Dear Pepper: For the richest or the poorest

Dear Pepper is a monthly comic book by Liana Finck. If you have any questions for Pepper on how to act in difficult situations, please direct them to [email protected] Questions can be edited for brevity and clarity.

Dear Pepper,

My longtime girlfriend and I recently got away, pretty much on a whim. We are in our 40s, have lived together for eight years, have two children and are financially stable. A few people gave us wedding gifts. A vase here, a gift card there. We are always surprised and touched. Always, that is to say, except when we are perplexed and worried. A few people gave us shockingly large gifts. These make us feel like we’re being invited to play some kind of tricky game where we’re forced to secretly pay these people off over time for a massive check. What am I supposed to do? Isn’t cashing checks an option?

I will just add that these people are not our parents or our relatives, and are not all particularly well off.

One last thing: my wife has no qualms about accepting big gifts. She just said, “Oh, that’s so generous! – which is nice, but I see strings tied where she doesn’t.

All the best,

Looking for a gift horse in the mouth

Dear gift horse dentist,

There are a lot of people who wouldn’t think that a gigantic wedding gift is goofy and a little spooky, but I, personally, agree with you.

There are a few exceptions. An older close relative, who would put you in their will, might prefer to be generous while they are alive. Wills are a bit gruesome, aren’t they?

And, if you were having a hard time paying your bills, a caring friend might help out under the guise of a wedding gift.

But it doesn’t appear that these checks fall into either of those categories.

When the gifts come from people your wife has brought into the relationship – family or school friends, for example – the answer is clear: cash the checks. This is his call.

But when they come from your people, or, perhaps, from shared people, it is more murky. It would be rude and confusing not to cash a check. It is also not ideal to just take the money.

I think you should look at each check on a case-by-case basis. Find the most plausible reason why each person might have given you money, and act on it. Have you complained about expenses to a friend? Did anyone feel they owed you because you had already done them a great service? Whether or not you cash one of these checks, the most important thing is to send a very kind and thoughtful note. With very little doubt, the check writers had good intentions.

That being said, I’m no fan of continuing the disgusting cycle of huge gifts – if someone gives you a thousand dollar wedding present, you give their child a thousand dollar bar mitzvah gift. But I guess that’s also an option. A last resort. Enjoy living in a novel by Edith Wharton.

Attached is a check for nine thousand dollars.

Truly,

Pepper


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