Scrolling through another politely-requested online gift registry, I see the usual suspects: a crockpot, a distinct china pattern set, a brightly-colored stand mixer. The difference, this time, was that it was a dear friend from college who had become engaged. While I was thrilled for her (and who doesn’t love to attend a wedding), I was disappointed with the gift registry—she was asking me, one of her closest friends, to buy her a stock gift off of a registry list.
Kathy and I were more than best friends in college—we were so alike that people often asked us if we were sisters, which we played along with for a few laughs. After graduation, we ended up living in different cities and eventually different states, but we’ve stayed close over the years. So now that my collegiate bestie was getting married, how could I get her a gift with no thought, no meaning behind it that just anyone could give her? I couldn’t bring myself to do it.
The Dilemma: Fighting the Urge to Make Their Gift About You
A recent study found that your closest friends are the ones who are least likely to buy you a gift from your registry. And it makes sense. When you make a gift registry, you’re telling people exactly what to buy for you, as if they were strangers to your likes and tastes. But your closest friends want to stand out. They want their gifts to proclaim, “Look how well I know you! Here’s a lovely gift you weren’t expecting, that you would never have asked for, but that is absolutely you.”
The problem is the gift giver is thinking of him or herself, not the recipient. A wedding, an incredibly special and personal event meant to be all about the newly married couple, now becomes focused on the gift-giver. Is that really the message we want to send to our friends and loved ones? Interestingly, though, “When gift-giving is anonymous,” the study found, “close friends are now OK with buying off of a registry,” an idea that reiterates the notion it’s a selfish response to try to avoid buying gifts from a registry.
“I think people do get sort of disappointed when their close friends don’t listen to their preferences,” says researcher Morgan Ward. From the recipient’s perspective, an off-the-registry gift might appear as though you are saying, “I know you, and what you want, better than you know yourself.” So the dilemma becomes how to give a meaningful gift while respecting the wishes of the recipients.
The Solution: Adding a Personal Touch to Pre-Picked Presents
As Kathy’s wedding day approached, I felt the pressure building in my chest and didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t let Kathy down by giving her something as silly as $100 bills folded into origami swans. Without any other ideas, I started shuffling through her gift registry, certain it would be a dead end. Her list was mostly kitchen items: a new flatware set, a large-capacity coffee maker, a pasta roller, a ravioli kit, and a set of new barbecue tools (probably for her hubby-to-be).
As I scrolled, I tried to think about how I would feel if I were in her (white and sparkly) shoes. Knowing Kathy, I was sure she’d spent a lot of time picking out her registry and making sure everything she added was something she and her new husband could use to start to build their new life together.
Then I thought about Kathy getting married in the blindingly white, floor-length halter gown I had helped her pick out. I thought about the upcoming reception, with the inevitable toasts and all the knives clinking against glass urging the new couple to kiss. I imagined them driving off in a flashy car with writing on the windows and streamers flowing everywhere as they sped off into the sunset. I thought about what their life would be like together.
I knew they were planning to buy a house right away—she’d been sending me Zillow listings asking for my no-BS best friend opinion. Were they going to have kids soon as well? It seemed like Kathy was stepping out of my world and into a romance novel with white picket fences, children’s toys littering the lawn, and an ice cream truck jingling by. And that was when I knew I had to shop for her in this new world, not our old one of dorm rooms and college cafeterias.
I revisited her registry and put the items she’d selected in their proper place in the imaginary future world I’d created. That’s when everything seemed to come together. I saw Kathy making a ravioli dish for her husband while he grilled chicken and vegetables on the barbecue before sitting down to enjoy their meal together (with their new flatware, of course). It was perfect. And they were perfect together. And I wanted to help them bring the life they’ve been dreaming of to fruition by giving them the perfect gifts—a blend of their requests with a couple complimentary surprises thrown in.
To protect Kathy’s stylish wardrobe from rouge flour bombs, I got her an adorable chef’s apron in her native Italian flag colors. To guide her on her new, courageous attempts at pasta making, I found her an easy-to-follow pasta cookbook. Then, to show her I care (and listen), I bought her the pasta roller and ravioli kit straight off of her gift registry.
Finally, after carefully bundling her presents in a neat box and using the customary nuptial-themed wrapping paper, I added a last little touch. Instead of spending four bucks on a plastic bow that would likely get thrown away, I spent less on a reusable printed floursack kitchen towel. I wound some shimmering gold ribbon around the box and tied the towel into a bow around the ribbon for a sweet, and practical, clue about what was inside.
Weddings are all about celebrating the love of the couple and giving them the support, encouragement, and funds needed to start their new life journey together. Putting your own, simple twist on gifts from their registry can show the newlyweds you’ve thought about the adventures awaiting them in the future. Kathy ended up loving my gift because I both listened to and surprised her—and showed her I saw great happiness (and delicious pasta) for her in the days ahead.
Let Elfster help you create a wedding wish list, or pick the perfect wedding gift from any of our featured gift guides. Then be sure to connect with us on Facebook, find us on Instagram at @Elfstergram, and on twitter @elfster for more thoughtful gifting tips and tricks.
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