What engagement gift should I get an LGBT couple?
September 5, 2014 4:33 AM   Subscribe

My longtime friend of more than 20 years is having a formal cocktail party to celebrate his recent engagement to his partner. The invite says no gifts, but I definitely plan to bring a gift. This friend is very special to me. Given this is an LGBT couple (not sure that really matters here, isn't a cocktail party a cocktail party whether it's a gay or straight couple?) I would appreciate your gift ideas. Thank you!
posted by gocubbies to Society & Culture (25 answers total)
A gorgeous bottle of champagne NOT chilled...ie not for drinking at the party.... for the two of them together, or when you all get together with them at another, more intimate time. And the card. Write your love in a card. Simply, sincerely and with joy. The true gift is the card they can look at again in the far, far future.
posted by taff at 4:40 AM on September 5, 2014 [4 favorites]

Our go-to wedding gift for a couple years now has been a two-bottle neoprene wine bottle holder (neoprene=insulating) and bomber bottles or wine bottles specifically selected for each person. It kinda "forces" each person to try the other person's wine/beer taste.

(Then again, my wife is a wino and I'm a beer-o, so there you go)
posted by notsnot at 5:08 AM on September 5, 2014

Speaking as one half of an LGBT couple who got married last year, I would say that no, it doesn't matter that they're gay (unless, I guess, you have solid evidence that they would appreciate a donation to some LGBT cause - as in, I wouldn't just do that because they're gay, but if you know they work with or enthusiastically support a specific organization, then maybe it's worth considering). The coolest off-registry gift that my wife and I received was a tiny, custom-made replica of our dog, which we subsequently took on our honeymoon to Turkey and photographed all over the place - this was awesome because it was all about our friend knowing us and what we liked (plus, OMG, it looks just like our dog!).

If this is a close friend of yours, what does he like? As a general suggestion I think consumables are good if they're asking for no gifts - a nice bottle of alcohol, some good cigars if you know they like that sort of thing, etc. Do consider how they're going to transport your gift back home, too - if they're leaving for their honeymoon right after the wedding, or if they're getting married far from home and their car is already packed full of stuff for the wedding, they are especially going to appreciate it if the item you get them is small (ask me how I know!).
posted by DingoMutt at 5:12 AM on September 5, 2014

The invite says no gifts, but I definitely plan to bring a gift.

Gay or straight, this means that they don't want gifts. Engagement parties (as opposed to showers) are also traditionally not gift giving occasions.

I would bring a heartfelt card, and save my gift money for the wedding gift. If this party were being held in lieu of a big wedding/reception I might put a significant amount of cash in the card (as a wedding present), but it is weird and rude to show up at a "no presents" event with a physical object that the guests of honor/hosts need to figure out what to do with.
posted by sparklemotion at 5:33 AM on September 5, 2014 [27 favorites]

Booze is the only appropriate gift here. Bring a bottle of booze everyone can drink.
posted by Ted Maul at 5:35 AM on September 5, 2014

I would think, unless one of them is sober, that a nice bottle of champagne or wine is okay, even if you're not "supposed" to bring a gift.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 5:35 AM on September 5, 2014

You could accompany the bottle of booze with a pair of handblown glass flutes/martini glasses/tumblers.
posted by lakersfan1222 at 5:47 AM on September 5, 2014

Going to disagree here, from personal experience. Couple years ago I had a small birthday thing for myself with a few friends, just went out for dinner together, no big deal. I told everyone, no gifts, seriously, I just want your company. (Wasn't some altruistic thing; I truly didn't want anything other than time with people I cared about.)

One person did bring a gift. (Admittedly, this is a person who I like a lot but has a Thing about making every. single. thing. about them.) This made me uncomfortable because I was dead serious about not wanting anything, and it made a couple other people uncomfortable because they hadn't brought anything and of course I had to do a "How nice thank you so much" kind of reaction, which just made me more uncomfortable and kind of soured the whole evening.

This party is about them, not you, and it's only appropriate to respect their wishes. If you absolutely feel you must, give them a card with your hopes for their future together.

Better is to give them something appropriate when they get married.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 5:51 AM on September 5, 2014 [28 favorites]

A couple of things here. I know you're coming from a place of love and the best of intentions, but if they said no gifts, they meant it (I say this as someone who just got married in August and did this dance). If you feel you must get them something (and we did receive a couple of very thoughtful things that were less about wedding gifts and more about "this is something you could use in your home"), wait until a more private occasion; if this is a good friend of 20 years, then surely you'll have some opportunity when it is just you and the guys to give them something if you do insist.

Given this is an LGBT couple (not sure that really matters here, isn't a cocktail party a cocktail party whether it's a gay or straight couple?) I would appreciate your gift ideas.

This is your friend of 20 years, right? So you know it matters not at all, and you're just speaking from being nervous and wanting to get it right, right? :) All this is is a couple throwing a party and codifying their commitment to each other legally and socially.
posted by joycehealy at 6:00 AM on September 5, 2014 [9 favorites]

Since they specifically asked for no gifts, then whatever you choose to bring will be a little awkward for them, since their explicitly stated wishes were ignored, and for the other partygoers, because they will feel as though they were the ones who made the social oops. However, of all possible un-asked-for gifts you could bring, I agree that alcohol, ideally in a large enough amount for all guests to share if they chose, would be the least awkward gift, assuming the gathering is being held in a private home. If it's in a bar or restaurant, then it will be weird.

It would be great to take the two of them to dinner or drinks on a separate occasion instead as your gift, and avoid all the socially awkward aspects of actually bringing something.
posted by poffin boffin at 6:25 AM on September 5, 2014 [4 favorites]

We asked for no gifts at our wedding, and meant it, and no one listened. It was very annoying.

It would have been worse at an engagement party, where you not only have to deal with the motions of appreciating the gift right then and there but also the feelings of those who respected your request not to bring any gifts and now might feel uncomfortable and cheap.

If you HAVE to do it, and I really do recommend just bringing a lovely, heart felt card, bring some wine/champagne/prosecco. Nothing they'd feel obligated to open during the party and can enjoy later with little fanfare.
posted by lydhre at 6:35 AM on September 5, 2014 [3 favorites]

Agreed with many of the above: bringing a gift when asked not to is more about you than expressing your affection for the couple. It says to the other guests, "I'm such great friends with them I knew the no gifts edict didn't apply to me, but it's fine that you didn't bring anything." If you must do something, take the couple out for a splurge celebratory dinner at a later date.
posted by cecic at 6:54 AM on September 5, 2014 [3 favorites]

Wine, flowers, or chocolates/something dessert-ish.

I don't know what the sexual orientation of the couple has to do with it. It's not like you were going to get them matching vibrators.

I would consider really and truly not bringing a gift if the party is not being held at the couple's home.
posted by Sara C. at 6:55 AM on September 5, 2014

Echoing others, people usually say what they mean, so "no gifts" most likely means "We would like you to come without a gift." If you don't believe the dozen or so people who just wrote that above, see previously for another 50 or so.

If you do insist on ignoring their request, make sure it's not something that they would find burdensome either physically ("Where are we going to put the stuffed giraffe?") or socially ("When the others see that bag, they might feel bad about not bring a gift.") Something for the party or something that would fit inside a card, such as a gift card, would fit that description. Or what about a thoughtful, handwritten letter?
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 7:15 AM on September 5, 2014 [2 favorites]

Even if you absolutely must get them a gift, it is incredibly rude to actually bring it to the party to show all the other guests that you brought a gift and they didn't. Do not do that. If you feel like you can't possibly not get them something, mail it or give it to them at a one-on-two occasion, not in this very rude way.
posted by brainmouse at 7:56 AM on September 5, 2014 [3 favorites]

I understand your wanting to get your friend a lovely, thoughtful gift--and also that because they specifically said they didn't want any gifts, it might be awkward for the couple to open anything at the cocktail party. So, consider that as you make your decision, please.

I think the bottle of champagne is a good idea, because they can tuck it away without making any other guests feel bad and then later, when they drink it, they will be thinking about you.

You could also try to find a wine (I know nothing about wine, and this might be super expensive?) that is dated to when the two of you became friends twenty years ago, and it will be even more personally meaningful. Or you can have a special bottle of wine made up with their names and engagement date on the label, I know,there are places that do that.

Who is officiating their wedding, and if you think they would like it, is there any way you could make yourself a viable candidate to do it? Because that would be an awesome gift.

Another option, which would be very generous in your part, is maybe just taking them aside sometime during their party and sincerely offering, because they mean so much to you, to "take care of" (meaning pay for) a photographer (if you can afford that) for the ceremony, DJ for the reception, or similar, so that some of the financial pressure is less (weddings can be expensive!).

Lastly, I guess if they have already designated Best Man/Maid of Honrmor equivalent, you could always ask that person for ideas.
posted by misha at 8:23 AM on September 5, 2014

Also, just as a counterpoint, there are cultural variables to the "No gifts" thing.

Here in the South, even when people say 'No Gifts', not only are cards and cash or checks welcomed, they are kinda the accepted route to go when attending an engagement party. It's like "No Gifts" here is code for "we could really use the money more than the stuff, please!"

There will even be a side table already set up where guests can unobtrusively set down their envelopes, despite the "No Gifts" wording. It is considered gauche to arrive completely empty-handed, whether there is $$$ in your envelope or just a card. Mostly, there will be $$$. People recognize that weddings are costly, so it has become a Thing.

Definitely no big wrapped box or bag full of stuff, though!

You probably know best how your own social circle addresses the "No Gifts" issue. Go with that.
posted by misha at 8:41 AM on September 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

It was a nightmare when people brought gifts to my "no gifts please" occasion. It was terrible for everyone, including me. Do not do this.

To specifically answer your question for "gift ideas," mail them something at their home.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 9:23 AM on September 5, 2014 [2 favorites]

and for the other partygoers, because they will feel as though they were the ones who made the social oops.

Even if you absolutely must get them a gift, it is incredibly rude to actually bring it to the party to show all the other guests that you brought a gift and they didn't. Do not do that. If you feel like you can't possibly not get them something, mail it or give it to them at a one-on-two occasion, not in this very rude way.

I need to highlight these two points from other commenters. I'm an Upper-Midwesterner who grew up....er, more than comfortably in a region of the country where the majority of the population was on average much less fortunate than I was. I was raised to be mindful of that and that other people may be making invisible sacrifices and choices that they would be embarrassed to have me know about. As a hostess, it is my responsibility not to put my guests in a position where they may feel less-than or awkward. "No gifts" for me never means cash: it means I am grateful for people's time and kindness and presence and trouble/resources taken to spend time with me. In my mind, if you bring a gift to a "no gifts" party, you run the risk of making other guests feel as though they have fucked up by taking the "no gifts" part literally. I don't care how special you are to me, if you do something that is very likely to upset or discomfit the other important people in my life to their faces, I'm gonna be a little irked about it, even if I am very gracious about it in the moment. (See above about not making you feel awkward or gauche at my party.)

You see, as soon as you present it, and other people notice--WHICH THEY WILL--I'll have to reassure people privately that of course, no, we really meant it. Please, don't think about it for another moment: I'm just so pleased you were able to be here with us. Not to disparage [gift-y person's name here], that was very kind and generous of them. Still, what we wanted was to have all of you here with us to celebrate--thank you so much for being here. I hope you're enjoying the evening as much as I am--is there anything I can find you? Shall we get another drink?


"Oh, your gift is being delivered late? Oh. No. Oh, no, I MEAN, of course it's fine--it's just that we did mean that we really only wanted you to be here with us celebrating. Oh, yes, I did see that [gift-y person] brought a gift, and it was very generous of them, and of course it's very thoughtful of YOU, too, thank you, but please believe me when I say it wasn't and isn't necessary, and how grateful we both are to have you with us today. Thank you so much for coming. I hope you're having as wonderful a time as we are. May I get you anything? "

REPEAT INFINITY TIMES. Then cue quiet deliveries of gifts and money after the party from more than a few of the people who were embarrassed at the time and either didn't believe me when I reassured them, or who were too embarrassed to mention it, and me slamming my head into the wall. Because I ONLY WANTED EVERYONE TO HAVE A GOOD TIME I SWEAR. HOW DID WE GO SO WRONG.

Not that I've learned this from my own or others' experiences or anything.
posted by Uniformitarianism Now! at 9:28 AM on September 5, 2014 [3 favorites]

Echoing -- again -- that No Gifts means No Gifts. We just attended our in-law's anniversary party, to which they had specifically said NO GIFTS and the only person who brought a gift was my husband's sister. Her parents (the anniversary couple) were gracious but clearly embarrassed, her siblings (including my husband) were all "WTF - they said NO GIFTS!?" and by the end she was sort of embarrassed that she had brought a gift.

If you know them as well as you say you do, you could:
1) Choose a gift like flowers to be delivered them prior to the party;
2) Give them a gift privately at another time;
3) Wait until the shower and give a gift there;
4) Give an extra special wedding gift.

But if they said no gifts then take that at face value. Don't be that guy.
posted by anastasiav at 9:45 AM on September 5, 2014 [3 favorites]

I'm with the "no gifts means no gifts" train. There really is nothing worse than being the person who abides by the rules of no gifting, just to see others bring gifts and exchange in front of you.

Besides that aspect, there will be other opportunities for gift giving, like the wedding and any showers they decide to have as well.
posted by Sara_NOT_Sarah at 9:55 AM on September 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

Nthign that if you want to get them an engagement gift, that's totally fine, make plans on another day with them and give it to them then -- just please don't bring it to their cocktail party.

Like others upthread, I tend toward consumable-type gifts to celebrate engagements -- a bottle of wine or a special liquor, or a nice dinner out, or maybe a certificate for a couples massage if that's something they would dig.
posted by desuetude at 11:27 AM on September 5, 2014 [2 favorites]

I've always read NO GIFTS more as a 'don't you dare give me some hideous vase I'm going to have to stuff in a cupboard and pull out and display when you come to visit' or 'another fondue pot and someone will have skewers stuck up their #$%!*&$.'

So, consumables or money or experience.

Booze, as suggested above, is an excellent idea. My sister got me & my partner a fancy schmancy (vintaged?) champagne that is supposed to be drunk on our first anniversary, which was a really sweet idea. We also got some fabulous, small run, micro brew beer from a good friend.

Gift card to a favorite restaurant? We got two to our favorite and are saving one to use on our anniversary.

Gift card/pass/tickets to a favorite museum, theater, program, etc?
posted by carrioncomfort at 11:29 AM on September 5, 2014

No gifts means no gifts in my world. There's no law against giving gifts a day before or a month later or any other time, though. Give them gifts whenever you want. Just avoid insisting on presenting a gift at the party where they explicitly requested you NOT do that.

I think it's lovely that you want to give them a gift, and you should totally do it. Just do it when it's appropriate.
posted by nobejen at 5:44 PM on September 5, 2014 [2 favorites]

The engagement party isn't a gift party. There will be a shower, there will be a celebration of the last night of freedom (hen party/bachelor party) and there will be the wedding. THESE are gift occasions.

So go empty handed, but full hearted to the engagement party.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:42 PM on September 5, 2014

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