Deviating from wedding registries--how gauche is it?
August 8, 2010 5:25 PM   Subscribe

I'm attending a wedding next weekend, of a couple that has irritated me throughout the course of their tumultuous engagement. I've looked over their many registries, and have found nothing that I consider worthwhile or practical to give in my price range. What are my other alternatives?

The bride is family to my husband, and I've known the groom by way of his family for over ten years. Their engagement was on-again/off-again, and irritating at best--first from their excessively public and saccharine displays of their relationship, then by the excessively public and drama-filled displays of their broken engagement, then by their equally excessively public and saccharine displays of their re-engagement. A slew of seemingly gift-happy invitations to engagement parties and various showers did not help the situation. I was happy about this relationship to begin with, but their behavior throughout the course of their engagements has left me with more than a sour taste in my mouth.

I'm having a difficult time deciding what to do about a wedding gift. I would love to give them something thoughtful and useful--I generally put a great deal of thought into my gift-giving endeavors, and I take great pleasure in finding that "perfect gift"--but their registries have left me cold. They seem to have gone through the stores where they registered like kids in a candy store, rather than putting thought into what they would actually need and use in setting up their new home. I realize that may be an unfair judgment to make, but I'd rather not buy them a fondue set that I'm fairly certain will sit in the back of their storage closet for years to come.

The best idea I could come up with for an acceptable wedding gift to deviate from the registry for is an Ikea gift card--but would that be considered rude and improper? They are a very young couple, both living away from home for the first time, so I figured Ikea would be a great place to "fill in" the gaps of what they didn't register for. What would you give as an alternative to a registry item?
posted by litnerd to Grab Bag (31 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Registries are suggestions for guests who don't want to figure out what to give you. They are certainly not a requirement, and it is absolutely not rude to deviate from them. They are suggestions only. Get them whatever you want.
posted by brainmouse at 5:26 PM on August 8, 2010

Very young? Give them cash. They need that even more than they need IKEA furniture.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 5:29 PM on August 8, 2010 [3 favorites]

On a couple of occassions, I have given a gift certificate to a nice restaurant (preferably not a chain restaurant and at least $60-80 range for 2 people) when registry items were down to the last few blah items. On each of these occasions, I got a genuine thank you again from either the bride or groom after the craziness died down and they were able to cash it in.
posted by shrimpsmalls at 5:30 PM on August 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

Oh yeah, go crazy. Registries are suggestions. Gift cards are awesome.
posted by Neofelis at 5:30 PM on August 8, 2010

We have had good luck sending gift boxes of spices from Penzey's when we've not been able to find something on a registry we could afford/felt comfortable sending. If they are indeed starting house for the first time, they might find it useful to have a nice set of basic spices to start their pantry. We figure that it is both a quality gift, as well as one that is consumable, so we know it won't be gathering dust next to the fondue pot or waffle maker.
posted by librarianamy at 5:31 PM on August 8, 2010 [6 favorites]

When I got married, I registered fairly extensively and, I like to think, thoughtfully -- I made sure that there were as many things under $25 as over $25, etc. About two thirds of the people who bought us gifts (and let me point out that you are under NO obligation apart from tradition to actually buy a gift!) did so off the registry, the rest got us things they thought we'd like. One of them was actually a $100 gift card to the local grocery store. That was awesome.

My point is, get them anything you like, or nothing at all. It's a present. Anybody who is ungrateful is, well, an ingrate.
posted by KathrynT at 5:32 PM on August 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

Situations like these are for which gift cards were invented.

But then again, who says you have to give anything? If you put a gun to my head, I couldn't name who did and didn't give me a wedding gift.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 5:32 PM on August 8, 2010

A check and a buy-one-get-one coupon to TCBY.
posted by Stynxno at 5:44 PM on August 8, 2010 [2 favorites]

Well you do sort of have to give them something, if you are attending the wedding. Because if you care enough to attend, it's incongruent not to give them a gift.

That doesn't mean you have to give them anything off their obnoxious and irritating registries, though. You're free to give whatever you want. However, a gift card is essentially cash, but cash which is restricted in how they can spend it. Also I think maybe you're wanting to be a teensy bit dictatorial, not in a nasty way, but rather in the manner of people who give carrot sticks or religious tracts to trick-or-treaters. If they haven't indicated that they want IKEA furniture maybe it would be better not to impose that on them. They could just as well take that cash and spend it on thrift-store furniture and refurbishment tools, for example. Or blow it on Scotch.
posted by tel3path at 5:51 PM on August 8, 2010 [2 favorites]

To clarify, I wasn't thinking they'd buy furniture at Ikea--but I figured they could fill up on kitchen stuff, spatulas, maybe a rug--there's more to Ikea than the assemble-yourself variety.
posted by litnerd at 5:55 PM on August 8, 2010

Personally, I think the ikea gift card idea is excellent! (That might be because my wishlist at ikea is fairly long.) Any gift should reflect the giver though; go for it!
posted by Hildegarde at 5:59 PM on August 8, 2010

Cash is always appreciated, or, since you did see the registries, at least you have some idea of the couple's tastes. You are NOT required to buy off the registries, you are NOT required to go over your budget, and it is perfectly acceptable to give a gift card. Heck, if I were you it would be to Target.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 6:01 PM on August 8, 2010

A gift card is fine. Make sure it's for a store accessible to them, or easily redeemed online. I like Amazon, Target and Crate and Barrel. Or cash.
posted by barnone at 6:02 PM on August 8, 2010

My go-to for young marrieds is a good, basic cookbook. I've given Betty Crocker, Home and Garden, Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything, whichever I'm using most at the time. Usually I'll include something kitcheny along with - set of utensils or favorite gadgets, nice set of mixing bowls, or a gift card to a food or kitchen store, or a store where they are registered.

But of course any gift is optional! You're certainly not bound to buying off the registry list.
posted by dorey_oh at 6:04 PM on August 8, 2010

They sound annoying and you should get them something that you want to get them.

That said, if I were you, I would get them a gift card to one of the places they actually registered. Who knows, maybe they hate Ikea. Part of the idea, at least, is to give them something they will use and/or enjoy, right?

Anecdote: Five creative, thoughtful people decided to give us carafes at our wedding despite the fact that we registered for none. The reason we registered for no carafes was that we already had one. That put us in a somewhat awkward position of having 6 carafes, returning some and pretending that we kept them, etc. We don't want to be ingrates, but also we don't have a lot of storage space and we really have no need for so many carafes. We also got some art that we don't like. It's all well and good to go off registry, but we felt bad about returning things that were off registry and we feel a bit of an obligation to use/display the gifts we have received. So the thoughtful gift has become something of a burden. The spice idea, for example, could be fantastic. We once received that same gift (different company) and it was a fantastic housewarming gift. But if someone gave it to us now it would be utterly redundant and a waste - we already have more spices than we know what to do with!

My personal feeling about wedding gifts is that it is best to stick to the registry or give cash unless I know the person well enough to really be sure they would love the off-registry gift I give.

That said, you probably can't go wrong with a gift certificate to a great restaurant in their town or maybe even in their honeymoon location.
posted by n'muakolo at 6:11 PM on August 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

Maybe a nice piece of framed art? Something that most people probably won't think of that will make their new walls much less bare and hospital-ey. As for functional, I really love my Ork Poster of Portland- and they have a lot of cities available now.
posted by karminai at 6:15 PM on August 8, 2010

You're not even required to get them a gift, so going off the registry is more than is necessary anyway.

They seem like the kind of people to be self-involved and have lots of people as asteroids in their particular solar system--the upside is that there is a distinct possiblity that they won't even connect the gift to you as a person in any significant way.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 6:24 PM on August 8, 2010

They irk you. Their registry irks you. This is no surprise. So, try to think about something good about them -- what they do have in common, what you like (or tolerate) about both of them and buy a gift that reflects that. And include a gift receipt so if they hate it or want their precious tschoke from their registry, they can do it themselves.

While I don't condone passive aggressive gifts, I've looked at things I've given in the past to tumultuous couples -- a crystal brandy set to alcoholics, a carved wooden box (perfect for weed) with cash in it for the hippy-stoner couple, the game system to the couple that later broke up over World of Warcraft -- and I picked what they had in common as well and I don't regret it.
posted by Gucky at 6:30 PM on August 8, 2010 [2 favorites]

Please, don't give them a gift card to a place where they've registered unless they have specifically registered for gift cards. Think about it. Let's say they've registered for 100 things at Bed Bath & Beyond. They're probably going to get most of what they've registered for, and as for the things they don't get, they may or may not care about getting them - lots of people add silly fluff like banana hangers and avocado slicers just to fill the registry. So, now that they've gotten 95 out of 100 of their preselected items, what, exactly, are they going to use a Bed Bath and Beyond gift card for? They've already got a house full of Bed Bath & Beyond items.

Cash, in my opinion, almost always trumps a gift card. There are exceptions - let's say they're a very frugal couple who wouldn't feel comfortable spending a lot of money on a nice dinner out. A restaurant gift card may be a good idea because it's likely they'd be able to enjoy using it without feeling any guilt, since it's not as if they could have used it on something like groceries. In most cases, though, cash is the way to go if there's nothing on the registries you'd feel comfortable purchasing.
posted by pecanpies at 6:45 PM on August 8, 2010

The registry is full of stuff they like. The gift is for them. I don't think your not liking it is particularly relevant, IMHO. Having said this, plenty of people went off registry for our wedding which I thought was really nice when they did it because they had seen or wanted to get us something personal or that they thought we'd like. Getting them something you like because you don't lime them seems pretty mean-spirited ANC to miss the point of gift giving. Maybe that's justified but I don't think that your likes or dislikes of the registry items are so relevant. I wouldfind it particularly odd if someone got us a voucher because this seems to stem from not knowing what to get- which is what the registry is for... If you want to send them a MSG about their tastes then this will work really well. But that is how it would come across to me.
posted by jojobobo at 7:20 PM on August 8, 2010

Remove the caps and lime is like. Preview not working on iPhone sorry
posted by jojobobo at 7:21 PM on August 8, 2010

I'd like to respectfully disagree with pecanpies. I really enjoyed receiving gift cards to the place where I allowed me to purchase the items on the registry that were not bought by others. And, I liked the place enough to register there so it wasn't hard spending the money.

Don't worry about not buying from the registry. If they have an IKEA close to where they live, that's a great idea. Though, I do tend to give cash, as that was far and away the best thing that I received for our wedding.
posted by ms.v. at 8:01 PM on August 8, 2010

You can never go wrong with a bottle of great barolo or a nice champagne for a wedding or any other occasion, really. The fact that they irritate you is rather irrelevant to the question.
posted by halogen at 8:46 PM on August 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

Deviating from wedding registries--how gauche is it?

It's not. If you have an idea for an appropriate wedding gift, go forth and just do it. If they live near an Ikea, that's a great idea for a gift. It even gives you something to say in the card to pad out the "congratulations and best wishes to the happy couple" message.

Save yourself the trouble of eyerolling that hey, you might even feel a little bad about later, after the wedding craziness is over. Maybe their registry selections are really simply shallow and dumb. Maybe they're Bridezilla and Groomzillo and see this as a fantasy shopping trip. Maybe they took to heart some great-aunt's advice in the vein of "honey, no-one wants to buy you a scrubbing sponge and a dishtowel -- people like buying extravagant special occasion fancy things like fondue sets." Maybe they were overwhelmed and just starting picking stuff. Maybe they don't really want a registry but other relatives browbeat them into it so they just picked random silliness. Eh. Don't torture yourself.
posted by desuetude at 9:09 PM on August 8, 2010

get them a toaster. it says. you. care without caring
posted by the noob at 4:50 AM on August 9, 2010

That list doesn't mean anything. They're just requests. We'll do our regular set. Let's start with "Gimme Some Lovin'."
posted by flabdablet at 5:00 AM on August 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm assuming that they, and you, know exactly what area they're moving to as they start "life on their own". If you don't know for sure that there will be an IKEA within a hour's drive of their new place, an IKEA gift card will likely fall somewhere on the spectrum between an active annoyance and passive money-down-the-drain.
posted by aimedwander at 6:38 AM on August 9, 2010

I wouldn't go as far as saying it's gauche to buy something off the registry, and the idea of a gift card to a nice restaurant or place you know they would like is a great one. That said, Mrs. Advicepig and I made a pact the day after our wedding to never buy anything off registry besides cash. Some things were really thoughtful and amazing. The rest were bowls, picture frames, and vases. I don't know what it is about us that says, "hey, buy us bowls!"
posted by advicepig at 6:55 AM on August 9, 2010

Do you know where they buy their groceries? A gift card for groceries is pedestrian but highly useful. Other than that, a teakettle is my standard gift. I think of my best friend from high school every time I see mine.

Totally agree with advicepig on the bowls: crystal, wood, metal. When I got divorced, we had a ceremonial Division of the Bowls because there were so damn many. (We hadn't registered for any bowls.)
posted by catlet at 8:06 AM on August 9, 2010

"we feel a bit of an obligation to use/display the gifts we have received"

Actually nobody is under any obligation to use or display any gift they've received, although it is extremely nice to do so. As long as you're very very sure the giver will never find out, you can return the gift or give it to Goodwill or regift it or bin it.
posted by tel3path at 9:05 AM on August 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

Give them cash. Everyone secretly wants cash as a wedding present anyway. Registries exist only because it's gauche to send out a card saying 'please give me cold hard cash!', and because some people hate giving cash for reasons I fail to understand.

And just as a random reminder, since this is correlated info in my head - if they're Jewish, make sure that the dollar amount is a multiple of 18 (this is traditional because 18 is written in Hebrew as chet yud, which spells chai, which means life).
posted by Eshkol at 12:20 PM on August 9, 2010

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