It's post-wedding, and you've finally found some time to sift through your giant pile of gifts. With a sense of excitement, you reach for the nearest beautifully wrapped box. You immediately feel the heft of it, and the heavier the box the better the gift inside it has to be, right? You pull off the ribbon, rip off the paper and remove the lid, only to discover that you've received a painted rock. And a pretty big one at that.
You registered at a few stores, giving your guests plenty of gift options you're guaranteed to love. And even if they wanted to go off-registry, you assumed they would know you better than to gift you something that you have absolutely no use for.
But the thing is, you could've had it so much worse. Generally speaking, bad wedding gifts commit one or (or more) of these sins:
They're damaged or have clearly been used before. It's normal to want to cut costs during wedding season, but gifting a used coffee thermos is not the way to do it.
They're super cheap. While great for a picnic, a package of paper plates (and not even the patterned kind!) screams "I didn't want to make an effort!"
They try to be funny but fail. Maybe your guest has a dark sense of humour, but gifting a book on how to deal with divorce, even if it's meant as a joke, is just not cool.
They're inappropriate. The last thing you want to do is open up an embarrassing book like "The Ultimate Guide to Getting It On" in front of your new in-laws.
They're just plain weird. What's the purpose of a three-foot-tall stuffed mouse wearing a Christmas hat and vest, besides being a creepy statement piece?
According to etiquette expert Lisa Orr, all "terrible" wedding gifts have one thing in common – they reflect the taste of the giver rather that the receiver. "Often this is done under the misguided view that you should give someone a gift that you would like to receive, but unfortunately it’s the most likely way to select a gift that the couple will absolutely not like," Orr explains.
If you're that couple stuck with a gift that you absolutely detest, then unfortunately your options are a bit limited. "The only appropriate step is to say thank you for the gift and appreciate it in the spirit that it was given," she notes. "Under no circumstances should you inform the giver of your negative feelings or ask for something else."
The good news is that there are certain precautions you can take to prevent this from happening in the first place. The key is to limit the number of off-registry gifts with a two-pronged approach. First, list your registry details on your wedding website. "The easier it is for guests to find and use your registry, the more likely they are to select a gift off it," she notes. Second, communicate your gift preferences through family and close friends. "Parents and future parents-in-law are often asked about the gifts so make sure they know your wishes," she adds. "Then they can subtly let [other] family members and friends know that you are registered."
Even if your guests go off-registry, it doesn't necessarily mean that you'll hate what they select. "[Off-registry] can be some of the most thoughtful and creative gifts you will receive," she notes. Your guest simply needs to keep you and your partner in mind when making their choice. "If you know the couple loves to dance or do yoga together, selecting a gift that acknowledges that special connection – even if it’s something more experiential – can be a lovely treat for a couple who has been immersed in the intensity of wedding planning," she suggests.
Above all, when it comes to wedding gift giving (and receiving), remember that it's the thought that counts. (Though we wouldn't blame you in the slightest if you wanted to hide that painted rock in your garage.)
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