The Wedding Presents

by Harry on August 17, 2007

Our wedding was, in so far as any can be, a happy accident, and nearly as low-key as possible (we had four guests, I made dinner, and the secretary in the UC Davis Philosophy department who was a minister of that church that the Revd. Jim was with in Taxi, signed the papers with us. She subsequently presided over an even more minimalist wedding, inspired by ours, over lunch on a workday in the outstanding student cafeteria they used to, and for all I know still, have there). So, no family, and not much in the way of gifts.

So you might think I’m not one to offer advice on what to ask for for a wedding present. But, as ever, I have strong opinions, after 15 years of marriage, about what is actually worth having, and feel obliged to pass them on to my excellent friends who are about to tie the knot, and have relatives who will not only attend the wedding but are keen to give them gifts. Here are my 4 top picks:

1) Pots and Pans that will last a lifetime. We went through three sets of crappy cheap pots and pans before investing in some All Clad stainless steel pots which will live forever. Would have been handy, and cheaper, to get them in the first place (much cheaper if they’d been gifts, of course).

2) Rugs that will last. Same story as above — again we have purchased and wrecked several cheap floor rugs, until I finally, and whimsically, convinced my wife to get three really nice (and embarrassingly expensive) persian rugs.

3) Well-made kitchen knives — again, the lasting kind. (Wustoff or the like).

4) A good vaccuum cleaner. Not one of those fancy Miel ones, or anything, just a good sturdy Sharp or Panasonic, or the like. You want a VC that is a pleasure to use — not only because it works better, but because you are excited to use it, and therefore clean more often!

Feel free to add your own suggestions, or dispute mine!



Keely 08.17.07 at 2:49 pm

A good bed (including mattress), or is that off limits?


Laurel 08.17.07 at 3:42 pm

It is widely held that giving knives for a wedding present will cause the breakup of the marriage. I know it’s superstitious, but with more than half of all marriages ending in divorce, many people prefer to play it safe.


"Q" the Enchanter 08.17.07 at 3:44 pm

Winning Lotto numbers. (Also makes a good birthday gift.)


Doug K 08.17.07 at 3:44 pm

Absolutely, on the pots and pans. I’d add a good set of cutlery. We used cheap bendy forks etc for years, finally broke down and bought some decent 18/10 stainless: I get a small but distinct pleasure every time I use them, which is daily. I’d prefer silver but who has the time to polish silver ?


eric 08.17.07 at 3:59 pm

My favorite wedding present from my first marriage was a Mexican painted clay folk art devil mask, similar to this. Alas, the mask was broken irreparably not long after the marriage was.


thag 08.17.07 at 4:17 pm

I’m in total agreement on the quality kitchen-knife issue.

But aren’t there certain conventions that declare this a taboo for weddings? I.e., suggest that it is ill-omened?

We were finally given a good set of Wusthoff kitchen knives over Christmas one year, and even in my highly non-superstitious family, there was still joking about how we ought to pay the donor a penny, thereby converting the gift into a sale.

(The reasoning is: it is unlucky to give or receive a knife. But no such ill-luck attaches to a sale. The gods or goblins who attend to these things will not be put off by saying “and I hereby sell this to you for zero money”–no no, they want to see hard coin, even if the value is roughly zero in any case.)

Now multiply the background anxiety, for the act of introducing knives into the celebration of a union. (What God has joined let no santoku put asunder.)


martin g l 08.17.07 at 4:43 pm

Giving knives as a gift is bad luck! Really. This old lady told me.


Cala 08.17.07 at 4:48 pm

A set of quality knives makes a lovely gift. Upscale items of anything (sheets, towels, crystal) are good choices especially if the couple is older and has most of the basics covered.

A good bed (including mattress), or is that off limits?

Not off-limits, but probably hard to know what the couple likes and doesn’t like.


sharon 08.17.07 at 4:49 pm

Knives, pots and pans, I’d say applies to kitchen equipment generally – better quality lasts longer and is more enjoyable to use.

However, the idea of getting excited about hoovering is making my head hurt.


Buckminster Fusher 08.17.07 at 5:10 pm

Someone gave us good steak knives at our wedding, and it has been the most useful present. And we’re vegetarians.

I will add that cash is also very nice for couples just finishing grad school.


Matt 08.17.07 at 5:28 pm

I’ll vote for good knives (or kitchen things in general) too. Whenever I use the crappy, dull, poorly made knives that I have I wish that someone had given a good set to my wife and me.


Megan 08.17.07 at 5:57 pm

I give kites. I figure every couple needs a kite and not enough of them will think to get one early on.

I used to give two stringed sport kites, until I heard back that they were too hard to fly. Now I give parafoils.


Matt 08.17.07 at 6:03 pm

Kites- that is nice. There have been several times in the last few years on a nice windy day when I really wished I had a kite.


e julius drivingstorm 08.17.07 at 6:20 pm

I second the oriental rug idea. Lindsey Graham says he paid 5 bucks for three of them in Iraq. I assume they must have been the 3 x 4 ft. prayer rug variety. If you know someone in Iraq…

Bose wave radio since we’re naming brands.


Shelby 08.17.07 at 6:25 pm

Instapundit has a couple of recent posts on kitchen knives, consisting largely of reader comments and suggestions: link, link.


DAS 08.17.07 at 6:36 pm

For those of us who, for various reasons, wouldn’t be allowed to get away with such a minimalist wedding (but who are established enough with so much junk that the last thing we need is more stuff) — money.

You want to attend a wedding celebration. Good … we’re happy to celebrate with you. But celebrations ain’t cheap, so wouldya mind helping to pay for it? ;)

Although my fiancee and I could use more pots & pans as she’s no chef, so her cook-wear isn’t as nice as it could be, and mine’s not kosher (mine’s very cheap, but plenty good for everyday cooking), so when I move in with her (and her kosher kitchen), we will need new cook-wear.


shwe 08.17.07 at 6:58 pm

Don’t they have wedding lists for that sort of thing?


American Citizen 08.17.07 at 7:18 pm

One oddball gift we got which will be useful forever is a safe. You’ve got to keep important documents somewhere.


lemuel pitkin 08.17.07 at 7:47 pm

Are Wustoff knives better than Henckels?


ingrid 08.17.07 at 7:52 pm

I think cuttlerly or pieces of art (whether ‘useful art’ such as a fruit bowl or a flower pot, or purely decorative) are much nicer then pots and pans. I would never give knives (don’t you find this a bit cruel?), except if the couple is asking for it.

btw, what’s wrong with Miele vacuum cleaners?? Mine has been serving very well for many years.


adiddy 08.17.07 at 8:21 pm

You want to attend a wedding celebration. Good … we’re happy to celebrate with you. But celebrations ain’t cheap, so wouldya mind helping to pay for it? ;)”

Das, that’s the tackiest thing I’ve ever heard.


es 08.17.07 at 8:30 pm

Jeez, nice to have friends who could afford to get you a nice persian rug for a wedding present!


vivian 08.17.07 at 9:01 pm

We got these gorgeous sheets, really thick (jacquard weave) cotton ones, just a pleasure to climb into every night. More pleasant associations than knives, and yet wholesome white cotton (not red silk or black lace or whatever). Soft, thick towels would also be good gifts. The catch with these ideas is you need a pretty good idea of the couple’s taste/color scheme or the gift will languish in closets. We also got a microplane grater – fantastic, I use it all the time, and not as pricey as a set of knives.


Everyman 08.17.07 at 9:05 pm

For those with a superstitious bias against knives as gifts: psha! Married six months ago and by far the best gift so far has been the very high grade knife set. Use it every day, it is a pleasure to use (after years and years of cheap crappy knives) and reminds me pleasantly of the wedding.

No offense, but there’s nothing super about superstitions.


Cam 08.17.07 at 10:17 pm

The hands-down most useful wedding present we got was a sturdy stepladder.


dave heasman 08.17.07 at 11:18 pm

A case of a bourgeois cru claret would probably go well in most cases.


skip 08.18.07 at 12:07 am

sorry everyone, the best wedding present has always been and will always be music. whether discs (store bought or home made), 8 tracks, tapes, albums, you name it: music is a gift from the heart.


Bernard Yomtov 08.18.07 at 1:25 am



SG 08.18.07 at 2:34 am

We, living in Japan with all our friends overseas, asked for our friends to visit. Three did. The remainder we gave a list of books on Amazon. English language books in rural Japan can be hard to come by.

One of the many advantages of getting married in Japan (besides the excellent shinto ceremony, its relative cheapness, and the organisational prowess of the kimono shop) is that your family don’t come.

(And an advantage of CT is probably that my family don’t read it…)


dbomp 08.18.07 at 3:14 am

The favorite thing I’ve given (and I *think* they liked it) was, or were, margaritas. It was for a cousin far away, and in the package I put a bottle of tequila, some really nice margarita glasses, a bottle of mix, and a little ReaLemon bottle. (Ice wouldn’t have kept.) It’s what a couple of 23-year-olds would want.


joejoejoe 08.18.07 at 5:55 am

“You want a VC that is a pleasure to use—not only because it works better, but because you are excited to use it, and therefore clean more often!”

Ho Chi Minh said much the same thing about the Battle of Binh Gia.


bad Jim 08.18.07 at 7:52 am

When my company was very young, I was invited to the wedding reception of our newest employee, a Cambodian immigrant, up in Long Beach. I brought along a small, attractively boxed objet d’art as a token offering of the clueless.
It turned out instead that a substantial cash offering was expected, which was a relief, since I had the wherewithal in my wallet, and could be confident that no one would be distressed by my preference for Jacksons over Grants or Franklins.


Laura 08.18.07 at 9:21 pm

Yes, to pots and pans and knives. The sheets and towels were nice, but gave out at the five year mark. I would not trust my relatives to pick out a tasteful rug. We registered for a set of everyday white dishes from Crate and Barrel, and they are still in heavy rotation. I am very, very happy I never registered for nice china.


MissLaura 08.19.07 at 3:00 am

I always get something off the registry, of course, if there is one, and typically go for towels.

It sometimes occurs to me that if I ever get married, it’ll be as a person who already has 2 sets of decent sheets, a cuisinart, some good knives, a rice steamer, some decorative bundt pans, one very good large frying pan and a couple other decent pans. So what would I ask for? Le Creuset, clearly, and towels, but what else?

Oh well, not likely to be an issue any time soon.


Tracy W 08.19.07 at 5:53 pm

A nice present we got was for a voucher for a meal at a very nice restaurant.

Another great present was for two of those fly-by-wire trips.


Ereshkigal 08.20.07 at 12:07 am

I usually give a year’s membership at a nice museum. We have a couple of interesting places in our city that have unusual collections, excellent grounds (available for picnicking), good restaurants, and discounted rates for merchandise and space rental (which has come in handy for entertaining out-of-town visitors).

All this, and the gift supports a worthy cause,too.


reason 08.20.07 at 3:42 pm

are you saying you didn’t live with your spouse before marriage? How absolutely exotic!


HansG 08.21.07 at 4:39 am

A great gift is a leatherbound guestbook. It’s a nice item for the household which the couple is establishing, and commemorates all the moments when people visited. And it’s not the sort of thing that people buy for themselves.


Katherine 08.21.07 at 9:54 am

Gift vouchers. That way you can buy exactly which knives/pots/pans you want and people can give as much or as little as they want/can afford. Worked very well for me – the accumulation of modest amounts resulted in good pots and pans.


SG 08.22.07 at 2:49 am

given that most of us are living with our partners before marriage now, and a lot of young people live out of home for some time before marrying, and that a lot of men also do this and now know how to do housework, does anyone else find the focus on household items for wedding gifts a little bit old-fashioned? And also kind of banal?

Having, like most people marrying today, already established the basics of a house (or at least all the parts therein which I would reasonably expect my friends or relatives would stump up the cash for if it were to be a present) I would much rather receive something like a museum membership or a nice restaurant voucher or an objet d’art or margaritas than towels or pots. Especially since the latter seem to be a clear declaration that marriage is about home-making rather than, say, love.

Does anyone agree with me?


David 08.22.07 at 3:59 am

Given your line of work and your community of colleagues, you should expect some high quality syllogisms, ones that may seem cryptic today but could come in quite handy in the fullness of time. A tautology or two, appropriately wrapped, would also be welcome and useful.


SamChevre 08.22.07 at 3:51 pm

I’d second the addition of good flatware–18/10 stainless tableware is one of the most used gifts my wife and I got.

And rugs are tricky; nice rugs are nice, but what spaces you need rugs for is often an unknown to the givers.

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