Looking for that (im)perfect gift? Stop!
I would like to start off with the following: I love my family and friends very much. Not only am I excited when I hear someone’s gotten engaged, I’m genuinely elated for them. I want nothing more for them than to find the love of their life, start a family, and walk down their life path. In fact, I’m thrilled to celebrate their joy with them.
However, last week found me at my computer yet again, hitting the check-out button to purchase another gift for another shower I am unable to attend. I was annoyed. And instead of accepting that at face value, I started to explore why.
The first thing that came up was practical: how many gifts do I have to buy? For all of the gifts I’ve given over the years, how many have I gotten in return? I am unmarried and have no children; the answer is very small—in fact, the ratio is probably in the ballpark of 6:1. I have yet to find a good reason to just throw myself a shower (if anyone comes up with one, please let me know).
I realize I sound a bit bitter about this, but it’s true. I’m certain I’m not the only person who has had this thought; I may just be the first one willing to say it out loud.
Now, I don’t consider myself a tit-for-tat kind of person, so I knew there was something else going on, too. Here it is: when I was in my early 20s and someone was getting married, etiquette stated that you purchase a wedding present. Now, fifteen years later, I’m invited to engagement parties, showers and then the grand finale—the wedding.
By the time the couple is ready to walk down the aisle, they have received a minimum of two gifts from many of the people in attendance, and are about to receive a third.
Have you ever taken a look at someone’s registry? It can be almost comical.
I cruise through the list as most people do, seeking what’s in my price range. I always feel a bit cold doing this; I want to give something more personal than a listed item, like a homemade coupon entitling the recipients to a spa or dinner date with me. I often wish I could give him/her the gift of quality time together, creating more of the memories that brought us together in the first place, rather than a pot, pan or salad spinner they scanned onto the gift list at Macy’s.
I completely understand placing items on there that one really needs, especially for couples that are young, not well-to-do, and first starting out. I believe this was the original intention of wedding gifts. However, did so-and-so really need to put that ice cream maker on there? Last I heard, they were on a diet, and last I knew, they didn’t even know how to cook, let alone make ice cream!
Did you know some people still put china on their lists? China? Really? How often does our generation serve guests dinner on their “good china”? When I was at your house for Thanksgiving, we used paper plates!
When did we as a society get so indulgent? When did we start placing items on a list because we knew someone else was buying it, not because we needed them?
When did the things people were buying for us become more important than the time we spent with them?
I feel like somewhere along the way we forgot what the wedding is supposed to be about. It’s about us, as family and friends, coming together to celebrate the couple. We join as one to help people we love kick off their new life journey. We’re there to create loving memories, to laugh, toast, dance the night away and celebrate the new family that has been created.
I am always honored to be a part of those celebrations.
So while the presents are great, it is the memories that will last a lifetime. It is the memories that make the day special, not the melon baller I know you will never use, which happened to be in my price range. When we grow old and recall our wedding day, we’ll talk about how hot it was that day on the beach as the bride walked down the sandy aisle, all the guests sweating through their clothing but not caring. We’ll talk about the time someone split her dress on the dance floor but kept right on dancing. We’ll talk about the kiss after the vows were made, the kiss that began the marriage.
The couple will remember that kiss, not the 400-thread-count sheet set they received.
I therefore make you all a promise: When I get married, all I will ask for is your attendance. Leave all gifts at home; your presence will be my presents. If you feel the need to buy something because etiquette says you must, make a donation to the charity of your choice in my name. I promise I will appreciate it.
I promise you I will not have a registry with napkin rings on it; I fold mine or use paper towels. I will not have a registry with matching beer steins with our initials engraved on them, as most likely I will accidentally drop one and break it. I will not have cookware on my registry, as I already own some.
Instead, I humbly request that you come to my big day the same way I bring myself to yours: with love in your hearts, ready to make thrilling, awe-inspiring, heart-warming, tear-jerking, split-your-dress-right-open, spectacular memories. Finally, I promise that my partner and I will thank you for said memories when we’re reminiscing in the kitchen thirty years down the line, while we carve melon balls out of a honeydew with a spoon.
Sandy Rosenblatt graduated from Pennsylvania State University with a degree in health and human development (family studies). She serves as Executive Director of an assisted living home, overseeing care and treatment for people suffering from Alzheimer’s and dementia. She also serves as Head of Client Services for Live Authentic DC, a space where you can discover how much richer and more thrilling it is to be yourself. Sandy is an adventure junkie.
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Ed: Kevin Macku/Kate Bartolotta