Generous aunt should give couple gift from the heart

A Nosh of Jewish Wisdom: Every wedding has its worries, but let the joys be more.

Dear Helen:

I am the youngest of four sisters; one lives near me, the other two back East. Eldest Michelle has always been bossy, controlling and opinionated, the self-designated queen. At 23, her twins, Sarah and David, are far less self-confident and self-sufficient than my children, in part because Michelle has managed so much of their lives. Sarah got married last year; we gave her a very large cash gift to help her relocate to a new town and escape working for her mother.

Now David and his long-term honey (whom Michelle dislikes) have eloped. My guess is that they wanted to avoid the “let me help” (read “let me take over”) wedding circus that Sarah barely survived. I think it’s only right to give these newlyweds the same gift. Michelle says they should be punished for depriving the family of a spectacle. We’ve agreed to go with whatever you say. What say you?

Auntie Generous

 Dear Generous:

For the average gift, I’m not a fan of cash or gift cards. But whatever the form, gifts should come from the heart, not from any sense of obligation. They should certainly not be used as a weapon or punishment. Though circumstances may vary, the primary gifting reason is the same: these are young kids starting lives of their own, and any donation that helps them become independent and well set up will be appreciated and is a great choice.

My simplest answer is one of equity: They’re twins. What you do for one generally sets a precedent for what you should do for the other. Your sister may have an axe to grind, but you clearly don’t. Tell her that your gift is between them and you, and that she’d do better to work on having a good relationship with her kids and kids-in-law than worrying about what you do with your money.

Have the young couples over for a party you host and toast the beginnings of their new lives. I’m betting Michelle will come, sour face and all.

Dear Helen:

My ex wants to bring his newest live-in girlfriend to our son’s wedding. There’s not a shred of me that wants her to come, but I know I can’t make a scene, at least not in front of my son or my ex.

David divorced me when Michael was 7. I have been very careful never to speak badly about his father to Michael, so I don’t want to start now. I can’t tell her not to come, but what should I do?

Mother of the Groom

 Dear Mother:

Don’t you hate having to be nicer than you feel? If you want to howl and whine, don’t stifle it, though you should probably be careful who’s around when you do. Be sure to find some indulgent reward for yourself, so choosing the moral high road gets reinforced.

In the long run, you’re right not to make a fuss and never to bad-mouth your ex to his son. You are not alone. Thousands of women face exes for weddings, bar mitzvahs, family reunions, funerals or any place the mishpocheh gather. Be gracious, even if you’re gritting your teeth every time you look in their direction.

Instead of seeing this as a punishment or test, find the opportunities it offers you to look composed, gracious, happy, generous and self-sufficiently rid of your very ex ex. You should look divine and drop by their table, albeit briefly. Send the new honey home with a centerpiece.

A resident of Eugene since 1981, Helen Rosenau is a member of Temple Beth Israel. She’s a student of Torah and an artist (, a writer ( and the author of The Messy Joys of Being Human: A Guide to Risking Change and Becoming Happier.
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