The people who you and your partner have both chosen to be at your wedding party are probably some of the most influential people in your life; they are the people you want to be close to you on this special day, the people who will best understand your love and share in your joy.
Choosing them to play a special part in your wedding is a gesture of friendship, one which they will never forget, but it is also an invitation which requires them to give up their time and undergo personal expense.
The generosity and goodwill of your friends should not be taken for granted. Giving gifts to the members of the wedding party is now an accepted part of contemporary wedding tradition. This is because it is a way of showing that you value the contribution your dearest friends have made to your special day.
We’ve all come to accept that weddings are breathtakingly expensive. As soon as you attach the word marriage to anything: flowers, hair, lunches etc., you can be confident that the price will instantly double or even treble. The result of this can be that, unless you have unlimited financial resources, the run-up to the wedding becomes a bewildering and sometimes fraught struggle to keep within budget.
Wedding party gifts are not an area of expense where you should unleash your inner Scrooge. These are not gifts to be given as a perfunctory obligation; they are gifts you want the recipient to treasure as a reminder of your wedding and their part in it.
Should all members of the wedding party receive the same gift?
There are no hard and fast rules on this one, it’s your wedding, and you run the show your way.
You might reasonably think to yourselves, ‘J loves fishing; let’s get them something fishing related. Lovely idea, but if you are going to do this for every member of your wedding party, then you’d better set aside a fair amount of time to sort it out.
Giving individual gifts also creates an issue of parity, the very last thing you want is for one of your wedding parties to feel less valued than another.
How much should you spend?
Your gift is a memento of an unforgettable day; it needs to be something of quality.
It’s entirely possible to spend a lot of money and buy something inappropriate, thoughtless or useless, so it’s not just a case that the more you spend, the better the gift.
People appreciate gifts that are meaningful, appropriate and perhaps, surprising. Buying a successful gift is dependent on your good taste, bearing in mind that not everyone has the same idea of good taste and your understanding of the recipient.
We all know that the most annoying gifts to receive are those where the giver has bought something they would like, without considering what the recipient might like.
Ideally, your gift should be so well chosen that your recipient doesn’t even think about what it cost, but a conspicuously cheap gift is insulting, don’t do it.
There is, of course, absolutely nothing wrong with taking advantage of sales, reductions, or group discounts.
Overtly ostentatious gifts, which shout ‘look at how wealthy we are, are as bad as cheap ones.
Leather gifts, such as wallets, washbags and backpacks, are often popular wedding party gifts. A quality leather item will last a lifetime and will be a valuable and treasured memento of your special day. It would, of course, be inappropriate and offensive to give leather to your vegan friends, so opt for an eco-friendly vegan leather-like cork leather, not a synthetic product made from non-biodegradable material.
You could check out MAHI Leather’s range of wedding party gifts for gifts that are not only excellent quality and great value but also prioritise sustainability. They offer a group discount, personalisation and they also have a range of cork leather products. As a bonus, for every item sold, MAHI also donated $1.50 to Frank Water, a charity working to provide communities in India and Nepal with clean water and sanitation.
You might also consider gifting the members of your wedding party a fountain pen. ‘No one uses a fountain pen anymore’, I hear you say, but they do, especially if it’s a good quality fountain pen that evokes a happy memory every time it’s used.
The gift of a fountain pen also has a nice symbolic touch because it evokes the signing of the register. Top of the range fountain pens are not cheap, but you’ll find a great range of very stylish pens at The Pen Shop.
You can also have them personalised, which is always a thoughtful touch.
Another practical, but an appropriately symbolic gift, is a bamboo watch.
Why bamboo? Well, it’s sustainable, attractive, inexpensive and a little unusual. I know we’ve all got the time on our phones, but a good old-fashioned watch is still the most convenient way to tell the time, and whenever your friend glances at their watch, they’ll be reminded of your wedding.
Personalised Water Bottles
An eminently practical item that you could give to your entire wedding party is a personalised water bottle like the ones from ‘Crafty Brains’. Do your bit for the planet by encouraging your friends to stop buying plastic water bottles.
A belt may seem like a rather boring gift, but not if it’s something a little out of the ordinary like these recycled bicycle inner tubes. There are many quirky, used recycled products out there that that make sound, inexpensive gifts. But remember to keep it practical, avoid those funny, novelty items that are interesting for as long as it takes to buy them, but which soon find their way to the nearest charity shop.
In summation, then, practical gifts should be quality items, preferably with a symbolic resonance, that the recipient wouldn’t necessarily have bought for themselves but that they will enjoy using for years to come.
Art as a gift
If you or your partner are artists, you might consider giving your friends a piece of your art.
But let’s face it; this is a gamble. The recipient may be deeply touched and thrilled by the gift, or it might not be to their taste. Worst case scenario is that they conclude that you were too mean to buy them anything.
It would help if you were confident that you know someone well enough to give them either a piece of art that you have made or a piece that you have bought. It will be the most beautiful, personal gift you could have chosen if you can get it right.
Experiences as a gift
An object can serve as a physical reminder of a time and place. But so too can a memory. The gift of an experience rather than a thing is an increasingly popular choice, and it has the added impact of surprise.
You could choose to give the entire group the same experience, such as an ascent in a hot air balloon. This requires them all to be available on the same date, which given the busyness of our lives and the potential problem of travel, might prove to be more troublesome than enjoyable.
A more manageable option for your friends is to give them individual activities which will enable them to choose a time convenient to them.
As is the case with all gifts, the better you know the person, the more likely the success of your gift.
A potholing experience given to a claustrophobic or a rock-climbing experience offered to a vertigo sufferer will be memorable gifts for the wrong reasons. A good pampering experience, such as a massage or spa day, is unlikely to be an unwelcome gift.
Does it have to be new?
We are all beginning to understand that the constant production and consumption of new objects are deeply problematic. A shift in terminology from ‘second hand’ to ‘vintage’ has helped us shift our attitudes toward buying old objects.
Antiques make wonderfully original and surprising gifts, but only for those who like such things.
Retro gifts, such as an alarm clock or radio, are probably a safer bet, but again, you need to be confident that your taste will chime with that of your friend’s.
If you want to get something really old, why not consider a beautiful fossil or a semi-precious stone. These are easy presents to choose from, but they are unique, surprising and show that you have selected a personalised gift rather than a generic option.
What to avoid?
Again, it’s entirely up to you. You know your friends and you know what they might want.
That said, you really should try and avoid the ‘Hurrah for us’ type gift: the vast, framed photograph of you and your partner complete with a gushy message, which will live forever in a cupboard, only to be removed when you pop by.
Hilariously funny novelty gifts that instantly turn into unwanted clutter are also best avoided, as are grown up ‘toys’ and gimmicky electrical gadgets, which don’t work.
Bear in mind that your friend also has to transport this gift, so if flights are involved, don’t give them something that will mess up their baggage allowance.
When to give wedding party gifts?
This needs a little thought. Do you give the gifts to everyone simultaneously, thereby allowing them to compare gifts, or do you give them their gifts individually on separate occasions?
Your wedding day is probably not the best time to distribute your gifts. You don’t want to make it into a public spectacle by doing the gift-giving during the wedding speeches, it’ll slow things down too much, and it may seem a rather showy offy to your other guests.
Besides, if you give your wedding party gifts during the wedding day, your friends will have the problem of not losing or breaking them during the rest of the festivities. So, we’re agreed, before the wedding is best.
Giving gifts at pre-wedding bunfights, traditionally known as stag and hen do’s, is going to be a bad idea because it’s unlikely that anyone will remember where their gift is, or even what it was, by the following day.
Give the gifts too far in advance, and they lose their connection to the wedding, and they’ll lack emotional resonance.
So, you’re looking at a point in time close to the wedding, when there won’t be too much drink flowing, and you’ve got time to say a few words, collectively or individually. The wedding rehearsal is an option, or if you’re planning a wedding party meal the night before your wedding, that might be an excellent opportunity.
Gift giving is a complex ritual of social interaction. We use it as a way of saying thank you; we use it to cement relationships; we use it out of the convention.
Giving a gift can generate lots of goodwill and affection, but it can also backfire as it has the potential to create some sort of resentment or hostility.
“It’s the thought that counts”, rather than over-simplifies things if that were true, the giving of a gift would be fairly risk-free. The thought is not enough: “it’s the gift that counts”. A helpful quality object is improbable to offend, but the more daring your gift choice, the greater the chance of you getting it wrong.
The gifts you choose for your wedding party need a good deal of thought and some research, but it’s one of your many wedding preparation tasks that need to be done correctly.
The wedding party are your close friends, they’re not out to find fault with the gifts you’ve chosen for them, and surely you know them well enough to ensure that none of your gift choices is disastrous.
Remember, a well-chosen gift gives the giver as much pleasure as it does the recipient.