I recently got married, but before that I spent years working at them as a photographer, musician and DJ. I've seen almost everything there is to see from good to bad to downright ugly. Now, guys, you can get the benefit of my knowledge and mistakes to help you navigate the maze of uncertainty that is a wedding.
Let's all be honest for a moment. One of the best parts of a wedding is the stuff you get. Friends and family members love to buy you things to get you started on your new life. But beware. If you decide to let people get you whatever they want, they will most definitely do exactly that. Don't say I didn't warn you when you decide to go with no registry and you wind up with a garage full of stuff that is more suitable for a sale in said garage than filling your house.
Gift registries are a blessing to both you and your guests. They take the guesswork out of it for guests, so they know they are getting you something you want. That means fewer "what the f***?" moments for you while you're unwrapping Win-win. Here are some tips for improving that experience.
Know your audience.
If you have a lot of friends still in college, you might want to leave the really expensive stuff off the list. Also, don't choose things that might offend your guests. You might really want a book full of artistic nudes to go on your coffee table, but try to remember your Great Aunt Gertrude is looking at this list, too. You can pick the book up later with a gift card.
Give people financial options.
Most people want to get you something, but every guest will have his or her own budget constraints. Your buddy who just launched his first IPO might totally want to get you something extravagant, so it's fine to drop a couple of really pricey items on there like a dining table or a jet pack. But remember that there will also be people who can maybe only spend 20 bucks. A good rule of thumb is to assume an average of $50 (slightly higher or lower depending on your guest list).
Take gift cards.
Always accept gift cards. Not only are they convenient for guests in a hurry -- you know you've grabbed last-minute gift cards at the drug store before too! -- but you still get things you want. Some couples have gone so far as to have entire showers or weddings with nothing but gift cards from select stores. This takes some of the fun out of it for more creative guests, but you know you'll get what you want.
Be careful with deliveries.
As I recounted in last week's installment, it's VERY important to get your delivery address right. Also, be mindful of where gifts should go when you are on your honeymoon. Most of the bigger retailers provide options for post-wedding shipping addresses. Don't let your gifts sit on your porch until you get home...assuming they last that long.
It's okay to be creative.
Not everything on your gift list has to be traditional. In fact, you'll always have friends and relatives who want to get you something interesting. Instead of leaving them to their own devices and winding up with some ceramic parrot your cousin thought "looked adorable in that shop in Guadalajara," pick some more adventurous stuff to go with linens and kitchenware. Who knows, someone might actually get you half a season of tickets to the Rockets. Don't be weird.
But if you are going to be creative, don't slip off the deep end. It's a good idea to have some more traditional items on your list. First, you probably don't want to continue using the same towels you have had since you moved out of your parents' house like 15 years ago. Second, while chain-mail outfits might be all the rage at the Ren Fest, the purchase of one for your wedding makes for an awkward thank-you note...unless your wedding is AT the Ren Fest, then by all means.
Provide in-store and online options.
Nothing beats the ease of an online store. Whether it's a brick-and-mortar store that has an online presence or a place like Amazon.com, buying and receiving gifts via e-commerce is a fantastic convenience. However, some people like to put their hands on the things they buy for you. This is particularly true of older guests who might not be entirely comfortable with the Internet. So give them the option of going old-school.
Let your bride have what she wants, but be sure to stick something on there for yourself.
There is a tendency to pick only housewares and things that many guys find insanely boring for your gift registry. Avoid this temptation and select at least a handful of things for your list that are primarily for you. Your bride should do the same. Having a few personal choices will allow people close to you specifically to do something they know you will like, plus you'll get some cool junk at the same time.
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Ask for only what you really want.
I've read places that it is fine to pick stuff you don't want, especially more traditional items, because you can just return them. Don't do this. Not only is it a hassle to do the returns, but you have to explain to dear Uncle Bob why you exchanged the really nice set of knives he got you for something you like better. Make good choices to start and avoid the explanations later.
Be gracious no matter what you get.
Send out thank-you notes. Tell people how much it meant to them that they got you something, even if it cost a dollar. These people are buying you crap you asked for because they love you and want to share in your celebration. Don't forget that, and be sure to let them know just how important their gift was to you. It's a big deal.