Why "No Boxed Gifts, Please" Is Still Not Okay

Today we're going to talk about the etiquette of wedding gifts.

I know – the word “etiquette” calls to mind fussy old ladies and dusty books of rules. But here's the thing – etiquette is for everybody, and it's awesome. Etiquette isn't arbitrary. It's a set of rules for how to avoid hurting anyone's feelings or making them feel insulted or even embarrassed.

Plus, etiquette is often completely practical advice. For instance, most people think that when dining out as a group, it's rude to eat until everyone's meal has arrived. However, Miss Emily Post says it's stupid to let a hot meal get cold, and that your FRIENDS are the jerks if they expect you to let a $27 steak go room temp before you eat it. However, if it's already cold (a salad, a sandwich, a chilled soup) then waiting won't hurt and you should be patient.

Totally logical, right? Yes. So let's investigate what the etiquette books say about gifts on your wedding day.

Remember that when you invite a guest to your wedding, you are asking them to join you in celebration. Often, you are asking them to schlep across state lines and spend the night in a hotel that might not be the first thing on their list of “stuff I easily afford right now.” The fact that people are willing to dress up fancy and spend a whole evening at your party should make you feel plenty loved without having to bring Williams-Sonoma into the mix. So please – don't be a sourpuss if your college roommate flies halfway across the country bringing nothing more than good wishes and a great looking outfit.

This is Gretchen's mom's favorite thing to give as a wedding gift. You don't want to hurt her mom's feelings, do you?

This is Gretchen's mom's favorite thing to give as a wedding gift. You don't want to hurt her mom's feelings, do you?

It is never – NEVER NEVER NEVER – polite to question a guest's gift. Perhaps you didn't put “a vintage picnic basket packed with a blanket and a bottle of wine” on your registry, but you know what? The person who assembled that gift did so with your happiness in mind. They put thought and time into it. Appreciate the gesture, and then try to appreciate the gift. If you really can't find a way to love it, keep it around for a bit and then send it off to the Goodwill. And ALWAYS send a thank you card, even if you hated the gift itself.

Don't put your registry info in your invitations.

“But I think that my guests will really want to know where I'm registered.”
     Don't do it.
“It's just so much easier that way.”
     Don't do it.
“My cousin did it for her wedding, and no one said boo.”
     Don't. Do. It.

Proper invitation wording is really so important. "No navy bean, please."

Proper invitation wording is really so important. "No navy bean, please."

It's really not polite to ask for gifts in the same breath as you invite someone to a party. Yes, its customary to put registry information in a bridal shower invite, but those parties are CENTERED around the gift-giving. That's the whole point. You wouldn't invite people to a soup party, omit the word “soup” from the invitation, then be like, “Dag, why did none of y'all bring any soup to this thing?”

The best way to handle this is to let your website do the talking. Include the URL for your wedding website on the stationery, and make sure your registry information is posted online. It won't take much effort for people to figure out what kind of gifts you're after. If you don't have a website, then many guests will ask directly. Make sure that your parents, the Maid of Honor, and the Best Man all have the scoop on your registries.

Dolla dolla bill, y'all.

Some couples just want money. They already own cookware, linens, china, appliances, pretty much everything they need to have a happy home. But what they REALLY want is a free honeymoon or a down payment for a house. And that's okay!

If you're going to ask for cash, however, there is a right and a wrong way to do it. We've already covered why putting your request in your invitations is in the "wrong" column. Let's learn more.

“Where are you registered?”

“We chose not to register for gifts – there is nothing material we need.”
“We have a small registry at Sears, and a honeymoon registry online.”

“Nowhere. We'd much rather get a check. Or large bills.”
“At the MONEY STORE, son!”

A honeymoon registry, by the way, is a great idea. That or a “cash registry” will allow your guests to basically PayPal you a wedding gift with the understanding that you will put the gift toward a larger purchase. Google will turn up some good ones, but RedBird suggests you look into Honeyfund.com or MyRegistry.com if this idea appeals to you.

Maybe you never realized how many rules dominated the concept of wedding gifts, but now you know. And knowing is half the battle.