The Wedding Gift Tradition Has Stopped Making Sense
Tuesday, April 9, 2013Tweet
When we first moved into our new apartment, many of the other hall directors came over to introduce themselves. We did the rounds of each other's apartments, comparing and commenting, and served each other drinks and snacks as we got to know each other.
Inevitably another hall director -- almost all of whom are single -- would comment on something or other in our kitchen.
"I love this spice rack."
"Thanks. It was a wedding present."
"You own a cheese slicer?"
"Yeah. Wedding present."
It soon became embarrassingly clear that just about everything filling the drawers and cabinets of our kitchen and lining our counters was a wedding present.
"Man," they would say, "I want to get married, just so I can get all this stuff."
It's a sentiment I've since heard echoed by my single Twitter friends and others, and I've come to the conclusion that the tradition of giving wedding gifts is completely outdated.
In a time when people often didn't move out of their parents' home until they were married (which tended to be at a relatively young age), I can see how it made sense to equate the occasion of one's wedding with the bestowing of gifts to equip one's home. It was the first time in one's life that necessitated furnishing an entire home, and gifts from friends and family helped offset the cost of starting this "new life" -- not just as a couple but as primary owners or renters of a residence.
But in today's day and age, moving into a home of one's own and getting married often do not coincide. For us, they happened to, since Mike lived with my parents for his first year of grad school while I was still in university housing, and then we both lived with my parents for a short time before finding an apartment a few weeks before our wedding. It seems pretty rare that the timing works out this exactly, and even in our case I had to borrow a bunch of stuff from my mom to be able to cook meals for myself in the few weeks before my new husband -- and all of our wedding gifts -- moved in.
Most people I know got a place of their own either during or after college without having a spouse or significant other living with them. They may have shared with a roommate, but they had to buy a lot of things out of their own pocket -- pots and pans, silverware, towels, lamps, you name it. Then, those who did end up marrying and/or moving in together with another person already had two sets of most things and didn't have a whole lot to fill a wedding registry.
This system, this tradition, that we've had for so long has ceased to make sense in the modern world.
If I could wave a magic wand and change our cultural expectations about the way things are done, this is what I would propose:
We should throw a shower not for brides but for anyone moving into their own place for the first time. It's already customary to bring a "housewarming gift" to someone's new home; why not go a step further and throw an all-out celebration when it's someone's very first new home? Let's replace marriage as some kind of rite of passage into adulthood and instead focus on living independently as the time to bring everyone together to celebrate. This, after all, is the most logical moment at which someone would need a slew of household gifts -- when they are starting their own household. If this does happen to coincide with a marriage, then gifts could be given to the couple together, but that wouldn't be the expectation.
We should give cash gifts (if any) to couples on the occasion of their wedding. I don't want to do away with the tradition of wedding gift-giving altogether. After all, we often give people cards and sometimes gifts in celebration of the anniversary of their birth, so why not give a gift to commemorate this milestone in their relationship? But I think the customary wedding gift should be money, not household items. Couples who need to buy household items could do so, but those who already have one or two sets of household items could put the money toward paying for the wedding or their honeymoon, or building their savings for their life together. This would simplify things by eliminating the issues of duplicate and unwanted gifts, something a couple leaving for a honeymoon doesn't want to have to worry about.
What do you think? If you like this idea, I invite you to share this post -- maybe we can start a revolution!