After spending countless hours running around department stores with your fiancé, aiming the scan gun at everything from crystal vases to mixing bowls, it's likely that some of your guests won't even take a peek at your wedding gift registry. Instead of receiving a set of flatware, one of your guests might send you a faux ivory resin vase that you didn't register for … and that looks a lot like the one you saw in the gift-giver's living room the last time you visited her house.
Of course, guests have the option to buy the bride and groom a present that isn't on their registry, but off-registry gifting can get sticky -- especially if a person doesn't know the couple very well. A gift certificate to a chi-chi steakhouse might seem like a great gift, but what if the bride is a vegetarian? And imagine how puzzled a city-dwelling couple would be to receive a leaf blower if they don't have yard!
Sometimes guests just don't do their homework when it comes to picking the perfect wedding present. More often than not, there isn't much you can do about a terrible wedding gift, especially if a return sticker or receipt is nowhere in sight. Trust us, you're not alone; most brides have a horror story to share. Here are 10 outrageous gifts brides can't believe they received.
Everybody's taste in art is different. One person's masterpiece might be another's garbage, so unless a guest knows the bride and groom's tastes well, art shouldn't be purchased as a wedding present.
Imposing funky art on someone else is a crime; offenders include a paint-by-number disguised as an expensive piece of art and an acrostic name poem written on a sheet of notebook paper. One bride received a fertility statue from her aunt, who explained it should go next to the bed for help conceiving a child.
Although the gift-giver's intentions might be good, no one wants the lopsided, lumpy bowl that was crafted in an entry-level pottery class. It's likely to last a very short time on the couple's bookshelf before making its way to Craigslist's "free stuff" listings.
But what do you say if Aunt Edna paints your portrait, and it's less than flattering? Accept the gift graciously, but resist the urge to haul it straight to the trash can. Hang it in a special place in your home -- but only when she is visits.
Nothing says "welcome home from the honeymoon!" quite like the rancid stench of rotting cheese and fruit. Culinary gifts can be a real treat if the couple knows that nondescript white-and-silver gift box is perishable and needs to be stored properly. Edible gifts are best delivered well in advance of the wedding, or a few weeks after the couple has settled into their new home.
Just because the bride and groom have a green thumb doesn't mean wedding guests need to shower them with ferns and potted plants. If the couple expresses they need flowers and plants to landscape their new home's yard, and they registered for outdoor tools and equipment at a home improvement store, plants are a perfectly acceptable gift. What's not OK, however, is a ficus tree dropped off at the wedding reception. The couple wants to end their wedding night feeling carefree and starry-eyed, and the best way to ruin their mood is by leaving them with a huge, awkward gift that certainly won't fit in their limousine!
Recycled and Regifted
To everyone who thinks regifting is a crafty way to recycle an unwanted item, we beg you to please reconsider. Burdening someone with an unwanted item is tacky; your newly married friend doesn't want a birdhouse shaped like a flip-flop any more than you do.
If the bride and groom try to return a recycled gift, the situation can take an uncomfortable turn when they discover that the item hasn't been in stock in for five years. Another common mistake is passing along a present to the bride and groom in its original packaging -- and with the original card at the bottom of the box. Imagine the bride's surprise when she finds a card congratulating the gift-giver and her husband on their nuptials instead of her own!
Regifting can make a person feel like an afterthought. Small personal details can slip by unnoticed, like an inscription inside a cookbook or engraved initials on the back of a crystal picture frame. Gift cards should never be regifted; after years of being inactive, some cards will depreciate in value. Save the bride and groom the embarrassment of reaching the checkout counter with a $25 gift card only to be told it's worth $10 instead. Perhaps the worst regifting faux pas is to recycle a gift that's inappropriate for the occasion. Trust us when we say that no one wants a checkerboard game with shot glass pieces as a wedding gift.
Of course, family heirlooms are an exception to this rule. A regifted piece of jewelry worn by the bride's great-grandmother on her wedding day is meaningful and will be well-received by the bride. It's common in many families to give family keepsakes like gowns, handkerchiefs and rings to future generations of women. Any family heirloom passed down to the bride that links her to her ancestors is a special wedding gift she's sure to treasure for many years to come.
Used and Abused
Passing along a used wedding gift is arguably the most offensive gift-giving crime there is. Regifting is bad enough, but regifting a used item is even worse. And we have to ask, who do people really think they're fooling? It's absurd to think that the bride won't realize that the pair of dirt-caked, plastic geese she received as a wedding present used to sit in the gift-giver's front yard. A regifted birdhouse made from the gift-giver's license plate or a cocktail shaker that reeks of liquor are other examples of used gifts gone terribly wrong.
Perhaps the most unsettling used wedding gifts are those that were previously used in another person's kitchen or bedroom. A food processor in the original box might appear to be a fabulous, much-needed kitchen appliance, but when the bride opens it, the odor of musty food and worn blades will give away the secret. Likewise, used pots and pans, stained table linens and yellowed bed sheets are sure to turn the bride's stomach. You can bet that these unpleasant items will be immediately cleaned up, thrown in the trunk of the newlyweds' car and dropped off at the nearest thrift store.
Some brides open a racy wedding gift and wonder if the gift-giver meant to send it for the bachelorette party. The thought of receiving explicit videos or toys isn't just cringe-worthy, but awkward and inappropriate, too. No one should give a piece of lingerie unless she was invited to the lingerie shower; otherwise, it's likely that it will be three sizes too big or too small. The fastest way to kill the mood is by slipping on a sexy négligée and remembering that your mother-in-law gave it to you as a wedding gift.
Erotic literature, ranging from the 1970s classic "The Joy of Sex" to the even more ancient Kama Sutra or embarrassing self-help tome "Sex for Dummies," is off-limits, too. If you're unlucky enough to receive any raunchy gifts, take a moment to get over your initial shock and prepare yourself to write one mortifying thank-you note to the unseemly gift-giver.
Some people think that weddings and religion go hand-in-hand.
This isn't always the case. Some couples aren't religious, and others might be spiritual but not identify with a specific faith. A present that's religious in nature might sour on a couple who doesn't understand or appreciate it or -- even worse -- who think the giver is trying to impress his religion on them. An icon or statue from outside of a couple's faith will only catch dust in their home.
The gift of religious texts can also be offensive to the bride and groom and embarrassing for the gift-giver. As with artwork, it’s imperative to know the couple extremely well if you're considering giving them a religious gift. If you have any doubts, defer to the registry!
Gifts from a Cheapskate
We all know someone who's a little bit stingy with his hard-earned cash. Maybe it’s an uncle who doesn't send birthday cards because he thinks the cost of stamps is too high -- or perhaps it's a girlfriend who comes up short whenever you order takeout for a group.
If anyone on your guest list is an infamous cheapskate, don’t expect an extravagant gift from him. Sure, he'll part with a little money for a wedding gift, but instead of purchasing a set of wine glasses, he'll buy just one. A bride might open a wedding card expecting to find a check or some cash only to be surprised by two lottery scratch-off tickets.
Cheapskates shouldn’t be confused with loved ones who are tight on cash because they’re going through a hard time or recently lost a job. If the majority of the bride and groom’s guest list is recent college grads, many of them will be earning entry-level salaries while simultaneously paying off tuition debt -- expensive gifts aren't something they can easily float.
If money is tight, a thoughtful and meaningful gift is priceless. A scrapbook of pictures from the wedding or handmade wine charms crafted from special family trinkets and jewelry are unique, sentimental and better than the beige towels on the gift registry!
Self-help Books and Accessories
While the gift-giver's intentions may be sincere, giving a self-help book as a wedding gift can be hurtful and a big blow to the recipient's self-esteem. A friend or relative might give a bathroom scale and a nutrition book to the bride intending to positively motivate her before her wedding day, but we know few brides who wouldn't bristle at this. Other touchy subjects to stay away from? Money -- no couple wants books on how to manage their finances. That's nervy, offensive and sends the message that they're not responsible.
Giving someone a self-help book is like telling a person he has room for improvement. Wedding gifts should celebrate a couple, not hurt their feelings or impart unsolicited advice. Sending the bride and groom books on marriage and relationship advice can be awkward, especially if the gift-giver is single, divorced or in an unhealthy marriage of her own! Books on how to improve bedroom behavior are just as bad.
Bottom line: If the bride and groom feel like they need a little help, they'll ask for it or buy their own books.
Nothing at All
A gift should always be sent as a thoughtful gesture to the bride and groom -- even if the giver can't attend the wedding.
Deciding how much money to spend on a wedding gift can be difficult, but a good rule of thumb is to buy a gift in a price range that reflects how well you know the couple. If you consider the bride and groom to be close, personal friends, you might be inclined to buy them a more expensive wedding gift compared to another couple that you only see or talk to once a year.
Wedding gift etiquette says that it's appropriate to send a wedding gift up to one year after the couple says "I do," but this is a bad idea for many reasons. A year later, the couple's registry might be completed or even deleted. Besides, the bride and groom have probably moved on from appliances and fine china and need other household items like window treatments, yard tools and furniture. It's a little awkward to ask the couple what they need a year after their wedding, and more than likely, they'll feel just as uncomfortable telling you what they would like to have.
Waiting months after the wedding to give a couple a gift increases the likelihood that you'll forget about buying them a present altogether. At least send the couple a card right after the wedding, and get around to the gifting when you can.
Not all outrageous gifts are terrible; a few lucky brides have received extravagant wedding presents from their guests, like a fabulous week’s vacation at the gift-giver’s timeshare in Key West or a romantic hot air balloon ride, complete with a champagne toast.
Imagine someone handing over the keys to a brand-new car, or receiving a check for the down payment on your first home. Perhaps the most popular extravagant gift given to brides is a fine piece of jewelry, like a necklace, brooch or cocktail ring. (Bonus points if the piece can double as "something blue" on your wedding day!)
Big gifts mean even more when they speak to the couple's interests. An adventurous bride and groom might enjoy a helicopter tour over their hometown or a dual-bungee jump excursion purchased for their honeymoon. A couple interested in culinary arts would love to receive an entire month’s worth of meals cooked by a private chef, or attend a cake decorating class with a talented pastry chef. Name a star in the solar system for the bride and groom who are into science, and give them the registration certificate. The environmentally friendly couple might get a thrill out of receiving adoption papers that care for an endangered animal, like a manatee. The couple will receive a picture of their new sea friend and monthly reports keeping them updated on the health of the animal.
Last word? Whether it's outrageous or modest, a gift that requires thought and consideration is the best kind.
What gifts do brides regret registering for? Read about wedding registry regrets at TLC Weddings.
- Blakeley, Kiri. "Self-Help Books: Why Women Can't Stop Reading Them..." Forbes.com. June 10, 2009. (March 15, 2011).http://www.forbes.com/2009/06/10/self-help-books-relationships-forbes-woman-time-marriage.html
- Elliot, Sara. "Ultimate Guide to Alternative Wedding Registries." TLC Weddings. May 18, 2010. (March 16, 2011).https://tlc.howstuffworks.com/weddings/alternative-wedding-registries.htm
- Emily Post. "Regifting." No date. (March 15, 2011).http://www.emilypost.com/social-life/gift-giving-and-receiving/465-regifting
- Kristof, Kathy. "Best & Worst Wedding Gifts." CBS Moneywatch.com. June 16, 2010. (March 15, 2011).http://moneywatch.bnet.com/saving-money/article/gift-ideas-best-and-worst-wedding-gifts/435123/
- Ronca, Debra. "10 Ridiculous Things Brides Can't Believe They Registered For." TLC Weddings. Mar. 22, 2011. (March 15, 2011).https://tlc.howstuffworks.com/weddings/10-things-brides-cant-believe-they-registered-for.htm