I've written here several times about the complex relational wrinkles associated with giving and receiving gifts. Getting married has exposed me to a few I didn't know about before. Wonder if I can blog about this without offending anyone? I'll give it a try. Will it help if I withhold examples? Or will you just wonder if I'm talking about you, when I'm not?
My own family has settled on the make-your-own-wishlist approach to as the best way to navigate the landmines associated with our differing tastes, expectations, and levels of insecurity with shopping, spending, and choosing gifts for one another. I wish there was a better way, though; I don't like having to shop for a million people at Christmas and also try to figure out exactly what I want and where someone can get it.
Similarly, when it came to the question of wedding presents, I had a hunch that making a detailed wish list would be the best way to make things easy for our guests and allow them to bless us, too. But - can you believe I'm going to raise an objection here?! - the whole "registering" thing was SO hard. We were already late getting the invitations out, and people planning the bridal showers were clamoring for input. I thought: we have to do something, even if we do it poorly. Now, though, we have to deal with the results.
First, we face the consequences of working on the registry separately rather than together. We weren't living in the same house, after all, and I was traveling so much of the time! It was easier just to pick for ourselves. While we've both been pleased over some of the purchases, each of us has perused the list or opened boxes with dismay, wondering why the other would choose this design, or that color. Since we did most of our looking online rather than in person, sometimes we've even been displeased with our own choices, too. On the other hand, some of the surprises have worked out fine. I might not have chosen this or that thing he thought would be "perfect for us," but they are growing on me.
I confess I saw the conflicts coming and did nothing. I didn't want to confront my fiance with questions about his taste or demands that he give me an honest answer about mine - he really doesn't like to say anything negative, especially when he thinks it might hurt me or get an angry reaction. So we talked about revisiting the registry together (maybe with the kids as well), but life was too busy and it was a delicate thing to negotiate, so we didn't do it. Piles of gifts we hope to return are stashed in the closet and the corner of the dining room as silent witnesses to our careless choices and disunity. And that seems pretty silly, when all our poor guests did was pick things off our registry! When we make the returns and exchanges, I pledge silently, we will do it more slowly... or at least we will do it together.
I've also made 4-5 trips to the local post office to pick up gifts that arrived postage due. At first I thought it was the department store's fault, but it turns out that requesting gifts be sent to C's parents' house - where we thought there would usually be someone at home to sign for packages or bring them in out of the rain - was not such a hot idea. Since he'd put in a forwarding order on his mail from that address, any (USPS) packages that included his name were redirected to the post office, where policies required we pay the full postage all over again in order to get the boxes. Oops.
Another wrinkle we did not anticipate is that so many of our guests and well wishers would opt not to choose things from our (admittedly, somewhat sparsely populated) registries - or something quite different - but would pick up gift cards to those same two stores. That's really nice, but now it means more work for us on this side, too. I'm not sure we can spend that much. We had enough trouble picking out stuff we might want for the registry! One of the stores is on my go-to list but mostly for clothes, not for household items; the other is generally out of our league, price-wise. Not any more; we have almost $500 in their gift cards.
I'm pretty sure that will turn out OK; the first thing is probably to revisit the list of unpurchased items from the registry and decide if we still (both) like those things and want them. If they are, we'll just spent the additional credit that way. If there's extra... well, these gift cards don't expire.
The main reason we chose those stores was that they would be convenient for our guests, as they live in every part of the country. I still think that's a good impulse. But perhaps it would have been better to choose stores where we shop more regularly. Then we could have used them for groceries, cleaning supplies, the grill we got yesterday, or the camping gear that's probably in our future. As it is, some cash and check gifts and a few cards for places like Target and Fred Meyer will come in most handy.
I now have a greater appreciation for those couples who request "No gifts, please; your presence is present enough." And the pain a frugal person feels on spending money or seeing other people do so, well, I guess it isn't going to kill me, right? I promise not to say anything to the family about starving kids in China. (Perhaps an outdated reference since the one-child policy has produced a generation of "little emperors.")
Sheesh, I can't believe I just wrote a whole post complaining about getting wedding presents. We certainly got some delightful things - things C. chose, things I chose, things we agreed on together or that were chosen by the giver. I won't give examples since I'm not naming the more regrettable choices, either, but suffice it to say there are some things I know I will treasure and/or find very useful! Most will really be nice things to have for our family and those who come into our house.
And when I look at all the cards and think of those who sent them and who sent the gifts, I'm blessed by the outpouring of love and support. As I write 75 or so thank you notes over the next month (or however long it takes) I'll be praying and thanking God for each one of these friends and allies. I'm grateful for them.