Milly Nolan, the director of a new online wedding registry, explores the modern solution to gift-giving.
Beginning with the Romans and their offerings of olive leaves, the tradition of giving gifts on special occasions has existed for centuries and today, weddings are no exception - with the gift symbolising support for the newlyweds' union.
These days, however, choosing wedding gifts is no longer an easy task. Gone is the tradition where the groom would carry his bride over the threshold of their new marital home, to be greeted by a pile of household gifts waiting for them to fill their empty love nest with. Instead, this millennium has seen a huge (and growing) percentage of couples living together out of wedlock, so by the time they get married, they have usually accumulated a significant amount of the household essentials that are traditional fixtures on the wedding gift circuit. Add this conundrum to the household gifts that most couples are given as engagement presents, and usually the last thing they need (or want) is yet another platter or vase to add to the fray - all of which makes knowing what to buy a couple, that much harder.
Luckily, though, the rise of the modern-day gift registries - where the couple requests what they want and the guests buy accordingly - has made life easier for all parties involved. For the couple, it means they can choose exactly what they want for their home right down to the colour of their bed linen or the style of their crockery. Or, perhaps it is a piece of art that they fancy or some new furniture. And, let's face it, getting married is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to ask for gifts that you have always wanted but haven't been able to buy yourself. This doesn't mean you have to break your guests' bank though, as the registry should always list a range of gifts that cover all budgets so that guests can buy according to the depth of their pocket or join forces with other guests to chip in towards larger ticket items.
Though it is a cultural tradition at Chinese, Italian and Greek weddings to ask for money as a gift, it is still considered fairly gauche in New Zealand to do so - especially among the older generations who prefer to give a tangible gift that will "last forever, dear". Online gift registries, however, have made the notion of giving cold hard cash that much easier with the advent of a "wishing well" option which encourages the guests to contribute towards something the couple is saving for, whether it is their dream honeymoon, renovations on their house, a television or to help pay off their mortgage. There are even some registries - for the more saintly hearted - which in lieu of a gift, ask guests to make a donation to a charity instead.
For most guests, gift registries are a relief - taking away any "present pressure" - you know that stressful feeling when an invitation arrives in the mail and your first thought (or at least second after "what am I going to wear?") is "what on earth am I going to buy them?"?
This fear usually stems from the knowledge that the newlyweds are the kind of couple that already have everything or perhaps have a particularly "acquired" taste you wouldn't dare tempt fate with. In these scenarios, rather than spending countless hours in and out of shops agonising over what to buy, it is much easier to let your fingers do the walking and buy from the registry online. At least this way you know you won't be the third person to buy them the same frying pan, nor will your gift be the one that is hidden at the back of the cupboard and only dusted off when you visit for a cup of tea.
Though some may argue that gift registries have spoiled the "art of giving", the huge selection of registry choices these days, with everything from power tools to hot air balloon rides, means not all thought is taken away from the gift-giver. When choosing a gift to buy from a registry, it is important to choose one that reflects your relationship with the couple, your own personality and one that will have a lasting presence - after all, giving should be as enjoyable as receiving.
Though it is always the "thought that counts", this is your one shot to give a gift to the couple, on this date, for this occasion, to hopefully be kept forever.
TEN FABULOUS GIFT IDEAS
1. Silver Antlers $110
Made of aluminium and coated in nickel, these animal-friendly deer antlers make for an interesting wall feature as well as unique gift that is unlikely to be forgotten.
2. MM Collections 'River' Silk Pillowcases $189 a pair
Created by textile artist Emma Hayes, as well as being beautiful to dress your bed with, these silk pillowcases are a dream to rest your head on. The blue River print is also available in a silk cushion, $210 and silk throw, $349.
3. Well-Groomed Fox Soft Teacup + Saucer $99 (Set of two)
Debuted in Milan at Salone Satellite 2010, this delicate teacup set is the handy work of design duo Emma Fox Derwin and Nigel Groom. Each cup and saucer is lovingly hand-made from porcelain using traditional artisan slip-casting processes and hand-finishing. The cup sits beautifully in your hand, making drinking tea that much more pleasurable.
4. Geneva Sound System Model XS $349
For the travelling couple, the Geneva Sound System Model XS, is not just another clock radio; it's a portable high-fidelity sound system that delivers a rich and detailed sound. Music can be streamed from any Bluetooth-enabled device, from anywhere you like.
5. Le Creuset Mini Cocotte $70
If you can't afford the larger casserole, this Le Creuset mini cocotte will still be appreciated for its brand name alone. Perfect for serving single portions, side dishes or desserts, this is a kitchen item you know will stand the test of time.
6. Global Ikasu 7 Block Knife Set $1100
Unless you are feeling very generous, this razor-sharp gift is a good one to share between a group. Fashioned out of the same technique used to make samurai swords, each of these knives are handcrafted in Japan and are renowned for their high quality.
7. Kelly Thompson Catherine Print $145 (unframed)
NZ-born, Melbourne-based Kelly Thompson (photographer, illustrator and art director) is known for her ethereal and flirtatious drawings of beautiful girls. This arresting image of a girl and panther makes for an even better gift when framed ($350).
8. Tim Webber Strip Lamp $350
Designed by NZer Tim Webber and available in a selection of colours (yellow, blue, red, black and white), the Strip Table Lamp is complete with a dimmer, so the dolly bulb can be brightened or dimmed to suit the occasion.
9. Nespresso U $399
For coffee lovers, Nespresso U is a gift that will keep on giving. The latest model in this range of automatic brewing coffee machines, the U marries high quality coffee with a simple, modern design.
10. D.L & Co Le Pomme D'Or $149
More sculpture than candle, this is a gift that will last even once the wax has melted. Smelling of a crisp, sweet apple, the scent is designed to seduce the senses and ignite the imagination.
All gifts are available from online gift store and wedding registry, Mildred&Co (opening in September).
"The best wedding present we were given were flights to Fiji where we got married. Travel is the best present when you get married as it enables you to get away and enjoy yourself away from your own country."
- Dan Gosling, co-founder of Stolen Girlfriends Club
"We chose an eight-piece dinner set from our gift registry, and a Christchurch couple David and Susan Band (good friends of my parents), gave us two of each piece ... dessert bowls, lunch plates, pasta bowls, dinner plates etc ... It was quite a generous and romantic gesture I thought, symbolic of starting out our journey as a brand new family of two."
- Petra Bagust, Breakfast host.
"Neville and I had a very small intimate wedding in Dunedin in 1971 and all our gifts were about setting up our first home. Forty years on, every time we use the dinnerware, cutlery and other practical pieces we are reminded of those friends and family who gifted them to us."
- Liz Findlay, co-founder of Zambesi
"My favourite wedding present would have to be what my nana gave me - a Dansk Danish table and chair set. It's been in the family since I was born so I have many fond memories gathering around this table."
- Lucy Vincent Marr, co-owner of Stephen Marr and Lucy and The Powder Room and founder of Sans.