In wedding tradition, gifts are exchanged between the bride and groom the night before, the morning of, or following the festivities of the wedding. The tradition is a sweet one -- a private moment in what can be a very public whirlwind of activity surrounding the wedding. Gifts chosen are typically symbolic of the commitment shared and the beginning of a new life together. So what sort of items, exactly do people choose to symbolize these sentiments?
Photo by Blaise Alleyne. (Flickr)
According to the etiquette books and websites I visited, appropriate choices include engraved picture frames, leather desk sets, and monogrammed handkerchiefs. I can picture the confusion on my fiance's face opening any of these items. They're just not a good fit. So how might you adapt the tradition so that it has meaning for the man in your life? As with all things wedding-related, one way to keep tradition alive is by making it your own.
If you find yourself stumped, start with a brainstorming exercise. I have a dry-erase board for just this sort of thing. Make some lists! Here's a few to start with:
His interests and hobbies
You can modify the traditional idea of classic engraved items to suit his interests. Initials and an anniversary date can be added to just about anything. Once you've listed his most beloved ways to spend a Saturday, think about the equipment or tools involved. Maybe there's something he's always wanted that's a little bit expensive or hard to find. You can also improve upon something he already has with a nicer model. Pick something he'll get a lot of mileage out of, that he will enjoy using for years to come.
Shared interests and memories
Think back to important or memorable events from your past. Contrary to what you might assume based on traditional gift suggestions, you do not need to spend a lot of money for a groom's gift to fit the occasion. Thoughtfulness and care are far more important. If your first date was to see a movie for example, buy the DVD and place a personal letter and a photo inside the jacket. Think about what you have in common, both the interests that brought you together, and those you've developed as a couple during the course of your relationship.
Photo by Bob B. Brown. (Flickr)
Look to the future
Your gift can also be about the memories you have yet to make together. If the two of you have always fantasized about sky-diving, or snorkeling, purchase a gift certificate for your groom. A gift certificate might sound impersonal, but it seems a lot more personal to me than a desk set. If it's something you know he'll be eager to use, it's a great choice. And if it's something he'll use with you, even better! Deal-of-the-day websites are great for this sort of thing. Consider romantic activities if tangible items don't come to mind, such as revisiting locations of significance. Researching and purchasing excursions near your honeymoon destination is also a nice idea. Search for restaurants, museums, day-trips or concerts in the area.
And the other men you want to thank?
Gifts for the men involved in your wedding, both the groomsmen and any other man you'd like to thank, can be equally challenging. While this is often the groom's domain, you might just find yourself recruited to help.
You don't want to blow a bunch of money on stuff that will collect dust, so opt for lasting, practical items. Engraved pocket knives, and money clips are classic and elegant traditional gifts that fit the bill. Wrist and pocket watches are also beautiful and functional. While these gifts might sound pricey, you might find discounts on quality brands and special rates for multiple-piece engraving. Some engraving websites and stores offer wedding discounts, so research and comparison-shopping is key.
When choosing an item to suit several people, keep in mind that overly personal or lavish is not necessary. Choosing something simple is always safe and appropriate. Of course, don't rule out shared interests and experiences as a source of inspiration. If your man is struggling to find the right gifts for his groomsmen, a fun group activity might be the alternative he needs, and it works for bridesmaids too! Spending quality time with the people you care about is a great way to say thanks.
Here's a few links to get you started on your gift quest:
Trapeze classes and other adventures: funsherpa.com
Package deals & weekend getaways: giftybox.com
Gadgets, etc.: formengifts.com
Countless personalized and unique gifts for him: etsy.com
Timeless manly wisdom and advice: Blue Collar Bride, a blog for anyone charged with the task of planning a wedding on a limited budget and looking for inspiration.