to see what you were talking about and WOW, that would make me so beyond uncomfortable. I would feel terrible if I were being supported by someone and my friends then asked him to support me some more!

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    • avatar

      MMcG January 27, 2014, 12:59 pm

      I think the LW is worried about how this happened in the first place… her fiance and her are just working through their changing finances, stretching what they could, and it just seems really off for friends to insert themselves into your finances by asking the fiance to contribute, where he might not have felt comfortable saying no (does he even really know these friends? are they all friends who frequently see each other and would be ok even talking money??)

      Plus without crediting him in anyway shape or form, it screams I want to have a certain lifestyle/celebration and others can pay for it. I hate people like that… pay for your own wedding/birthday/honeymoon if you want something, or not, but don’t pass around the collection plate.

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    • bagge72

      bagge72 January 27, 2014, 1:36 pm

      Yeah I feel like maybe the fiance probably had more to do with it, than he told the LW, I bet he is just making it seem like they came right out and asked him for money. My bet would be that he either offered to help, just to be a nice guy or that he suggested that the LW has been wanting to do something like that, and when the friends said they already had a brithday dinner planned, and couldn’t afford both he offered. Obvioulsy this didn’t affect their finances at all, she wouldn’t even have known if they weren’t going over their budget.

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    • avatar

      bcamber January 27, 2014, 4:01 pm

      If they didn’t tell the LW that the fiancé also contributed to the gift, then they are taking credit for it by omission.

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  • avatar

    WAPS January 27, 2014, 10:17 am

    I don’t see why the fiance is off scot-free here. He could have said no. He knew the budget for their household (or should have known the budget) just as well as she did. There are a lot of ways this could have gone (i.e. LW acts REALLY excited but kind of says “Oh, don’t spend too much” so they figure they’ll just ask the fiance because he’d be an adult and say no if he needed to, and if he couldn’t contribute, they’d go to plan B), and something doesn’t add up to me about the letter. It’s a lot of work for the friends to go to with absolutely no encouragement from the LW. As Wendy said, they did kick in some money for yours, they paid for their own, AND it sounds like they paid for your dinner too? And the LW is discounting that they planned! I hate planning. I would rather kick in $80 than plan an all-day outing, but I will plan one for VERY good friends. God, I’m planning a bachelorette party right now for a really good friend of mine, and I love her and I’m really excited for her, but I hate planning so so much. Part of my gift, aside from the fact that I’m paying for part of it, is the fact that I am doing it.

    It’s funny, I just talked to my husband about this and he and I are on completely opposite sides. If my friends planned a whole day for me and asked him to contribute, I would not care at all that they asked. And if his friends planned a big outing for him but needed me to contribute to part of it, I would feel the same way. He said he’d be really offended. I don’t think that this is one of those things that is absolutely right or absolutely wrong – I think it depends on who you are. I also wouldn’t care if I didn’t get “credit” or whatever, because chances are I would have done something else for my husband. I don’t need to get credit for EVERYTHING I do.

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    • avatar

      lets_be_honest January 27, 2014, 10:25 am

      I don’t see what is a lot of work. Making a spa reservation takes like 20 seconds. Planning it with 2 people takes about 5 seconds of typing a text message.

      I think its one thing to not mind getting credit for a gift (I get your point there), but it can, at the same time, be rude to take credit for paying for something you didn’t pay for. I think that’s really rude.

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      • avatar

        WAPS January 27, 2014, 10:45 am

        Maybe it’s just harder to get people I know to be free at the same time. We are all medical professionals or medical researchers, so we all work at least 6 days per week if not 7. We also have other responsibilities, so no, it’s not always easy to get 3 people in the same spot at the same time by sending a text message. And we have no idea what her friends’ lives are like either. Sometimes people have to MAKE themselves be free – ask people to cover, exchange call, arrange childcare, etc. And a whole day?

        In regards to credit, it’s unclear to me whether it just didn’t come up or whether they intentionally left the fiance out. Like, maybe the LW just assumed she was paid for, didn’t even offer to pay for herself, and so the friends didn’t have a chance to say, “No no, this is from us and fiance.” If she didn’t offer to pay, then it comes off as ASKING for gratefulness to say, “This is from US and fiance.” Or maybe they thought he’d talk to her on his own? I just don’t think that this situation sounds nefarious or shady or whatever. It sounds like good intentions that the LW isn’t happy with, but I think she’s missing the forest for the trees. It sounds like she has good friends who wanted to do something nice, and she is miffed about the way those intentions were carried out. This won’t matter in a year unless she makes a big deal out of it, so she should let it go.

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      • avatar

        lets_be_honest January 27, 2014, 10:52 am

        I guess. Idk, I’m a pretty busy person I think, and have a kid, but I’ve never thought making plans was so difficult and time consuming. Maybe that’s just me, but if just making plans to hang out with me on my birthday was such a hardship on my friends, I’d be pretty weirded out (and vice versa).
        I totally agree she should let it go though, and I agree it wasn’t some evil plot or anything, but I understand why she thinks it was rude.

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      • avatar

        WAPS January 27, 2014, 11:11 am

        Yeah, I’d file this under different strokes for different folks. I am a pretty hardcore introvert. My friend is a hardcore extrovert, so a party that she would like would last all day. So will I do it? Of course, the party is for her, not for me. But it’s a tall order to say that everyone who does something for you must like it as well. If anything, it’s the doing of things that you don’t particularly care for that shows you really care, in my opinion.

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      • avatar

        lets_be_honest January 27, 2014, 11:20 am

        Hmm, I wasn’t thinking how it could be for an introvert. That makes sense.

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  • GatorGirl

    GatorGirl January 27, 2014, 10:19 am

    Yeah, it’s shitty, but what can you do? It would be even MORE shitty to call your friends out, IMO. So I’d just say thank you to your bf for contributing, and move on.

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    • GatorGirl

      GatorGirl January 27, 2014, 10:23 am

      Oh, and if the $80 truly was make or break for your month- than that IS on your bf for not following the budget. If it was just an unplanned for expense you can handle, then I would just let it go.

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  • katie

    katie January 27, 2014, 10:20 am

    I am truly amazed by all these responses, and was in the forums. I don’t think this is weird. I wouldn’t consider it a weird request, and I wouldn’t feel weird asking. and like Wendy’s example, i would also never think that’s weird (it sounds amazing actually) and I wouldn’t think twice about asking.

    Sigh.

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    • GatorGirl

      GatorGirl January 27, 2014, 10:25 am

      Do you think the fact that the friends didn’t give him any credit is important?

      (I’m not against asking for the contribution, but give credit where it’s due. That’s the part I think is icky.)

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      • katie

        katie January 27, 2014, 10:29 am

        Well like other people have said, it doesn’t sound like they are actively trying to take sole credit for the gift? I mean if it was me doing it I’d maybe -if I remembered in time but probably would think of it after the fact as a good idea- ask the fiancé if he wanted to write a card to give her in between treatments, but other then that I’d also assume the fiancé would do it himself…? Like, with a wink, “so how was that spa today, baby?” Like surprise! he was in on it the whole time

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      • GatorGirl

        GatorGirl January 27, 2014, 10:35 am

        I just take it super differently. Like, there is no way I would forget $80 was contributed and I would make sure I told the person about it. So, yeah. I’m not really invested in debating this, it’s just interesting it can be read so differently.

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      • avatar

        lets_be_honest January 27, 2014, 10:35 am

        Idk katie. I think it’d be hard not to remember to mention that someone else also paid for this gift. Especially when being thanked for it – like that would prompt me to say make sure you thank Timmy too or whatever.

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      • GatorGirl

        GatorGirl January 27, 2014, 10:37 am

        Yes, I forgot that bit. I’d be annoyed because I want to properly thank everyone who contributed.

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    • avatar

      SasLinna January 27, 2014, 10:36 am

      To me Wendy’s example seems less offensive, since at least everyone who was asked to contribute was also invited. I mean, I guess if the party had come up as a group plan then it would not have been rude to have everyone contribute some money. If that’s the case, then I don’t think it’s super rude for the fiancé to tell everyone “I would like to throw this type of party if other people are also interested in contributing”. To me it kind of depends on whether he asked after the fact or beforehand. But LW’s example is much worse because her fiancé wasn’t even participating in the activity they planned.

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    • avatar

      rachel January 27, 2014, 10:51 am

      hmm, I think the LW’s situation is weird, but I would totally be down for Wendy’s friend’s party. See, if I were one of the friends planning it, and it was a lot of money and I needed help from the fiance, I just can’t imagine not saying “oh, and John chipped in too” at SOME point during the day. The party seems different because you’re getting something out of it.

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    • avatar

      MMcG January 27, 2014, 1:04 pm

      I think it’s weird to ask someone to contribute to an event that they specifically aren’t a part of… it’s not like the bday celebration was tickets to a concert or sporting event and the fiance attended with the group to celebrate the birthday… he was asked to subsidize a “girls spa day” and apparently never even referenced at all during the day. Tacky and weird… I wouldn’t want my friends asking my fiance for money – especially since we have no idea how close they all are, etc. I mean sure the fiance could have said no, but who knows what pressure he was under, or whether he really wanted to explain how poor they were. Some people don’t like talking about their budget or money issues.

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    • KKZ

      KKZ January 27, 2014, 1:19 pm

      I’m pretty much with you, Katie. Not much of this weirds me out, and Wendy’s friend’s party wouldn’t have offended me at all, it DOES sound awesome. If I truly didn’t have the money I’d decline, but if it was affordable, hell yeah I’ll chip in! And hopefully be so stuffed with delicious food that I wouldn’t really care if I got credit.

      But if DW has taught me anything, it’s that gifting culture is so weird and specific to certain regions, friend-groups and families. My friends are pretty loosey-goosey about who pays for what, owing each other money, etc. We figure we each pick up the tab for each other enough over the course of the friendship that it pretty much balances out. I think I’d go nuts with friends who kept a close eye on that kind of stuff.

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      • veracityb

        veracityb January 27, 2014, 1:26 pm

        But you have to keep a close eye when you’re currently in tight circumstances. That’s the point: right now, she couldn’t have afforded to do that and would’ve declined if she’d known that it wasn’t really an outright gift…

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      • KKZ

        KKZ January 27, 2014, 2:46 pm

        Right, my response was more about the Wendy’s-friend example than the letter. I don’t have strong feelings about the breach of conduct in the letter.

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      • avatar

        lets_be_honest January 27, 2014, 1:39 pm

        That’s funny kkz, because I’m similar with my friends (picking up tabs, treating, etc.), but I still think this wasn’t cool. Its one thing to offer to pay for someone as a friend. I think this is a totally different situation.

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      • GatorGirl

        GatorGirl January 27, 2014, 1:44 pm

        Yup, I’m with you LBH. I don’t mind picking up lunch or a beer for a friend, but if a friends husband asked me to pay for her manicure…huh?

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      • KKZ

        KKZ January 27, 2014, 2:53 pm

        Yeah, I get that this was different. It’s not something that would upset me a lot, personally, but I can’t really fault the LW for being upset by it.

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  • avatar

    starpattern January 27, 2014, 10:39 am

    Yeah, I think you just need to let this one go, and be clear with your fiance in the future about this stuff – maybe decide together to set some limits for gifts and tell him that you really enjoyed the spa day, but you don’t feel it’s necessary to spend that kind of money next time. He will probably get the point.

    I understand why this is upsetting, though. I understand that different social circles operate in different ways (know your audience and all that), but IMO there’s a fine line between saying, “Join us for a dutch treat dinner for so-and-so’s birthday!” and “Please join us and contribute $XX.XX.” In both scenarios you are spending money, but the latter feels to me sort of like getting a bill. It’s also easy to feel pressured into doing stuff like that. Example: recently I got invited to a bachelorette weekend, and the e-mail went something like, “If X people go, the condo will only cost $XXX per person!” (So, if I don’t go, it costs everyone else more – not the intended message of the organizer, I know, but it’s still there.) Anyway, point being – I just wish people were a little more aware when asking people to spend resources (money, time) on stuff like this. It can be easy to feel like you’re denying your friend or loved one their nice celebration by not contributing.

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  • mylaray

    mylaray January 27, 2014, 10:45 am

    It’s rude that the friends did this to your fiancé (and it sounds more like they pressured him and less “if you want to help out, you can pay for this”), but there really isn’t a way to bring it up without coming across as rude or ungrateful.

    She essentially paid for her own day at the spa without knowing (yes, it sounds like they took her out to dinner though). Did they ask her fiancé for money beforehand so she couldn’t back out of the plans once she knew the cost? Did they try to figure out a way for her not to pay by asking her fiancé to contribute instead? It comes across as sneaky but it doesn’t come across as your friends being bad people. I would just be clear about not doing expensive birthdays in the future.

    Also, if this were me and money were really tight and on one income, I would be upset at my husband for agreeing to something like this. I’m not saying it’s the fiancé’s fault, but I would definitely want to be on the same page about surprise expenses.

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  • kare

    kare January 27, 2014, 10:45 am

    Did they specifically ask for $80? Or did your friends say “hey we want to do a spa day, it would be awesome if you can contribute but if not that’s fine” and he gave them $80? I guess I don’t think this is weird.

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  • avatar

    SasLinna January 27, 2014, 11:01 am

    There was a discussion recently on Captain Awkward about “ask culture” vs “guess culture” that might be relevant to this question. Essentially, in “ask culture” you can ask for anything, and it’s not considered rude, but the other person isn’t expected to say yes at all. In “guess culture”, you’re not supposed to ask unless you’re pretty sure the answer is going to be yes, and someone who’s asked a favor will often be considered rude if they say no. So there’s more social pressure to say yes but also more protection from requests in guess culture. I don’t really know which camp I fall into, it’s very context-dependent. In this case I have a pretty strong feeling that one “shouldn’t ask” for a financial contribution to a gift for someone else, at least if the person who’s asked to contribute can’t themselves participate in the activity. I’m more indifferent to a case like Wendy described where you ask people to contribute to something they’ll likely also enjoy participating in (they can still decline after all) and I think asking to come up with a gift together as a group can be a very good idea in general.

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    • avatar

      MMcG January 27, 2014, 1:07 pm

      “at least if the person who’s asked to contribute can’t themselves participate in the activity.”

      THIS!! this to me is the big difference in some of the scenarios that are being discussed… fiance wasn’t chipping in for group fun, he was paying for others to get their nails done.

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    • avatar

      iseeshiny January 27, 2014, 1:58 pm

      Yessss this is exactly what I was thinking when I was reading this question over! It’s suck a great way to frame these issues, especially because there’s no need in the narrative for a Bad Guy and a Good Guy, it really just comes down to a misunderstanding of what’s okay.

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      • avatar

        iseeshiny January 27, 2014, 2:07 pm

        My above post is sort of incomprehensible, I just realized, but I can’t edit so I will rephrase:

        Yessss that’s the exact article I thought of when I was reading this! It’s such a great way to frame issues like this, especially because there’s no Bad Guy or Good Guy in the narrative, just a difference of expectations and norms.

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  • avatar

    artsygirl January 27, 2014, 11:25 am

    I think beyond asking the LW’s fiance to chip in money and not giving him credit, the fact that he was not even invited is really shitty of the friends. I can ‘get’ the idea that everyone pays for their meal – not justifying it, just saying there is a little bit of logic since the person would be getting drinks/meal/etc – but he was just asked to bankroll. Also, I imagine the LW’s friends probably split the day three ways (each of them and the fiance paid $80) so in their mind it was ‘fair’.

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    • veracityb

      veracityb January 27, 2014, 11:39 am

      Well, I get why he wasn’t invited along (girls day out etc.) but yeah, asking someone to bankroll is pretty awkward. And yes, if they thought they were splitting the day equally, I can see how they thought this was ok (even though it doesn’t make it really).

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  • avatar

    ktfran January 27, 2014, 12:29 pm

    So, I think the fiance should have 100% been given credit for this gift, or spa day. But . . . I kind kind of see the two bff’s asking for a chip in with the cost. IMO, to make it acceptable, it should have gone more like this:

    Friends: “Hey, fiance, we would really like to treat LW to a spa day and then a night out. What would you think about chipping in as part of LW’s present?”

    Fiance: Either “Hey, that’s a great idea. She needs to destress. I’ll chip in.” or “I’m already doing something for LW. Sorry, I can’t help this time.”

    Then, LW gets surprised with the spa day knowing fiance helped with it. Or not, if he didn’t.

    I figured out what rubbed me the wrong way about this letter. The LW getting mad at her friends for her fiance contributing. He’s a grown man and can make his own choices. If the fiance was THAT concerned about the extra $80, he would have said no. And she’s being all stealth and figuring out who paid what. I mean, these are gifts. Don’t worry about it. I mean, I get splitting finances and all, but I don’t get controlling it so much that people should be afraid to gift others something.

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    • avatar

      MMcG January 27, 2014, 1:10 pm

      I don’t think the LW is mad at the friends for asking… it’s for never referencing it or giving thanks to the fiance at any part of the day… and then the LW finds out about it awkwardly later and probably feels extra weird because she was praising her friends for this amazing day to the guy who actually helped pay for it. I would never have asked in the first place, but even so, how hard would it have been while at the spa to say “Jim wanted to make sure you were really relaxed so the fancy parafin pedicure treatment is courtesy of him… he’s such a great fiance… you are so lucky… yeah Jim!”

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      • avatar

        ktfran January 27, 2014, 1:50 pm

        Oh, I totally agree with that, and I even said that in my response, that something should have been said about it being a joint gift from the friends and fiance.

        My beef is that this is the fiance’s money. He can choose to do what he wants with it. If he wanted to spend that $80 to help contribute to the spa day, so be it. Nobody was forcing him. Yes, I get that they share finances, but when it comes down to it, it’s his money.

        For example, my parents share each of their finances. Joint checking, credit cards, the whole nine yards. However, my dad puts some of his money back each week or month for presents for my mom. I feel this is kind of the same.

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  • JenjaRose

    JenjaRose January 27, 2014, 12:59 pm

    Just want to point out that $80 absolutely CAN make-or-break a lot of people. My cell phone is currently shut off because there’s no way I can come up with $40 to pay the bill right now. I have no internet at home, no TV, no car, and I desperately WISH my boyfriend and I had $80 a week for groceries! I’d eat like a queen! Our food budget is $180 per MONTH.

    That being said, I know my situation. If someone asked me to pitch in $80 for a spa day, I’d politely decline and bake my loved one their favorite cake instead. Ahhh, behold the power of “no!”

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    • avatar

      blink14 January 27, 2014, 2:48 pm

      $80 is kind of a big amount of money when you are already struggling or have to adhere to a tight budget. For me, that’s my cell phone bill, or my share of utilities, or grocery money for a few weeks. If the LW and the fiance are living on a single income, it could mean a lot.

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  • avatar

    lets_be_honest January 27, 2014, 1:17 pm

    The more I think about this, the more I think it would be ok to tell your friends to please never ask your fiance for money again, because it makes you uncomfortable. And then leave it at that. Or just say nothing. haha.

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    • avatar

      SasLinna January 27, 2014, 1:33 pm

      Yeah, I’m actually coming around to that option, too. Especially if she feels she won’t be able to forget about it & hold a grudge. If she says something now at least the friends will have a chance to respond.

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    • bagge72

      bagge72 January 27, 2014, 1:43 pm

      Yeah unfortunately that only works if the fiance was telling the whole truth about everything. Like what if he actually offered to pay, or insisted so that they could take her out to this nice place, then it blows up in her face, and her friends really get mad at her. I feel like 90% people to tell the whole truth when telling a story, they always leave some little important part out.

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      • avatar

        SasLinna January 27, 2014, 1:51 pm

        True, but she could first clarify with the fiancé if they really asked him out of the blue or if he had offered it himself.

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      • bagge72

        bagge72 January 27, 2014, 1:55 pm

        Very True. not just regular true very true!

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      • avatar

        SasLinna January 27, 2014, 1:58 pm

        I think she should talk to him not just to clarify the situation with her friends, but also because it sounds like they may run into a conflict around money management. She’s doing the budgeting and he’s supporting her financially, and she just stumbled onto that bank transfer he made that he had never mentioned to her. I’m wondering why he didn’t just bring it up. Is there some unresolved tension about him supporting her or about her controlling the money?

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      • iwannatalktosampson

        iwannatalktosampson January 27, 2014, 2:26 pm

        He probably didn’t want to tell her because he knew she might feel bad. I don’t know I try not to tell people when I spend money on them, haha. Or even if I buy someone a gift “just because” I never want to talk about the fact that it cost me money to buy that gift. To me money ruins the surprise and love of it all.

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      • avatar

        lets_be_honest January 27, 2014, 2:02 pm

        I don’t know why he would lie really, but maybe you’re on to something. The fact that (it sounds like) he supports her entirely makes me feel worse about this. Imagine if you were supporting your wife and her friends asked you to spend more money on her. Idk. Whole thing is weird.

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      • avatar

        SasLinna January 27, 2014, 2:05 pm

        Yeah, there’s something odd about it, but I can’t really put my finger on it. One possible interpretation is that maybe he felt called out on the 80 bucks and was trying to come up with a justification for it. Like if she’s trying to keep a tight budget for both of them.

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      • veracityb

        veracityb January 27, 2014, 2:04 pm

        In the forums, LW says: “Just to add, I asked my fiance why he didn’t just say no. He said he thought it was weird to ask and felt uncomfortable saying no since they were two of my best friends. I wish he would have and have discussed it with him.” He also got his own present for her (nice dinner) so your scenario is a little unlikely I reckon.

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      • bagge72

        bagge72 January 27, 2014, 2:10 pm

        I reckon it could still be completely true until she got the story from her friends too.

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      • veracityb

        veracityb January 27, 2014, 2:23 pm

        Sure, but that would require bringing it up, which most people seem to think she shoudn’t do (I would try actually, but would just have to be super careful about phrasing, but since I’m crap at that, I’d probably reconsider and end up saying nothing, ha).

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      • bagge72

        bagge72 January 27, 2014, 2:36 pm

        Yeah I don’t think I would bring it up myself, so I would never really know, or I guess I could just trust my wife if this happened to me hahaha.

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  • avatar

    Lily in NYC January 27, 2014, 2:45 pm

    No one in my peer group celebrates their birthdays except for one woman who just will not take the hint and plans huge events for herself every year that no one wants to attend (and of course we are all expected to pay for the event and get her a present). She was so upset two years ago because everyone refused to go ice skating and then to dinner and then to drinks (we are in our late 30’s) so I told her that she needs to “know her audience” and understand that we are just not that into bdays in our group. She really loves that ‘queen for a day” feeling and ended up pouting for weeks. I finally got the nerve up to “friendship divorce” her (for other reasons) and my life is so much less stressful now.

    I think the LW’s friends were tacky as hell, but obviously I am biased against the whole bday thing. I refused to have parties after I turned 10 years old and my mom thought I was crazy. But ice cream cake with my family is ok!

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  • avatar

    bittergaymark January 27, 2014, 3:04 pm

    Time to find some new friends. And when you kick them to the curb and try to explain themselves simply cut them off and start singing…

    i don’t wanna hear
    i don’t wanna know
    please don’t say you’re sorry
    i heard it all before
    and i
    can pay spy bills by myself

    i don’t wanna hear
    i don’t wanna know
    please don’t say forgive me

    i’ve seen it all before
    and i
    won’t take it anymore

    TECHNO MUSIC BRIDGE

    you’re not half the friends you think you are
    save your words
    because you’ve gone too far

    i’ve listened to your lies
    and all your stories (listened to your stories)

    don’t explain yourself
    cuz talk is cheap
    there’s more important things
    than hearing you speak…
    you took my fiance’s money
    cuz it was convenient (so convenient…)

    don’t explain yourself
    you’ll never
    —- see?

    (Yes, it’s Madonna Monday and that was SORRY)

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    • avatar

      rachel January 27, 2014, 3:05 pm

      I’m glad you included the techno music bridge – that’s probably an important part of the advice 😉

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      • bittergaymark

        bittergaymark January 27, 2014, 3:08 pm

        well, there is a gap in the lyrics that otherwise make no sense.

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    • GatorGirl

      GatorGirl January 27, 2014, 3:14 pm

      What did you think about her Grammy performance? I assume you loved it because she can’t do wrong in your eyes, but that hat? the cane? ???

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  • bittergaymark

    bittergaymark January 27, 2014, 5:12 pm

    I have NO live TV so I haven ‘t seen it as of yet — but Madonna twisted her bloody ankle last week so everybody giving her shit about the cane is silly — not to mention SHOCKINGLY ageist…

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  • Lindsay

    Lindsay January 27, 2014, 9:58 pm

    I do find it super rude for the friends to secretly ask the fiance for money. As I said in the forums, that’s essentially requesting the LW’s own money to purchase her gift. Personally, I think that if you want to treat someone to something, then you should be prepared to pay for it. If you’d rather not spend that much money, then choose something more affordable. The fact that they had the fiance pay the bulk of the cost and then never said a word is even worse. At least give credit. I don’t buy someone’s suggestion that maybe they didn’t know the fiance had already spent a lot of money on her. I mean, really, who wouldn’t assume that a person’s fiance is probably doing a lot for their birthday?

    A few people go on about how the LW should have turned down the gift or that the fiance should have said no, and while those are logically true, I think it’s easier said than done. For most people, issues like that don’t really come up, so I don’t blame them for not having a plan of action already. I tend to assume that if someone is giving me something that it’s something they can afford and are OK with doing, and I hope that if it isn’t, they act accordingly, but I’m not going to police it. I can also see how the fiance might feel like he’d look douchey if he said no.

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