An important aspect of planning for your big day is to think about wedding presents. Obviously you will benefit from presents, but you also need to bear in mind how much of a financial and practical burden you are putting on your guests, and work out ways of making the whole process reasonably pain free. There are many ways to approach this conundrum, and you will need to take several factors into consideration:
Wedding lists evolved at a time when couples did not live together before they married, so they relied on wedding presents to provide them with basic household necessities – crockery, glassware, cutlery, bedding.
Your circumstances and age may influence your choice of wedding lists and presents. If you are just setting up home it’s likely that you will have clear priorities, which will differ if you are a more established couple and have already lived together for a long time. You may be embarking on a second marriage, in which case you will have already accumulated a great many possessions.
You may have a very clear idea of what you want for your new home, and may have already earmarked some key items. If this is the case, you should probably go for the wedding list option.
Lists are available through department stores, specialist wedding list companies, independent shops and charities. The list should be set up at least three months in advance and before the invitations go out. You should be able to choose the items online, but you may also wish to visit the store to view them beforehand and speak to an adviser.
Once the items have been chosen and the list compiled, the holding company will manage the list on your behalf. Guests will be able to buy in-store, online or over the phone. You will be kept up-to-date with the purchases and informed if the list needs topping up. The list-holder will also store the goods until it is convenient for you to receive them (perhaps not until you return from your honeymoon).
Traditionally, guests contacted the bride’s mother to find out where the list was being held, but nowadays most couples include details of the wedding list in the information pack they send out with the invitations. Alternatively, details can be sent out after acceptances arrive – though this may be more problematic for guests who are unable to attend but still want to give a little something.
There is no hard and fast rule about how much your wedding guests should spend on your present, and clearly no guest should feel pressurised to buy something that is well beyond their comfort zone.
It is therefore vital that the items on your list cover an extensive price range. Bear in mind that many companies also feature a ‘group gifting’ facility, which means that guests can contribute towards the fancy sofa, smart TV or state of the art speaker system, and not feel that they have to take out a second mortgage to accommodate your wishes.
If you already have a well equipped home, it is a good idea to build on a collection of books or furniture, or perhaps to start a wine cellar.
While some people worry that the list option can look grasping or over-demanding, it is certainly the easiest way for your guests to buy presents and feel confident that they are giving you something you actually want. The whole arrangement is pragmatic and ultra-convenient, enabling the gift-buying to be despatched at the click of a mouse.
Wedding lists are certainly the best option for control freaks, or people with exacting standards or very specific tastes. They ensure that all your demands are met, and that the wedding present pile contains no nasty surprises…
Some couples approach the whole question of wedding gifts with a certain amount of trepidation. They may very well be perfectly well set up in their home, and may feel somewhat overwhelmed by the expense of the wedding, and the consumerist nature of the gift list.
If this is the case, you can take a radical approach, and ask guests to contribute to a charity of your choice.
Once you have chosen your charity you can create a dedicated donation page through the charity’s website – that way you will not have to collect funds after the event. You will need to specify that you are seeking charitable donations on your information sheet. Here are some examples of suitable wording:
“We are committed supporters of (Charity name) and, in lieu of wedding gifts, we ask that you consider making a donation to (chosen charity) via this link.”
“If you’d like to help us celebrate, please consider donating to one of our chosen charities on our gift list (link).”
It was once considered inappropriate to ask for money on your wedding day, but it is now no longer considered beyond the pale. However, a bald request for money is still deeply disconcerting to many people. If you suggest that a guest might like to make a contribution towards, for example, your honeymoon, it is much more acceptable.
If you are seeking cash contributions, give a clear idea of how you intend to spend the money. Set up the giving page so that the guest can click a choice of suggested amounts, ranging from economical to generous. That way they will not feel railroaded into spending more that they can afford.
Guests should not think that they are being unoriginal by buying from the list. After all, you have specifically requested those items and a wedding list is often a one-off opportunity to receive certain luxuries.
However, some guests will feel that the workmanlike wedding gift list lacks allure and mystique and will want to make a more exclusive contribution. Guests are always free to do something different if they would prefer to give a unique or individual present, or something with particular meaning, and it is always acceptable to discard the list and go it alone.
Whatever option you and your guests choose, it is essential that you write thank-you letters as soon as possible; this should certainly be done before the weeks slip into months.
You should acknowledge every present received with a letter. Split them between you to prevent thank-you letters from becoming a chore. Some newly-weds like to enclose a photograph of the guest they are writing to, or themselves, taken on their wedding day.
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