The other night we had our new neighbors over to play Five Crowns (It’s like Phase 10 but soooo much better and faster). Because we are all newlyweds, it didn’t take long for the conversation to turn to wedding gifts. We all vented a little bit (perhaps more than a little) on this topic, and after asking myself, “What were they thinking?” many times, I’ve decided to give a few suggestions on the do’s and never do’s of wedding gifting.
Before I begin my rant I want to make this clear. All gifts are thoughtful, even if they aren’t well thought out. The fact that someone took the time to pick out a gift, wrap it, and bring it to a reception or our parents’ house is really admirable. We received a ton of gifts, and it improved the quality of our lives in a big way. We got so many cool kitchen appliances and accessories! Cooking is so fun when you have all the right tools! When I was single, there was more than once that I wanted to make something, then realized that I didn’t have a mixing bowl to make it in. Or the right sized pan to cook it in. Gifts are a life-saver!
However, givers should keep in mind that couples are receiving a LOT of gifts all at once, and often receive multiples of items. Here are a few examples of gifts couples end up tearing their hair out over:
1. Tupperware. Don’t ever give couples tupperware. Let them pick out their own tupperware. Here’s why–I think we got seven sets of tupperware. When you get seven sets of tupperware, you absolutely have to return some. No newlywed has room to store seven sets of tupperware. Thus, you figure out what sets you can return–three of them. Booyah. (But be careful, because Walmart only lets you return things without a receipt three times in a six month period. After that they assume you’re stealing things.) Usually your favorite set of the seven is one of the returnable variety, but there is no sense in keeping it, as you have four other sets you cannot return. At this point, it’s not about what you like, it’s about what you can’t get rid of, so you end up using a few of the sets you don’t like so much. If you do eventually find the origins of one of the sets of tupperware, usually that product is no longer available and they have reduced the receipt-less return price of the $15-$20 gift to the lowest clearance price–$4.99. At that point it isn’t worth returning.
2. Crockpots. Our neighbors got eight of them. We only got four, but it’s the same principle as the tupperware. Typically, you return what you can return, and use or regift what’s left over. We got two large crockpots, and I made the mistake of keeping the one I registered for at Bed, Bath, and Beyond. The lure of a crockpot in which the lid could be latched on was absolutely irresistible. However, I never could return the other big crockpot, so the rejected crockpot is sitting in the box in a closet. I should have ignored the frills of the returnable crockpot and stuck to the much simpler one that takes up so much space in the closet. Just let couples get their own crockpot.
3. Personalized books. You know–writing something on the inside cover of a book. Unless, of course, it’s signed by the author. I could deal with that. We got a book that we already owned (I’d bought a used copy from Amazon several months before), so I went into Deseret Book to exchange it for something else. All went well until they opened the front cover. Signed. By the giver of the book. Did they leave a personal note saying something like, “Congratulations on your marriage.”? Nope. Just a signature. Needless to say, Deseret Book doesn’t let you return books that are signed. Never write anything on the inside of a book. In the event that they already have that book, the recipient has no way of turning the money you spent on them into something they will cherish.
4. Appliances without the box. Our neighbors told us about a pretty clever gift they received–a waffle iron with all the ingredients and fixings for waffles. Fabulous idea. However, in order to make the gift more visually appealing, the giver took the waffle iron out of its box. It was a creative gift, but unfortunately our neighbors already had a waffle iron. Because the waffle iron was missing its box, they were not able to return it. There’s always the option of keeping multiples around for when the other waffle iron breaks, but considering how quickly appliances improve at more affordable prices, chances are by the time their current waffle iron breaks, the one they set aside for later will be pretty dated. They would probably be able to buy a cooler waffle iron for less than what the original giver paid for the saved waffle iron. Returning a gift and putting the money in a savings account and buying a new waffle iron when you need a new waffle iron is just way more economically intelligent. The bottom line is, if something is worth more than maybe $5, NEVER do something to it that makes it unreturnable.
5. Expired items. This one isn’t a very big deal, but I thought I’d mention it while I was on the subject. We got a lot of cake mixes paired with cake pans or mixing bowls. This is a pretty good gift idea (keeping in mind that the pans or bowls should be easily returnable). However, as I was putting the cake mixes away in my cupboard, I happened to glance at the expiration date. Nearly all had expired roughly a year ago. I’ll still use them because I don’t think there’s anything too dangerous about expired cake mixes, but it still irks me a tiny bit. I don’t have a problem with people giving things from their pantry as gifts. I can understand that someone wouldn’t want to pick up a cake mix at the store (especially when they aren’t on sale) when they know that they already had a good stock of cake mixes at home. However, it just seems polite to check the expiration date first.
Now that I’m done ranting, here are some pretty bullet-proof gift ideas:
1. Anything with a gift receipt. In the event that the couple already has that item, it will streamline the returning process. It saves the couple time in determining where the item came from, and it also ensures that the couple isn’t reimbursed with less than you spent on them.
2. Anything from their registry. As far as kitchen appliances go, couples register for only what they need or want. If you buy something from a registry, you can rest assured that it’s something they want. If they are forced to return the item you got them (because they got multiples they weren’t able to return) you can also be confident that your gift can be returned super easily. If more people paid attention to registries, couples would get fewer repeats. The way registries work is once an item on the registry is purchased, it is taken off the registry so the couple doesn’t get multiples. Even if you don’t plan on purchasing something from the store they registered with, it’s still a good idea to go online and look at their registry. If you see that they aren’t registered for a toaster, chances are they do not need a toaster, so don’t get them one. If you see that they registered for a popcorn popper, but you know you can get an identical one for a better price at a different store, go for it. Just make sure you include a gift receipt.
3. Those items you can’t get too much of. We got a bucket filled with cleaning supplies–Windex, bathroom cleaner, multi-purpose cleaner, furniture polish, paper towels, and sponges. We had some of the things already, but with this kind of stuff, it’s perfectly ok. We won’t need to buy cleaning supplies for a while, and that’s awesome. Anything that everybody uses and everybody runs out of is a good kind of gift. Another good gift is baking essentials–flour, sugar, soda, salt, baking powder, chocolate chips, powdered sugar, etc. Anything that has a pretty long shelf life is a good gift, even if the couple isn’t big into baking. Just don’t give them stuff that is expired or will expire soon. Another good idea along these lines is to give them a 72 hour emergency food kit.
4. Gift cards. Gift cards are amazing. They don’t take up very much space, and they never expire. A lot of grocery stores have a gift card kiosk with tons of options for gift cards. You can put money on the card as you check out with your groceries. How convenient is that? I think some people shun gift cards because they don’t like the idea of the couple knowing exactly how much you spent on them. There is absolutely nothing wrong with a $5 or $10 gift card. The couple doesn’t have to return anything and it’s 5 or 10 bucks saved on something the couple really wants or needs. It’s a win-win situation. If you’re ok with the couple using your money to buy groceries, go with a Smith’s or Walmart gift card (couples love this when money gets a little tight). If you’d prefer they used it on something else, pick something different. We got a gift card to Chili’s–essentially the giver bought us dinner. How great is that? We got a gift card to Seagull Book–I’m hoping to put it towards a nice framed picture. If you do pick a gift card that’s more specialized, do your homework. Find out where the couple will be living and pick stores or restaurants that are in pretty close proximity to where the couple lives. Don’t get them a gift card to P.F. Chang’s if the nearest one is three hours away.
5. Money. You can never go wrong with money. Couples can use that money in so many different ways. Maybe they’ll use it to go out to dinner. Maybe they’ll use it to help pay off a student loan. Maybe they’ll put it toward a vacation or car. We put all the money we got from our receptions into a savings account. We don’t have any big plans for that money, so in the meantime we’ll let it collect interest. Use your best judgment, though, when giving money. If you know the groom is a raging alcoholic, and you’re worried about them using your money to buy beer, go with a gift card instead of money. However, most of the time your money will be put toward something worthwhile, even if it’s just paying the utility bill.
Of course, my list of good ideas isn’t comprehensive. Don’t be afraid to get a little creative. There are lots of really good wedding gift ideas, and whatever you choose, the couple will be genuinely grateful that you thought to give them a gift. The main point is: Be oh so careful when buying wedding gifts. Be aware that they are getting a lot of stuff at once. Be aware that they have limited space to store gifts. Do that, and the couple will love you that much more.