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