10 Tips for Wedding Gifts (Buying and Receiving)
Friday, September 7, 2012Tweet
Summer has typically been the season of weddings for our friends and family, but for some reason this year it's September and October that are chock-full of weddings. I went to my cousin's wedding this past weekend, and we've booked our flights to Ohio for a friend's October wedding for which Mike will be a groomsmen. The rest we won't be able to attend, but we do buy gifts for everyone.
This got me thinking about wedding gifts and wedding registries, both about our own experience as a couple receiving gifts and about our experience now with buying gifts. I decided to put together a list of wedding gift-related tips for both brides-to-be and wedding invitees.
Of course, when it comes to something like gifts, different people have different ideas about what's best, or most proper, or most helpful. These are based on my personal experiences and preferences, and not everyone will agree, but I find there's still value in sharing what works for me and hearing what works for other people. Please share your thoughts and your own tips in comments!
Tips for Creating a Wedding Registry
1. Your registry size should grow with your guest list size.
I received an invitation this week for a cousin's wedding, and I got on my computer immediately to look at their registries. Between their two registries there were fewer than 10 items left that hadn't been bought, and only two were in our price range. It's possibly they're having a very small wedding, but if not there are going to be a lot of people having to either give cash (which a lot of people don't want to do, for various reasons) or guess at something the couple might want. There may not be a lot of things you need, but if you're having a large wedding, expect that there will be a lot of people wanting to buy you gifts. It's OK to get creative in what you ask for (see #3) and register for intangible items -- just avoid leaving people hanging.
2. Look over the price range of your registry.
Certainly you should register for the items you want, but also take a minute to see how many of your items fall into each price range ($0-$25, $25-$50, $50-$100, $100+). There's nothing wrong with asking for some big-ticket items, but consider whether guests with smaller budgets will be able to buy a gift off your registry. One option is to see whether multi-packs (plates, glasses, pots) can be registered as individual items instead, so if no one can afford to buy you that entire set of crystal goblets, you might still get enough goblets from people who each buy one or two. Don't forget about small items like salt and pepper shakers and serving utensils. On the other hand, this is your opportunity to ask for the highest quality items, like those super-luxurious sheets and towels that you'd never buy yourself if you were bargain-hunting. This is one time you don't have to be frugal when picking things for your home.
3. Don't be afraid to get creative.
In addition to registering for household items, Mike and I set up a registry on Honeymoon Wishes. We went on a cruise for our honeymoon and picked out a few excursions we wanted to go on, and we broke the price of each down into $25 or $50 increments that people could contribute to the total cost (after first adding to the cost to account for the 7% fee the site takes). We weren't sure how people would react, but these ended up getting bought almost immediately, and we had fun sending pictures afterwards to the people who had contributed to each excursion. When Mike and I buy gifts for friends' weddings, we often look for fun items on the registry like a tent or a ping-pong set. Yes, some people have more traditional ideas about what's an appropriate wedding gift, but other people may want the opportunity to give a unique or experiential gift.
4. Be kind to out-of-town guests.
Not everyone will be able to attend the wedding, and those who are attending may be traveling from far away and not want to worry about bringing a gift or buying (and wrapping) one upon arrival. It's frustrating for me as a guest when the majority of a friend's online registry are "in-store only" items; even worse is something like Home Depot, where you have to get the registry number and physically bring it into a store to buy a gift. Your out-of-town guests should have the opportunity to view at least one of your registries online, order a gift online, and have it sent to an address you've already provided to the website.
5. Share where you're registered.
Yes, there are all sorts of etiquette things around not wanting to outright ask for gifts, but seriously -- I know you're registered somewhere, so just tell me. Otherwise I have to spend time checking all the common stores, and this can be even more of a hassle if you're registered somewhere unusual or -- as I've seen happen -- one of your names is spelled wrong on the registry. Which is another good tip: Double-check that all the information on your registry is correct, so people searching for it will be able to find it!
Tips for Buying Wedding Gifts
1. Be hesitant to deviate from the registry.
If you're buying (or making) the couple something not on their registry, it should be decidedly different from anything they have listed. For example, some great non-registry wedding gifts we received included a quilt made by Mike's aunt, a picture book about our relationship created by a friend from college, and Christmas stockings. On the other hand, we had on our registry a cake plate, which was given to us at my bridal shower, and we received two more cake plates as wedding gifts. Not only did we not need or have the space in our apartment for three cake plates, but the one we'd requested had a cover, and the other two did not, and one was from an antique store and couldn't be returned. We also got an entire 10-piece cooking set that we returned because we barely had room for the 10-piece cooking set we had registered for. Remember that the couple getting married put thought into which items to register for, and if you don't check their registry before buying, your gift may end up being a duplicate or something they don't have space for -- so don't be offended if they return your gift.
Also, if you buy something from the registry, make sure the store knows it's bought. This is easy to do online if you Add to Cart directly from the online registry screen, but if you buy it in store, be sure it's entered or scanned as being part of the couple's registry so they don't receive duplicates.
2. Make use of online registry filters.
Mike and I have decided on a specific amount we'll spend on wedding gifts, and a smaller amount for bridal shower gifts. One thing that has saved me a lot of time is realizing that there are drop-down filters at the top of a lot of online registries, so I can quickly filter down to Items Remaining (instead of sorting through ones already bought) and ones that fall within our price range, then sort by price. This way I can quickly see which items I have to choose from, and then pick something fun (see #3 above) or something we ourselves own and like. I also try to pick something that is a little less than our budgeted amount so with tax and shipping it will come out about right. Failing this, I can go down a price range and pick out two or three items that together fit our budget. Just be careful to indicate to have the items shipped together -- my mom had an awkward moment of having two items shipped separately so the couple received a gift from her first that was only a few dollars; she called them so they'd know it wasn't the only thing she'd gotten them!
3. Cash and checks are A-OK.
Some people think that giving cash or a check is an impersonal gift, and I totally get that feeling, but I also know how much we appreciated all the monetary gifts we received for our wedding. We mostly used the money to buy the items on our registry that we didn't receive but also put it toward some things we hadn't realized we would need when we put together our registry. Everything we received, whether gifts or money, was deeply appreciated. If you feel too awkward giving cash, consider giving a gift card to one of the places the couple is registered so they can put it toward something they wanted to receive but didn't.
4. Ship your gift rather than bringing it to the wedding.
Not everyone will agree with me on this one, but I know for us it was great to have wedding gifts shipped directly to us. For one thing, we could open them and write thank-you notes a little at a time (though we waited to send all of them until after the wedding). Also, there were the logistics to organize of getting the gifts from the reception to us; we didn't want to have to haul out all the gifts into our car before leaving the reception, so my parents took them home and we went over to their house the next day to open them, then load them into our car. I know couples for whom the logistics are far more complicated if they're getting married somewhere far away from home, and some people forget to account for all the gifts they'll get the day of until they're at the reception and the gift table is piling up, and they have to figure out who has a car big enough for everything, how they'll get them home, etc. So my advice is to save everyone this hassle and just have the gifts sent directly to the couple; most online registries will have their preferred address on file so you don't even have to know what it is.
5. Don't bother with gift wrap for shipped gifts.
When buying wedding gifts to have shipped to friends and family, I'm often asked during the checkout process if I want to add gift wrap for a few extra dollars. Having been on the receiving end of wedding gifts already, I never get the gift wrap. Pretty much everything shipped to us came in a brown box anyway, and it was enough anticipation opening up the box to see what was inside. A wrapped gift is just another layer to unwrap, and I couldn't even tell you whose gifts were wrapped and whose weren't because it didn't matter to us at all. Save some trees, save your money, skip the gift wrap.
Those are my tips for wedding gifts. Agree/Disagree? What would you add?