It’s June. For the next handful of Saturdays, couples all around the Western Hemisphere will be getting married.* If you’re attending a wedding, presents are de rigeur. What, I’ve been asked, do High WASPs give?
We follow our leader, Count Appropriate, who tells us Context Is All. A High WASP-approved wedding present is one that makes the couple happy, first and foremost. If you don’t want to make them happy, I am terribly sorry that you have to attend their wedding.
So I do not recommend trying to impress anyone with the most perfect serving platter, banded in navy with gold, perhaps a yacht flag or two, if that’s not their taste. I would love it. Others would not. We are supporting a ritual that can support society and continue the species.
If your friends and relations want a set of this,
then this they should receive. Put your personal taste aside. Onward. And I have no idea why we call them presents, and not gifts. I’m going to have to ask you to trust me on this one.
Rounding Out The Registry
The best thing to give, hands down, is something from the wedding registry. Especially serving dishes. One turns out to need more than expected. There is no shame in this choice, it does not indicate lack of imagination, the couple will not immediately forget your face.
The Wall Street Journal agrees, here.
A Present Of Distinction
But let’s say you are compelled to give something not requested. What then? Try one of these.
Piece of Art, Or A Curio
Right off the bat let me tell you that curios are very tricky. When you get it right, your present will occupy space and the hearts of the couple for their lives. When you get it wrong, let me be honest, you’re going to be part of their lives, but in the story about, “Remember when so-and-so gave us that AWFUL thingamabob?”
Done right, you might give the daughter of your college roommate this campaign desk, which might just open to reveal remains of ink, and might just happen to have her initials on top. This requires a deep understanding of your recipients tastes and culture, whether you learn from knowing them or just from growing up in their world.
The Gift Of Skills
If you are good at something, particularly something expensive or difficult to procure in good quality, offer a certificate for future use. Carpentry, plumbing, graphic design. Car maintenance. Catering. The usual chores of life once settled, seemingly simple, in fact quite anxiety-provoking. High WASPs appreciate the personal, the authentic, and the difficult to obtain. If you’re really good at something, your time qualifies.
Consumables We Always Need
Dishtowels. Oven mitts. Bottles of wine. Fruit of the Month. Don’t laugh. That stuff’s delicious, especially if you live in the Frozen Tundra.
We have, even in our Never Speak Of Money It’s Worse Than S*x culture, come to understand that giving money is sometimes the most loving thing you can do for your friends and family. And weddings are, after all, about love. Give with grace, affection, and humor. Here’s how the Chinese culture does it, in a Red Envelope. Write something nice, in gold script. Ask that the couple remember you as they spend it. You’re entitled.
When I saw my brother, a few weeks after his wedding, I asked him, “So, what would be the BEST thing I could give you?” Tired, and a little shell-shocked from wedding-spend, he said, “Oh, money for the honeymoon.” Done.
What Not To Give
- Goods from a local boutique that cannot be returned
- A set of anything personalized, unless you give in such abundance that there’s no need to add pieces right away. For example? Three monogrammed bath sheets, no matching hand towels. Unfair.
- Something that has very little chance of supporting the couple’s lifestyle.
When I got married, a dearly beloved cousin gave me this glass pitcher and a set of 6 matching glasses. But more than six people came to every party I threw that was elaborate enough to warrant drinks in a pitcher and special glasses. And this is not a set that can be expanded, as the glass is etched with pictures of lovebirds. Lovely, useless, never-seen-the-light-of-day lovebirds.
A simple rule, that most of you know, and I offer only as a reminder. Presents are for the recipient, not the giver, not cultural constructs, not for history. And cheers to all of you getting married, this month and always.
*Privilege supports marriage equality with a full heart and open mind. Why deny so much hope to an entire segment of the human species?
Noritake “Twilight Meadow” via Bed Bath and Beyond
Desk, me. Pitcher and glass, me.
Red envelope via Envelopes.com
Gold Sharpie via Discount Office