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What's In a Wedding Present?

Updated: Jul 8, 2020

The giving of a wedding gift is a traditional part of a wedding day the world over. It marks the significance of the day, celebrates the union of a couple, and is a token of love, gratitude and well-wishing from the guest to the recipient.

The history of the wedding present goes back hundreds of years - when families used to give a dowry which could include agricultural gifts or money. In the Renaissance period, the idea of a hope chest or an ornate wedding chest was introduced. Brides to be would gather linens and other beautiful or sentimental items that would be beneficial in the marital home. In the 1920s, Macys invented a gift registry and other department stores followed suit. Couples could choose items for their wish list and guests could select what to gift them from the list. China, cookware, glassware, bed linen, towels and silver were popular choices for a wedding gift up right up to the 21st Century. Gift registers are still an option, but department store gift lists are now being overtaken by other, more creative options.

In days gone by it was usual and an excellent idea for well-wishing relatives and friends to bestow on newly weds a series of gifts that would be useful household items to help them set up their new home. However, most couples these days spend some time living together before they get married and they really don't need a new set of pans or an unusual vase. Some couples decide to have children before they marry and are living in their second or third house or flat by the time the big day comes round and some couples are getting married for second or third time.

So where are we now and what about the wedding present traditions in countries other than the UK?

In Italy, tradition dictates that the more affluent a family, the greater the gift. And as well as being very happy to receive a gift, the bride is quite likely to carry a satin purse, into which guests can pop a cash gift or a cheque. In Spain, it's not entirely unusual for couples to put their bank account details on the invitation or guests can approach the top table at the reception to give the couple a cash gift as a gesture for including them in the wedding. In African cultures, it's traditional for some guests to give newly-weds something meaningful for the home as a conversation starter. In Japanese, Chinese and Jewish cultures, it's customary for guests to give money to the happy couple on their wedding day in envelopes, something I've seen myself at a beautiful multicultural humanist wedding I conducted in 2019 and at weddings of my husband's Jewish relatives. In Puerto Rico, a doll, wearing a replica of the bride's dress is often put on the top table, and guests can pin money onto her. But in English and American cultures, the giving of actual money is still seen as uncomfortable, so the giving of another kind of gift is more widespread.

Herein lies the problem. Buying a wedding present for newly weds can be a stressful experience. Not only do guests have to work out what the ideal wedding gift would be, other factors contribute to the dilemma. How well do you know the couple? What do they need? How much is appropriate to spend and how do you present it?

Here's an idea! One unique wedding present that would surely be welcomed by any travel loving, newly married couple is an experience for them to enjoy on their honeymoon. Who wouldn't appreciate and remember forever a sun-kissed dinner for two on the beach, a horse-riding experience across the hills, a couple's massage, a white water rafting day or a hot air balloon ride? Or even a cash donation towards the whole honeymoon? For home-loving couples, you can gift anything from a dancing lesson to a cooking experience for two. Experiences are the new gift. Memories are the new collections. An online wedding registry such as Honeyfund Wedding Registry is certainly worth looking into. Good luck and have fun!

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