Not only is the Cover-Your-Plate theory terribly flawed… as in NO ONE for certain would know what the price per head amount would be for the TOTAL WEDDING… not just the food… and it would be incredibly RUDE to ask.
This so-called custom is not one that finds its roots in any sort of approved Etiquette
A guest is a guest period. A Wedding like any other social event is meant to be welcoming and considerate of the guests in attendance. Things are provided for THEIR convenience and comfort. It is NEVER the other way around.
If a Host goes into the idea of throwing a Party (or a Wedding) with the thoughts of having an event that is meant to “make money”… then it isn’t a party or a celebration… it is a FUND RAISING EVENT period. And fundrasing should be done SOLELY for true charities (and God knows there are enough of them)… not a Bride & Groom !!
As is the old saying… “Your presence is enough”
Gifts be they physical items… or things like Cash, Cheques or Gift Cards… SHOULD NEVER be expected… nor should they be solicited.
To do so is very gauche, tacky… and of course Gift Grabby.
(Which is why Etiquette dictates that any Gift / Registry info does not appear anywhere near the Invite… EVER)
Traditionally if gifts were brought, then it was the Guest who discreetly asked the family (usually MOB or the Bridal Party) “what might” the couple need / like to start their married life with
Today… that translates into the same approach… or in the case of the Internet, a couple with a Wedding Website can DISCREETLY put the info on there to help their Guests (along with other info like… Maps & Directions, Hotel Info, Things to Do in the Wedding City etc)
Historically, gifts were brought filled with LOVE and joy… and in olden days many were home-made items… like furniture, linens, even food to be “put down in the root cellar” etc
Infact not so long ago, it was considered inappropriate in North America to give money as a Wedding Present.
Now it seems, that IF IT ISN’T MONEY… then some couples are truly ungrateful (hence some how came about the “Cover Your Plate” mentality)
Etiquette wise, if a Guest chooses to bring a gift, it should be ONLY DEPENDANT on 3 things..
1- What they can afford
2- On what THEY think the couple might need / like / appreciate
3- And perhaps on how close they are to the couple in Question (so it is perfectly fine to give more / spend more on immediate family members vs others)
Hope this helps,
EDIT TO ADD
On a personal note, I’m old enough (over 50) to have been to dozens of Weddings in my lifetime. And the majority of them took place long before the “Cover Your Plate” theory came to be. I have always been a gracious guest… no matter how much money I had at the time. I guess you could say I just LOVE weddings, and I was raised this way. Even back in the 1980s when cousins, friends and collegues were getting married, I gave well ($ 50 to $ 100+… usually in the form of a gift off their Registry). Today, and Mr TTR are somewhere in the $ 100 to $ 200+ range, depending on how well we know the couple… but our gift giving has changed in that… I still look at the Registry (still think these are important… and just about every couple can use NEW Stuff for their homes… lol, even us at our age) OR sometimes we’ll give a Gift Card if we know of something the couple might like (ie to a Favourite Restaurant etc)
PS… For couples who believe there is a “Cover The Plate” need… my only words of advice is… You need to plan something else. A Wedding that YOU CAN AFFORD. To think for even a minute that your Wedding is going to break even is ridiculous… and soooo “off track” for what a Wedding truly is / represents. When you have a Wedding & Reception you can afford you are overall that much more comfortable because it (a) no doubt more clearly represents the two of you, and (b) is a H3LL OF A LOT LESS STRESSFUL because you aren’t worrying about the cost everything. In the end, you’ll actually probably end up further ahead on so many levels (including probably financially…)
There is absolutely nothing wrong with a smaller Wedding & Reception… classy events can be organized at all price points… even something as simple as a short Cake & Champagne “Toast Before You Go” on the Church Lawn. You can give your Guests a memorable event without breaking the bank (or having to rob one… or your Guests to make it happen)