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Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Wedding Gifts: Decisions, Decisions, Decisions

Baruch Hashem, we have been invited to and have attended a number of weddings in the last few years and have enjoyed each simcha greatly. However, for some reason choosing the appropriate gift often seems like a huge challenge.

I am the type of person that likes to give a more personal gift, and I often feel that my check isn't particularly sizable, whereas the gift that I paid the same amount for is a substantial contribution to building a new bayit ne'eman b'yisrael. I analyze the gift registry, think about the couple and their likes and needs, and after a ridiculous amount of thought, I settle on a gift and actually go make the purchase. (Just a note: One factor I do not consider when making a gift is the price of the wedding. Those who have made expensive weddings have received similar gifts to those who have made modest weddings. I think it is ridiculous to expect others to ).

SephardiMan likes life to be less complicated and would be more than happy to just pull out the checkbook and write a check. This is often what we do when invited to a wedding that we are sadly unable to attend and for which the couple will not be living anywhere close to us. Somehow, it is much easier to write a smaller check when you don't attend the wedding.

I wonder if the (over)analysis of the gift registry and the future couple's living situation is a "girl thing" since the few times the discussion has come up at our house the guys all state the practically uncontested, unanimous opinion that it is just easiest to write a check. Somehow, the guys seem to see no need to make a wedding gift personal or thoughtful, and view a check with the couples names on it to be personal enough (their name is on the check, right?).

Well, baruch Hashem, we are back in the wedding gift market (or shall I say, I am back in it since SephardiMan sees no need to agonize about such things) and I am faced with the ever difficult decision of what to buy some of our friends who are marrying soon.

Each couple is so different and their situations are so different. Even though most couples make a registry, which should give me a clue, I still find gift giving a challenge and sometimes I wander about the wisdom of buying them another set of china, for example, when only two have been purchased from the registry. Will they want to purchase the rest of the china themselves? Are they in the position to do so before that design is discontinued? And, yes, sometimes I question the wisdom of the registry, since I know that silk bedsheets for apartment dwellers that will be sharing a communal laundry facility is not, perhaps, the best choice.

A long time ago I used to be tempted to buy couples pretty serving pieces, until I was told by an unestablished couple that this demographic doesn't need pieces they don't have room to store, but need the basics like cookware and bakeware. Now I always keep this advice at the back of my mind when looking for the choose the right wedding gift. When I married, I already had many of the basics and had really enjoyed receiving extras that I probably would not have make room in my own budget for, but enjoy immensely. And, when it comes to second marriages, the challenge is even greater since the chances of two households combining and needing or even wanting something (besides and edition on the house and a mediator to help decide what stays and what goes) is unlikely. In these situations, even I don't mind heading for the checkbook , or at least the gift certificate counter.

I'd love to hear the opinions of my readers (guys you can participate too!) and find out what you think the best ideas are for different types of couples and what you greatly appreciated getting and why.

Mazel Tov to all the new couples out there. May you have a wonderful marriage.


Ezzie said...

I'm one of those guys who prefers [giving] personal gifts over checks.

What to give? Not sure. I've found that the best things we received were the simple gifts - things we use all the time but might not think to buy ourselves. In general, it's more important to get things you need than things that are extras; I mean more along the line of items you don't need so much that you've already bought it but could really use if someone got it for you.

Another good gift, though it may not be good for a wedding, are fun things. Some of the gifts we appreciate most are funny pillows people gave us (one with a button sewn in: Press Button for Maid. If nobody answers, DO IT YOURSELF) and the like.

Just glancing around, things that are underrated: Frames for pictures (if you have a great wedding pic you took, maybe get a frame to put it in) - people don't get their wedding pics forever it seems, so pictures from others are greatly appreciated. Throw pillows. Soft blankets for a couch.

I dunno, really - those are off the top of my head.

jdub said...

Best gift we received for the wedding:

fully stocked (with the basics) tool box, including a cordless drill. Total cost, probably no more than $50-75 bucks. Absolutely essential.

Otherwise, I say go with the cash. It's always the right color and for many younger couples, can come more in handy than a serving piece.

Rachel said...

Things that I learned at my own wedding:
1. Give from the registry:
The couple is telling you what they need. I got a lot of nice useless things (recycled from previous weddings I assume) that I couldn't return or exchange and I had to purchase some of the basics that people didn't give us.
Also, they can return it. Many times the couple registers for expensive dishes so they can get return it and buy them elsewhere for much cheaper.
2. Either give them the gift after the wedding at their house or appartment or ship it if you buy it from the registry. After the wedding we had no idea what to do with all the boxes of gifts that we had. They didn't fit into our car. And we had to worry about things being stolen during the wedding. Shipping is $5 but you save the couple a headache.
3. Whenever a close friend gets married and I want to buy a judaica item I always ask them first if they have received any (I buy if after the wedding so they already got most of the presents) we know people who got 8 challah boards (and no kidush cups), 4 kosher by design, etc. After our experience with duplicates and the need to recycle the extra havdalah sets as wedding gifts I don't think it's bad or wrong to ask the couple what they haven't received yet.

Outoftown said...

It really depends on the person. If you are close to the person, and really know them well, I think you can buy something that is not on the registry. Some of the best things we received were not on our registry.

However, I have a friend who just got married who got so irritated if she got something not on her registry. She wanted to be able to return stuff. I would say for someone you aren't close with, either go off the registry or give cash.

The advice about shipping it is really excellent. It is so hard to deal with the stuff after the wedding. We were lucky to be living in the same town as my husband's parents, so they were able to bring the stuff to their house and we didn't have to hassle with it, but I know it is a big problem, especially if you are getting married somewhere other than where you live.

Essie said...

I agree with having gifts shipped or delivering them yourself after or before the wedding. Bringing gifts to the wedding is a hassle. If I want to give Judaica I buy a mezuza case because that is the only thing you need more than one of! Buy from the registry unless you know they need something else.

FrumGirl said...

I admit to be a boring check-giver. But I do know that without my down comforters I don't know what I would have done... (thanks to my parents!)

I know this sounds funny but my husband and I always marveled that the most useful 'extra' we got as a gift was a nice silver washing cup for netilat yadayim for shabbos and holidays.

SephardiLady said...

Our nice washing cup (not silver) was one of the nice extras we got too. I probably would have never splurged on something nicer than plastic, but there is so much more kavod to wash with a nice cup.

I agree with all the advice on shipping! Also, JDub, great gift idea: practical, useful, and overlooked (but, certainly not romantic).

Ariella said...

I found one of the reasons offered for registry worthy of further discussion, so I'll begin a thread on the kallah magazine blog. You may find the article on gifts archived on the site of interest. In the upcoming print issue, there will be an article on the etiquette of Thank you notes

I'm Haaretz, Ph.D. said...

Cash/check/gift certificate.

I don't care how boring, but for the many couples who don't start out with a huge monthly stipend from their parents, some money is essential. You can live with a plastic washing cup and just one or two serving trays, but you can't live without groceries or rent or utilities... and believe it or not, a lot of young couples have a hard time with their starting salaries or while still in school

kasamba said...

Well, on one hand I agree with I'm Haaretz becuse money is 'the gift that keeps giving!'
BUT on the other hand, I look for something on the list that the couple wouldn't necessarily buy themselves but would love somebody else to buy it for them.
The truth is, anything that looks like you put thought into it is always appreciated!

Mordechai Y. Scher said...

One of the best gifts we received was a tablecloth. We don't like plain, boring white on the table. This is a print cloth that *used* to be available from Sarah's Table in Washington state (now out of business, I think). It really suits us. It's like having another vase of flowers on the table, but subtle. A fellow in our community in Vancouver, B.C. (an Afghani named Shlomo) used to have them made. We later bought another for Shabbat, and one for Pesah as well.

For giving...we often give a new young couple a crock pot. With both of us working, we found being able to stick the ingredients for hamin/cholent into the pot early Friday morning, and come home just before Shabbat to find the food ready was a life-saver. We have one for halavi, one for basari, one for Pesah/basari, and a little one for basari that my wife used to bring to the hospital when she had to cover call on Shabbat. :-(

Lots of new, young couples are students or starting new jobs; so the crock pot can be really helpful. You can often find a nice one for a reasonable price.

For couple going on Aliya right away, we try to give a nice tablecloth or two. It's not to difficult for them to pack up, and it can really lend a nice air to the Shabbat table.

Steve Brizel said...

Nice to see this blog up and running. Only a cretin would engage in hate mail on one of the nicer and more practical blogs out there.

We have chipped in and sponsored Sheva Brachos on a number of ocassions for good friends' kids. On the related subject of Bar Mitzva presents, I prefer to buy sefarim as a way of sending a message as to what should be of lasting importance-Talmud Torah, not the checkbook. A Rambam and a Minchas Chinuch or a Mishnah Brurah Mnukad are my favorites.

Heather said...

We got a coffee maker for our wedding that when I tried to return it, they told me it was a free gift that came with a set of gourmet coffees. I think THAT was even tackier than the "regifted" items we got. What we loved? Everything from the registry! :)

SephardiLady said...

Thanks for the suggestion on Bar Mitzvah gifts. We also like to buy Sefarim for Bar Mitzvah boys. Since the last set of Bar Mitzvahs we attended were Sephardi, we picked out halacha books by Rav Ovadia (which are now conviently in Hebrew and English, which is nice for those whom we are unsure of their skill level) and there is also a three piece Ben Ish Hai that is extremely affordable in certain warehouses in Brooklyn.

I will add your titles to my list of gifts to give.