They say it is better to give than to receive. The joy of searching for the perfect gift, wrapping it in pretty paper and watching your recipient’s reaction when they open it… Yes, there is joy in that for sure. But with the advent of the Gift Registry, suddenly the joy of giving has been snatched from us, and we are now bullied into buying from a boring list of cookware and household appliances. Nowadays, most wedded couples know exactly what they will be getting before the last invitation is sent. Why? Because they chose the gifts themselves.
In the past, when you were invited to a wedding, your first thoughts were, “isn’t that nice, they’re tying the knot,” followed closely by, “what will I wear?” and then, “what are we going to get them?” Shopping for something they would both love became a challenge and a joy over the next few months. Wedding gifts, while sometimes repetitive (not another electric wok!), were at least surprising and from the heart. Not so any more.
Gone are the days when newlyweds would sit together opening gifts, chuckling when the third toaster oven was opened and gasping with delight when Aunt Molly’s Baccarat crystal stemware was unwrapped. These days, half the gifts don’t even come wrapped – they come straight from Amazon.com in a huge brown cardboard box with a half a mile of brown paper padding. How romantic. But when all’s said and done, what’s the point of wrapping your gift when the recipient was instant messaged about it last week, just minutes after you placed the order - it’s not like gift-wrap will make it any more of a surprise.
The ubiquitous marketing campaigns around registries in recent years have made it almost impossible to accept a wedding invitation without first finding out where the couple is registered. Every major department store has a special area devoted to gift registries. There’s often a well-groomed salesperson sitting behind a mahogany desk, in a little registry office on the third floor, nestled in amongst the fine china and flatware. Unsuspecting couples enter the room, have a pleasant conversation with the “registry director,” fill in forms and receive a laser gun that they take with them into the home wares section, where they will point and shoot at all manner of stemware, crockery and cooking utensils that they don’t really need and will probably never use.
The gift registry is a devious thing. Not only does it force wedding guests to buy home wares and cooking utensils they would otherwise never buy, it ensures that the couple always knows how much was spent on them. Even if you see something on the registry that you could get cheaper elsewhere, it’s not really about the gift, it’s about the money the newlyweds could get if they were to return it. In reality, they picked the gifts; you are simply picking a value to place on the friendship. Don’t be fooled that you can buy that adorable set of napkin rings for $21.95, and expect them not to be thinking, “Oh, you bought something from the bottom of the list (down with the graters and garlic presses...), well that’s okay, now we know what price point to go for when you get married.”
In the end, how much joy can come from the act of picking a price range and shelling out cash for something you’d never have bought in a million years? When did the joy of giving become such a distant memory? In these times of predetermined gifting, it’s nice to get a surprise once in a while. To open a gift that you weren’t expecting is like a tiny little revelation. Life is suddenly not so predictable.
It’s nice when people give outside the box, and some gifts would never be given if the registry were the only source of inspiration. Like personalized gifts, keepsake or heirloom gifts, handmade gifts and vintage gifts. These are some of the most treasured wedding gifts the couple will receive, so why eliminate them because they’re not on the registry?
RedEnvelope’s range of keepsake and heirloom worthy gifts is a great place to start when shopping for wedding gifts. Give the gift of family history to a couple about to embark on their own new story. Our “Story of a lifetime” memoir guide is the perfect way for the newlyweds to capture their parents’ or grandparents’ life stories to date. This wonderful leather bound book poses 500 simple yet provocative questions like, “What period of your life did you enjoy the most?” and “What did you feel your greatest contribution to life has been?” With its elegant leatherette cover and gold-tipped pages, the book is sure to become a family heirloom in years to come, and will be one of their favorite wedding gifts.
If you are close to the couple, a grandparent for instance, nothing could be more special that handing down a family heirloom to the newlyweds. You could also make something, like a quilt or keepsake throw. Personalized gifts are also nowhere to be seen on the registry, but make heartfelt wedding gifts. RedEnvelope’s serving or casserole dishes come personalized with the head chef’s name (husband or wife), to bring pride of ownership to their signature recipes.
I went to a wedding recently that had no registry. There was no mention of one on the invitation; no little card enclosed to guide my gift purchase, nothing at all to tell me what to buy. At first I was confused. Had I been sent a defective invitation? Had they run out of cute little registry cards? Something must be amiss, I thought. I called the mother of the bride, who was my connection to the couple, and asked her. “They don’t have one,” I was told. The fact is, in this case, I was sort of relying on a registry. I didn’t know the couple very well, and I had no idea what to get them. I got them a gift card and was done with it.
My case was unusual though. More often than not, if you are invited to a wedding, you know the couple getting hitched. You at least know them well enough to know the wife’s maiden name. So why not stray from the registry and buy something they won’t be expecting? The registry is a guide for people who have no idea what to buy, or who are too busy to go shopping (sad isn’t it?) Be guided by the registry perhaps, but don’t be limited by it. Liberate yourself and the couple! Stray from the registry, and give something unique or personal!