Friday, 28 October 2011

Gift Lists

I get it. Really I do.
If you don't give guests a list you'll get all manner of crap.
But if I log on to John Lewis' online gift section one more time I'll scream.
It's very handy, of course.
You see the Smiths have requested six bone china plates, eight stoneware mugs, salt and pepper shakers sculpted like birds and so on.
You click something within your budget and hey presto, it's wrapped and delivered to the happy couple.
But where's the romance in that?
One bride I know got so addicted to the goodies, she typed in her password every few minutes to see what shad been bought.
Seven minutes after I'd made a transaction, she called to say thanks.
And a groom I know was gutted no one took the bait for the iPod with super-duper surround system he'd asked for.
"I know it's expensive but I thought a few of the boys might have chipped in," he grumbled.

The polar opposite was Stella McCartney's wedding which I attended six or so years ago.
I used the term 'attended' loosely - I was on the Isle of Bute, but firmly outside the castle gates and mostly inside local pubs trying to pick up stories - I was a showbiz reporter at the time.
Stella asked guests to donate a tree by way of present, which she would plant in an eco-forrest.
Saving the planet is admirable, but people from Dundee can't go asking guests for trees. Trust me, they just can't.
So back to John Lewis.
If, like me, you log on three days before the big day only to find everything between the £5k dinning table and £5 toilet brush has gone, vouchers are on offer.
Again, this makes sense - the lovebirds can get what they want.
But if you take a step back, doesn't it seem boorish to say 'here's your invite and by the way, here's a list of things we want.'
When I voiced my concerns to Jamie, his solution was immediate and final.
"We won't have a gift list."
"Really. It's inane."
After thinking about it for a while, I came completely round.
How liberating to have one less list.
For years, he has binned gift lists and instead bought friends six bottles of nice wine from Laithwaites. This strikes me as a good thing to come home to after a honeymoon, when many couples say they feel a bit deflated the high jinx are over.
It's a tradition rarely employed these days, but did you know that in Scotland a 'showing of the gifts' used to be standard?
So the bride or her mother would put every present received on tables and friends would come round to view them.
I remember them from childhood, aunts looking at the written messages with a nod of approval for something expensive-looking or a muttered 'you can get that for a fiver in Woolworths.'
A public praising and shaming - obscene really but mainly well intended, to thank friends for their kindness.

Is it not enough that guests travel and put themselves up in a hotel to be there?
Europe and the perhaps the entire Western economies are teetering on the brink of a financial abyss.
Flights, hotels, outfits run into hundreds of pounds.
A few guests might insist on getting you something and it might be tat or wonderful - either way, they chose it.
But the only present you ask for is their presence at such a special day.
Schmaltzy but true.


  1. Seriously Martel I feel like you're my bride-to-be soulmate! My fiance and I have exactly the same attitude towards giftlists and the like... As much as it has to be 'your day' - as everyone keeps reminding me, gaaaah! - it doesn't mean you should just expect guests to be so grateful of the invitation that they'd go to any length to please you. Being happy doesn't mean being so selfish that everyone else is inconvenienced. That attitude really REALLY bugs me. I understand the practicalities of a gift list, but the old 'no one wants twenty toasters' excuse just really doesn't apply. I know they're great for some, but for me, it all seems so mercenary and impersonal.

    As wonderful as weddings are, let's face it, as a guest you're there because you're 80% happy for the couple, 20% because you want to see what the party's like and form an opinion on it (those percentages vary of course). Weddings are an inconvenience. For everyone. Of course once you're there and it's in full swing, they're lovely, and I've been to some absolutely beautiful and heartfelt ones. BUT, as a guest, you have to dress up, usually buy a new outfit, organise holiday/shift cover - or for the self-employed, just lose money altogether - sometimes childcare, buy a present, drive for hours, get lost, have a blazing row with your other half on the way there, and then realise you forgot a f***ing card, only to turn up with minutes to spare, looking completely bedraggled and in need of all the wine on offer. You're p***ed off, bitter, can't even remember how you met the HAPPY couple in the first place, and wish you'd bought them one of the 6 mugs on their giftlist instead of the pair of ridiculously expensive vases they so desperately 'need'!!

    Anyway, what was my point? Ah yes, gifts are about what people want to give, not what recipients should demand. If a couple really needs something, I think a quiet, personal word with a guest or two that they can talk about such things with is absolutely fine, but a wedding shouldn't just be a list of demands.

    The one thing I've been conscious of since starting to plan was that I don't want it to be a burden on people... I'm sure it will be to a degree either way, but I want people to enjoy it, embrace the day, yes think 'doesn't the bride look lovely' and 'isn't it a nice day?' but how can people relax when they have to fork out lots of money just so they can meet certain social expectations?

    And yes, it saves having to write another sodding list!

  2. Your first concern-here's your invitation -and here is what we want,I believe is fair comment,by a person ,with emotional intelligence.You.
    However,if you have judged it right,the people who are coming, are chosen by you both,either out of family Obligation",or genuine affection.Leave a little room ,in your case, for "Showbiz",people.
    Traditionally,those invited,would/should expect to reciprocate ,your invite to a nice venue, and food ,drink -with an expression of affection for you both.
    I ,know, that just by saying,"We would like", Human Nature being what it is,will cause a reaction,akin to "In your dreams"-but equally, many, will be delighted,to delight you!
    I like the idea, of the "Showing" of the Gifts,but this may prove embarrassing if you observe, a trend or pattern of gifts, from Asda,that were in the catergory "Couldn't leave it there,at that price.You can't go wrong"
    Imagine the table ,creaking ,with Condiments,Kitchen Ware,Irons,Mixers,Microwaves,and waste bins!
    No,this is Special,you and Jamie, deserve to be treated ,in a "Special Way", by those,you believe - Believe-"You're Special"
    John Lewis,are price competitive, they are experts at it,and with ,your guests ,busy lives, they will be more than happy to choose.Trust them!
    Keep the desired gifts ,in band ranges, and see what you get.
    Do not take, the World Recession ,on your shoulders, this is a "One Off"
    Love your free spirit approach,Love "Schmaltzy"

    In the End, I know, you will get it just right!

  3. How lucky am I to have readers with great thoughts and comments like you Hajar and you IKN.
    It seems we are kindred spirits with the old thought processes H and it's great you are in the run-up too and posting your strong views.
    I've had a few Facebook/Twitter comments to say they had a list and it was right for them, but each to their own. That's just it, whatever feels right for you probably is.
    That and the fact that a blogger who sits on the fence..gets a sore bottom.
    And yes IKN, we'll all get there! Glad you like schmalzy!

  4. My fiance and I have pretty much everything we need in our home (not everything we want, but lets ignore greed for a moment), so we have struggled with a concept of a wedding list, especially since the majority of our guests will have to travel a distance and stay overnight at (or near) our chosen venue at their own expense.

    It's inevitable that some guests will want to buy a gift, but we don't expect it.

    So, our compromise plan is as follows:

    Any one who enquires about a gift list will receive a something laong the lines of the following:

    "Thank you for your kind thought with regard to a wedding gift, we would greatly appreciate it if you make a donation in our name to 'XXXXX' (our chosen charity of choice, and not a bank account number ;o) )in honour and memory of the family members who can't be with us to share in our day."

    If people feel strongly enough that they want to buy us a gift as well, then we will accept it gratefully and cherish the thought they put into choosing it, even if it is the fifteenth toast rack!