The days when you could turn up at a wedding with something as simple as a gift-wrapped toaster you picked up in town on the way to the church are long gone. Today’s wedding gift protocol is a complicated affair, meaning that for those of us lucky enough to have a busy social life that sees several wedding invitations hitting the doormat every year, selecting just the right gift every time can be a torturous process. Here’s a rough guide on how to choose personalised wedding gifts that should put the icing on the (wedding) cake for the happy couple and make sure you’re on the guestlist for the tenth anniversary celebrations.
Stick with the list
Many couples will have a list that they will make available to family and friends several weeks or even months before the big day. Often they will create one online with a major department store (be worried if it’s Harrods). This way everyone can very easily see what the couple would like to receive, and find something within their budget, plus space to leave a personal message (don’t use it to complain about them using Harrods). Since most people who get married nowadays will have lived together for a spell already, they will often have everything they need for the home, so the list tends to be composed of luxury items such as Egyptian-cotton bedding, or posh silverware. For the couple, the advantage is clear – they get everything they want, and there’s no doubling-up. And for the guest, the benefit of the list is that all the hard work is taken care of for you, just click what you want to buy, and pay.
Tip: Check the list soon after receiving your invite, especially if you’re closely-related or a very old friend, as you don’t want to be left with a choice between salt ‘n’ pepper shakers or an oven mitt.
So if there is a list, stick to it. If not, read on for more advice…
Remember it’s a gift for two
You must think about them as a couple, even if you only know one or the other well. What sort of experiences do they tend to enjoy together – cookery? sports? music? Something that would bring them closer together is a great idea, such as tickets for a band they both love, or a cookery course, perhaps even when they’re on honeymoon. You can also talk to those who know them best for inspiration about where their shared interests lie or what they need for the home. Personalised wedding gifts such as these really emphasise how much effort you’ve put in.
Similarly, giving something that you’ve taken the time to make yourself is always appreciated. For instance, while making the wedding cake is often a task taken on by the mother of one of the couple, if neither feels they want to, or isn’t confident of their abilities, you could get involved there. Other alternatives might be putting together a photo album of their special moments together, or making a piece of art such as a sketch of them from a favourite photo.
The issue of how much you should spend can also be a grey area. For a work colleague or someone you don’t know especially well, £30-£50 will usually be appropriate. For a member of your immediate family or someone you’ve been friends with since childhood you probably need to think about spending £100-£200, or more if you can afford it.
And if you really want to buy them something special but can’t afford it on your own, why not try combining with a few other guests.
Always leave the receipt
Whether you’re bringing your gift with you to the wedding, or you’re sending it on after the event, you should always include a card so that they know who it’s from. Also, unless you know for certain that this is exactly what they want, and no-one else is getting them the same thing (ie it’s from the list), then you should always put the receipt in with the gift. When you get married, you receive so many gifts and unfortunately some will always end up being either re-gifted, stuffed in the back of a cupboard unused for years on end, or scrapped. So being able to exchange an unwanted gift easily and guilt-free is a bonus.
If you really get stuck…
Inspiration eludes us all from time to time. If there’s no list, and you really can’t think of anything suitable, then it doesn’t hurt to discreetly ask if you can make a financial contribution to the costs of the wedding. Big weddings can often cost many thousands of pounds, so this may be gratefully received. You could offer to help towards the honeymoon or an expensive part of the wedding day such as the photographer.
This can be a common situation if you don’t know the couple all that well, and in this case it’s also unwise to offer money. Don’t be tempted to get creative here, just play it safe and get something like a gift basket of food or a bottle of good champagne.
The last thing you should keep in mind, and this will particularly benefit the indecisive or the skint, is that unlike with birthdays, you don’t actually need to have a gift on the day. In fact, the longstanding rule is that a gift ought to be given within a year of the nuptials. So no need to worry too much, you’ve got plenty of time left to find the ultimate personalised wedding gift, but make sure you don’t leave it till the last minute!