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What's The Point Of Wedding Gift Lists?

13/07/2011 11:16 | Updated 22 May 2015

Wedding fever is upon us. Well, it's certainly upon me, at least - three weekends in July devoted to weddings or hen parties, and that's not even counting last weekend spent ogling all images of Kate Moss' vintage-y wedding (how adorable were those bridesmaids?).

Not that I'm complaining - I love weddings. But while I would have been thrilled to attend Mossy's wedding, I'm not sure I would have been happy getting her one of the 14 crystal ashtrays (for the bargain price of £240 each) that she reportedly put on her gift list, or the cocktail set worth almost £5K. And if I were invited to attend Kim Kardashian's October nuptials, I would find it difficult to purchase most things on her $172,000 wedding gift list. I suppose I could buy her half a cereal bowl from Hermès?

I'm saying I have a problem with their gift lists. I'm sure there are some affordable items on there, but I find their extravagance a bit over the top. Can't they just ask guests to donate to charity like Will and Kate did? As celebrities who already have so much, it just seems selfish to ask for these ridiculous, useless items when they could be raising money for an organisation they care about.

It trickles down to mere mortals as well. What's the point of a wedding gift list these days? Sure, it's a useful reference point for guests and it certainly simplifies matters for bride and groom to have a lust-list of items in one or two places instead of hundreds of stores. But a gift list is also unwieldy for this day and age, when so many couples have been living together before marriage, and a full set of china in the same pattern is totally unnecessary for most people, even for dinner parties. So it's no surprise that couples are shying away from the traditional gift list and looking for travel money, gifts of artwork or donations to their favourite charities instead.

Some people question whether or not wedding presents are necessary at all. While it's most important to celebrate the special day with family and friends, I'm a firm believer that getting hitched should mean getting gifts. It's a monumental step for a couple and starting a new life as a couple wedded to one another (even if you've been living together since 2004) deserves at least a bottle of wine. Plus, it continues the magic of the whole occasion to return from your escape-from-reality honeymoon and open a set of presents. In fact, those pressies (if they're travel vouchers) might be what enable you to go on your honeymoon in the first place.

Other than finding true love and convincing someone to open a joint bank account with you, the potential for gifts should be a definite perk of getting married. It's still tricky, though, since talking about presents is vulgar, even though everyone's thinking about them. Unfortunately, it's the poor random soul forced to receive an invite by someone's parents who is expected to shell out to make up for their not-entirely-welcome presence at the event.

The idea of registering for an absolutely traditional gift list is becoming obsolete (unless perhaps, you're Kim Kardashian - she has a lot of crystal on hers, but I suspect that's because she has the coveted Dualit toaster already that most of us yearn for). Nowadays, a newly married couple's needs and wants are highly variable, from trying to pay off student loans to buying items for their babies. As something designed to cater to a couple's needs, the wedding list does serve a purpose and should help to send guests in the right direction, even if they go rogue (off-list).

Ignoring the list altogether is always a bit of a tricky situation, one which requires either immense bravado or extreme levels of stupidity. Many people won't bother looking at all, knowing that they can provide a more personal token for the couple that can't be found at John Lewis. Some might fail miserably, but hopefully they'll provide a receipt.

Instead of simplifying things as it's supposed to, for both couple and guests alike, wedding lists often complicate the situation. As a guest, you have to be super organised and get to the list early, lest you end up either spending an exorbitant amount that you can't afford on a food processor or result in being the person who gifts two mismatched towels and a coaster to your best friend. As the couple-to-be, organisation is also key or you may end up with 15 of the same pan (this may have happened to me).

I'm starting to wonder if marrying couples (celebs aside, perhaps) really would just be happier with - tacky as this may sound - cash or cheque or a personal gift that captures the friendship between you and the couple?

Gift certificates, travel registries, cash in hand - those are the gifts that are always welcome, particularly since we're living in a day and age where lots of couples cohabit before they get married and have no need of kitchen gadgets or new sheets. What they do have need of is some assistance with student loans or saving for a house deposit or maybe even covering the cost of their wedding, considering how exorbitant that is these days and how many people either have to pay for it themselves or choose to in order to make it their own.

If a gift list is the stuff of fantasy (I always hoped to register exclusively for Betsey Johnson prom dresses. Didn't happen - but I would have had wedding season outfits for life) or full of useful appliances and necessities that brighten up and facilitate everyday life, or if a couple decides not to bother with a list at all, it's most important that guests don't feel stressed or frenzied about gift purchasing. If a gift list is involved, a range of prices as well as a range of items (and ideally, the potential to purchase gift vouchers) are all essential.

For those desperate for hordes of presents to celebrate their wedded bliss: Move to the U.S. pre-engagement. Between engagement parties, bridal showers and rehearsal dinners in addition to all of the usual stuff, you can probably get your travel money and the Dualit toaster. And then some.

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