The events, therefore, carry special meaning for couples who plan to remain in the place where they grew up, especially if it’s not a big city. In towns where people expect to have a future with the married couple and think, “We’re gonna know you, and know your future children, and go to church with you,” says Juliet Horton, the CEO of the wedding-planning company Everly, it’s only natural that neighbors would want to support them.
The stag and doe can be especially useful as a way of including in the wedding festivities people who might not have made the cut for an invite to the ceremony itself (or even members of the community whom the couple don’t personally know). For stag-and-doe attendees, there’s a “thought process of I know these people, I know this couple, I care about them, I have a relationship with them, but I fully understand that I’m probably not going to be invited to the wedding and this is a way I can go and celebrate their wedding with them,” says Janna Blaine, a co-owner and the lead planner of the wedding-planning company Smitten & Co.
And then there is the second purpose of the stag and doe: to satisfy a couple’s more practical, and often financial, needs. For example, Amy and Jason Shemms of Goshen, Connecticut, already had a baby and owned a home as their wedding approached, and had accumulated much of what people traditionally register for when they get married. So when it came to asking something of their wedding guests, they opted to throw a Jack and Jill instead of putting together a registry. They then used proceeds from the party to cover the final installment on their venue and put the rest in savings.
The idea that a couple’s friends and neighbors should help finance their wedding may offend some readers’ sensitivities. The words tacky and money-grabby came up a lot during my interviews for this story, and several wedding professionals I spoke with considered the stag and doe a violation of accepted wedding etiquette.
Chris Skrzek of Hamilton, Ontario, told me that when he posted on Reddit excitedly explaining his plan to merge his wedding and his stag and doe into one big crowdfunded event, he was surprised by how many negative responses he received about how it was being financed. “We just wanted to get married and have a party and not pay through the roof for it—not sell out our kids’ education fund,” Skrzek said. While Skrzek said stag and does are commonplace where he lives, the concept was poorly received online by people unfamiliar with the practice.
It’s hard to argue that a wedding one can’t otherwise afford is a life necessity, but there might be something more to the commenters’ disapproval. “Passing judgment on people who would ask others to help pay for their wedding and saying, ‘They’re rude and grasping,’ is a way to reproduce class boundaries without explicitly engaging in overt classism,” notes Andrea Voyer, a sociologist at Stockholm University who studies etiquette.