What Makes For A Good Wedding Present?

It’s June, which used to mean nice weather in the Northeast. Now it just means it’s wedding season, which will never change.

Kiplinger.com‘s Cameron Huddleston recently wrote an article called “How to Avoid Overspending on Wedding Gifts.” It’s worth checking out for some ideas on getting a present that won’t get lost in an Everest of pricier, flashier ones.

Sure, maybe I’m just inexperienced at wedding-gift shopping (after all, most of my good friends were divorced before we met), but some of these ideas stand out…

(Photo: Getty Images)

• Buy a group gift in order to get them something you otherwise couldn’t afford
• Go with whatever strikes your fancy in the registry (there’s a registry? Okay, I’m kidding, but I forgot that one)
• Offer your skills at the ceremony (say, you’re a musician or the world’s greatest bartender, maybe)

I take issue with Huddleston’s final suggestion, which is basically re-gifting, which is only acceptable if you just lost your job, had your identity stolen, and you’re being evicted. Maybe not even then, either. —BRIAN FAIRBANKS

Avoid Overspending on Wedding Gifts [Kiplinger]


Edit Your Comment

  1. AnnieGetYourFun says:

    Regifting can turn ugly. My sister received a plastic, bright yellow pot for an indoor potted plant. It was clearly the fruitcake of wedding gifts. From a radiologist, of all the cheap bastards.

  2. B says:

    Daniel Gross at Slate wrote a great article recently explaining why money is the best thing to give at a wedding, and also the best thing to ask for. The crux of the argument is that when it comes to spending money, experiences cost more than things for overall happiness, and helping the bride and groom have a memorable honeymoon will be worth more to them in the long run. Also, honeymoons don’t come in a box and wrapped in plastic which needs to be disposed of or recycled.

  3. mopar_man says:

    I just buy whatever is on the gift registry. That keeps it simple. If I can’t find something I can afford, they get money.

  4. Fuzz says:

    I just got married, and it changed my perspective on registries. I used to look for the cool or unique gift on the registry, not plate setting 6 of 8, pots and pans, or a portion of whatever is on there, like wine glasses. But now, after being on the receiving end, I can say receiving the plate setting is great! Nothing worse than only getting 2 settings, and having to buy the rest to fill out the set. So don’t worry! If it is on the registry, chances are they want it, so make sure you fill up the quota! it WILL be appreciated.

  5. Chicago7 says:

    Fish Slice.

  6. Many people don’t get the cheap things on their registry because nobody wants to be the dork who buys the cheapie gift. Generally you can get five or six cheap things on the registry (kitchen/serving utensils, say) for the cost of the china place setting and the couple is thrilled. (I still love that girl who got me my $10 cookie cutters. I think of her every time I use them.)

    However — if your “friends” expect/demand you show up at the wedding with a gift when you’re broke, particularly if you’d had to fly to get there and get a hotel room to attend, your friends are tacky to begin with.

    I hate that whole “your gift should be worth what I paid to feed you” thing. It’s the height of bad manners.

    I too disagree with the regifting. As a last resort, don’t regift — write a heart-felt note. That’ll probably be hanging around long after all the material gifts have been replaced.

  7. @B: “and also the best thing to ask for.”

    As the bride or groom, you shouldn’t be ASKING for anything. They’re voluntary gifts from people who wish to give you something out of the kindness and generosity of their hearts, not extortion demands.

  8. ironchef says:

    it’s all about materialism and the bridezilla’s quest for a perfect wedding.

    I personally hate all the commercialism and materialism the Bridal magazines hype.

    I say…a gift card that fits your budget with a very thoughtful handwritten letter on friendship.

  9. MercuryPDX says:

    Taking this from the other side, a friend of mine decided to take her wedding as an opportunity to “gouge her friends” for the most expensive gifts possible.

    We’re talking $850 designer label bed spread and matching sheet set, chrome bathroom wastebasket and sink accessory set ($150 to $300), china that cost $225 per place setting, etc.

    The end result? She got next to nothing from her overpriced registry because groups of people pooled money to get her ONE gift [ie. The 5 bridesmaids bought her the the bedding]. Most people saw it for what it was (RUDE!) and just stuck money in a card.

    Seriously though, who eats of $225 china every day? Would you even throw “bathroom trash” in a $300 wastebasket? How about eat in bed with $850 sheets (let alone “consummate” in them?

    If you’re the bride and groom, KNOW YOUR “AUDIENCE” and be practical. If you give everyone a chance to get you something they’ll feel good about you’ll do OK. The people who want to go the extra mile WILL.

  10. AnnieGetYourFun says:

    I don’t know – I understand that there’s a princess mentality to the whole Big White Wedding Day – but gifts are more olbigatory now than they are an act of generosity. Traditionally, gifts were meant to help the couple establish their household.

    No one should EXPECT that they will be receiving whatever they want, but if they know that all kinds of friends (and more imporantly, parents’ friends) are willing to out big bucks for a soup tureen, and they’d rather put funds towards a nice honeymoon, because they don’t eat soup, well – there’s no harm in making the suggestion. Of course, it should be made with grace and gratitude.

    That concludes today’s lesson in wedding manners.

  11. Kos says:


    I hate buying off the registry since you end up paying somehting like $20 is shipping and tax. I’d rather give a couple a gift card from the place they’ve registered with a nice card. Doesn’t expire and they get more bang for their buck. Why pay for the boxing and make UPS/FedEx/DHL richer? If not a gift card, cash is the way to go, but you need to make sure it isn’t stollen (see [photo.net] )

  12. B says:

    @Kos: Just give them cash and put it in a nice card and leave it on the gift table. Those gift cards have horrible sneaky fees and stuff associated with them.

  13. B says:

    @Eyebrows McGee: What do you think a registry is, if not a list of things the bride and groom are asking for?

  14. @B: It’s a convenience for those who quietly ask the bride’s mother if there’s anything in particular the bride would appreciate to help her set up housekeeping. It’s certainly not something the POLITE bride and groom ADVERTISE, and it’s only mentioned by the couple upon being directly asked, and then with a brief show of reluctance. (“Oh, you’re so generous! You don’t have to get us anything!”)

    Getting wedding invitations with registry cards in them is tacky enough. Having people inform me I ought to give them money makes me shudder.

  15. mopar_man says:


    Wow. I think I would’ve taken a dump in a box and wrapped it up for her. My wife and I took into consideration our family and what they could afford. We put 2 slightly more expensive items on the list in case a few wanted to get together and buy them. We got one of the larger items and quite a few of the cheaper items so it worked out well.

  16. jeffj-nj says:

    I am so proud of the last wedding gift I gave, that I will now share it here…

    It started with an envelope. Inside, were three pieces of decently thick, nice marbled paper. Each of those were folded in thirds. On the outside, I had drawn a small map on each, containing nothing more than two or three cross-streets and a single circled number: “1”, “2”, or “3”.

    When you unfolded the map which was marked with a “1”, the other side of that piece of paper revealed I had printed out a favorable review from some restaurant website which described a restaurant I thought the couple (more so the wife, actually) would enjoy. Attached, was a $50 gift certificate.

    When you unfolder the map marked “2”, there was a print out of Comic Strip Live’s website’s homepage. Attached, were two tickets, valid any time.

    On the inside of the third and final map was the menu to a coffee/dessert place that I absolutely adore. You can roast s’mores right at your table! And their Chai is just fantastic. Attached to this was a gift certificate for $20.

    All in, the gift cost less than $100 (though the price on the comedy club tickets made it look like it cost a bit more – they’re cheaper in advance than they are at the door, but it’s the latter price which is printed on them) and one trip into NYC. All three locations were within walking distance of one another, completely on purpose. Effectively, what I gave them was a night out. They loved it. Honestly, so did I. I don’t think I’ll ever top that.

  17. traezer says:

    What about Cucumber Cola?

  18. MercuryPDX says:

    @mopar_man: I was living on the west coast at the time, and got an “unvitation” which included a “We’re registered at:” card.

    At first I thought this card was added in true “unvitation” fashion (Don’t come, send a gift from one of these high-end retailers!!) and when I called a friend (one of the bridesmaids) to say “Can you believe the nerve?!?!”, I found out that everyone got them.

    As the wedding got closer, my friend would regale me with bridezilla horror stories. They hired 4 photographers (two shot ONLY in black and white) and two videographers, the reception was a good 60+ miles away at some swank estate on the north fork of Long Island, 5 bridesmaids and 5 groomsmen to match. One of the bridesmaids couldn’t afford the dress, so she was CUT from the wedding party (ditto the corresponding groomsman who already rented his tux…. they HAVE to match.)

    We’re not even talking suburban royalty, minor league celebrities, or nouveau rich… it was WAY out of hand with both mother in laws only adding fuel to the fire.

    While Poop in a box would have been an awesome idea, I don’t find her or her husband worthy of the corn from said poop, let alone the shipping, for the way the entire thing went down.

  19. wakebrdr says:

    As the bride or groom, you shouldn’t be ASKING for anything. They’re voluntary gifts from people who wish to give you something out of the kindness and generosity of their hearts, not extortion demands.

  20. annelise13 says:

    I think some folks should take a trip to Etiquette Hell (http://www.etiquettehell.com/). Asking for money is extremely tacky. The intention of wedding gifts is to help a new couple set up a household, not take a honeymoon they can’t afford. A wedding shouldn’t be a cash-grab.

    As for me, I adopted “go with whatever strikes your fancy in the registry” a few years ago. I pick what I would want from their list, or something I got for my wedding that ended up being awesome.

  21. alterboy says:

    After spending a few grand on my wedding all I cared about was money. I actually made money on my wedding.

  22. acambras says:

    What Eyebrows McGee said.

    I find the whole extortive nature of weddings pretty loathsome. It really chaps my ass to read some old biddy’s letter to Dear Abby complaining about how much they spent on their Precious Daughter’s wedding and how some cheapskates only spent $50 on a wedding gift, in exchange for the “privilege” of attending an obscenely expensive wedding.

  23. rouftop says:

    Real simple:
    1) buy something from the registry.
    2) give a gift card from a place on the registry.
    3) cash!
    4) or just show up!

    Those are the best gifts, period. I just got married, and it’s no fun getting something that you just cannot use, does not match your taste, or you just don’t have room for. Cash is great, especially if the wedding is being put on by the bride and groom themselves. Gift cards are nice too, because it forces you to get something nice for the home. But we were mostly just happy that people came to the wedding at all — that was the best present of all for us!

  24. SOhp101 says:

    Asian weddings are the best: just give cash.

  25. RebekahSue says:

    @MercuryPDX: that friend of yours is insane. My brother and his wife are well-to-do and nothing on their registry was in that price range. (when I say “well to do” – their wedding cost more than I make in three years. It’s NOT what they make in one year.)

    I loved jeffj-nj‘s idea, but I can’t afford a night on the town for myself. (I’ve done baskets with videos and popcorn for a night IN) Your friends must be really special for you to have done that for them.

    My brother and sister in law are very generous; they offered to buy my dress for the wedding, and they bought my mom’s dress and paid for my dad’s tux rental. They also took care of my downtown Boston hotel bill for the wedding. (i would have been happy at the Holiday Inn, but they insisted.) Their desires are well within their lifestyle, but it’s stuff I don’t even look at when I’m window shopping. It’s cool; they are generous, they are kind, they donate to charity, and they work HARD. They deserve it.

    I had to get the cheap stuff on the registry. ALL the expensive stuff except for the $160 trash can and the super knives had been purchased. (the trash can would have been inappropriate from me – i’m a slob – and I cut my brother with a knife when I was a bitchy teenager, so those were out, too.) I wanted to get them the food processor. I got them… the garlic press.

    They told me, though, that they were SO happy that I drove my mom the 200 or so miles to my sister in law’s shower (they live out of state) so that she and I could be there. THAT was worth it.

    One of my best friends got married several years ago. They couldn’t afford a photographer. My gift to them was about five rolls of amateur film that I shot, developed, with six sets (yay Costco!) so that they could give a set to both sets of parents and grandparents. There were pictures I missed, like the bride with her grandmother – but they were still very happy.

  26. arcticJKL says:

    Having just recently been married I have to affirm some comment I have seen.

    1. Yes its a gift. You can give it or not. I would really like you to just attend.
    2. Cash. Give me cash. I can by anything on the registry or spend it on the honeymoon.
    3. Use the registry luke. Thats what its there for.

    The idea is to have happy friends and family help the couple get started. Not to shake everyone down.

    Also – As a guy I helped planned the wedding. I was delighted too. I was able to prevent all the hideous things id seen elsewhere. Like 20 different people singing at the service and drunken fools talking at the reception.

  27. speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

    My second husband and I got married when we were college students (that sounds so tacky… we were in our mid-20s, OK… and my first husband lasted three months before he threw a week-long tantrum over me “buying the wrong groceries”). But anyway.

    All of our friends were college students in their early 20s, with a couple of married grad students in which borh members of the couple were still in school. If my whole wedding party and guest list emptied their bank accounts and sold blood, they wouldn’t have been able to pool together to buy me $850 sheets. My mom and dad helped with our very modest wedding. I made my dress and my husband borrowed his tux from his dad. But it was nice.

    My husband’s best friend gave us one of those big boxes of crayons and a roll of newsprint. We laughed–and colored–for weeks. My best friend and honor attendant (male) gave me a card in which he wrote he would take me to the mall and buy me any teddy bear I wanted, and he did, and I still have it. Some of our other friends cooked for us. We were all crazy, and everything was divine.

  28. deweydecimated says:

    speedwell, that sounds lovely.

    i usually peruse the registry and bring a piece of artisan-made pottery, such as a serving bowl, that will coordinate with the dishes.

  29. Snakeophelia says:

    One of the many reasons I enjoyed my second wedding (May of last year) so much was that money wasn’t really an issue (unlike with my first one). I was so happy to be able to host a small destination wedding and pay for everything myself (the rooms, food, etc). All the guests had to do was get there (and the location was chosen to be within a short driving distance for most of them). It was wonderful. It certainly makes for sunnier dispositions when your guests didn’t need to break the bank just to hear you say your vows.

  30. Youthier says:

    If you have no money, bring a card. There doesn’t need to be money or a gift card in it. Just let the couple know that you thought about them and their life together and not just the party with free booze that they’re throwing.

    @Fuzz: So true! I got two weird ass vases but no towels because “towels are boring”. Not when all you have are threadbare towels from Target you bought the summer after high school, they aren’t.

  31. etinterrapax says:

    If it’s someone I know well, I consider their taste and bring something that I know they’ll like, that fits my budget. I’ve never had anyone who knew we were truly broke freak that we didn’t bring a nice enough gift. When we have money enough, I love to give things from the League of NH Craftsmen (pottery, handmade wooden household goods, metal crafts, blown glass, etc. It’s a juried guild). I’ve given money and gift cards when I knew they were truly needed–I’ve had some cousins marry young and poor. I still think it’s incredibly tacky to ask for money or enclose registry cards in wedding invitations or announcements.

    I remember being very embarrassed by and grateful for people’s generosity when I was married. I hadn’t even dreamt of registering for sterling flatware, but my husband’s grandmother insisted, and she buys us a setting every year at Christmas. Our toasting flutes were a gift, and much nicer than we could have afforded ourselves. I’m sure there were people who attended and gave us nothing material, but I don’t remember and I don’t care. I think that some people have forgotten that one gives a party of any kind for the delight and comfort of the guests, not the hosts. Gifts are a kindness. They are not owed the bridal couple for the cost of feeding and entertainment.

  32. JNighthawk says:

    I got my friend a Wii for his wedding. Seriously.

    They all loved it :-)

  33. Ravenwaift says:

    I got married in August of last year. For me it was most important that everyone attend, I only made a registry because I knew some people would want to buy us gifts.

    We made our registry at Bed, Bath, & Beyond. The only expensive thing on the registry was a Dyson vacuum, the average price was less than $25 and we had a wide variety of gifts. Our favorite gifts were: the interlocking corncob holders (no accidently poked fingers), clearanced priced placemats, a giant crockpot, and a Foreman grill.

    My suggestion is to buy what they will actually use. Most people will never use their good china, but they will use the silicone spatula, the coffee grinder, or the kitchenaid mixer. Buy off the registry if you can, it makes returning things easier (say, if they got two of something). Gift cards or cash are also good.

    My other suggestion- if they expect a gift, they shouldn’t get one. You’ll only be reinforcing their bad behavior.

    If you are getting married, please create a good registry. Put on some fun items- a lot of people don’t want to buy just some mixing bowls. Put on a lot of items- at Bed, Bath, and Beyond for example a lot of things aren’t available at every store, and it really sucks for your guests not to be able to find what is on your registry. People will think you are a brat is everything if expensive.

    If you are getting a registry and they give you little cards to enclose with your invitations, throw them out. That is beyond tacky. It’s tacky to the 100th power. Really. Don’t do it.

    One last thing: if you expect people to buy you gifts worth more than the price of a plate at the wedding, don’t have a wedding. No one likes you anyway because you are a spoiled brat. Just be happy that people want to spend the time and money to come to your wedding because they care enough to want to see you happy.

  34. Chicago7 says:


    Whoa! Great idea! If I get married, I’m inviting you!


  35. Athena79 says:

    I got married 3 years ago. I took into account our guests on everything from how expensive the suggested hotels were to the registry. I was told to put down 1-2 things which I knew were out of range but to make sure all ranges were covered and to check it frequently to make sure the people who could only afford inexpensive things wouldn’t be stuck when that was gone. I did.

    I couldn’t tell you who didn’t give a gift. I can tell you who didn’t come – or worse responded that they would and didn’t.

    Our best man gave us tons of utensils, baking pans, dishtowels & cookbooks we had registered for. We were embarrassed by his generosity & touched at receiving such a thoughtful gift. His gift made us think carefully about others.

    For my maid of honor’s wedding we found a really nice, but not expensive picnic basket we filled this with a very well recommended inexpensive bottle of sparkling wine & a woven blanket with historic landmarks of the town we grew up in.

    For the couple whose wedding we were in a month after ours we bought 2 martini glasses, a martini shaker (both items we knew they really wanted) and we took the time to create a very personal drink cookbook, which we took to kinko’s and had bound.

  36. phrygian says:

    My wedding was almost 10 years ago — I can’t remember who gave me what, save for a few things. “Stuff” has never been important to me or my husband; the “gift” that still makes me smile is remembering how all my friends and family came and celebrated with us.

    When I go to weddings, I choose something from the registry or a gift card to the place the couple is registered because I know the registry is going to be filled with stuff they want/need, but I hope that (like me) their fondest memories will not be of the stuff they got but of how many people wanted to share the day with them.

  37. SonicPhoenix says:

    As someone who got married and literally just returned from the honeymoon I’d like the share my thoughts on the subject of giving/receiving gifts for the event.

    1. The best gifts came either from the registry or in the form of checks/cash.

    There are two main reasons for this in my case. For one, I tend to over-research any purchase for an item that will be with me for any period of time and as such, I would much rather have the item that I picked out with my bride-to-be than another random one that the gift giver thinks will be just as good. As a consumerist reader, I would guess that most of you can sympathize with this. Second, weddings are expensive things and as such, any checks/cash that can be used to recoup the cost are greatly appreciated.

    2. A very close second place for great gifts are things that are both incredibly unique and simultaneously not present on the registry. Things that have some personal connection to either the couple or the gift giver fall into this category.

    We received a few of these incredibly well thought out gifts and they were great surprises. One good example was an antique clock along with a note explaining the significance and meaning behind the gift along with the thought process for choosing it. I never would have thought of putting such a thing on the registry but I really appreciated the thought and emotion involved.

    3. Even if you’re not going to get something on the registry, at least take a look at it so you can know what not to get.

    Every duplicate gift that a couple receives creates a dilemma. For example, we received three separate sets of cooking pots and pans. One set was on the registry and we absolutely love it. Now we have to determine what to do with the other two. Discard/exchange them and possibly hurt the feelings of the people who gave them? Keep them around and add to the already-considerable amount of clutter in our home? I really don’t know what to do with them.

    To those who are looking to give a gift at a wedding, recognize that weddings can be expensive and, if possible, try to give at least what it cost for the bride and groom to have you at the wedding/reception. If you aren’t that well-off financially, give what you can and don’t worry – the bride and groom should care more about having you there to share their day than what your bringing them.

    All of this being said I’d like to offer some advise to prospective brides and grooms:

    Plan your wedding within your means and with the intention that this is an opportunity to share a joyous moment in your life with your family, friends, and neighbors. Assume that the entire wedding is going to be a write-off and come to terms with the fact that any money you spend will be gone and with this in mind, plan and spend accordingly. This will allow you to focus on what’s important and not worry about taking in enough in gifts to make up for what you spend. Your wedding day should about having a good time with your significant other and your guests. This is not a time to be materialistic and if you think that it is, maybe you need to reevaluate why you are getting married or why you’ve planned your wedding as you have.