A Meaningful Thank You Gift for a Wedding
June 18, 2015 12:19 PM   Subscribe

My husband and I had a small wedding nearly a year ago which we thoroughly expected to pay for ourselves. At the end of the day, however, my father surprised us with a check for the cost of the whole thing. It was overwhelming and meaningful in ways I don't know how to express. Now, it's almost a year later, and I still don't know what to get my father and his wife as a thank you gift. Can you help?

My wedding was especially important for my father and me because he is, actually, my step-father who got divorced from my mom nearly a decade ago. But he's the only father figure in my life and, in fact, he's the only parental figure in my life at all: I don't have a good relationship with my mom (she wasn't invited to the wedding). So, despite the legally tenuous relationship between us, he is incredibly important to me. Furthermore, I know I'm incredibly important to him. Him walking me down the aisle was a very, very important thing for us both. And when he gave us the check for the wedding, what he said was, "You honestly didn't think I'd let you pay for your own wedding, did you?" (Gah, I'm tearing up just thinking about it.)

Adding to the emotional significance: he remarried several years ago, and his wife has been wonderful at being.... someone... important to me. There isn't a word in the English language for the familial relationship between us. But she is just warm and wonderful, and she was so helpful and kind and caring during the wedding and its preparation (despite the fact she was going through chemo at the time, even!). Given how weird the fact that I'm in her life is, she is wonderful to me, and she displayed that throughout the wedding.

So, here's where I am: there are two absolutely wonderful people in my life, and they did a wonderful thing by supporting me and paying for my wedding. And I have been horrible by putting off getting them a thank you gift for ten months now, and I really, really want to make sure I get them something good. I want it to be a gift that is just as meaningful and beautiful as they made my wedding be.... But I have no fucking clue what that is. I've taken this long because I just cannot figure out what to get. (Exacerbating the situation: my dad's wife has great taste, and I have absolutely none.) I don't even know what sort of thing to get as a gift. Can you help me come up with ideas?

Some ideas my husband and I have been toying around with:
--Orchids, or something orchid themed. My wedding took place in an orchid garden, so I thought bringing back that theme might lead to a meaningful memento. I'm not sure where to go with this.
--Some sort of picture frame or frames that they could display pictures from the wedding in. It's kind of a running joke that my dad doesn't have any good pictures of my husband or me, so this could fix that. But picture frames tend to be pretty cheap, and I don't want to get them just some knick knack.
--Some sort of ornamental bowl or vase or something. But picking out something like this requires understanding style, which I cannot do. I don't even know how to shop for nice ornamental things. I really don't want to end up buying something hideous that they end up just storing in a cupboard.
--Some sort of experience. Like a spa day or something? But, again, this is the sort of thing I just don't understand.

Complicating issues is that, immediately after the wedding, my husband and I moved thousands of miles away. I haven't even gotten to see my dad or any of my family since the wedding. Previous threads on similar topics have emphasized things like going to dinner or the like, but that can't work for us. Whatever I get has to be shipped.

So.... any suggestions? Can you help me figure out what to get? I'll appreciate any advice that you can give, regarding types of gifts that may be appropriate, or specific suggestions for where I should shop, or the like.

And before you get on my case too much for taking so long to get them something, I did send them a very nice and heartfelt thank-you card right afterwards. I made sure they knew a gift would be coming.... and then I just spent months and months freaking out about what to get. If I understand my etiquette correctly, I still have about two months (when it will be literally a year since the wedding) to get the thank-you gift to them.
posted by meese to Human Relations (27 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
You mentioned pictures, what about a photo album of you and your family (and people meaningful to them) going back a few years? It's one of those things people mean to do - "I'll get all the photos printed and do something nice with them" - but rarely get around to.
posted by Gin and Broadband at 12:24 PM on June 18, 2015 [9 favorites]

Photos and a very long handwritten letter. The thank-you is great, but showing that you're still thinking of it a year later is important as well.
posted by craven_morhead at 12:25 PM on June 18, 2015 [3 favorites]

Some sort of picture frame or frames that they could display pictures from the wedding in.

Could you get some new professional photos taken of you and your husband and get them framed? Since it's been a while since you've seen your father, I feel like he might appreciate some nice, recent photos.
posted by Librarypt at 12:26 PM on June 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

You're seriously overthinking this. A framed photo from the wedding plus a heartfelt note saying essentially what you told us here: boom, done.
posted by ottereroticist at 12:27 PM on June 18, 2015 [2 favorites]

You should have some photos from the wedding (maybe one of you and your husband, and then one of you with your father) nicely mounted and framed, and then include a letter explaining how much it meant to you and how important he is to you.
posted by Lyn Never at 12:30 PM on June 18, 2015

Your father and his wife sound like exceptionally stand-up kind of people.

At the risk of obviousness (or that you think I'm joking) - a lot of parents really want a grandchild.

That may be a little bit more of a gift than you can manage right now. BUT if children are in your plans, you may want to consider naming them after your father and his wife.

Something more immediate - if you can wing it - might be a cruise or vacation trip for all of you. Or maybe just airline tickets for them to come see you.
posted by doctor tough love at 12:30 PM on June 18, 2015 [15 favorites]

It sounds like you already know the answer involves photos for display, maybe in some sort of collage display.

The meaningful part comes not from the amount of money you spend or fuss you make, but the amount of effort you put into choosing and arranging the photos that they'll look at to think of you daily, the ones that show how important they are to you.
posted by Dashy at 12:32 PM on June 18, 2015 [2 favorites]

Do you have a budget in mind? I think photos are a lovely idea, but if you wanted something different, there are some really beautiful table lamps out there these days (like these 3D printed ones). A lamp with some sentiment along the lines of "you light up my life" (but a less corny version), may work?
posted by apcmwh at 12:33 PM on June 18, 2015

Complicating issues is that, immediately after the wedding, my husband and I moved thousands of miles away.

Send a nice big box full of the best locally-made/grown stuff from your area. Along with a framed photo from the wedding.
posted by prize bull octorok at 12:38 PM on June 18, 2015

I would have an opulent wedding album made. If you had a professional photographer or you know one, they could probably give you some help with finding a vendor to put it together. Create a fancy keepsake that they can share with friends and thumb through themselves. Personalize it with a note to them about how much they mean to you. Obviously, put as many pics of them and you in it as possible. Then, when you send it, also find a top-notch florist in their area and order a large, living orchid arrangement. I'm thinking of the kind that come in a beautiful ceramic dish and have multiple orchid plants that will bloom for months. I'd time it to arrive in time for your first anniversary, which will give you enough lead time to get the album made and find the very best florist in their city.
posted by quince at 12:40 PM on June 18, 2015 [10 favorites]

But picture frames tend to be pretty cheap, and I don't want to get them just some knick knack.

It's not a knick knack if it's a treasured professional photograph of you two, or of you, your husband, your father, and his wife together. Then it's a centerpiece. And good picture frames aren't cheap. Even if they were, your father won't be looking at the frame -- he'll be looking at you. You can tell him that it's the closest thing to visiting that you can manage right now, but that you will always be near him in spirit even if not in body.

Yes: Letter. Everything else aside, a letter telling him all the stuff he already knows: How much he means to you, how he defines family for you, how much he has impacted your thoughts and opinions and emotions, things like that. Include in the letter all of the running jokes that you can, so that when he goes back to read it time and again, he can hear it in your voice. Write the letter in your own hand. Compose it first, and then write it, but don't send a typewritten letter. You probably don't need that advice, but I'm just making doubly sure that your father receives from you something that you have personally touched and labored over. That imbeds meaning in it beyond the words.

I'm so glad you have a wonderful father figure in your life. He sounds like a dream.
posted by janey47 at 12:45 PM on June 18, 2015

And I have been horrible by putting off getting them a thank you gift for ten months now, and I really, really want to make sure I get them something good.

You can't. Not really. This was not a wedding present; it was a parental bestowal. By all means, send them a framed photo or other momento from the day -- sterling silver frames are not cheap! -- but much more importantly, write a letter. No gift will convey what you want to convey like words will. The tangible thing is nice but ultimately so unimportant; the letter is the thing.
posted by DarlingBri at 12:46 PM on June 18, 2015 [4 favorites]

You wrote a thank you letter and that was perfect. At the year mark, you could send another letter restating how kind and thoughtful they are and how much they mean to you. Include that you have made a gift to a super special charity in their name. If you can swing it, make a larger charitable effort like bestowing a small scholarship in their names.

They sound wonderful (and so do you).
posted by kate blank at 12:59 PM on June 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

If there's a botanical gardens near either you or him, you might make a donation in his name to support the research and conservation of orchids (or anything else). I would find that really amazing.
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 12:59 PM on June 18, 2015 [2 favorites]

Sending both a really nice picture (or collage) in a frame and a really fancy orchid sounds great. I would add that something to close the distance (an offer to get them tickets to come see you, an offer to fly to see them, an offer to get a vacation for the four of you somewhere, etc) would also be sweet.
posted by ldthomps at 1:03 PM on June 18, 2015

Did you have professional (or near professional-quality -- i.e. from a real camera rather than people's phones) wedding photos taken? If so, I think an album of wedding photos would be lovely (and is NOT cheap). A Practical Wedding outlines two good choices for getting this done even if you're not still in touch with your photographer (or if the photos were taken by a friend): Albums Remembered and ala carte Albums.

Another good option if your wedding photos are more of the "snapshot" quality is to put together a more old fashioned album -- i.e. the type where you get 4x6 photos printed out and slip them into plastic sleeves. You can typically find nice albums of this type at craft stores, in various sizes. The nice thing with this option would be that you can include all sorts of photos if you like, not just wedding photos...you could even get copies made of childhood photos, if you have access to them (or just photos of you and your stepdad/his wife/your spouse/etc. from more recently). Although this option won't be crazy expensive or anything, it will take a real time investment to select photos, print them, and assemble the album, and I can pretty much guarantee it would be well received/treasured. After all, your dad presumably didn't give you money for the wedding so that you would spend a bunch of cash on him -- instead, it's about doing something that reflects his love for you, and I think an album (of whatever price) is a lovely way to reflect that love back.
posted by rainbowbrite at 1:18 PM on June 18, 2015

meese: "Some sort of picture frame or frames that they could display pictures from the wedding in. It's kind of a running joke that my dad doesn't have any good pictures of my husband or me, so this could fix that. But picture frames tend to be pretty cheap, and I don't want to get them just some knick knack. "

Combine a lovely framed photo with making a photobook at Blurb or Snapfish or something similar. I had a relative give me the gift of a once-in-a-lifetime trip, and I organized the photos and wrote up a narrative of the trip and what I learned (it was educational) and had it printed as a 64-page hardcover photo book on Blurb. I inscribed it and sent it to my relative, and he (and his wife) ADORED it. They loved showing it off to their friends, and they were really moved by the amount of time and effort I put into creating it and showing them how much I appreciated and learned from the trip.

So weddings are also very photo-intense! Create a photo book, with amusing captions and narratives, scan in the wedding program, scan in some photos of you with your step-dad from way back, turn it into a whole photobook narrative of the wedding that they can show off to their friends or look back at themselves, and then inscribe it with how much they mean to you -- I mean really even just what you wrote here. Simple, heartfelt, meaningful, beautiful, and a labor of time and love that expresses your gratitude.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 3:53 PM on June 18, 2015 [2 favorites]

An album of wedding photos is a nice reminder, but if it were me, I'd probably want it to be more of a thank-you to them for who they are and their relationship to you, not just the wedding, and for that, I would go with a custom-made book of photographs of you throughout your life. Go back in time as far as you feel is reasonable and especially include things that connect you - pictures together, activities that you both like, etc. I think, given my own experience with such books, that this will help them feel like part of your life. The wedding is just a small piece of that.

And agreed, the thing itself is cheap, it's the time curating the photos that makes it special.
posted by freyley at 4:43 PM on June 18, 2015 [3 favorites]

I laughed when I read doctor tough love's response. My situation was very similar to you, OP. My father in law essentially paid for our wedding. Financially, he was quite well off and not really in need of anything. He was desperate for a grandchild though and luckily we were keen on kids ourselves. We named our son in part after him. You've never seen a prouder or happier man. My FIL is a wonderful guy and it was an easy decision to make.
posted by Jubey at 5:11 PM on June 18, 2015 [2 favorites]

What about a professional photographer to come and take some pictures of the four of you in the orchid garden. Perhaps on your one year anniversary? A famed picture of all four of you might be something a little different.
posted by Youremyworld at 5:46 PM on June 18, 2015 [2 favorites]

Just forward him a link to your question. It made me cry, so surely it will show them how much you appreciate them. Seriously though, send a letter and wedding photos. And if you don't already, start sending them cards for every occasion, like at Easter, Thanksgiving, Halloween, 4th of July - or whatever are the relevant faith and nationality based observances for them. I started doing that for my several great aunts, like 8 or 9 cards a year, and it's done so much towards making them feel special, and it makes me feel great too, just knowing that they know they're loved. I don't even write much inside, it's just that I continue to take the time to send the cards that makes the impact.
posted by AliceBlue at 5:52 PM on June 18, 2015

As a father of two married children, I think a professionally and expensively framed picture from the wedding would mean more than most any other gift. If his circumstances are suitable, you could give him a specially chosen tree or other planting for his yard.
posted by SemiSalt at 7:07 PM on June 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

All of the following:

1. A heartfelt letter/card explaining why the relationship is so important to you

2. An orchid plant, or 2, potted beautifully.

3. A high quality photo book from the wedding - I had mine done with Blurb, and I also purchased the e-book option. My parents and in-laws LOVE (3 years later!) having their copy to show their friends, and also the digital copy for their tablets/phones to whip out and show people.

4. A professionally mounted & framed photo of you, your husband, and them (or, buy a high quality proper silver frame).
posted by shazzam! at 7:29 PM on June 18, 2015

Electronic photo frame (the ones where the screen scrolls through images). loaded with all of the photos from the wedding, plus photos of any great times you had together.

Plus a pretty orchid plant.
posted by slateyness at 9:27 AM on June 19, 2015

Despite the enthusiasm of others, a child is not a great gift, and "thank you" is probably not a great motivation for having one. I'm sorry (and horrified) that this was suggested to you.
posted by Dashy at 12:21 PM on June 19, 2015 [1 favorite]

Are you serious!! No one is suggesting you have a child for the grandparent, that's insane. You have a child because you want one. You name the child after him as an honour in recognition of the role the grandparent has played and will continue to play in your life. Or we did anyway.
posted by Jubey at 11:24 PM on June 19, 2015

I see a lot of suggestions that you should make a wedding album and I agree that would be lovely, but I do have one caution on that front. Your father's wife was going through chemo at the time of your wedding. Depending on the timing and strength of her treatment it may be really obvious that she was sick at the time and she might not enjoy a whole album of pictures from just that one day during a time when she wasn't looking/feeling her best. Maybe you can include a broader variety of pictures including other times?
posted by kate blank at 9:35 AM on June 20, 2015

« Older Trying to get form NYC to Curacao and suddenly its...   |   How can I respectfully make out with pretty ladies... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.