This week on the blog I wrap up (ah, I do love that pun!) the series on the gift registry for our wedding. Check out the “before” post on how we set up our two registries and what present ideas we included, and read on to find out how it all turned out… (Note that sharing the “results” of a wedding gift registry is perhaps not a very polite topic; I am including it not to be greedy, but in the hope of giving couples better ideas on how to manage their registries, and what they might expect from the process.)
Before the wedding
After adding to our wedding website the links to our physical china registry (in my groom’s country, where we live) and virtual honeymoon registry (for my country, which would host the wedding), we sent an email to notify our guests of new information on our website. That was 4.5 months before our big day.
Despite some very excited registry stalking from my groom and me, and our guess that guests would buy straightaway while it was fresh in their minds, there was no movement on our registries. Tumbleweeds! Then, five weeks later, a cutlery set disappeared from our china registry. Hooray! Our first wedding gift! 😀 It would be two months before anything further was purchased, a little over one month before the wedding.
Our plan for the physical registry in my groom’s country was to focus it first on china, and then add other items later when we could see that most of the plates, cups and bowls were being bought up. However, my grandmother-in-law-to-be asked us if there is anything else we would like as gifts, since maybe china is a little dull. A lightbulb flicked on over our heads. Uh-oh! Could “boring” china be why there were no updates to our registry stalking? Especially with so many young people coming to the wedding? My groom and I switched to GiftCon 5, and high-tailed it to our store to add more “fun” things like cognac glasses and a grill pan, and decorative things like candlesticks. Just a week later, our physical registry saw its next two purchases… and, ironically, this was china anyway!
The Reflective Groom and I had not been stalking our virtual gift registry in my country, as the system was supposed to send us a noti- fication when there was ac- tivity. The increase in pur- chases on our china regist- ry prompted me to snoop in our honeymoon regist- ry… and, to our surprise, three purchases had already been made! The system doesn’t record the dates (d’oh!), so I have no idea how long they had been sitting there, though it was now one month until our big day. The first gifts bought were tourist acti- vities for our honeymoon, an egg poacher and a lamp.
We created an Excel file to note down which gifts we had received from whom, to help keep things straight when it comes to writing thank-you cards in the future. (Highly recommended!)
Nothing further happened on our virtual registry until a week before the wedd- ing. This meant we could not use it, as planned, to pay some of our vendor bills – we were hoping to avoid the hefty fees involved in transferring internationally some funds from where we live in my groom’s country. Around this time we found out that, despite explaining our virtual cash registry to my parents, my mother had been telling any relatives and neighbors to simply bring cash to the wedding… exactly what we wanted to avoid, since we would only be in my country a week after the wedding and would have no use for currency. (Lesson: make sure your parents and bridal party understand the registries; get them to explain it back to you if you think there is any confusion!) This revelation, and the low activity on our virtual registry, reminded us to set up a basket for cards on the welcome table at our wedding reception.
At the wedding
On our wedding website, we had politely requested that people not bring physical gifts to our nuptials, as we would not have suitcase capacity to drag them back to the other side of the world. Only two people pooh-poohed the instructions and brought physical gifts to the big day, both of which were not from our registries: a wedding photo frame and some beautifully decorated sugarcube tongs. We had not set up a present table, so those two guests were confused how to give them to us, and just dropped by the bridal table with them during the night. It’s fantastic though we thought to set out a card basket, as it quickly got filled up! I asked my sister to collect the cards at the end of the night, and in fact the reception venue staff took them directly to my mother at the close of the party.
The next day, my groom and I haphazardly decided to check the cards before we headed off on our mini-moon. And a good thing we did: almost all of them contained cash! We quickly scribbled down who had given what before driving off into the sunset. We needed to use up the cash before we returned to my groom’s country, so we spent it on our mini-moon, wedding dress dry- cleaning, and paying off the remainder of our wedding day mini-bus bill (the only vendor bill due after the wedding).
After the wedding
Upon returning to my groom’s country a week after the wedding, we revisited our Excel file to update all the gifts from our scribbled notes along the way. Two weeks later, we hosted a cake-and-coffee gathering for the family and friends here who had not been able to attend the wedding. Many of the attendees there brought presents from our china registry, or gift cards for that store.
For the purposes of this blog post and sharing with other couples, I went in and analyzed our Excel file of gift monitoring. Here are some stats for you! I promise I had not thought to calculate these figures at all before (and I must admit that I feel a little guilty having done so!).
* Registry or not?: 59% of the gifts received came from our registries. 20% of the gifts we got did not come from the registries, while 21% were cash or gift cards.
* Unexpected gifts: To our surprise, only 54% of all the gifts we received came from people who actually attended the wedding! 22% came from people who were invited but unable to attend, and 24% came from people not invited at all (such as colleagues and parents’ neighbors). Note though that all the people in the final category are from my groom’s country, so it might be a cultural quirk there to give gifts even without an invitation.
People who claim that inviting more guests to a wedding is simply a tacky gift-grab have likely never organized a wedding. For us, except for generous parents and grandmas, the value of what guests gave did not “cover their chair”. (This is the term I’ve seen on many bridal forums by couples hoping that the value of a guest’s gift might equal out the cost of having each extra guest at the wedding, like their food and drinks.) At our wedding of 66 guests, we received 47 gifts from 106 people, with a total value of US$14,616, meaning those people spent on average US$138 on a gift. This includes though $1000 gifts from each grand- parent, and $5500 from parents; if you exclude those outliers, it drops to US$69 per gift giver. With food, drinks, chair hire and so on, each additional guest cost us US$158.50.
Also, not all guests gave presents, and indeed guests are not in anyway obliged to do so; in our case 29% of those attending the wedding did not give gifts. This includes two bridesmaids, my parents (though they contributed money to the wedding), my siblings and a friend I had given a cash gift to at her wedding. Also not giving was a friend who, months before the wedding, told us she was very excited about the gift she had already purchased for us… but I’d feel too impolite if I asked her about it now.
We also received a few gifts after the wedding. Two weeks after our special day, one couple in my home country emailed to say they wanted to buy us a gift, but all the affordable gifts on our virtual registry had been snapped up, and the remaining items were more expensive than they had in mind – what should they do? I was grateful they’d drawn our attention to it, as perhaps other people had been putting off gift-buying for the same reason. We went into the registry and made some items cheaper, or divided them into smaller chunks. Lesson: registry stalk not just for the excitement of receiving gifts, but also to make sure that at all times there are options available in all price categories. The latest gift from our honeymoon registry came in two weeks after the wedding; the latest gift we received all up was two months after the wedding.
Lastly, were the Reflective Groom and I happy with our choice of registries and gift suggestions? I would say: very! Guests seemed to understand clearly the difference between our two registries, and all bought from the registry set up for their geographical location. We are transferring the cash from the honeymoon registry to a bank account in my country; we weren’t able to use it for paying some wedding bills, but we can use that money the next time we’re there visiting in a year and a half. As mentioned in my previous post, we were a little concerned about whether china was a wise choice to include in our registry, and whether we would use it much since we don’t host many special occasions. In good news, we have already used it for my birthday high tea party, and for family dropping by for coffee and cake. Any time that friends and family come by can be a special occasion! 🙂
I hope this week’s blog post about our own wedding gift registry experiences gave you some insights into gifts for your own big day. It is a sensitive subject that not much has been written about, and even I feel a little reluctant and guilty exploring it – but I hope this article is useful for other couples in terms of what to expect, and how to manage and monitor your registries. Remember, too, that the day is about you and your partner celebrating your love and joining your lives together, not about gifts. You and your betrothed should hold the attitude that we shared with guests on our wedding website: “It is your presence, not your presents, that is most important to us.” 🙂