The best gift I ever received was completely unexpected. It was from a lovely man I’d met a month earlier. We were smitten, but still in the getting to know each other phase of our relationship. When the gift arrived in the mail, I hesitated to open it. If he was a bad gift giver, it could have been a deal breaker. The pressure of smiling and pretending to enjoy a bad gift was a lot to carry off for years to come, should the relationship move to the next level.
Luckily, when I opened the package, I found the perfect gift. A framed pewter cross, entitle “Lead by the Spirit” created by a San Diego artist Cynthia Webb, that reflected the journey I was on when we met.
Some people have the knack of finding the perfect gift. Some of us need a bit more help, something to ensure we don’t buy an expensive knife set for those more inclined to assemble food rather than cook gourmet meals. To keep us from selecting an expensive set of wine glasses for craft beer aficionados. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if there was a list that kept us on track? Something like a wedding gift registry? Something that the bride and groom spent hours creating so that we can get them something they really want? Where do you find this magical tool? Check the wedding invite, which often includes a card indicating where the couple is registered. Or, you may find it on their wedding website, if the couple has created a site on The Knot or one of their own.
Who should use the gift registry? Well, anyone who is a friend of the parents’ or grandparents’ of the couple, but doesn’t know them well. Coworkers or anyone who knows the couple professionally. If you know the couple from church, a running or rowing club, or other organization, stick to the gift registry. If you are a close relative and don’t have the time to shop for something personal or you want to make sure that the couple gets the more expensive items on their registry and you can afford to spring for them.
How much should you spend? Anything under $50 for a wedding seems chintzy, unless you are in high school and your cheer teacher has invited you to her wedding. If you’ve graduated from college, and have a steady job, use the matching rule. Try to approximate how much the couple is spending per person on the wedding and match that if you can afford it. If you think the wedding is costing the couple $150 - $175 a person, stay in that range. If the wedding is out of town and you are in the wedding party, spend whatever you can, but don’t feel like you have to break the bank. Most couples are happy you are there with them on their special day and don’t expect you to spring for an expensive gift on top of the expense of being in the wedding.
And, if you are great aunt Ethel and this is your only grand niece, and you have more money than you know what to do with, spend big. After all, you can’t take it with you, can you?
It’s becoming more acceptable to pitch in on group gifts to fund large purchases that the bride and groom might feel are too expensive to put on their registry. So, if you and the boys know that the groom has had his eye on a Big Green Egg, but he doesn’t feel it would be an appropriate wedding present due to its hefty price tag, pool your money and buy it for him. Or if you and seven or eight friends know that there is a vintage sofa that the bride wants, but just can’t bring herself to buy because of all the other expense of the wedding, go for it. The only rule of group gifts is to stick to something that they will use as a couple. Gourmet cookware, if they are both into cooking, is a yes. As is an espresso machine for the coffee-loving couple. Golf clubs or a Louis Vuitton bag would be nos.
These days, people are waiting later to marry and by the time they are in their late twenties or early thirties, they have the basics they need. China, silver, and traditional wedding gifts might not mean as much as a nest egg to help fund their first home. Crowdsourcing options such as Feather the Nest let guests put the money they would have spent on wedding gifts toward a future down payment on a house. There are also crowd-funding sites for honeymoons too. So if you want to give them an experience to remember, put your money toward the memories, they will create.
Yes, the traditional rule is that you have a year to buy a wedding present once the couple has said their “I dos,” but why wait. If you buy the gift as soon as you receive the invitation, not only is the task done, but you have the best pick of the registry.
Waiting to the last minute means your choices are down to one of the $535 Saint Louis Crystal Thistle Gold Water Goblet and or the Darth Vader pillowcases your pretty sure the groom snuck onto the registry when the bride wasn’t looking. The first might be more than you can afford while the second option while very funny, might not convey your excitement for them.
Didn’t have time to get a gift before the wedding? Don’t grab a gift from your re-gift closet and take it along to the wedding. When we were married a few years ago, Kim and I received a cheese board from a very wealthy friend who he’d known for years. One look at the box, and we knew it was a re-gift. If you don’t have time to shop or don’t want to give a gift, giving a card with a you wishes for the couple’s happiness is a much better option. We cherished the thoughtful cards and letters we received much more than the last minute gifts.
Don’t take gifts to the wedding.
This is tasking the bride and groom on their special day. And don’t take a gift and expect them to open it at the reception. It’s a wedding, not a birthday party. If you have a special gift, grandmother’s pearls or your father’s pocket watch, give it to the bride or groom before the wedding. If you have a gift, mail it to the couple after the wedding or drop it by a relative’s house before you leave town. Most wedding planners will assign gathering the gifts to a bridesmaid if you absolutely have to bring a gift with
you to the ceremony, but it is better if you don’t.
Finally, there are some who simply don’t want or need anything. We all have a few of those budding minimalists or super altruistic friends who’d rather have the gift of giving to someone else than themselves. For these couples, a charitable donation, to either their favorite charity or one you think they might appreciate, could be the best use of your money. They may ask that rather than giving a gift, guests donate to a cause or an organization. There will be sure to be some guests determined to give them something personal, but if you why follow the bride and grooms lead and honor their request, your gift will be doubly appreciated.