The gift of giving

I have always been against us having a gift list. That’s not to say that I think other people shouldn’t have one, just that, for us, I didn’t believe it was the right thing to do.

I really really don’t want people to buy us presents. Is that weird? I am very keen to receive presents usually, but when it comes to our wedding, I have some deep rooted problem with it, and it took me a while to work out what it was that was making me feel this way.

After some soul searching, I realised that my feelings are the result of several separate yet intertwined reasons. Firstly, many of our friends and family will be flying in to the UK from all over the world to come to our wedding. We have chosen to hire a hotel exclusively for the weekend to make a weekend of the celebrations and to make it more worthwhile for our overseas guests, which means that, even though we are subsidizing the cost of the rooms, people will have that cost on top of their travel costs. To me, the cost of that combined, plus miscellaneous spends (you know – pretty dresses, big hats etc), is a gift in itself. The fact that people are willing to get on cramped planes, drive for hours, use public transport, and spend their time and hard earned money to come and see me and my man celebrate our love, is astounding to me. I have a bit of an inferiority complex, and don’t like to put people out. Yet I have been absolutely bowled over by the feeling that people are willing to do that for us. Just to be there for us. It makes my eyes brim up and a silly little smile beams onto my face every time I think about it. How lucky are we that people are willing to do that for little old us. That has been one of the wonderful things that have come out of this wedding. I’ve been reminded that there are people out there who love and care for us and would go to an enormous amount of effort and expense just to be there for us. Beautiful. So with all of this already being given to us, aren’t we just being greedy to ask for presents on top of this? Even to accept presents seems somehow wrong to me – I should be giving these people a present for making the effort to be there for us.

On top of this, we are both grown people who already have two houses worth of crockery and cutlery, and linen and nice things. People know this. Surely it’s cheeky to ask for more? I think that I have particularly strong feelings about this because this is my man’s second marriage (more about this in later posts). I don’t want his friends and family to feel that they are obliged to buy us a gift, when they already bought one ten years ago for him and his previous wife. They have supported us fully, and no one has made me feel this way but myself, but I still have this niggling feeling that people may resent it.

Finally, we are very fortunate that through hard work, and a little bit of good fortune, we are financially more comfortable than many of our friends, and even some of our family. The idea of expecting people, who I know are saving themselves for weddings and babies and houses, to spend money on us just feels somehow wrong.

So the decision was made not to have a gift list. We would send a little note out with the invitations saying that we did not need gifts, and that the important thing was that people were there with us to celebrate.

Almost as an aside one day, I mentioned this to my parents. They may be from a generation before me, but they are young at heart, and certainly not old fashioned or tied to their traditions. So I really didn’t think it would even be something worth mentioning to them. Clearly I was wrong. Although they understood our reasoning, they felt that many of the guests would feel strongly that they would like to buy us a gift, to show their love for us, and to wish us the best for the future. My protestations that people could do that with a nice card and a personal note, fell on deaf ears. So I started to ask around, and it seemed that people really did WANT to give a present at a wedding. When I thought about it, I realised that WE like to give gifts at weddings. It’s our way of contributing to the couple’s future, and investing in them and their relationship. I love to go to my married friends houses, and see the gifts that we bought them being used. It gives me a warm feeling to know that we have somehow been part of the couple’s life by giving them that present at the start of the beginning of this part of their life. I love to see things that my mum and dad were given as presents many years ago, and that they can remember exactly who gave them, and that they still carry the memories.

So we had to backtrack. We still wouldn’t mention the gift list in the invitations (something I still have a problem with. I don’t know why as I have never been offended by seeing it on other people’s invites), but we would set up a small gift list, and give the details to our parents, so if people REALLY felt that it was important to them to get us a gift, they could do it the old fashioned way, before inserts and gift list numbers were even thought of, and speak to our parents to find out more.

We made this decision a few months back now, but had been putting off actually putting together the gift list, as we still both had an underlying feeling of discomfort about doing it. But the invitations will be going out this week. Time was ticking away. We had to do it. So last night we sat down and made ourselves compile the list (the wonders of the internet).

And, dear internet, something pretty wonderful happened whilst we were doing it. We suddenly found ourselves becoming enthused with the idea. We were choosing things for US. Not for me, or for him, but for our future life together. Things that would be important to us, that we would cherish for years to come. We were subconsciously choosing items that would become important to us in our life and our future family. We found ourselves discussing whether the item would last for the years ahead. Whether the item would be something we would still think both practical and beautiful in 10/20/50 years time. Whether we should have crockery that would be nice to look at, or practical for when the stork comes knocking at our door. And compiling it in itself was a special experience. It joined us. It made us discuss our future, and confirm that we both wanted the same things for our future (although he did veto a beautiful, if slightly unusual lamp that I wanted, but I figure a different taste in lighting will not be the biggest problem we will face in the future). It made us discuss what we wished for in the future.

I have been won around by the dreaded gift list. I can now see the two very valid reasons as to why we need one. The people closest to us (and they really are the closest to us, we are inviting only people who mean something to us, and are dear to us), want to be a part of forming our future. That means more than just being there with us on the day. It means providing us with something that we can take on our journey. Effectively, they are helping us pack our bags with all of the important things for the road ahead. I’m now looking forward to ten years time, when I can take down the serving platter we’ve chosen, which will now almost certainly be chipped, but cherished, and being reminded of the person who went out of their way to give us something for our life together. And as if that wasn’t enough, it gave me and the man an opportunity to revisit our plans and hopes and dreams for the future, and to choose items solely for us and our life together. How could I have a problem with that?
Categories: Family, Friends and Relationships, Money and Career, Wedding Planning
3 interesting thoughts on this


  1. Posted July 23, 2010 at 3:29 pm | Permalink

    Good girl for coming round! ;)

    Our dear sweet best man decided that it would be helpful to send this link – – around our group of friends, shortly after another wedding in our group. Charming.

    I'll admit that there are two sides to my pro-gift list stance, but one is definitely that you have to look at it from the guest perspective. I find people who go to the weddings of people they don't like extremely strange (but I have encountered them on message boards. Crazy!), and I like to give stuff to people I like. Gift lists make the choosing process so much less stressful!

    Then… There's the not-so-nice side. Firstly, I love presents. Soz, but I'm excited about getting them! Secondly, I just wouldn't turn up to a wedding without a gift, or a dinner party without a bottle of wine, and I tend to think less of those who do. Call me a meanie, but I feel that to rock up at someone's house or hired venue, chow down on the free food, throw shapes to their DJ and leave seems a bit rude.

    There's also something delightfully British about the process, it's like an excuse-me dance. You invite them; they say thank you; you give them a little present to say thank you for coming; they get you a pressie; you write them a thank you note. Everyone's so polite, it's lovely :)

    So, we rustled up a list and put it in the invitations. Honestly, I know it's crass but I thought every other wedding I'd been to in the past year had done it, so why not? Also, it seemed less controversial than just including bank details, like one wedding we attended. ;)

    But… I read way too much of Martha Stewart thoughts on etiquette. Fail. The woman suggests you serve your guests Lambrusco for heaven's sake. Yeah, if they "just want to have fun".

    But anyway, I became so completely paranoid about people judging us as greedy that I left out the gift list information in some invitations – rellies who were travelling a long way, our neighbours, etc. Lo and behold, they've been in contact, asking for details. What can you do? ;)

  2. Posted July 26, 2010 at 3:44 pm | Permalink

    I like the idea of only putting the slips in for people who you think would want to buy a gift – lovely compromise.

    And re giving out your bank details in the invitation – priceless!


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  • By The Gift of Giving-Take Two! on February 29, 2012 at 12:34 am

    [...] in the baby days of Any Other Wedding, Clare wrote an inspired piece on her thoughts about gift lists and wedding presents in general. I was an avid reader of the blog back then and loved that [...]

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Hello! We're Clare, Aisling and Anna and welcome to a corner of the world where smart, flawed, real women talk about the bigger picture; about their experiences, stories and opinions on all aspects of being a woman today, from marriage to feminism to pretty, too.

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