What Did You Spend on Your Last Wedding Gift?
Yo, internet. What’d you spend on your last wedding gift? Why did you spend that amount of money? What is your wedding gift philosophy? Let’s gab.
I just bought a wedding gift last week actually! And I spent … I spent like three hundred dollars on it? But it’s ok because the bride’s a close friend. (I mean, ok, fine, yes, to be fair I don’t think I bought gifts for either of my parents’ remarriages? Or for either of my older sister’s two weddings? But I’m a Grown Up now, so.) But in any event, I’m a strict by-the-registry kind of shopper, and, well, weeks earlier I’d put some All-Clad in my cart but there was some sort of bug and the Sur La Table machines told me I couldn’t check out so I went grocery shopping instead and promptly forgot about it until the day before the ceremony when—surprise!—all four registries had been thoroughly picked over and all that remained was something called a “drinking table” from Crate & Barrel, which I decided I was ok with (because: drinking). Now, I do generally kind of hate this whole business? I mean, marriage is crap, really, on so many levels, but no more so than in this regard, this idea that should you decide to enter into what has historically speaking been a thoroughly bullshit institution then people will buy you all this stuff! Which: hooey. Crap. Total capitalist garbage. Ban it dead. HOWEVER: This is no excuse not to come with a gift! They’re throwing a nice party and serving you a nice dinner and you’re a good friend and good friends do nice things for other good friends, even when those friends do silly things like get married.
I bought a wedding gift last week and spent about $60 including shipping. The wedding took place last May and I was motivated to give it by that Times article that made me panic that my friends all hate me.
It’s weird, I am in general a great gift-giver and I love giving gifts. But wedding gifts are somehow something I’m extremely bad at. There are so many other costs associated with attending a wedding, especially if you’re in the wedding party or it’s a destination wedding, and because most people aren’t rich enough to get married in NYC almost every wedding I’ve been to has been a destination wedding. I know it’s a token and sentimental and that people are generally understanding, but somehow adding a salad spinner to the $450 hotel, $200 dress and $800 plane ticket tends to be the straw that breaks this camel’s back. But that’s both irrational and kind of dickish of me. I’m trying to be better.
People who get annoyed when they don’t receive gifts, though, need to reexamine their relationship to material things and think about the definition of the word “gift.”
Last wedding gift I got was a donation to a pro-gay-rights charity, if that counts. If you want something physical, it was a waffle maker. Actually, I also got my buddy a 100 year old toy stuffed monkey, that looks like this. I found it at a yard sale on the same block as my friend’s apartment, as I was walking back from the liquor store on the day of the wedding. It cost 15 dollars, and belonged to the seller’s grandfather, and now it stands as an eternal reminder of the sanctity of marriage.
I am pretty opposed to wedding gifts, especially for people old enough that they’ve been living as adults for a while—it seems like once you’ve lived on your own, it’s harder to justify asking for things like cookware and what have you. I think more often than not a registry turns into an aspirational checklist. “We are not REALLY adults unless we have a panini press!” or whatever. And it’s reinforced by how balls expensive weddings are, which makes behavior you would not engage in for any other major life event/party seem suddenly economically reasonable. I think I’ve given a gift for every wedding I’ve been to, but some of them were donations to charities instead of gold-edged plates or whatever. Likewise, when I got married, we did not have a registry, and we told people they didn’t have to get us anything (especially since so many guests flew in from across the country) and that if they DID get us something, it could be a charitable donation. This didn’t stop people from coming up with very nice gifts, but made it feel a bit less transactional.
I will come out and say it: Wedding registries are such bullshit. Unless you actually have never lived with your future spouse and actually don’t have any house stuff, why is it “traditional” for me to bankroll your dumb expensive towels and dumb espresso machine and dumb Kitchenaid mixer that, let’s be real, you won’t really use because we all know you don’t cook? Also anything Le Creuset that isn’t a dutch oven is a total scam, and yet here you are asking for a $120 skillet in blue (oh sorry, “Caribbean”) to match the rest of the kitchen stuff you don’t need (or better, that should be replaced by a $25 Lodge skillet). Registries are just this really awful combination of greed and societal expectations and wishful thinking.
That said, they can be done well: A registry full of ~$40 things that you genuinely need and will use (I recently bought a set of Weck canning jars off a friend’s registry, which I know she’ll actually use forever) is a nice way to let everyone contribute to your future life. I just think opting out—because you can’t afford it (why would anyone want their friends to go into debt for them?), because you don’t know the person that well (if you can’t go, an invite does not mean you have to purchase a gift), or really for any other reason—should always be an option.
Weddings are not a transaction—a night of food and booze (oh, and true love) in exchange for an overly ornate crystal butter dish—but registries make them feel that way. That’s an ugly feeling.
I always buy bar stuff from wedding registries because I know my friends will use it, and think of me when they use it. I’ve probably bought about 10 cocktail sets for different people so far, and I’ll usually throw in a wine rack or some beer glasses to get up to around $50-60, which is what I can afford to spend right now. I don’t think I would ever not get a gift if I were going to someone’s wedding, but that’s really only because I can afford to—if I were really poor maybe I wouldn’t. I’ve been broke most of my adult life so that’s how most of my friends know me anyway. Amusingly, when we sent our wedding announcements, a friend whose wedding we attended recently sent a check for almost exactly the amount of the gifts we got them. Not sure if this was an accident or just their characteristic precision.
Our wedding was very low-key and a bit hastily planned, so we mostly got cash from various relatives. My mom donated the wedding ring and my dad sent me cash for a new suit, and they also paid for a hotel room for us for two nights, which was actually great since my wife loves staying in hotels and that meant her mom could save money by staying in our apartment. And then my mom picked up the tab for the dinner (I can’t remember if I actually chipped in or not, but I meant to pay for half of it. I think it came to about $600.) My wife’s mom bought my wedding band, plus her own expensive plane ticket to the U.S. The only other people at our wedding were my aunt and uncle, who got us a very nice silver serving platter, my wife’s friend, who got us a couple of small, useful kitchen gadgets, and two of my friends, who I think wrote a check. We didn’t judge anyone: I was very happy that our friends and family were able to join us, and also happy about receiving checks, usually in the $30-50 range. My feelings might be different if we had spent $10,000 or $20,000 on the wedding, though.
The last wedding gift I purchased:I bought my old friend from high school a planter on her Amazon registry. I think it was sixty or seventy dollars.
When my husband and I got married, our friends were all still in their early or mid-twenties and we didn’t judge any of the gifts. We were thankful for any gesture. But now we are older and when I go to weddings I feel like a heel if I don’t spend something significant. Basically, I think the gifts get grander the older the peer group. A picture frame is okay when you’re 23, but once you near 30, it seems tacky.
I just wrote a dear friend and her new husband a cheque for $50. This feels gross and smacks of laziness and a lack of creativity, but they wanted money. I’ve never done that before—just given cash—although I completely understand why, for some couples, this would be desirable. They want to buy a house. I’d like to buy them a house! But I am unemployed, so here, friends, please take this cheque printed with my address from five years ago that might one day buy you a doorknob. $50 seems paltry to me. I’m writing a nice card. I hope they understand. It’s the thought that counts? That’s how I’ve operated over the past few wedding-y years: Put as much love and and creativity and generosity of spirit into the gift—into the entire EVENT—as you can muster. The actual dollar figure is not that important. My social circle is pretty much uniformly young-ish and financially strapped and for that reason, were I to ever get married (hahaha), I would not expect or even want gifts of any serious monetary value from any of my friends. Plus that’s not really the point? Is it? Of getting married? There’s something sort of off to me about the entire idea of wedding gifts when you break it down—we give you something because you found someone who wants to love you and your complexes forever and ever. Not to say I don’t feel compelled to celebrate that love, and that whole definition is an oversimplification, to be sure, and I’m totally alone, so whatever, but still—I imagine what it might feel like to have that, to have that kind of love, and then to have all of your community show up to witness it, and I would hope—maybe—that that would be enough?
The last gift I gave was $50 towards their honeymoon because I was lazy about getting them a gift and by the time I got around to it everything good on the registry was taken. (I was planning on getting them a fancy humidifier but someone else beat me to it.) I felt a little cheap but I also flew out for the wedding/am deeply underemployed so that was all I could afford. I also bought them both drinks at the hotel bar after the party, so.
Oh my god NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO if this were a TV show this would be the email I get out of the blue that is my past coming back to haunt me. I guess it’s time to come clean.
I went to a wedding in 2011. And I had NO idea what to get the couple because it seemed, to me, like they had everything, and excellent taste, and the means to get whatever they wanted, and anything I could think of within my budget was just like. Embarrassing. Like, I was not going to be the person who showed up with a shitty serving platter from Crate and Barrel, when (I imagined), the other guests would be bringing things like, I dunno, an early Basquiat.
So I decided to rely on the etiquette (urban legend?) that you have a year to give a gift. And I hoped that, within the next 12 months, inspiration (and a small windfall) would strike.
I just had it in my head that I had to get them something really special—that getting the perfect gift would make up for (what I saw as) the inadequacies of what I could actually afford to spend. Like, if I couldn’t afford to get them something amazing so at least I could get them something unique, or sort of hard to get.
Except…..I didn’t. And it’s been two years. And I’ve had both the means and the opportunity.
There are a billion things that I could have gotten them in the past two years, and I’m sure they would have been pleased with any one of them. This is not a snobby, persnickety couple, by the way! This is a couple that would have been touched—or at least, graceful enough to pretend to be—with a handwritten poem.
The more time passes, the more ashamed I am, the BIGGER the gift has to be to make up for its unexplained two year delay. (And it’s also affected my relationship with the couple because I am EMBARRASSED about this unspoken faux-pas.)
I really do think about it all the time.
I have to get them something!
It’s got to be good, at this point.
Like, really good.
And I’ve definitely, humiliatingly learned my lesson. Not to be snobby about wedding gifts. A Crate and Barrel platter, a Crate and Barrel fork, would have been far more elegant and gracious than just showing up to their wedding and never giving them anything at all.
I believe the last wedding present I bought was a ridiculous print involving bears and mittens for a friend of mine and his now-wife (NSFW). It’s by Heather Buchanan, who is really talented and has a great sense of humor with her art (etsy shout out: http://www.etsy.com/shop/HeatherBuchanan). It’s not all weird bear/mitten porn!
I also gave them some cold hard cash since the print was only $20. I believe I spent about $50 in total. I didn’t feel bad giving them some seriously crazy wall art and cash because I’ve known the groom forever and I knew he’d appreciate it.
My wedding gift giving philosophy in general is to go off the registry if you know the couple well and stay on the registry if you don’t. I also decide how much to spend based on how well I know (and like) the couple, as well as my current financial situation. Registries in general are weird things! I would love to always surprise the couple, but it can be difficult. I always, always feel compelled to give a gift, but I do find it obnoxious when people set up things like honeymoon funds or put ridiculously expensive items on their registries (I’m here to help you stock up on kitchen accessories, not furnish your house). Giving to charity funds is a nice alternative.
I also don’t really understand why cash is looked down upon in certain parts of this country. Personally, I think it’s what most people need after a huge wedding. It’s good everywhere. I WOULD hope that my parents and closest friends would know me well enough to buy me something they know my future husband and I would enjoy, but I’ll never scoff at money.
For me, I figure I’ll be pretty old (by wedding standards) if and when I get married and probably won’t need many things that most younger couples ask for. I also have this idealistic notion that I’ll be magically rich and all set by then, so I’ll gladly accept anything (or nothing!) at that point. Ultimately, I want my wedding to be fun for guests, not financially draining or stressful.
I usually buy off the registry because I am lazy, and, due to the niceness of the gifts I got at my own wedding, have been shamed into upping my gift amount from $60 to $150-$200. Maybe that’s just getting older, also, I dunno. I completely did not judge at all the gifts I got (people were so kind!). Here is a weird thing to be aware of: If you don’t get a thank you note from some, follow up! I know it feels like a dick move but there was someone I am prettttty sure got me a gift (because they are not the sort of person to forget) but I never got it, and there’s no polite way to be like “I never got your gift, did you send one.” Which, to reiterate, it would’ve been fine if they didn’t. But! My mom got my cousin a KitchenAid mixer (I know my mom is the best) and there was some shipping issue and it never got sent, but my mom got charged, and it’s only through a series of coincidences that both my mom and my cousin realized what happened and fixed the problem. Otherwise my mom would be out 250 bucks while my cousin wouldn’t have gotten her nice mixer! So don’t feel weird about following up with someone you’ve had a gift mailed to if you don’t hear a thank you from them, because it possibly never arrived.
Just give money. Always money. My cousin got married last year and we gave a thousand, they’re young and broke and used it to get some kind of hairball removal surgery for their cat.
I’ve never bought a wedding gift. The only wedding I have been to as An Adult was my gf’s bro’s wedding and I was procrastinating on buying him and his wife a gift and then a couple months later we broke up and I just never bought a gift.
I’m currently behind on wedding gifts, so this question is giving me a serious case of mild but inexorable “you really do owe friend X a long, kind, thoughtful email” shame. Which I guess is equating a wedding gift to a nice long email, but maybe that’s fair? Both are tokens of affection; one takes no money but lots of time, one takes no time but lots of money.
Anyway, my boyfriend and I have been invited to eleven weddings this year, about half for his friends and half for mine, so someone please tell me how to stay alive with this. For the most part, we’ve split up our attendance and gift duties accordingly as to not go bankrupt (he is doing a very nice guy thing and just sending everyone checks). But I grew up in Texas so I’m pretty serious about certain areas of etiquette (always send paper thank-you notes, etc), and I definitely think the gift is obligatory. I was considering not sending one for the first time this summer (to a girl I went to high school with, who I’ve lost touch with to the point that I don’t even know her current email), but I think the shame would eventually overtake me; I still feel super guilty about not sending thank-you notes about a big collective birthday present I got a few years ago. I usually go on-registry, $50-100 as I can afford, or else send the couple this awesome picnic backpack!