Alternative gifts

Back in the days when a couple would save co-habiting and consummation until the wedding night, the tradition of wedding gift giving was designed to set the newlyweds up with all the toasters, blenders, fondue sets and steak knives they needed for marital bliss.

It was a necessity for young lovers moving straight from the parental home to their love nest.

Today, of course, living in ‘sin’ is more often than not the norm before the man has even gotten down on bended knee. Which poses the problem of what to ask for—or, as a guest, give—when a couple already has a fully-stocked and functional household.

Gift registries are immensely popular for the fact that it allows the pair to specify items they actually want—really, one fondue set is usually one too many; two is a waste of everyone’s time and money. They also allow the couple to be a little indulgent and pick out things like a $200 designer kettle that they would love to own but would never in a million years fork out for themselves.

Something different
A registry is all very well and good, but if a guest would prefer not to simply tick a box, they may come up with something a little out of the ordinary. It requires knowing a bit about the newlyweds. Perhaps they are literature fanatics—scour eBay for a rare first edition book of a favourite classic. How about an experience like a tandem sky dive (provided the bride or groom doesn’t have a fear of heights)?

Something noble
Altruistic types (like Prince William and Kate Middleton) may decide that they have everything they need and a ceremony, party and honeymoon is more than enough to mark their union. So, in lieu of a bunch of kitschy nick-nacks, they elect for philanthropic contributions from guests, requesting that those who wish to buy a present direct their finances towards a charity of the couple’s choice.

Something big
Rather than end up with a collection of little things that are all very lovely but not particularly useful, the bride and groom may choose to reach for the stars. Maybe they’re in the market for a new car or an Italian lounge suite or a kick-ass home entertainment system and prefer that guests chip in towards it. It may sound a little extravagant—and a ‘big ticket’ item is relative to the wealth of the couple and their guests—but at least they’ll end up with something they want, love and will use.

Something exotic
There’s a little thing called the honeymoon registry which is becoming increasingly popular. Once the couple have made their honeymoon plans, their agent will itemise the trip and create a registry so that guests can help cover the costs. So you may find yourself paying for their massage on the beach in Mauritius, shouting them dinner on their last night in Rome or their flights to Hong Kong.

Something to spend
It’s not terribly romantic but often cash is given or requested. In many Asian cultures money is often the preferred present. The ‘money dance’ is a tradition seen in some European cultures where guests pin cash to the bride’s dress in exchange for the honour of having a twirl on the dance floor with her. Then there’s the ‘wishing well’ where guests cough up dough and the couple spend it how they please, even if it’s to help pay off their home or cover the wedding costs. If you’d prefer they spoil themselves, consider a pre-paid credit card for the honeymoon. The burning question: how much to give? Some say the amount should reflect the per head cost of hosting the reception but that’s rather difficult to determine and, really, it’s a wedding not a transaction. Pay an amount you can afford which feels right.

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