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Ask Team Practical: Wedding Party & Parent Gifts


We’ve gotten a whole lot of questions lately about wedding thank you gifts. And from the outset, can we just say: the best thank you gift you can give is a heartfelt letter. I have the letter David wrote me on our wedding day on my desk (the gift he gave me is… somewhere safe… I’m sure). And to be clear, we don’t think you have to give thank you gifts. But we know some of you will, and that you need details, so read on…

Ask Team Practical: Wedding Party & Parent Gifts | A Practical Wedding

I know it’s traditional to get your parents gifts (isn’t it?), but my dad and I are not on great terms right now and he hasn’t offered to help one iota with the wedding—mentally, emotionally or financially. In fact, there was some question about whether my stepmother would attend because she doesn’t feel “accepted” by us kids, and there’s been a lot of bad blood around the issue since I got engaged. My mom, on the other hand, has given more than she’s probably capable, and my partner’s parents have, too. Am I still obligated to give my dad a gift, and what about my stepmom? Am I just asking for more trouble if we give gifts to all the parents except them?

-L

As a basic guideline, gifts need to be given in sincerity, not in obligation.  It is not that the act requires a gift, it is that (according to Miss Manners) “You must care enough about people to want to gladden their hearts with a token of your esteem, if you accept their overnight hospitality, celebrate [holidays and major events] with them or expect a large inheritance from them.”  Basically, the etiquette isn’t “Give thank you gifts,” it’s “Don’t accept something from someone if you don’t like them well enough to want to give them a present in return.”

That makes it easier, huh?  Well, sort of.  When a gift is expected, for no reason other than, “That’s what you do…” then it makes things harder.  L, you might know that your dad doesn’t deserve a gift for the same reasons that your mother and partner’s parents do, but he might not realize that.  There’s already tension in regards to your father and stepmother’s role in your family, so while etiquette might give you a pass, they probably will not. And only you know the answer to that.

I want to tell you that you don’t have to give him anything other than a damn hug and a smile, especially since he hasn’t given you anything for your wedding.  However, look the big picture.  Don’t think of this as just a gift for help with the wedding, look as this as a thank you for being your father.  It doesn’t sound like it’s always been hearts and flowers between the two of you. And it might be tempting to omit him from the gift-giving for not being there for you, but that kind of gesture will have repercussions beyond your wedding day.

If it doesn’t hurt your heart, give your father and stepmother a gift along with everyone else. (Editors note: We’re not saying you have to give him just as thoughtful a gift as you give everyone else. I mean, really, who would ever know? Achem.) If it helps, make your mother and in-laws’ gift a little more special by including a heartfelt letter on how much their support meant to the both of you.  I’m sure that they’ll treasure that more than a monogrammed keychain anyway.

****

My parents are throwing down thousands of dollars for the wedding and I was planning on getting them a thank you gift from our honeymoon spot, but is that the right thing to do? Or should I have thank you gifts for them on the day of as well? And what’s enough to thank your parents for spending time and money on your wedding? I’m worried that nothing I offer up will be good enough (could just be family issues with gratitude going on there). Do people give gifts to their parents on the day of the wedding? What’s traditional? Is it ok to wait until after the fact?

-SD

Generally when there are gratitude issues, pretty much nothing you do will be good enough. You could find the most perfect gift ever, wrap it in expensive paper woven specially by Russian monks and have it gently carried to them on gossamer ribbons by a flight of snow white doves and they’d probably still find something to bitch about.  I say this not to discourage you, but to let you off the hook.  A gift given in gratitude is amazing and it’s their loss that they can’t see that.  So get them what you think is best, in the price range you can afford, and then move on to more important things.

If you know you’ll want to bring them a present from your honeymoon, write a well-written thank you letter with a note to expect a post-honeymoon memento.  If they say anything snarky about not getting a gift right away, all shame on them. Just remember, the point of a honeymoon is to be with your partner and relax and bask in the glow of each other; you don’t want to be combing gift shops the day before you leave because you forgot to get your parents something.

****

My question is about attendant gifts.  Monogrammed stuff is classic, but sort of cheesy.  Jewelry?  Does it need to be something they wear the day of the wedding?  A spa day?  My ladies all so different that I have no idea what they’d all like.  What do I get my bridal party?

I dunno; what do they like? No, seriously, what do they like??  Because that’s what you should get them.  Matching gifts are sweet, but no one really wants a gift that says, “I love you all equally, but in different colors.”

Matching gifts are often given for the same reason that your mom made mac ‘n cheese and then gave you and your sister the exact same amount—she adores you both but she knows that if she gives one more than the other she has to deal with the ensuing tantrum and tears and she just wants you to eat your lunch and like it and stop fighting for just FIVE SECONDS….  Either that, or the bride has no idea what the attendant likes.  (Which is often the case when one partner buys for the other partner’s attendants, such as when a friend of mine bought engraved flasks for her partner’s wedding party with the thought, “What boy doesn’t like booze?”  Apparently, the two Mormons and the recovering alcoholic…. oops.)

When buying attendant gifts, keep it all in the same price range but just make it a GIFT.  It does not have to match or be related to the wedding in any way.  It is a thank you for being your attendant, no matter how involved they were.  It’s a token of appreciation and expression of your love for them.  Do matching necklaces designed to go perfectly with the bridesmaids’ dresses truly convey that?  Possibly, but only if it’s your attendants’ styles and not yours.

Okay, speaking of wedding jewelry and bridal parties, can we interject something here?  Your editors had a conversation over Skype about this and we need to share….

Alyssa: And then after that, the ATP is going to be about parental and wedding party presents.

Meg: Oh good.  Hey, are you going to talk about giving jewelry to match the bridesmaid dresses as a gift?  And how everyone should stop doing that?

Lauren: What, giving a bridesmaid jewelry they’d never wear to go with the dress they probably won’t wear again doesn’t count as a gift?

Meg: It’s like going, “Hi. I hate your style, so I’m going to give you something I like so that you will all match, but I’m going to disguise it as a gift rather say this is what I want you to wear and then buy you a real gift.  YOU’RE WELCOME.”

Alyssa: I gave my bridal party jewelry, but I made it.

Lauren: Aww…

Alyssa: So they’d match.  And also, so I could make jewelry.

Lauren: Oh.

Alyssa: But they got other things too!

Meg: See, that’s okay.  Matching isn’t the problem.  Jewelry or accessories to wear on the wedding day isn’t the problem.  The problem is giving of something you pretend is a gift but is actually part of the uniform. You really want to give them a gift for the day of the wedding?  How about buying their dress?  Or just let them pick their own dress. That is a gift. F*CK…..

Lauren: You always have strong opinions.

Meg: Ha.

Moral of the story?  Just give them a gift they’d like. Or a picture of you two together on the wedding day. And definitely give them a letter telling them how much they mean to you, because that’s what they’ll keep forever.

****

So, Team Practical, let’s talk gifts!  What did you get your parents, bridal party, etc.? How did you handle gifts and a non-ideal parent situation?  Dish!

Photo by Emily Takes Photos

If you would like to ask Team Practical a question please don’t be shy! You can email Alyssa at: askteampractical [at] apracticalwedding [dot] com.  If you would prefer to not be named, anonymous questions are also accepted.  Though we prefer if you make up a totally ridiculous sign-off like conflicted and rageful but deeply in love in Detroit (CARBDILID, duh).  We’re not kidding.  It brings us joy.  What, you don’t want to bring your editors JOY?!?

Team Practical, let’s talk gifts!  What did you get your parents, bridal party, etc.?  Are we off-base on the matching day-of accessories as gift?  How did you handle gifts and a non-ideal parent situation?  Dish!
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  • Jamie

    I got my bridesmaids compacts. They had both been whining about never having a mirror, so I found different ones that were perfect for them on etsy. I was worried it was cheesy, but then I saw separate pictures of them in the backgrounds of someone elses picture checking their face or teeth with the compact. So I know that they are using them. Then I got them each a bottle of wine from the local wineries with a note that said that if they wanted more, they had to come visit because I refused to send it in the mail. Bribery, since I had to move so far away from home.

    We designed photo albums for our parents. They got them after the wedding, but I think they’ll really like them. But honestly, the parents gift thing was the most confusing. Some people didn’t know why you’d do that, some people thought you needed to give your parents crazy expensive gifts. So we just went with what we thought they might appreciate. Nothing is ever good enough for my mom though, so I was kind of damned if I did, damned if I didn’t.

    • http://www.3upadventures.com Beth

      I kind of detest parental/wedding party gifts but love giving gifts and I like your style. 1) LOVE the wine bribery. 2) Parental photo albums FTW.

    • http://eclpse.livejournal.com Kimberly

      We also did parental photo albums. Because, well, we thought just getting a gift for the day before/day-of would be a bit obligatory, but the albums are nice and we knew they’d appreciate them for years to come.

    • Adamsfamily

      Excellent, we designed photo albums for our parents as well (so they didn’t get them until well after the wedding). Our officiant’s (both dear friends) received superman cufflinks for the dc comic/superman buff – he named his son, Lex, after all – book accoutrements (light/pagekeeper) and a huge fluffy blanket with a picture of Guadalupe for the irreverent Cuban bookworm. The dear friend who prepared the food received the book “660 Curries”, which he nearly hyperventilated over. The dear friend who prepared the cake and a whole slew of other sweets received a beautiful shot taken of her and her fiance before the ceremony, blown up to 14″x20″ on canvas. The three kids who served as bussers/waitsaff, received old-school hand mirrors and buttons. Everyone received hand-written Thank You cards soon after the wedding. The earliest gifts went out about 2 months after the wedding, and the latest almost 9 months. Basically, we waited until we found just-right gifts for everyone. Miss Manners says you have up to a year, right?

    • Cristina

      We gave photo albums to our parents as well, which they really liked. Although each set of parents helped us financially, we planned the entire thing ourselves, so we did not feel that it was expected that they be presented with gifts on the day of. Also, because they helped us financially, I don’t think that really expensive gifts would have been the way to go for us, because their attitude might be, “but that was money for you to use for your wedding/honeymoon/future.” However, I think if you had parents who helped you a lot with their time and less with their checkbooks (making the cake, hosting guests, etc.), then a fancy gift may be very appropriate!

      I did not have a wedding party, but I think that the best gift (for me) would be to pay for the outfit and/or lodgings, plus a nice card.

    • http://militarywomenspeak.wordpress.com Kelsey Mackay

      We did albums for our parents, too, haha. Sort of. We bought a nice digital picture frame for each set of parents, and pre-filled them with pictures of us, our siblings, family vacations, etc. We hand picked the pictures for each frame based on who would be receiving it. The cool thing about a digital frame is that it can be added to! An electronic and constantly evolving album, as we make more memories together. They all loved it! My Mom has hers proudly on display in her living room; she says she loves to see all of her favorite pictures flashing by all day. So that’s cool.

      I didn’t have bridesmaids, just a MOH, but I did buy gifts for those girlfriends who helped me with wedding planning. 5 gifts total. I got them each a Coach wristlet purse thing. Same thing, but different colors/styles customized for each personality. They all loved it, and they all use their wristlet from what I can tell! Something that is pretty AND useful is a good gift, I think.

  • Another Thea

    A dear friend of mine who got married gave each of us (her attendants) a letter thanking us for our friendship and telling us how glad she was we could be there. It was one of the most lovely, thoughtful, and precious things I’ve ever received, and I am so happy she took the time and trouble to show us each how much our friendship meant to her.

    Also, she gave us our bridesmaid dresses, AND they were not ugly. So.

  • http://poppiesandicecream.blogspot.com/ Amanda

    Wooow…. this is coming as a (cultural?) shock. We did not really give thank you gifts to anyone. Ok, so we did not really have a wedding party either, there was just my sister, and hub´s brother and a flower girl and a paige but they did not have any pre wedding or wedding “obligations/roles” or all the things you see in the movies, they just walked the aisle before us. Not that they didn´t help or support us on the contrary. And our parents also helped enormously… but umm… that´s what I thought the Thank you cards were for ? We sent them right away, made sure they were very personal and expressed our feelings, and now that our home is little by little ready we are making a point in inviting everyone to be part of it,. We did say thank you… made sure the message passed just not with a gift. Not sure they were expecting one now…
    I do not know if this is helping anyone… at all I´m just a little bit at shock with all the gift thing… I love giving gifts, but I have to feel it, it has to come, not be an obligation. I also mainly agree that a letter is the best, or maybe an invitation to dinner (parents) /something fun with the wedding party?
    Also regarding the dresses, I thought either the couple pays for the dresses when they want EXACTLY the same, in the same cloth, etc…. or you picked a color/palette/whatever and tell the girls, hey get a dress in X… one that they can choose and wear again. But of course, to each their own.

    • http://kittenishblog.com Amanda

      Really really happy to read this! We did the exact same thing – our siblings stood up with us but had no huge pre-wedding obligations. We did give our flower girls gifts, but they were necklaces to wear at the wedding. And while my parents helped out way more than they probably could afford we didn’t get them any gifts. We thanked them profously and I think in a sappy way, they were just happy to see us so happy.

      We’re waiting to get our thank you cards back from vista print but once we do those will go out. And maybe I’ll print up some photos/an album for my parents once I finish editing all the photos but that’s all I was planning to do… and I don’t think they were expecting anything more.

      Just glad I’m not the only one :) (Also, sweet name!)

      • http://poppiesandicecream.blogspot.com/ Amanda

        Oh yeah, now that I remember, we gave the flower girl and paige (who are both 2 years old) clogs (the typical dutch shoe) made in plush, so they could wander around the house.
        The albums are a good idea :)

    • http://eclpse.livejournal.com Kimberly

      I think the buying of clothes for the wedding party might actually be a cultural thing, actually . . .

      • Anna

        We’re paying for all housing of out of town guests, also a cultural expectation (Italian), but unlike the normal Italian wedding, we’re only 18 total, so somewhat affordable for our parents.

    • TNM

      Yeah, we didn’t buy parents gifts, although we profusely thanked them for all their help (which was monetary, spiritual and everything in between!). I didn’t even know that this was something that was “done.” I’ve been in a ton of weddings too and can’t remember bides/gooms discussing parental gifts. (Though lotsa folks got their folks albums. But certainly not as an explicit “thank you”…)

    • Lacey

      I’m happy to read this response, because I never knew there was an obligation for parent gifts either! I knew about wedding party gifts, but now I’m concerned. We may just have to stick with the heartfelt thank you note route, because all of our extra money is going into the wedding. I wish I’d stayed in the dark on this one…

  • FM

    You’re supposed to give your parents a present? I didn’t know that. Don’t think any of our parents did either, so that worked.

    I did try to do attendants’ gifts though. I did not excel in that department. But I did write them each a nice, gushy card to go with the gifts that they probably weren’t that into.

    • Jeannine

      same here. i thought my gift was that i didn’t strangle my mom at any point during the wedding planning (rim shot!). but it’s good to know that this is a traditional expectation because my mother-in-law does seem to know all the proper things to do, so if she’s expecting a gift i should get on that. even though we already sent her a thank you card. eek!

    • Cass

      While gifts are not UN-welcome by my parents, it would have felt weird getting them a gift with the money they were putting towards out wedding. So my husband and I decided that a heartfelt, public “Thank you” was appropriate in our toasts.

    • http://happysighs.blogspot.com liz

      i think it’s one of those “supposed tos” like favors. and programs. you don’t HAVE TO OR YOU’LL DIE. but enough people have done it that it’s become an accepted tradition that you can incorporate if you wanna.

  • http://happysighs.blogspot.com liz

    to L, does your dad even EXPECT a gift? he may not. our parents were supportive and generous and all-around (mostly) great cheerleaders, and they were honestly STUNNED when i gave them little wrapped boxes at the rehearsal dinner.

    i know we had the “booze isn’t always a good default…” discussion the other day, but our dads straight LOVED getting a bottle of top shelf alcohol (his dad loves tequila, mine gin) with a fancy decanter thingy. and as far as flasks for groomsmen (engraved or no) we paired the “matching” flasks with a small bottle of the favorite spirit for each guy… individual, personal, and a little somethin somethin to bring to a mostly dry wedding.

    bridesmaids, much like groomsmen, were given a bunch of stuff to help them cope/unwind after the wedding. foot soak and bubble bath and mini bottles of champagne (geez, maybe i went overboard with the alcohol thing…) and junk.

    our wedding was really low budget, but we made sure to set aside a good bit of cash for the thank you gifts simply because of how much help our families and friends gave us so willingly. i think a few readers have do-it-together style weddings, and i think it’s important that you are careful to thank them appropriately and not take that help for granted- that doesn’t mean spending a ton of cash, but then again, it could.

    and YES letters. letters for everyone. specific letters that have thought and effort and detailed reasons why you’re so thankful to have this person in your life and in your wedding.

    • Julianna

      I *love* the addition of their preferred spirit. Brilliant!

  • Lisa

    Wish something like this had been written a few years ago!! It’s great!!

    When we got married it was really difficult to think of the perfect gifts for our parents… They contributed a lot to our wedding and no gift seemed good enough!! However, the gifts we settled on seemed to be perfect because they were thoughtful more than anything … And made both our mothers cry!!

    I also agree about attendant gifts. I got my bridesmaids $3 earrings at Forever 21 so that I had plenty of budget left to get them a gift they would actually want!!

  • http://townhousetohome.blogspot.com adria

    I got my girls jewelry, handmade by someone else, to wear the day of, but slightly different sets to match their different jewelry tastes. I never thought of it as forcing them to wear something to go with the uniform, and I would think that they would all wear the necklaces and/or earrings again.

    I guess since the sets match the dresses that they picked out, it’s not so bad? Or maybe I’ve fallen into some tragic WIC trap and will fail my girls.

    Perhaps it will be balanced out when I write them each a note to go along with it…? Either way, I’m content with knowing that I bought each of them a gift that I truly believe matches their individuality…even if they coordinate.

    • Amber

      Don’t let any one make you feel bad about your choices! Isn’t that what this blog is all about? They will love it.

      • http://www.kindofamess.com Alyssa

        The point is the impetus behind it. You got them something to wear and tailored it to their style. That’s perfect and yay for you! That’s not what was being referenced in the post.

      • Jeannine

        it really is the thoughtfulness that counts in this case (at least that’s the message i’m choosing to hear from alyssa ;-). when you give a gift, you never actually know whether or not it will get used and loved; you just think hard about what that person might like and do the best you can. in this case, i think it makes total sense to give them all the same type of gift and for that gift to be vaguely wedding-related; individualizing it according to what you know about each of them sounds lovely.

        for what it’s worth, i picked out a range of different clutches and bags from the same etsy shop and asked each of them to pick the color/style that they preferred. i was excited to give them, they were excited to get them. it was totally fine.

    • TNM

      I don’t know… I have often gotten jewelry to wear at the wedding as a bridesmaids gift and wasn’t even remotely “mad.” And yes, all the bridesmaids got matching necklaces and they weren’t really my style. But I was just happy not to have to buy/find something to match the dress and that made the bride happy. Seriously, at the least, it saved me time … and maybe $$ too.

      In short, I don’t think anyone should stress out about this. A gift is a nice gesture, but there is no way that your closest friends really give a cr@p about it – and really are probably just hankering after some sappy, gushy “Thank yous” and maybe a drunken “I love you guys soooo much!” at the end of the reception ; )

  • http://vanessainbloggerville.blogspot.com Vanessa

    I’m getting married in less than a month and I’m trying to find all the best thank you gifts right now. I felt it was very important to give gifts to the people who helped us fund the wedding (our parents) and the friends who are helping with the wedding and not getting paid (thank GOD for friendors!). For example, we have a friend officiating, a friend doing makeup, 5 friends who arranged a song and are singing it at the ceremony, and another friend who is organizing the karaoke after party. I appreciate what everyone is saying about the note being the more important than the gift and that does let me off the hook a little bit about finding the absolute perfect expression of my gratitude gift. However, I’m still stuck on one big one. My uncle bought my wedding dress. I’ve written him so many thank you notes over the years because he has been incredible generous with his money, so I feel like I want to get him something more but it is always difficult to buy for someone who has everything. Thanks for the support and ideas!

    • Edelweiss

      I have a very generous family friend and I’ve always felt I could never afford to give them a great thank you other than a note (as in $100 of baking supplies and fancy cookbooks for no reason other than I mentioned I might want to get into baking, not like buying me a car generous – I have no idea how I’d handle that one). I’ve started taking pictures of me using the gifts with an anecdote about some way the gift played a role in a fun life event. This is AFTER the thank you cards. They really love it. They like to know I’m using the gifts and that they brighten my life. They don’t want anything from me and I think they’d feel bad if I spent a bunch of money on them.

      Anyways, maybe something like that? A collection of pictures/stories about the two of you over the course of your life and splashes of different gifts he’s given you enhancing your life in other ways?

      • http://poppiesandicecream.blogspot.com/ Amanda

        Yes…. we received this really pretty crystal vase from a university friend of my dad that I never met until the wedding, and as soon as we used it we sent her a short email with a pic of the vase with flowers in our living room. She loved it. I think Edelweiss´s idea is a good one.

      • http://www.kindofamess.com Alyssa

        That’s a really sweet idea!

        And I’m totally stealing your picture idea with gifts. That’s great….

        • Suzanna

          I work for a non-profit, and this is what we do with our in-kind food gifts–take pictures of volunteers, etc. enjoying the beer, cupcakes, what-have-you, and then include the pictures with our thank-you’s. It’s like, “See? You made big joy happen! Thank you!” Good stuff.

    • myrna

      Instead of going for a flashy-omg-best-ever-gift (b/c those are literally impossible for the person who has everything) , go for sentimental that referneces your relationship? Some special memory that you have with him, and maybe you can find or amke something reminiscent of that? good luck!

  • http://forcause.wordpress.com Sandy

    I was really anti gift giving during our wedding planning. I generally stuck to the rule that if I hadn’t heard of something before getting engaged and buying a wedding planning book and if I was more than a little surprised and/or confused that thing, that that thing was completely optional. And, therefore, off the table. Our wedding party was my sister and my husband’s brother. We love them. We did not give them gifts. We also love our parents. No gifts. That said, there was never any question that we’d send them long thank you letters after the honeymoon, along with a few gifts from our travels. We didn’t think of this as a replacement for or way around the traditional gift giving. It was just what we wanted to do and would have done anyway without a list of wedding rules and chores telling us it had to be done. As for how much is enough? I think I wrote in my wedding grad post that nothing can ever be enough to show gratitude for true love and support at your wedding. Even if your family, like ours, didn’t contribute much financially to your wedding. By the same token, a heartfelt letter (and a thoughtful gift if you find one), can be just as invaluable. For what it’s worth, we didn’t mind running around Barcelona looking for gifts on our honeymoon. It helps that we were gone for more than 3 weeks, so there was time for it, and we like poking our heads into little shops anyway. Oh, and we also didn’t get gifts for each other. We thought that was kind of unnecessary, because, you know, we were getting married (and paying for it together).

    • http://bunniesnbeagles.blogspot.com Ms. Bunny

      We didn’t get gifts for each other either. We kind of figured marrying each other way our gift. Plus by the time we would have gotten around to buying them, we were already broke from throwing a wedding.

    • http://happysighs.blogspot.com liz

      we agreed that giving each other gifts was unnecessary and that we both weren’t going to do it.

      and then i secretly went and made a pinup calendar and he secretly went and bought me earrings and we both covertly snuck them to one another’s houses on the morning of the wedding.

      we’re just way too alike.

      • anon for this

        I have a hilarious “we’re way too much alike” wedding gift story… I got my husband padded handcuffs, the sex toy kind, as a wedding gift. But when I pulled them out on the honeymoon, in the colorful plastic bag from my favorite sex toy store, he pulled out the same bag. With the same handcuffs inside. (Which actually worked out really well–turns out four handcuffs are more fun than just two anyway.)

        But the best part was that we’d each told the same friend what we were getting each other, and she never gave the slightest hint she knew what the other person was getting. It made for a lot of laughing when we got back from the honeymoon.

        • http://www.bridesanstulle.com Sharon

          That’s hilarious! I love it. :) The first time we celebrated my now-husband’s birthday after we started dating, I picked out a card that I felt was very “us” and gave it to him. When he opened it, he took one look, and then bolted out of the room (I was sitting there going, “Huh? You haven’t opened your gift yet!”), only to return with the EXACT SAME CARD, which he’d seen in the store and bought in preparation for my birthday six months later.

        • http://happysighs.blogspot.com liz

          YES. my husband and i bought each other the same… ahem… bedroom… accessories… for christmas. haha. it was very encouraging.

  • http://sociallyconstructedkaytlin.blogspot.com Kaytlin

    For our party, we bought different parts of their attire – for the girls, I bought them TOMS and embroidered them along with a linen bag off of etsy. They’ll be wearing them for the wedding, as will I (be wearing my own pair of TOMS, not their TOMS – that would be weird). For the guys, we bought them whatever they wanted to wear shirt/tie wise. For the best man, it was a gray shirt with a teal bow tie and suspenders. It worked amazingly well, and since they got to pick it out, it’s something they could, in theory, use again.

    As far as parents go, well we haven’t gotten that far and we get married tomorrow…sooooo we’ll have to see. I’ll probably be up tonight writing long heart-felt thanks to our parents and those involved in our wedding.

    • Meredith

      AHH!!! TOMORROW!!!!! ENJOY!!!

    • charm city vixen

      Congrats on your wedding eve!!!!

    • http://bunniesnbeagles.blogspot.com Ms. Bunny

      Sending wedding magic! Congratulations!

    • http://www.kindofamess.com Alyssa

      Congratulations!!!

      And I’m sure they’ll appreciate it just as much as week from now. If I had written letters the night before, I would have been a giant sobbing mess in the corner wailing, “I LOVE EVERYBODY SO MUCHHHHH!!!”

    • ElfPuddle

      Congrats! My tomorrow be filled with joy, laughter, and tears of joy.

    • http://justneedthisspace.wordpress.com ddayporter

      yayy!! tomorrow!!

      also.. you embroidered their shoes..?? yourself? that’s love.

    • http://happysighs.blogspot.com liz

      YAYYY

  • Amber

    For those who are iffy about whether they will want to give gifts. Maybe it is just me, but the entire weekend surrounded by my favorite people, who were all saying lovely things and making me cry happy tears, and giving me gifts, and flying from around the country, and helping me pee on my wedding day for Christ’s sake – I wanted to heap gifts and thanks on them all weekend. I wanted to have pockets full of prizes and gift cards and pretty sparklies. Because I just felt so grateful constantly. Be prepared.

    • http://www.kindofamess.com Alyssa

      YES! Like when you were little and got stickersor stamps for being good in class….I just wanted to go around passing out sparkly stickers, “I love you, and I love YOU, and I love YOU….”

      • http://justneedthisspace.wordpress.com ddayporter

        there should have been more stickers at my wedding.

        • NEWTIE

          I’m just starting wedding planning, and my mother told me the FIRST thing I should budget for is my bridal brigade (she wasn’t thinking of herself in this advice – I don’t think my parents have ever heard of this giving-gifts-to-the-parents thing). Her rationale was that if I spend a little less on the dress or the flowers I’m not going to care in the long-run, but I WILL be sad if I feel like the day flies by and I don’t have the time and resources to properly acknowledge the friendships that a) helped me become the kind of person who would be ready to make a life-long commitment in such a healthy, loving way b) listened to me gush and/or cry/complain about my FH all during our dating relationship, and helped me solve the relationship bumps that came along and c) will probably be helping me a lot in terms of time volunteered to actually pull off a wedding. I appreciated her advice — while I don’t think my bridal brigade will be expecting anything expensive or fancy, there will be a lot of people helping us and little, heartfelt tokens add up quickly. Even things like pretty stationary to write my thankyous on can add up. I would hate to realize next June that I had forgotten someone and also realize I only had $3 in the bank account.

          • ElfPuddle

            :) One of the first things my mom told me was that gifts and favors were completely stupid and not to do them unless I could think of something I’d be giving people whether or not I was getting married. (Well, those are my words, but that’s what she said.)

          • Suzanna

            Newtie, that is some sound advice! I loved your description of friends who helped you become who you are, and helped with your relationship–the wedding help is just icing on that wonderful cake! I feel the same way about my friends, and I definitely want to make sure they know how much they mean to me, and like you said, even little things add up.

  • Bee

    I’ve been a bridesmaid so many times it makes me dizzy trying to count. I’d like to add a resounding AMEN to the end of jewelry to be worn for the wedding as the gift. If I had a nickel for every pair of earrings I own that I will never, ever wear (really, I don’t even have pierced ears! You should see the weird crap my boy has rigged up so I can wear stupid matching earrings to weddings) let’s just say I’d be rich.
    Also, best gift I’ve ever received from a friend for being in their wedding- a box of multi-colored white board markers and a huge pack of sticky back chart paper, the first page of which was a giant note that said, “We love you, and we want you to get beer with us, so spend a little less on school supplies this month!”. It wasn’t an extravagant or expensive gift, but it was enormously thoughtful and it was a good excuse to go get a beer with my friends.
    Moral of the story, don’t think you need to do monogrammed keychains just because your budget is tight. Go for something that shows how well you know the person you’re giving the gift to. Even if that means classroom supplies.

    • meg

      AMEN!

    • Cass

      I’d like to add that the men do NOT want a flask or shot glass – they have plenty.
      The groomsmen in my ceremony were MORE than please with a pocketwatch from Oriental Trading Co. They all wore them during the ceremony at their own choosing.
      So Amen!

    • http://colleencentral.wordpress.com Colleen

      Yep! I roamed Etsy for months looking for the perfect gifts for my friends. One got a moon bracelet, another an framed embroidered version of a tattoo on her back, another a kindle case, another a bag for school with her new initials embroidered and my sister a beautiful necklace. My husband was insistent we do engraved pocketknives because it was the favorite groomsmen gift he ever got and the guys loved them. Parents got albums because I knew they wanted to show them off. Best piece of advice I ever got about bridal party gifts: Buy a gift for them like it’s their birthday. You’ll get something that makes them happy.

    • marbella

      I feel like this ‘too much matching jewellery’ is partly a reflection on the American trend I have noticed for huge bridal parties. (Not so much with Team Practical, but have realised from other wedding blogs). In Europe, we tend to only have close friends/relatives as bridal parties. I have noticed here that girls seem to have massive bridal parties consisting of people they were once friends with but barely speak now. I feel like that kind of situation fosters
      a) getting everyone matching stuff because you don’t know them well enough to know what they’ll really want, and there will be resentment if some feel slighted by getting different gifts that might be perceived as better
      b) a seemingly common situation where a woman has been a bridesmaid too many times to even count, and has a shit ton of unwearable dresses and jewellery because of this
      This just isn’t even an issue when people don’t have massive bridal parties of people they barely know but feel obligated to ask because they were your close friends back in college.
      We got matching jewellery for my (2) girls, as I knew they had nothing to wear with their dresses (which they picked and we paid for). I am pretty sure most girls don’t hate the thought of getting genuinely pretty, quality jewellery.
      We also got them matching hoodies so we could all be lame and matchy in our cabins the week of the wedding and they could slob about and be comfy.

      • Anna

        I’m getting married in a civil service and we just have our witnesses as a sort of party, so its his sister and my best friend. No dress picking, no matching, just a chance to show them that they are the most special non-parents people in our lives. (Granted my bf is flying across the atlantic for this, and turning 30 this summer, so there are gifts – but more like I-love-you-forevers-best-friends-always-happy-celebration gifts.)

        When I was her bridesmaid (1 of 2) she got us tiny jewelry boxes full of a selection of fun and pretty jewelry. The other bridesmaid and I picked what we liked to wear that day and I still use that box (it has a picture top with a pic of me and the bf from college marching band! aww!). One item (not used on the wedding day) was a plastic purple ring that lit up in different colors. Totally not bridesmaid, but totally loved by me!

      • Jules

        I received earrings and a matching bracelet for my role as a bridesmaid in my brother’s wedding. Though I was not expecting a gift, I didn’t understand why my brother and sister in law would waste their money on what I considered to be rather emotionless gifts. Ultimately, I think I felt that way because of the overall wedding context — I’d paid a ton of money to buy an uncomfortable dress that I could never wear again, which exactly matched all the other dresses. Even though I could not attend the bridal shower, being rather poor and states away, I was issued a $250 bill for the brunch! The wedding was at a country club, even though our families are beer and pizza kind of people, and everyone involved was working class. To me, the thoughtless matching jewelry just seemed emblematic of a totally alienating wedding.

    • http://splitpurplenalities.blogspot.com Jenni

      I wanna see the weird rigged-up earrings! I too lack pierced ears and am totally jealous of people who can wear all the pretty sharp pointy things.

  • ANDREA

    Did anyone else read this and go “you’re supposed to get your parents/stepparents/etc GIFTS?” Because, I had no idea.

    • http://www.kindofamess.com Alyssa

      Nah, you’re supposed to thank them. Some people choose gifts to do this and then fret about what to get so they write in and get an ATP.

    • meg

      Yeah, you don’t have to give them gifts. We didn’t. We gave them photo albums later.

    • http://greyandshiny.wordpress.com/ Nina

      OK I’m so glad you asked this, cause I’ve been sitting here with a little knot in my stomach thinking I totally screwed up by not buying my parents gifts. I thanked them in my speech at the wedding and wrote thoughtful thank you cards and I think they were quite happy with that.

  • http://nickandnoragettingmarried.wordpress.com Annie

    When I was a bridesmaid, the bride did go the jewelry route, but she picked out necklaces that she thought each of us would like and reflected out personalities (not just something that went with the dress). Even though most people wore their necklace for the wedding, we also liked them as individual gifts. I’m actually wearing mine today, about 5 years later!

    I’m trying to narrow down what to do for my bridesmaids. They all have a fairly similar sense of style, so I’m not worried as to what people would like. My idea right now is a pretty clutch with a letter tucked inside about how much I appreciate them as a friend and what having them with me at the wedding means to me.

    • Rachel

      my friend got really pretty fascinators (hair clips adorned with feathers and a brooch) for her bridesmaids. She got them on Etsy, and they were all slightly different colors. I love mine and keep looking for occasions to wear it again!

  • Shelly

    Buying individual gifts for the people who stood up with us was much easier than finding a gift everyone would love. I bought all of the girls matching pashminas to wear for the ceremony (the week of the wedding when I discovered that it would be much colder than I’d hoped) and then got them jewelry/accessory just for them and made it clear that they didn’t need to wear it to the wedding. My husband bought his guys board games.

    Partly to eliminate the feeling of awkwardness since they all got something unique, we actually handed out the gifts after the rehearsal dinner, so they could open them at home. I also am not a fan of opening presents in front of other people, but that’s just a personal preference.

    • Jess K

      What Shelly said and what Alyssa said:

      “I dunno; what do they like? No, seriously, what do they like?? Because that’s what you should get them.”

      Gosh, I feel like such a knob, but this honestly didn’t occur to me! I also hate the ‘matching jewellery’ thing and have been fretting over what to get my bridesmaids. When my two closest friends got married they both got everyone matching jewellery that I haven’t worn again since. I definitely don’t want to do that, and getting each of them something that they’ll actually like is so much better of an idea. Also, my bridesmaids are each picking out their own dresses. I don’t want to be responsible for making them buy a dress that will never see the light of day again.

      Thanks for this! I feel better now.

  • Steph

    Parent gifts = small photo album of 20 pics of their choice from the wedding day. The parent albums were included in the price of the photography package and honestly who doesn’t love photos :)
    I wound up going with t-shirts for my girls that said “thank you for being a friend” (they chose the golden girls theme song for my shower invites) and then also got each girl a blue bracelet that matched their dress, but a portion of the money from each bracelet went to cancer research. And my girls still wear the bracelet so I must have done something right ;)
    Hubby got each of his groomsmen a lightsaber and small nerf gun which was very fitting for his group of guys

    • http://nickandnoragettingmarried.wordpress.com Annie

      I love the lightsaber/nerf gun idea! My fiance has a nerf gun on his desk, and it’s usually broken out at parties. (We’re a mature crowd, obviously.) Might have to suggest this to him.

      Also, high five to the Golden Girls reference!

      • Steph

        Definitely go for it! Ours resulted in the guys shooting need darts at him while he went to take off my garter and an impromptu light saber battle between hubby and his bro during the mother/son dance. Sooooo much fun!
        Also forgot to give my “exactly” on the importance of handwritten thank yous for your wedding party. In addition to the matchy matchy stuff I picked out a special card for each girl and wrote a personal message to each girl about how much she meant to me.

  • anonymous

    For the parents (two sets for me, one for him), we got glass picture frames engraved with our names and the wedding date. That way, no matter the family relationship, no matter what was going on behind the scenes, everybody got the same thing, and we could put on the appearance — because in my family, appearances count a lot — of equality, equal sentiment, etc. when giving them out in front of our families and out-of-town guests at the rehearsal dinner.

  • Midwest Lantern

    I stressed out about the gift issue so much when I got married. My guy and I knew we didn’t want to give each other gifts. Since my parents were contributing to the wedding, I didn’t know if they would like a gift or if they would think that we were only able to get them that gift since they opened their wallets first, so maybe it’s like a non-gift. I had gotten some gorgeous homemade jewelry when I was a bridesmaid before, and I still wear it constantly, so I didn’t think it was weird to get my bridesmaids matching opal pendant necklaces (plus another little thing). We got the moms necklaces and the fathers a set of grilling spices (Penzey’s online order- easy!), since I found it impossible to find one gift appropriate for both of my parents together. The gifts were given at the rehearsal dinner. I am not usually a very gift-y person, but this experience was so infused with gratefulness and emotion that I was very glad that we went to the stressful trouble of lining up a lot of gifts. Keep in mind, you don’t know what these people got you for a wedding gift until later — your heart will swell.

  • http://suburbaliciousliving.blogspot.com/ Lauren

    If I have one regret about my wedding, it is that I spent the week before running around like a madwoman buying gifts for everyone who had helped. And nobody cared. It was exhausting for me, and the handwritten note I gave them was all they wanted anyway.

    So my short answer is- if you find something that is perfect for someone you want to thank and it makes you happy to think about giving it to them, do it. If not, write them a great letter and don’t worry about it.

    • http://bunniesnbeagles.blogspot.com Ms. Bunny

      Agreed. If it isn’t something tailored specifically to them, it’ll just become some knick knack they have to deal with. The grateful sentiment you want to get across is better received if you just write it down in a card or in a letter.

    • meg

      Yes. WRITE A LETTER. We gave everyone a letter and a frame. In the frame there was a piece of paper that said, “With love like that, you know you should be glad.” We told them that after the wedding we’d give them a photo of them and us. Seriously? When I’m in a wedding that’s all I ever want… a picture from the wedding day and a note.

  • Erika

    I gave my BF a framed picture of us at my wedding and she complained (repeatedly) that her arms looked fat in it, and as far as I know she doesn’t display the picture. My point is only that sometimes you just don’t win, no matter your best intentions, so try to pick something thoughtful and personal, but if it doesn’t work out just move on and realize that there will be other gift-giving opportunities for the special peeps in your life.

  • http://www.stitch-witch.net Christina McPants

    I gave all of the men in the wedding parties (3 dads and my two brothers) ties for Christmas (and my brothers, who were my attendants, got dress shirts) and then for attendant gifts, I got my brothers funny socks to wear (since my older brother was too dignified to wear chuck taylors with his suit) and engraved pocket watches. My wife got her bridesmaids cute clutches that went with the dresses but didn’t match (and we let them each pick out their own dresses, then they picked out the same dress) and Dr. Scholl’s Fast Flats. (PS- those fast flats? They’re kind of a one time use shoe. LAME)

    I based my ideas for gifts off of a friend’s wedding I was in several years prior – for Christmas, we got jewelry and then day of we got coordinating shawls. I actually wore mine with my wedding dress! (it was blue and warm and the wedding was outdoors and chilly for mid-May)

    But… I was supposed to buy gifts for my parents? We got folks some souvenirs from our honeymoon, but since my parents live on the other coast, it didn’t make a lot of sense to buy stuff, take it home and then ship it to them. I sent them a thank-you card for all their support…

  • Carolyn

    While it’s all and lovely to show people how grateful you are– especially for such amazing help on such a big, important day– I just can’t get with the idea that you have to give them something physical to do that. Especially for those of us on a budget (my fiance and are are trying to keep costs under $3,000 including a nice spread of food for about 65 people, so that we can both have money to take classes in the fall). Maybe it’s different for us, since we’re doing a simple courthouse ceremony and a big picnic in a park to follow… it still requires planning, and effort, and help, but nothing on the scale of some of these big production weddings. All I know is, both of our parents are just as excited as we are about the marriage, and they’re going to be happy just being able to help out. It’s a family affair, a reason for us to come together, and that in itself is the gift. (Hand-written thank yous and big smiles and hugs just amp up the warm fuzzies.)

    • meg

      Um. You DON’T have to give them something physical. As suggested at the top of the post, writing a letter is the best possible thing to do.

  • Anna

    This may be a cultural thing- I’m Canadian- or it may be a clueless thing- I’m also Clueless- but what the whaaaat is up with all these gifts anyways? I thinks it’s over kill. You’re already spending a bunch of money to throw a smashing party, which your friends and family are most likely thrilled to be a part of- and then you have to give gifts additionally?

    I’m all for showing your gratitude but I think it’s strange that gift giving on your wedding day has become obligatory. Isn’t this part of the whole BUY MORE trap of weddings?? Parents, in-laws, spouses, etc….

    Next up – Push Presents!

    • http://happysighs.blogspot.com liz

      i think it’s rooted in the old-fashioned idea that your parents pay for EVERYTHING and your bridesmaids/groomsmen are shelling out a mint for some ugly crap they won’t wear again.

      but your modern couple typically pays for things themselves or may ask mom and dad for $100. they let their friends pick what they want to wear, or pick out something matchy for $40 at macys.

      so the gift-giving doesn’t seem as necessary.

    • Cassandra

      Oh god, push presents. This tops my list of weird things. I learned about this watching one of the Real Housewives shows one day and was convinced it wasn’t a REAL thing… until I was clicking around on Gemvara and saw it as a category of jewellery… Pretty stuff is lovely, but my daughter was a pretty good present in and of herself ;)

      Also, just the name grosses me out.

      • http://www.kindofamess.com Alyssa

        I refuse to believe it’s a real thing. And I ADORE presents, getting and giving. I would give presents just for looking cute that day if I could.
        But I cannot live in a world where Push Presents are real and commonplace.

        • NEWTIE

          And then, there’s the babymoon, too…..

          30 some-odd years ago, when I was born, my dad gave my mom a diamond ring. He gave it to her because the pregnancy had been really difficult, because she had wanted a girl for so long, because they hadn’t been able to afford any kind of engagement ring when they got married, and because it was the early 80s and they were flush with cash for the first time in their lives. Now, I’m wearing that same ring as *my* engagement ring, and it means so much to me. But thank god back then they didn’t call such things “push presents” (or if people did, my parents didn’t know about it), because that name is just gross.

          Similarly, I can see why a couple might want to take a trip before their expected baby comes, since travel with an infant is rough. But calling it a babymoon just seems weird to me. It’s like these terms somehow make these things seem like real traditions and therefore NECESSARY instead of just a nice thought.

          • Carrie

            Yes. I mean, the birth of a child is a big event in your life together, and I get wanting to make some kind of special “I love you” gesture to mark that event. And if nice jewelry is a gesture that works and is really appreciated in your relationship, then it could totally be a nice piece of jewelry.

            But it could also be a good bottle of wine to toast your new baby together, hiring a laundry and cleaning service to remove a tiny bit of the new-mom stress, a heartfelt letter to preserve the memories, or just a special kiss.

            (When/if we have a baby, I’m hoping for the laundry and cleaning service. And the kiss.)

        • http://www.cortneyelin.tumblr.com Cortney

          Cultural fun fact time!

          In Sweden, it used to be (and still is, though not as many people follow it given that the WIC has infected young people here, too) traditional for a married woman to wear three bands on her finger:

          1. Engagement ring (band)
          2. Wedding ring (band)
          3. Children (band, sometimes with a stone in it)

          That third ring? Yeah, that was a symbol that the woman was now a mother and, effectively, a “push present”, after the woman had her first child. No more after that, though.

      • http://eclpse.livejournal.com Kimberly

        I was going to ask what a push present was, but then I thought REAL hard about it.

        *Light bulb*

        I dunno man, a piece of jewelry because I . . . uh, pushed . . . seems a bit like I’d say ‘fuck you’ instead of ‘thank you.’

        But that’s just me.

    • http://www.kindofamess.com Alyssa

      It’s traditional but really not obligatory. (hence the first sentence of the post.) I once heard that “Gifts are given when words fail you.” My husband could, in no way, be able to write a thank you letter to his parents that expressed what he felt as a thank you, but he really really felt the need to thank them for being amazing. So we got them presents.

      Personally, I think if everyone in the world gave presents but never expected them, we’d all be happy little campers.

      • ANDREA

        To this last sentence! *raises glass* *well it IS friday*

    • Julianna

      Like Liz said, for us a big part of it was that our parents did pay for almost everything, and did a ton of the prep work as well since we were planning it all long-distance. We are gifters by nature (it is one of my primary ‘love languages’, in fact), and we had the budget to do so, so we did.

      I’m going to pop out the shame-blasters for a second here: I don’t think anyone should be made to feel bad for not giving a gift under any circumstances. If people help you in some way, you thank them. Period. Whatever form that takes for you is fine, and I agree a note is critical. I just don’t think people who want to give other gifts aside from a note should be made to feel bad either. You have something you want to give and are able to do so, give it!

      • Anna

        Agreed! I would never object to a gift given from the heart. I was just unaware of this tradition…

  • http://misallocationofresources.blogspot.com Jenn

    And now I feel guilty for getting jewelry for my bridesmaids. Crap. At least I know my sister thinks the earrings are really pretty.

    I have no ideas for what would truly express gratitude to my parents, because it feels overwhelming, but I can share what a friend of mine is doing for hers. Her parents go to a nice little B&B for their anniversary every year, and this year she is booking the room for them, thanking them for helping honor her marriage by helping to honor theirs.

    • http://www.kindofamess.com Alyssa

      NO M’AM! There is no guilt in this. If you think they’ll like them AND they match each other/their attire, then yay!

      • http://misallocationofresources.blogspot.com Jenn

        Yes m’am :) I will try. This guilt seems to be kicking in from all sides recently, and its hard for me to fight it off! 2 more months, 2 more months…

        • ElfPuddle

          I was a bridesmaid who got a necklace to match the others and the dresses, not necessarily for what I’d like (because the bride didn’t know me as well as the groom). But she tried. I love the necklace, and do wear it semi-often.

          No guilt. No shame.

    • Sara

      YES no guilt for that!! For my only turn as a bridesmaid we all got matching earrings/necklace to wear for the ceremony which, as I believe has been mentioned elsewhere, meant I did not have to worry about what jewelry to wear. And that was nice because I didn’t have anything nice enough to match! And now I have a really nice set for occasions that call for that style of jewelry – while it’s not what I wear every day, it will be perfect for dressing up. Also! I should hope that the bridesmaids wouldn’t judge you for that, because 1) they are your friends who love you and 2) you have sooo many other things to focus on (man oh man I am a month and 5 days away so I feel you on the stress-and-guilt-attack!). And if they do? That is just not nice of them.

      PS The timing of this post is lovely.

    • myrna

      My very best friend got me a necklace for her wedding that I didn’t particularly love. You know what? I love her very, very, very much and when I look at that necklace, or think of it, I only think about how much fun the wedding was and how much I love her. So even if she doesn’t love the jewlery, no shame, no guilt.

  • N

    For my bridesmaids, I gave them all mani/pedis the day before the wedding, which was really fun and gave us more time to hang out together that weekend. I also got them earrings to wear on the day of, just so I would have something to physically give them, with the idea that I would write them heartfelt cards to go along with them…but the week was so crazy I didn’t have the time, so I am going to write them long thank you notes instead.

    I definitely didn’t know that we were supposed to give parent gifts…but I just designed our wedding album, maybe we can give them those! This ATP came just in time!

    • ellobie

      That is what I did, too! Except we did them the morning of the wedding. The girls who helped me set up the reception decorations also got a mani-pedi gift certificate and joined us. I brought breakfast and mimosa makings as well and we started the day off with a party. It was great to spend some relaxing time with my lady friends that morning.

      I made George pick his own damn groom’s gifts. I still don’t know his close friends very well, they just don’t spend a lot of time together like my friends do. He got his brother a train thing (they trainwatch together at least one Sunday a month), one buddy a monogrammed flask, the architect friend a nice notepad/briefcase thing and the cooking buddy a set of awesome Chicago spices.

      The guys also got the pink ties we wanted them to wear (they each wore their own black suit/white shirt/black shoes) and the ladies all got similar ridiculously giant fun flower rings like we used to wear out in college (they each wore a pink and/or orange dress of their choosing). And everyone got a card with a note from George and/or I.

      We didn’t get our parents gifts the day-of, but we’ve created and sent each set a book of wedding photos (which are actually in the mail right now! Hope they like them…).

      As for past weddings… any jewelry I’ve been given has long since broken (one friend gave all of us attendants “pearl” necklaces in little cello bags that still had the Made in China sticker on them – mine was already broken inside the bag, something I didn’t realize until I was removing it and the “pearls” went flying everywhere) but the cards I’ve gotten are all still in my memory box and something that I love reading again every once in a while.

  • Another Rachel

    Parents: goodie bags containing jam, honey, wine, fruit, and bread made in the area where we live (and they do not). They seemed to love them.

    Men in wedding party: matching ties to wear at the wedding. In our defense, most of them don’t own many ties and seemed to like the gift.

    Women in wedding party: silver clutches they could wear at the wedding, mints included. Again, most of them didn’t own a fancy purse and seemed happy to have something they could wear with any fancy dress.

  • http://onesweetsummer.wordpress.com/ elyse

    parent gifts: didn’t do them. and both sets of parents contributed equally to our wedding. why didn’t we do them? well, his parents would have thought it was just weird, and mine probably would have also. instead, i left my parents a thank you note from us before we left on our honeymoon.
    bridal party gifts: i bought each similar (but not matching) handbags made from Japanese fabrics during a biz trip to Tokyo earlier that year (not for the wedding, just to have because they were pretty), I stuffed each bag with a pair of $1 old navy flip flops (all the same color – for when they were ready to ditch the non-matching heels), and I had a friend design necklaces for them to wear the day of (similar but not exactly the same) as the one thing that tied them all together, since they picked their own dresses. Oh, and I wrote each a note that I also stuck in the handbag.

  • Noemi

    Ah, the gifts. I agonized and thought about this, making lists and checking Etsy for months considering what I should buy for my bridesmaids. In my circle, I knew that it was a normal thing to buy your bridesmaids presents as “Thank You gifts,” and I really wanted to hit it out of the park since my bridal brigade was above and beyond awesome and supportive. Even when my mom hated my dress, they stood beside me and told me how it was gorgeous, and a simple dress is really more my style than anything poofy or fancy. I also wanted to show them how much their friendship overall means to me– so maybe I was putting way too much thought into their gifts, but I tried to picture what I would want and appreciate as gifts.
    I ended up making each of them a handbag– same pattern, different fabrics, each chosen to reflect their style. I loved working on them, thinking about how to make them the most useful and beautiful. I filled them with a hand-written note, inside-joke themed mirrors, chocolates, tissues, and earrings from Truche on Etsy.
    Unfortunately, spending all this time on my girls, I couldn’t fathom what anyone else’s gift should be! I knew my husband wouldn’t have time, so I bought small bottles of Jack Daniels for the guys, which I shouldn’t have done in hindsight, since one of them doesn’t drink much. My parents received a hand-written story about our family as bunnies (it’s something my dad used to do when we were kids!), my future husband received a handmade card and a little booklet in which I wrote the illustrated story of our first date. But his parents? I meant to write each set a heartfelt thank you along the lines of “Thank you for raising the most awesome human being!” but I ran out of time… Maybe I can still do it three weeks later? Anyways, just had to share my experiences!

    • Another Thea

      Yes, you can do it three weeks later! I imagine it’s one of those things that can never come too late. And congratulations!

  • http://bluesuedeidos.com Beth

    Here’s what we did for those looking for some ideas. I can’t say for certain that everyone loved their gifts, but I’m pretty sure they did …

    I put together photobooks for each member of my bridal brigade, with photos covering the life of each friendship, and then wrote a note in the back of each book.

    My hubby got different gifts for each of his groomsmen that suited their tastes — a Star Wars nerd got a cool Star Wars poster from etsy, sports fan got part of ESPN’s 30 for 30 movie collection, etc.

    My parents paid for most of the wedding (we paid the rest), so we (privately) gave them gift cards for a particular hotel chain that they love because they travel frequently. I told them they couldn’t use the gift cards to visit us — they had to go somewhere fun.

    His parents? We didn’t really give them anything. They came to the wedding but expressed so little interest leading up to it that we didn’t feel compelled, and they didn’t seem to expect anything. I feel a little bad about this, but my hubby didn’t want to give them anything so I yielded to him.

    • Shelly

      Beth – I did almost the same thing for parents. We got my parents gift cards to restaurants out of state where they will vacation later this year. They were really excited.

      We also didn’t get anything for my husband’s parents. In my family, a sibling had already gotten married and done the parent’s gift thing, so there was a precedent. His family wasn’t really expecting anything and he didn’t feel strongly about it, so we didn’t do anything special.

      But precedent aside, I was really excited to give my parents a gift as a thank you for all of their support…and not just wedding related.

  • http://nighttraintodetroit.com amy

    After many late, bloodshot nights scouring Etsy and frantically Googling (“bridesmaid indie gift budget DIY jewelry etched glassware ideas”) for HOURS looking for The Perfect Gift for our wedding party, it was my groom who decided we should shift our thinking about thank-you gifts. Instead of engraved things, jewelry or barware, we took our whole wedding party to the Motown Museum in Detroit for a tour.

    I was worried that people would be annoyed to have one more obligation in a busy, tiring weekend, but it was a huge hit. It was Hitsville! There was singing, dancing and clapping and it was amazing to look around and see everyone smiling and laughing and enjoying each other. And so nice to spend a little extra time with our friends and loved ones, many of whom had traveled a long way to be with us.

    As for our parents, we bought them both framed photos from the wedding day after it was over (they also inadvertently bought EACH OTHER the same photos. Too many photos!) and, for my mom, I sent over a set of wine glasses — the same that I had received from my registry, because when I unwrapped them, she dropped a mega-hint about how pretty they were, and how badly she needed new wine glasses. Thanks for making it easy, mom!

    • http://www.kindofamess.com Alyssa

      What a great idea!! Now I’m sad I was not in your wedding party….

      • http://nighttraintodetroit.com amy

        If we ever do it again, you are invited.

  • SarahMama Kate

    MOB here, just checking in on this topic! (I was also my daughter’s MOH, but that’s waaaay another story!) Anyway, that sweet girl wrote me a short but awesome note on the morning of her wedding that I’ll probably keep forever. I sure don’t need or want another “thing” but all that LOVE? Amazing!

    • http://www.kindofamess.com Alyssa

      M’am, I love it when you comment! :-)

  • Melissa

    Our parents are both contributing to the wedding (we are also footing part of bill), but we do want to get them gifts. I’m a potter and give them pots for holidays and birthdays; we’ll probably purchase a great vase or bowl from a local potter (I live near Seagrove, NC) that they will use and enjoy. So it’s nicer than my pots but still useful. And both sets love handmade pots, so it’s not me forcing my taste on them.

    For the groomsmen, we will give them their ties for the day (part of uniform, sure) and a cooler/seat which is awesome – they all love to camp and tailgate so it’s perfect. I’m also right now finding room in budget for the nerf gun idea in an earlier comment. GENIUS. And I think the guys care less about the gifts or if they are matchy/matchy. Most guys don’t read Emily Post.

    For the ladies, I’m making each of them a personalized mug or vase and getting variety of clutches – not for wedding day necessarily – that matches their individual style. They are wearing their own LBD, shoes and any color jewelry/accessories they want. I want my ladies looking and feeling their best.

    Everyone gets a heartfelt note from us – we have the best friends and family!

  • Harriet

    We didn’t have attendants, but we did have a number of close friends who insisted on doing a huge amount of work the day of our wedding. We went to a great food city for our honeymoon, so we bought them different food presents (jam, chocolate, mustard etc.) and sent postcards with very personal, probably too long notes. Our parents also got food presents and postcards from our honeymoon, and we sent lovely (in my opinion) notes to our parents and to our wedding-helper friends along with the rest of our thank-you notes.

  • http://eclpse.livejournal.com Kimberly

    I mentioned upthread that we did wedding albums for our parents — although that was just recently.

    For the gents, we bought monogrammed swiss army knives because himself loves his.

    For the ladies, I bought monogrammed ring bowls from Palomas Nest (because I was always looking for a place to put my rings when I removed them to shower, do dishes, etc.). In fact, I wish I had bought one for myself . . .

    The best thing was when I was staying with one of the ladies one weekend after the wedding and saw the ring bowl next to her bed, with jewelry in it. Seeing it in use made me very happy.

  • Amber

    We didn’t have attendants because then half our wedding would be standing up there with us =p But my friend from college was the officiant and she was truly being put out by us asking her to perform the ceremony we had made so I got her a couple things for the new city she was moving too. (I was thrifty about it too because I used coupons to get both things half off!).

    I was recently in a wedding and I got a typical monogramed thing, and I just kinda felt like it was just “what is supposed to be given” as opposed to thinking about us and what we’d actually like. I would have loved for a bit of the dress to have been paid for instead (that cost more than my wedding dress).

  • http://ashinwi.wordpress.com Ashley

    We got our parents photo albums after the fact, and lots of big sincere thank-yous. That was enough for our families. We can never fully express our gratitude to them, but we try.

    The groomsmen got books reflecting each of their interests (history for one and baseball for the other) and the bridesmaids each got a bunch of fun jewelry from Etsy (NOT for the wedding day). Stuff like miniature pizzas on a necklace or tiny cakes on a ring (tiny fake food was so up my girls’ alley). I also operated under the philosophy that anything I bought for them, I got one of for myself…Also, we all went and bonded over manicures together, which was awesome.

    I’ve been in three other weddings. Two out of the three gave me the wedding day jewelry as a gift (never to be worn again). One gave me a fun hand-picked totebag filled with things I like: jam, canning supplies, and a kitschy owl necklace I’ve worn several times.

  • http://www.craigathenawedding.blogspot.com athena

    The thank you gifts have been something I have both delighted in and agonized over with our upcoming August wedding. We decided that in addition to the wedding party, we would give gifts to our friends and family that are doing significant jobs for us for the wedding- but it seems weird to spend money on our parents who are giving us money to get married! And yet, I now feel like giving them a wedding album after the wedding is the best thank you gift for them. We made our guest book on iPhoto for $30, so we can make them albums as well.

    As for all of our wedding helpers, we struggled the most with what to give the guys, but decided on custom cufflinks. We are giving each groomsman a personalised set (i.e. Transformers Autobot cufflinks for the huge Transformers Fan). As for my MOH and bridesmaid- I already gave them their gifts because I am super sentimental and impatient and I wanted to give them their gifts in a personal, private moment. In addition to having my older sister design and make faux pearl jewellery for them to wear on the wedding, and ordering custom fabric hair flowers for them, and paying $100 towards their shoes and/or dress, I gave each of them a small gift. My MOH is my sister and best friend and her condo was broken into last year; they stole all of her jewellery! So since our sister made a beautiful pearl necklace, bracelet and earring, I got her a more casual piece: a double leather Pandora charm bracelet with a Forget Me Knot charm and a heartfelt letter. She absolutely loves it and wears it every day. My bridesmaid has a silver Pandora charm bracelet, so I hand picked a pretty charm for her and gave it to her with a heartfelt letter.

    We also have a ton of people saving us tons of money and energy by helping us out on our wedding day. So here are the jobs and the gifts we’ve chosen for them:

    1) Cake baker, Slideshow Maker, Movie Editor and pretty much day of Wedding Coordinator: Plus she just miraculously takes care of random things for me. For instance, I told her I wanted a bird cage or something for the wedding cards, and VOILA she comes up with one. We don’t think we could get married without this amazing woman so we already gave her one token of appreciation- another handpicked Pandora charm- but we are also going to suprise her with the gift of our firstborn child. Hahaha but seriously, we are going to give her a very heartfelt card, flowers and maybe a gift certificate for a massage and pedi or something.

    2) Flowers, Graphic Design Work., Cookie Baker. My friend Danielle is uber creative and talented and she is arranging our flowers and has designed my shower invites, my private dinner invite, and rehearsal dinner invite. We did pay her for that, but it was a steal of a deal! Also she is going to help me make all the cookie dough for our party favours. We already gave her gift to her this past weekend. I found some awesome green leather vintage style shoes in her size at a garage sale, so I got her those plus a beautiful owl locket off etsy. She was thrilled.

    3) MCs: Our MCs are a married couple- practically family- and AWESOME. We got them a matching necklace and cufflink set- with pressed 4 leaf clovers in them. These two have Irish heritage and he proposed to her with a Claddah ring after kissing the Blarney stone for luck so the gift seemed fitting.

    4) Musicians: Two of our friends are writing music and playing acoustic guitar at our wedding ceremony. We had a very hard time coming up with a good gift idea for them but settled on 2 small gift bags containing guitar picks, guitar strings, fancy tobacco and a large can of Guiness for the one guy and hot spicy farmer’s market mustard and a bottle of Innis & Gunn for the other one.

    5) Jewellery/Dress Maker: My sister made all of my attendants and flowergirls (her daughters) jewellery for the wedding as well as a pearl bracelet for me. Plus she is making one of the girls’ dresses for the wedding. So, I got her a ton of beads and jewellery making stuff that she favourited on Etsy (she LOVES making jewellery).

    6) Guest Book/Greeters/Set up Girls: Two of our friends are going to arrive early at our reception to greet guests and hand out drink tickets, as a small token of thanks, we got them cute handmade canvas cosmetic bags and a gourmet chocolate bar from a local place, and a friend of mine is sewing some sleepmasks for them out of fabric from an old dress of mine. Another friend is helping my coordinator girl set up the cake and decorations and whatnot-we’re giving her the same thing.

    7) Ushers and Readers: We just decided on a simple thank you card and fancy cigar for the men, and a Thank you card & gourmet chocolate bar for the lady.,

    8) Make Up Artist: A friend of mine is doing make up for me and my two attendants but I am still undecided as to what to do for her. She suffers from sleeplessness and she’s a writer so I was thinking of giving her an Insomnia journal I found and a sleep mask.

    All in all, I have delighted in choosing personal gifts for all of these invaluable people, but it has been stressful at times too….I really wanted the gifts to be personal and not generic. I know these are highly specific examples (AND a super long post, sorry!) but hopefully it will help get the ball rolling for some of you! xo

    • NEWTIE

      Another suggestion for your makeup-artist/sleepless writer friend: there’s a great poetry anthology titled “Acquainted with the Night,” edited by Lisa Russ Spaar. I received this as a gift once (I’m also a writer & also have insomnia) and I really like it!

      • http://www.craigathenawedding.blogspot.com athena

        That’s a fabulous idea, thanks!! She is also a poet and we are both just finishing our Honours Bachelor of Arts degrees in English Literature! So perfect, thank you!

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  • Julianna

    We gave wedding party & parent gifts, in part because we were so stunned by the outpouring of love & support & generosity from everyone and also because we had the budget to (we’d been planning to pay for a much greater percentage of expenses than our parents ended up letting happen).

    Our general theme was “for relaxing after all the craziness is over”. Both of my bridesmaids are spa people so I got them a gift certificate to the spa they took me to during a pre-wedding ‘girls weekend’. My husband got his guys flasks. We gave his parents a gift certificate for 2 nights at the hotel we held the wedding at, for a getaway weekend later on. We gave my parents a gift certificate for a wine dinner at a restaurant they love (mostly a present for my dad) and then a separate spa day thing for my mom, who had done seriously superhuman levels of work getting things ready (since we held the wedding where they live, not where we live).

    We talked about gifts for each other and ended up deciding that we didn’t want more “stuff” beyond the rings we’d already picked out. So instead, I covered the cost of musicians for the ceremony (something he really wanted but went over our original/parental budget) and he covered the cost of our wedding album (something I really wanted but wasn’t in original photography package we picked out). It was kind of cool to have a little special aspect of the wedding be “from me to him”.

    (obviously, again, this has a lot to do with the way our wedding budget & parental contributions happened, I understand it wouldn’t make sense for a lot of people when the whole wedding is a sort of joint/mutual gift).

  • Jill

    I gave my bridesmaids the following:

    – a copy of The Oatmeal’s book (one already had it, so I bought her a copy of XKCD Vol 1 instead)
    – a mug I designed that said “Bitches get shit done.”

    So you see, there are no rules.

    • http://misallocationofresources.blogspot.com Jenn

      hahaha I want a mug like that! :)

  • Kate

    I too didn’t think to have parent gifts at the wedding, oops! I love the photo album idea mentioned above.

    Our gifts to our bridesmaids were their dresses. We could afford it and most of them are on pretty tight budgets (the dresses were “only” ~$130 but that can be a lot of money out of a monthly budget, and that’s before even adding in the other costs of being in a wedding). My husband offered to either pay for his guy’s tuxes or take them out shotgun shooting after the wedding (they did that for the bachelor party – at a county-owned facility). I think they all picked the shootin’ and now I should remind him to do that, hmm.

    I am really into minimalism (so far mostly in theory, not quite yet in practice) so in general I try to give gifts that people need, are consumable, or that are an experience/involve spending time together. I tried to do gifts the same way I do Christmas/birthday gifts and I think it worked out.

  • Brenda

    I’m glad to have read this post this morning! Why? Things were fairly small and fast due to necessity (short version: 4 days before the date was when we were able to figure out yes we could actually get married) but there was love everywhere. I didn’t feel the expectation of having to give gifts as motivating ‘what should I get ___’ because it was a whole bunch of love and miracles that got the wedding itself together when we found out those few days before.

    The reason why is our wedding reception is this Saturday – a chance to share the love when there is more than 3 days notice. And the thing is… I love writing letters. When I sit down and write a letter I’m able to get the words right. Expectations or no expectations that is what I want to share with those people that were really there for me.

    I’m glad this post came at a chance where the craziness in my life has given me room to remind me of a way I can share the happiness and joy with them. Whether you do that with a gift whatever it may be or with something else THAT is what it’s about. Which is why I love my dear friend who gave us matching jewelry and clutches because she gave us more than what you can attach a price tag to in the other things she did, the things that mattered. (She also gave us the fabric and told us to make dresses we loved too. ;) )

  • KateM

    I have been a bridesmaid 10 times and am also over the jewelry thing, but that is also because I hate hate hate wearing the same thing as anyone else, I am already doing the dress, please let me choose my own jewelry and shoes. I like to pick my own stuff so I won’t be doing that for my bridesmaids. I agree that a note or a letter is the best thing to get ever, I have received one from a friend, and I wasn’t in her wedding, I just helped, but 8 years later I still have that note and it makes me smile to read it.
    I also think that a gift is a really nice gesture because regardless of how awesome a bride you are, you most likely have leaned on them more, and seen them less. Weddings tend to be all consuming even with the best of intentions and that can effect friendships especially with your single bms. (ha! bms!) I promise they are feeling neglected even if they understand. So a thoughtful gift and more importantly the note really really REALLY mean a lot.
    Finally, clutches are great, but if they are all the same, they get mixed up and that is not fun if someone goes home with your credit card and drivers license.

    • KateM

      Oh and for my bridesmaids I doing letters inside pretty clutches that don’t match and I am paying to have their dresses shorten so they “can totally wear it again ” :)

      • Edelweiss

        LOVE the dress shortening!

  • Julianna

    Sometimes in an effort to lower people’s stress levels about wedding planning things, I think we can end up coming across as though that thing they’re worrying about isn’t worth doing at all (or worse, is stupid of them to be worrying about or doing in the first place). If you find the idea of gifts on top of thank you notes excessive or oppressive, you should absolutely feel able to remove that item from your to-do list with no qualms or guilt. If you feel strongly about getting gifts for various people, and are looking for ideas on how to do that, you should be able to ask that question and benefit from the awesome variety of ATP responses…with no qualms or guilt.

  • Janna

    I gave my bridal party/brigade/mothers/wonderful lady who married us books. I went to Powells, because I am fortunate enough to live in Portland with the best bookstore in the world, and spent a long time finding the book that each of them would like. (Fine, wandering around for a long time in a bookstore was for me, the bride can still have fun dammit) The books ranged from Jane Austen for my sisters to Pippi Longstocking for my friend who embodies her spirit, to Arundhati Roy for another friend. I felt happy giving them, they were happy to be able to wear their own jewelry the day of and have a new book, and I got to support a great independent bookstore. Win win win.

    • http://eclpse.livejournal.com Kimberly

      I LOVE that.

  • Katy

    About a month after our wedding, my parents moved halfway across the country and bought a new house. We got day-of plane tickets and flew out for the weekend to help them move in. I cleaned and unpacked; my husband redid some electrical wiring and set up their electronics.

    I told my parents that this was their real wedding thank you (in addition to a small token gift). It was the best present my parents could have received from us.

    • http://eclpse.livejournal.com Kimberly

      Um, awesome.

  • http://onegirloneguytwocats.wordpress.com/ Heather

    I actually bought my bridesmaids jewelry – my bridesmaids were my sister and my sister-in-law and I found pretty (yet simple) open circle necklaces that had the small engraving: my sister, my friend. Even if they don’t wear them all the time, they said what I felt as my sister-in-law had only just joined our family the previous month and my sister and I had been estranged for several years and only a year previously renewed our relationship. As for the guys – they like beer, so we got mugs, and did the cheesy engraving, which they all actually liked and used at the wedding. ;)

  • http://koruwedding.blogspot.com Koru Kate

    I love the suggestion of writing a letter. My then-fiance & I wrote personal notes to our wedding guests inside their escort cards. We ordered blank cards to write the guests’ names & table assignments on the outside & pasted sheer shipping labels with typed messages on the inside. It took lots of time to write & assemble the notes but it was well worth it. Our guests thanked us throughout the wedding night for our notes & many still talk about it months later.

    • http://www.bridesanstulle.com Sharon

      That is an AMAZING gift (and maybe the only wedding “favor” that I would ever keep)!

  • Darice

    Well, I guess I suck. I bought them jewelry and made them purses because I had a pattern I wanted to try. Now that you point it out, I really wasn’t thinking of them.

    • K

      Boy, you hit the nail on the head. I feel like a big jerk now because I am doing the same thing as you are. I think my bridesmaids will like the jewelry and I am having it custom-made to fit them (my plus-size bridesmaids are actually excited about this because it is hard for them to find jewelry that fits) but now I’m having second thoughts about making them purses. I thought they would like them and that I was being thoughtful by making them something handmade, but this whole thread is making me have huge second thoughts about what I thought was a gift given out of kindness and appreciation.

    • http://justneedthisspace.wordpress.com ddayporter

      if someone MADE me a purse while they were planning their wedding… I wouldn’t give a rat’s patoot if it was perfectly my style or not, I would love it and feel loved. but that’s just me.

    • Anna

      OMGoodness- don’t feel bad for one second. That is an amazing gift. I love receiving home-made items! They are full of love and time, rather than dollars spent.

      you did good.

    • Bessa

      DDayporter hits the nail on the head, as usual. Don’t feel badly! I really don’t think that’s what Meg and Alyssa et al. were aiming for with this post at all.

      As a many-times bridesmaid I can say from experience that I’ve never been angry or even annoyed about matching jewelry (and I would have fricking loved a handmade purse, btw). Yes, it’s true that matching gifts can be seen as “part of the uniform”, but A. that doesn’t mean I won’t wear it again, and B. as a bridesmaid, you pretty much know that you’re signing up to spend a day in matching dresses and jewelry, and hair and flowers, etc and that’s OKAY. If these ladies know you and love you (and I’d guess they do, since they’re standing up at your wedding), they are not going to resent a gift from you no matter what it is.

      Please don’t fret about this. And if you really feel badly about your gifts, they sounds pretty awesomepants to me, so feel free to send all the pretty jewelry and handmade purses my way. I promise to be totally grateful. :)

      • K

        Thanks for the votes of confidence… My bridesmaids are three of my oldest friends who have stuck with me through many trials and tribulations, and I have been trying so hard through all this to be good to them – letting them pick their own dresses in a color and length that they can (hopefully) wear again, choose their own shoes, respect their schedules and spending money…

        They keep telling me that they are so happy I am reasonable and level-headed and respectful and I on the flipside am so happy to hear that, so it really broke my heart to hear that I was potentially being a jerk by buying them matching jewelry and making them purses. I feel now like I should spend more money to buy them all individualized gifts, but my budget is already getting thinner by the day…

        Oh yeah, and letters are happening. For sure.

  • Leah

    Always fun to click over to APW and see a picture of my wedding! I bought my bridesmaids their dresses and necklaces but they were all done according to their own styles and tastes. I told them I wanted them in purple and then they could pick out a dress or have me pick one out if they didn’t want to deal with having to go look at stuff and I bought the dresses and shipped them in plenty of time for them to change their minds. I also bought necklaces because my sister had a necklace that she really wanted so I really wanted to get it for her and one of my other girlfriends had just started a job that she had to go to fundraisers for and kept saying that she didn’t have event appropriate jewelry. I love the idea of a letter and wish I had thought of that!

  • http://arduousblog.blogspot.com ruchi

    The gift thing stresses me out.

    I don’t have bridesmaids or anything like that, but a pretty large bridal brigade of friends and relatives. I got most of my good friends clothes from India for the wedding because I figured that they really wouldn’t wear that again but they wanted to for the wedding. At first I thought that was the gift, but now it seems like I gave them the clothes so long before the wedding that it feels not enough?

    And then where do you cut it off if you don’t have an actual set of bridesmaids? Do I give gifts to everyone who is helping in any way?

    My best friend said that I was crazy and that you don’t get people gifts on your wedding, they give you gifts. But I really love all these people and want to get them gifts! I just feel like I really could end up getting 100 people gifts and that probably is super weird.

    • Marina

      The note route might be simpler. That could also be something you do after the wedding as you’re writing thank you notes for all the gifts. Personally if I was helping someone out with their wedding I’d find it much more meaningful to get a note after the fact showing that the bride noticed all the effort I put in, than to get a tchatchke on the day of.

      • http://www.kindofamess.com Alyssa

        Write everyone a note and don’t stress about it. Gift-giving is supposed to be a good, happy thing for everyone involved.

  • Mo

    We haven’t had our wedding yet, (September, 2011!!!! EEPS!!), but we are getting each of our sets of parents an art piece that we found at a local craft fair. We are going to put them in nice frames and give them the art on the night of the rehearsal dinner. (One was $65 and the other was $25, but each one really represented our parents, and they’ll never know the difference, right?) We’ll probably make a small album after the wedding as well.

    I LOVE giving gifts, so for bridesmaids gifts, I got each of my seven ladies (yes, seven) an adorable bag and a unique journal from papayaart.com. They are all different designs, and I picked them out individually to match their styles. (I also got one for myself to test it out and make sure it was perfect-now I’m having the hardest time keeping it hidden from them-HAHA). I’m also crafting them little jewelry boxes-mod podge and magazines, on small cardboard boxes-these are unique to their personalities as well. Then, I’m getting little fancy lip balm from pangea organics to go in the bags. I may have to throw in a fun pen, too. I just can’t stop buying them things because I love them so much. I’m also so excited to give them their presents, I keep wanting to talk to them about it, but I can’t for obvious reasons.

    The Fiance is getting his dudes hollow books (from etsy) and will probably put a flask in each of the books filled with their favorite liquor.

    I’m surprised at myself for not thinking of writing them all little notes. DUH. I really, should do that. I realize that the last three weddings I was in we all got gifts that we loved, but no personal notes. I’m not going to miss an opportunity to make my ladies CRY. So, handwritten notes in the little jewelry boxes sounds like the perfect thing.

    Great post!! THANKS!

  • Marina

    I got my ladies (including my mom) matching necklaces. The pendant was shaped like an origami crane, which had kind of turned out to be the visual theme of our wedding. Most of them had put in quite a bit of time folding those things. :) They all still wear them occasionally, especially my mom.

    The menfolk were harder, because they had a wider range of interests and I had a wider range of relationships with them. Eventually we decided to get them all action figures (http://www.mcphee.com/shop/categories/Classic-McPhee/Action-Figures/) which worked because they were all sort of the same gift, but we could tailor it to them individually. (We got my dad the psychology buff the Freud one, my husband’s brother who lives in Philadelphia Ben Franklin, etc). I think they liked them.

    I think letters would have been very meaningful, and I did mean to especially write ones to my parents, but I completely ran out of time and energy as it got closer to the wedding. By the time we were picking gifts I was running on empty.

  • LillyTop

    I think this is a really interesting conversation. I had never been in a wedding before I got married, and as of this summer, will only have been in two others (both bridesmaids of mine). For the wedding next week, the bride is making us jewelery (she is a jeweler), and I expect it all to match and also to be lovely. The other wedding I was in, I don’t think there were any gifts at all, and I had so much fun that whole weekend I didn’t even think about it. If I were getting married now, this would kind of seem like just one. more. thing. to deal with. I can see myself copping out.

    For our own wedding, way back when, we gave all our attendants a 4-CD set of our wedding playlist (from the Laptop DJ), with pictures of each of them and letters from us to each of them in the liner notes (this was way back when physical CDs were still a thing!). Also, I made them each fleece travel blankets that fold into a pillow and were, yes, monogramed. I don’t know how much use those blankets got, as honestly, they could have been made better, but I just heard recently that at least two of our attendants still keep our wedding CDs in regular rotation in their car or iTunes. I guess we at least have good taste in music! Both gifts were super budget conscious. We printed lables and cut and stapled the liner notes our selves; I figured out a pattern for the blankets and monograms and gave my sewing machine a workout!

    In hindsight, we certainly could have been more thoughtful, but there was also just a whole lot of other stuff going on and I felt really good that everyone got the same thing. Also, everyone chose their own attire so there was no wierd guilt for making them buy something they hadn’t wanted. After the wedding we also sent them each a small album of photos from the day, and I really enjoyed putting those together and remembering how each of them had helped out the day-of.

    • Jess

      I think those gifts sound lovely, especially the CD and the photo album. Stuff is stuff–and getting stuff can be great. But memories are worth so much more (to me, at least).

  • Rachel

    OMG, we just finished buying gifts for everyone in our bridal party.

    I bought each girl a piece of jewelry that yes, it matches their dress but, no they are not required to wear it at the wedding. I also bought each girl a gift that is personalized to them whatever their tastes may be and that is all it is a gift. I think we read through a zillion forums on bridal party gifts and in the end decided that getting someone something that they would truly appreciate and that they were maybe secretly coveting was the best way to go. We did the same thing for the men. I think it brings joy both ways and I am definitely including a heartfelt thank you note. Agreed….a thank you letter is the best gift.

  • Jess

    Two nights before our wedding, I agonized over what to give my bridesmaids. I love giving gifts in pretty packages, but somehow I just ran out of time. I already had a small, personal thing for each girl related to her personality/something that I knew she wanted/needed, but I wanted to do a little more. I ended up giving each a Starbucks gift card (we all LOVE coffee) and an empty picture frame. I will have a picture printed from the wedding to put in the frame as soon as we get the pics from the photographer. When I give them the picture, I will also write them a heartfelt note thanking them for everything they did leading up to the wedding and the day of the wedding. Oh, and I did give them earrings to wear for the wedding. But I got them on sale with an additional coupon, so I didn’t really count that as a gift.

    For our reader, I gave her a Starbucks gift card and a cool coffee mug that you can draw on. Perfect for her personality.

    For the groomsmen, we ordered mini Maglight flashlights and pocket knives in a box. Each was engraved and the color matched the guy’s vehicle, since they’re the perfect size to keep in the glove box for emergencies. The guys loved them.

    I’m still at a loss for something to give our officiant. It was my aunt. She was ordained online, traveled from out of town, stayed in a hotel, made our wedding perfectly awesome, AND gave us a VERY generous gift. I don’t know how to thank her enough. I even asked her about it. She requested a McDonald’s diet coke and lunch from her favorite drive in restaurant, which we did. I still want to do something more. I know the idea will come to me…

  • KristieB

    I come from a family where you call to thank someone for a gift they give you (we aren’t big note givers), never go to someone’s house empty handed and always bring a host gift if you are staying overnight (even if it is the ingredients for a meal you are cooking). I believe in gifts and the importance of thanking people. My husband…not so much, but he gave in to what he calls my “craziness.” We are both really close to our parents.

    We got married away in Hawaii which makes gift giving very easy! We gave gifts to everyone at our rehearsal luncheon that our parents hosted.

    For the dudes: Reef flip flops with bottle openers on the bottom and 6-packs of locally brewed Hawaiian Beer. The guys loved the sandals and obviously drank the beer during their trip.

    For the girls: Beach bags that my mom made out of Amy Butler fabric. I gave them matching flip flops and metal water bottles inside.

    For our parents: Nothing except cards at our rehearsal luncheon. We gave them large framed wedding pictures later on. Our parents are the kinds of people who have family pictures displayed in their homes. Over a year later, I am still working on photo albums for them.

    For everyone: We wrote everyone heartfelt thank you cards. I did mine the night before our rehearsal for my parents (Mom, Dad & Step-mom), my 2 brothers and my 2 bridesmaids. D left his cards to his parents and best friends until the morning of the rehearsal when he was hungover (or as he calls it, drunkover) and very weepy. His card made his best friend/man cry – proving they were both drunkover.

    We gave small gifts from Canada to the vendors we had worked the most with – our minister, our photographer and our wedding coordinator.

  • http://thelittlefella.tumblr.com Jessica

    Rather than give gifts for our parents who seem to have everything and tend to spend plenty on themselves, we threw a thank you dinner a month or so after the wedding. We got to use all of our cool new registry items and it was our first attempt at making dinner for 7 people. It was fun to get both sets of parents and my sister in law all together in our tiny apartment to laugh, chat about the wedding and eat. Although making the dinner was SUPER stressful (we picked a bad weekend time-wise), I thought it was a thoughtful way to say thanks for all they had done for our wedding.

    • http://thelittlefella.tumblr.com Jessica

      Also just read through the last part of the post and realized I’m a jerk for only giving the groomsmen ties as their gift that was totally part of their uniform. Damn it!

  • http://www.bridesanstulle.com Sharon

    We gave our parents photo albums, but the real gift was the part of our ceremony where we bowed to them and gave our moms bouquets. It didn’t cost anything (well, beyond the flowers), but in our culture, that heartfelt public gesture of thanks (for raising us, not just for helping with the wedding) means more than any gift could. Just a thought/suggestion for anyone who might be struggling for ideas.

    For the bridesmaids, I paid for their hair/makeup and gave them non-matching jewelry gifts. Two of the girls loved the earrings enough to want to wear them at the wedding, though that wasn’t at all required. We gave our groomsmen expensive German board games. :) And everyone in the wedding party and who went an extra mile to help got long/effusive thank you letters.

  • Dori

    We did fancy chocolates for our peeps (from a well-known local chocolatier). I wrote each of my women of honor a note which included a haiku about her. We are doing albums for our parents, but since they take forever to compile, we asked our photographer to “fast track” a few family shots (and send them before the rest were ready), and we were able to print and frame and give them within a week of the wedding. It was a HUGE success and simple to do.

    I agonized for months about what to give the friends who introduced me to my now-husband. In the end we got them a custom papercut from etsy with a scene from Song of Songs and the words “thanks to you, I have found the one in whom my soul delights.” It’s a small piece of artwork so (hopefully) not a decor imposition.

  • http://www.lovebugsandthebrooklynbees.wordpress.com j9

    I’ve been a bridesmaid 5 times and I have never received a gift that had any sentimental value to it. I’ve been given jewlery I’d never worn again. I’ve been given one of those makeup pallettes that has 100 colors but really only 3 that can be used. I’ve been given a monogramed terry cloth bag and slippers to wear while dancing.

    No gift has been about anyone but the bride. I dig the advice of giving a gift and it being a GIFT not part of the uniform.

    and this is the best line ever:
    Matching gifts are sweet, but no one really wants a gift that says, “I love you all equally, but in different colors.”

  • Candice

    I feel like I failed my girls by getting them jewelry that matched the dresses, but they did make the final dress decision and seemed genuinely happy about the dress and jewelry. I also had travel jewelry rolls made in their favorite colors.
    The boys all received cufflinks from etsy that matched their tastes/hobbies. I have never seen a group of guys so excited about an accesory. It turned out better than I imagined.
    We got my husband’s parents and my father picture frames. Kinda lame but appropriate for his family. My mother’s gift however was my favorite. The Norman Rockwell figurine my dad gave my mom for their wedding was broken by a cleaning lady when I was young. I found the same figurine and gave it to her at the rehearsal dinner. I have never seen her so happy and was so glad that I could find her (and my dad, he was equally excited) such a heartfelt and appropriate gift.

  • Stephasaurus

    On the subject of parental gifts: personally, my parents have done a LOT for me. They have gone above and beyond for me, my entire life. They sacrificed so much for me. I’ll never stop giving them gifts, and I’ll definitely give them one as a wedding thank-you gift. I like the wedding photo album idea a lot.

    As for bridesmaid gifts: my best friend got married a few months ago and gave all three of us engraved charm bracelets. It was a standard bridesmaid gift, but it was still nice that all three of us bridesmaids were each wearing the same piece of jewelry on our wrists for that entire day. There is absolutely NOTHING wrong with getting your girls matching jewelry if they’re like myself and my friend’s other two bridesmaids: we didn’t need gifts to feel appreciated. Our friend thanked us verbally many, many times, and wrote each of us a thank-you note after her bridal shower.

  • http://scientistcarrie.blogspot.com Carrie

    Wedding-party gifts are basically thank-you gifts. And as with all thank-yous, the gift part isn’t required — a sincere heartfelt spoken or written expression of thanks is all you really need. But if you want to and will enjoy choosing and giving gifts, then go for it!

    I had three bridesmaids. One was my best friend from childhood; one was my best friend from college; and one was my sister-in-law, who’s also a really good friend. Here is what I got them:

    -Canvas tote bags with printed flower designs (cheap from H&M) to stick everything else in. I knew all three would use a sturdy canvas bag: they’re all environmentally conscious and would use it for groceries; also, one is a crafter and one is a theatrical costumer, and I know they use cloth bags to carry supplies and projects.
    -Reversible light- and dark-pink wraps, because they’d decided together they wanted to wear a splash of pink for the wedding. I’d just asked them to wear any knee- or tea-length black dress, and they all felt like they wanted a bit more color.
    -Pink platform flip-flops embellished with little plastic sparklies, to change into at the reception if their feet hurt (or wear for the outdoor ceremony if the ground was wet and high heels would sink in). Practical, and again with the splash of pink.
    -A nice but affordable bottle of wine — different bottle for each person, a style they would particularly like. They all enjoy tasting and appreciating wine.
    -A novel. Each person got a different book, because they all have different tastes in fiction.
    -Some body wash/bubble bath and body lotion. Each person got a scent they particularly liked. I was worried about this because body wash is kind of the default “I didn’t actually think about what to get you” gift for women. But I think they realized that I had really thought about each of them when picking out the scents. (I was trying for “Thank you so much for being with me through all this wedding craziness and stress. When it’s over, go relax in a bubble bath with a glass of wine and a good book.” They all seemed to understand it that way.)

    The groomsmen’s gifts were up to my husband. I know we bought their ties for the ceremony since he wanted matching ties. I believe he also got each of them some comics they’d like.

    So yeah — while many of my gifts looked like typical bridesmaid gifts (tote bag, wine, matching accessories for the wedding, bath stuff), they all had thought and care behind them, and I think that came through. That was the important part.

  • Beth

    I did water bottles with all the bridesmaids and groomsmens names on them and also got one for our reader. In addition, the guys got matching dress socks (argyle) and mismatched ties. For the girls, I got mismatched pearl-drop necklaces and diamond candles (http://www.diamondcandles.com have become a little bit of an obsession for me and were a huge hit as gifts, I’ll be giving them on other occasions going forward) I also gave my aunt a candle (she served as my mistress of ceremonies/day-of-coordinator). Moms each got a handkerchief and a mom bracelet, dads each got an engraved pocketwatch with their ties and socks and grandma got a handkerchief.

    We’ll do framed wedding and engagement photos for Christmas presents all around this year.

    Not the most original, but they seemed to be well received and fit in our budget.

  • janawest

    Getting married this September so I’m in the midst of the great gift debate. Originally, I thought about getting my bridal posse Amazon giftcards, since that screams practical and flexible (two things I’d like to think I am, most of the time), and that way everyone could actually get something they want.

    But I asked around (since matching jewelry has been the norm in my group of friends) and most said it seemed tacky/thoughtless, so I scrapped the idea. Instead I went with “making their lives easier” gifts. We decided on a color for the girls’ dresses and a color for the boys’ suits and told them to wear something they already had (thus, saving them $$$). Then I offered to pay for hair/makeup for my girls and my fiancee is paying for his groomsmen’s ties (thus, saving them $$$). And I’m writing thank you notes. Done and Done, right?

    …….But then I realized that we didn’t actually have a physical gift, and sometimes going the traditional route is less risky, so I bought them matching robes as well. Le Sigh.

  • http://itsthejumpoff.com Goose

    for our groomsdudes, we are doing zombie survival kits, with multitools, flasks, etc and it all goes in a real ammo case (my fiance is really into zombies) and I think that gift is really fun.

    For the ladies, i got each of them a locket from etsy, all are different, and none of them have to wear it on the wedding day. I’m trying to figure out something to add to each of them.

    For our parents, we are kind of stumped, but there have been so many great suggestions here!

    • dragon

      for the zombie apocalypse! how excellent.

    • Brefiks

      Oh my gosh, what an amazing idea. What else went in there?

  • http://www.thehandmadeevent.com kari

    I didn’t get my parents gifts (my Mom preemptively brought it up and said “please don’t spend money to thank us for spending money”) but did write them a thank you letter.

    As for attendants – I just had one, my best friend, and must have been channeling Meg because I bought her dress – that she picked out herself! I actually said that she could wear whatever she wanted but she found a new j.crew dress that she liked, I bought it (at a sample sale, where I got my reception dress) she wore it and has worn it a few times since. Present – done!

    We did get a present for my sister in law, because we had the wedding in her backyard – so she went above and beyond – powerwashing the house, regrouting the pool, etc (didn’t ask her to do any of this, FYI, but she said she was happy to have the wedding as an excuse). She had been working so hard to get everything ready that we gave her a thank you letter and a big spa gift certificate to go have massages afterwards. She also got all the leftover booze, which she considered a gift!

  • Zee

    /i got engaged while studying abroad, so consequently I picked up bridesmaid and parental gifts during my travels. The bridesmaid gifts might not have been the most useful (hand-embroidered handkerchiefs and tiny French perfumes), but everyone appreciated the thought and the rarity of item. Handkerchiefs for the mothers turned out to be a really good present, because generally they use them during the service, and then they have them on hand for other special occasions, such as christenings, funerals, and other weddings.

  • http://craftosaurus.blogspot.com craftosaurus

    I know I’m late to the party here, but I was just talking to my husband about this post, and I realized what it is I wanted to articulate when I first read it: I think there IS something to be said for giving the same gift (jewelry, etc.) to all your peeps.

    I understand the line of reasoning that they’re all individuals with different senses of style, etc., but on the other hand, you’re giving them a gift not purely because they’re awesome as individuals (I mean, that’s a big part of it, of course), but also because they all participated in your wedding and played a part in this lovely, significant event, and that participation ties them together. For me as a bride, I wanted to give my friends something that was slightly special and formal that they would hopefully use again, but also importantly, that would remind them of the wedding when they did use it again (I knitted them each a shawl, also with the idea of keeping them warm on the day if needed, which it wasn’t; the groomsmen got bit glass beer steins with their names etched on the side). And then as an added bonus, when the gifts get used, it’s like “aw, a handful of us have this [insert tchotchke], and even though we’re not all friends with *each other* we have that in common because we have [insert bride's name] in common.” I mean, I hope that’s what they’re thinking! That’s what I’d be thinking.

  • Amandover

    Umbrellas! This idea occurred to me because we were having a springtime wedding “outdoors” (moved in for drizzle, sure enough), and being a New Yorker-pedestrian, I pine for cute umbrellas that I won’t lose. So, even though we had already bought thank-you gifts for friendors, I also got 2 different, but beautiful umbrellas for my ‘maids. Probably should’ve gotten one for our Stage Manager, too, as he was running around more than anyone… But they were appreciated and useful.
    Those other thank you gifts? Bottles of Catskill Comfort maple syrup. We both love real maple syrup, and our wedding was in the Catskills, and the bottles make it look like whiskey. Granted, brother-of-the-groom actually took a swig, assuming it was whiskey, but several others loved it. Probably totally unnecessary – and some people couldn’t take it cuz they weren’t checking bags. But we liked it.
    And the Best Men got mustache flasks. As trendy as they may be, none of them had one before, and they were used (to rather devestating effect) the night of our reception. The men also seemed genuinely grateful for the blue ties we bought them.
    But the cards we wrote were the most important part.

  • Paige

    well… i made the mistake of the whole ‘kind-of-matching’ presents for our wedding party.

    Since we are having a destination wedding in california and all of our guests (except us and my parents) are flying in, we decided to build off of the california thing and the fact that we are a fairly fun loving couple. We decided to give everyone in our wedding party Ray-ban sunglasses. The idea came about when a week ago one of the groomsman lost his sunglasses in the ocean, and another one broke his favorite pair. the boys are getting a similar style in 3 different color choices and the girls are getting a more feminine style. i think it is something they can hopefully enjoy wearing after the wedding. however, i did get them at nordstrom so i figure they can always return them and get something they really want!

    fingers crossed it all goes over well!!!

  • Becky

    I’m late to the conversation, as I’ve only just discovered this blog, but I must say that I do like this girl Meg, and her fabulous opinions!

    I’m getting married in a month and in addition to some fun gifts, I bought my girls their dresses. Why? Because it is the #1 thing that I would want to be gifted as a bridesmaid. I don’t want a spa day. I don’t want jewelry. I don’t even want something cool like gorgeous shoes. I want to not have to pay for a dress that I would NEVER choose on my own, and which is WAY more than I would ever pay for a piece of clothing.

    P.S. I have never spent more that $50 on a dress…except for bridesmaids dresses that I was forced to purchase.

    • KHolc

      And I’m sure most brides, who are paying $20k and over for a wedding, would be more than willing to pay for their bridesmaids dresses…NOT! If you agree to be a bridesmaid, you agree to pay for the dress. Simple as that. If you can’t afford it or don’t want to buy it, you need to let the bride know. She and her fiance are paying for enough.

  • Anonymous (for now)

    I was struggling with this until last week, and am glad I stumbled across this post (even though it is from 5 months ago) because it reaffirms the decision I made. The jewelry to go with the dress thing isn’t going to work, because each of my 4 ladies is wearing a different dress (but in the same color). So I decided to give them each a “date” with me for after the wedding this spring. One friend and I used to take winery trips together, so I’m going to give her a bottle of wine from a winery we like & an “IOU” for a day of winery hopping like we used to do. Friend #2 loves the same sports team I do, so I’m giving her a figurine of her favorite athlete & then tickets to a game we can attend together. Friend #3 is a busy mom, so I’m going to give her an IOU for a spa day for the two of us. My MOH loves the theater & so I’m going to give her a cast recording and an IOU to see a show on Broadway together (since NYC is sort of half way between our homes). For my flower girl, I’m going to take her for afternoon tea – all dressed up and she can bring her favorite doll if she wants. I figure it is a good way to let them know how much I appreciate them (and to have quality time with them since I’ve been busy doing wedding and house stuff with my fiance this year).

  • Eleanor

    I just want to say that this post makes me feel a LOT better about my gift choices. Plus I love the great sense of humor weaved in here; this is refreshing after reading mostly preachy advice columns.

  • Will Field

    We found a nice bottle of bubbly given out at the end of the evening was quite a nice idea!

    Will.

    www,henryherbert.com

  • May Day Bride

    I’m getting married in a few weeks and for my girls- my mother and I helped pay for their dresses and I bought them accessories for the day of. I did earrings- but instead of cookie cutter earrings- the ones I bought were all from the same designer so they went well- but they are all different and go with each girls personal style (plain posts for the “simple chic” girl, big chandeliers for my over-the-top sister, asymmetrical for my funky artsy sister-in-law to be…) Same with the dresses. I went with black cocktail dresses and told them to buy whatever they wanted as long as it all looked good together. (I also handmade, heartfelt cards, and bought them some fun makeup pieces.) My mom (who is a SAINT) is treating them to the bridesmaid luncheon and paying for their pedis and hair updos. Having been in multiple weddings myself- being a bridesmaid is expensive and stressful! So for a bride to give a thank you gift that helps with that cost along with something personalized and heartfelt- that’s what bridesmaids appreciate. Nothing says thank you like “I know you’re spending a fortune and going through a lot of stress to help me, so let me lessen YOUR stress however I can.”
    My problem is what on earth to get my fiancee’s parents!!! They are divorced and it’s messy and I don’t exactly get along with them… but I have been tasked with finding something meaningful for them… It’s… a challenge to say the least! My fiancee is not very expressive and can’t think of anything (although he thought of a great gift for my parents) so I am trying to figure it out! **Fingers crossed!**