It’s no secret that this little vintage wedding blog likes to tackle the tricky subjects. And there’s nothing more uncomfortable than the unspoken rules and etiquette around the whole concept of a wedding gift list in the UK.
You see, in England, we don’t like to talk gifts or money. It’s generally considered rude. But the wedding gift list is a time-honoured tradition which guests do expect you to uphold. While it’s by no means mandatory, many people will get you a wedding gift whether you’ve asked them to or not – and the only way to avoid ending up with ten toasters (when you probably had one in the first place) is to help people out with what to get you.
Having just started the process of putting together our own gift list, we had a look into all of our options. I wasn’t quite sure how to break this down as there’s a huge overlap in lots of services, so I decided to talk about “things”, “experiences”, “charity” and “money”. Without further ado, it’s:
Under the Vintage Veil’s Handy Guide to Gift Lists
Things are the easiest… erm… things… to ask for! Traditionally gift lists are made within stores and are mainly made up of homewares appropriate for a couple starting their married life together. Generally these types of lists tend to sit well with the older generations. However, in this day and age (God I sound old!) most couples have been living together for a fair while before they choose to tie the knot – and so have no need for homewares.
There’s then the issue of whether to put items on there that you want, rather than need. I say it’s your wedding day so do what you want, but be aware that you may encounter grumbling relatives who don’t want to buy you that Wii console etc. as it isn’t traditional. I say, if you have everything you need and you’re not opting for experiences or money (next on the list) then why not be a little indulgent? What most people don’t realise (until they plan a wedding, of course) is that when you’re getting married you spend months, quite often years, saving up for your big day. For most people that means literally zero disposable income, and a necessities-only lifestyle.
When you’ve been eating Tesco Value beans (OK, it’s not that bad, but you get the picture) for a year and a half, how nice is it to be spoiled at the end of that? So put things you really want on your gift list (within reason)! Yes, some people will complain, some people will give you a toaster anyway, but at least you’re more likely to receive gifts you’ll love and use!
UTVV Top Tip: Great places to register for physical gifts are:
Notonthehighstreet.com – for cool, vintage-inspired pretty things!
The Wedding Garden Company – an eco-friendly gardening gift list for the green-fingered couple
Selfridges – for a more high-end wish list (well, it would be a wish list for me, anyway)!
John Lewis – because it’s my favourite of the department stores! And you can get a bit of everything!
So you have everything you need. Except you haven’t budgeted for a honeymoon. Rubbish, right? Not necessarily. There are a few ways to include your honeymoon in your gift list. I’ll get to companies to use for this in a bit, but basically there are websites that mitigate the potential awkwardness of asking directly for money for your honeymoon.
For example, I’ve been using Buy Our Honeymoon, which I’ve found to be absolutely brilliant – a total lifesaver. You pay a one-off fee in the beginning and then the world’s pretty much your oyster. You can itemise your list so that guests can buy you specific experiences in different places, and you can also put a few cheeky gifts on there. There are also sites like Thomas Cook if you want guests to just donate an amount to a honeymoon with one company.
The great thing about asking for an experience, particularly with the Buy Our Honeymoon model, is that you can send pictures of the two of you enjoying the gift you’ve been given, for example sharing a romantic meal or (in our case) even swimming with dolphins! The drawbacks are, of course, that it’s a relatively modern concept, and that older generations might feel uncomfortable with the idea of giving you something that won’t last.
UTVV Top Tip – cushion the blow!
Not all your relatives will be comfortable donating towards a honeymoon or something that won’t be a permanent fixture in your home. If you’re starting to hear rumblings of discontent, put a few lovely homeware items that you really need on the list as well.
Maybe you have everything you need, but there’s a specific charity that’s close to your heart that you’d love to help out. Or maybe you’d just like your gifts to go to a good cause, whatever that is. There are hundreds of wedding charity gift lists (in fact, just Google wedding charity gift list to see) but my personal favourite is the Oxfam wedding gift list, as you can itemise the list to see what kind of a lasting difference the money is making to people’s lives.
UTVV Top Tip – you have to mean it!
Giving away your gift list to charity is a wonderful and commendable decision. However, make sure it’s a decision you’re really happy with and not one you’re making out of duty or guilt. And if you are very serious about your gift list going to charity, make sure you let people know, so that they don’t think you’re being needlessly altruistic and buy you yet another toaster (I really have it in for toasters today)!
Money, money, money!
Asking for money instead of a wedding gift is something that continually divides opinion amongst everyone I know. There seem to be two distinct arguments for and against that emerge:
For: We have everything we need around the house, why shouldn’t we be able to spend the money on something like a house deposit, or save it for the future?
Against: It’s rude to ask for money, plain and simple, it makes me uncomfortable.
Personally, I tend to veer towards the latter, although I don’t think it’s that black and white at all. I think if you ask for contributions towards something concrete, it tends to sit better with people. For example, asking for contributions towards a house deposit, a specific redesign of a room in a house or something similar is usually less jarring than the idea that someone’s precious gift money might be spent on something as mundane as groceries.
I would personally use the money towards a project you would like to do anyway, or a piece of art you’ve always wanted or something that people can feel they’re part of.
A few gift list “dos and don’ts”
♥ DON’T expect gifts. It’s not a custom for everyone and the most important thing is that people are there for your big day. Most of the time people will give you gifts because they love you and because it’s often considered the done thing, but expecting it can only lead to disappointment or unnecessary resentment. Remember that weddings can be expensive for guests too, and for some of them the cost of attending, particularly if they’ve come from abroad, will mean a gift on top of it all would leave them very out of pocket!
♥ DON’T worry about old etiquette guides that tell you everything has to be done on the quiet through your parents! You’re allowed to tell people you have a gift list, most people include it in their information or on their wedding website, if they have one!
♥ DO choose gifts, charities or experience that are special and reflect your personalities. People will enjoy giving a lot more if they know how much you’ll love and appreciate their gift.
♥ DO make sure there’s a diverse price range on your gift list. You may have a close relative who wishes to give you a larger gift than most people, or someone’s plus one might want to give you a small token as a thank you for having them. Make sure there’s diversity in price and enough choice of items so people aren’t forced to spend more or less than they intended to.
♥ DO remember to say thank you. A proper thank you card goes a long way, and believe me, people will notice the absence of one! Keep a list of who gave what and make sure you send them a personal thank you and, if possible, how you’ve used their gift.
Have you made a gift list yet? What option did you go for and how did people respond? I’d love to hear your thoughts!