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No Gifts Please. Oh Well, If You Must:).

When I remarried, last August, we said no gifts please. With two households already established, what more could we require?

Some people, of course, insisted. As it turns out, those people who simply must give you a present will do so perfectly. I have already sent thank you notes, of course. But here’s a second and collective thank you to our benefactors.

I was thinking that for those now receiving Save The Dates, and considering presents for the near and dear, any or all of these might be lovely choices.

1. My mother absolutely insisted on giving us a wedding present, and on discussing what it should be. We dissuaded her from parting with a family  ring. Hard to garden wearing a large oval emerald. Instead, I asked to have one of her several silver cake servers engraved with Significant Husband’s and my first initials.


With that we cut our cake. Then I bought more silver polish. You could find used silver pretty easily, and have it engraved, if the idea appeals.

2. My brother and his wife also insisted. In this case, their inspiration came from a night I spent with with their infant son. I had mentioned that what little time I spent in their guest bedding had convinced me they owned the best pillows in the whole world.


Now I do too. (That’s not my bed, BTW, but rather a picture from the Warm Things website.)

3. My Swedish stepsister and brother-in-law didn’t even hear that it was a no gifts event. Lucky us. The Swedes do glassware like nobody’s business; modern, iconic. They also love to celebrate a royal wedding. This decanter, called “Divine,” was designed by Orrefors to mark the Swedish princess Victoria’s 2010 wedding. That lovely frosted glass band is textured, for a no-slip grip. Don’t you love little practical design details?


Part of managing one’s red wine consumption is to fête every drop.

4. One of my first cousins, the eldest of Win’s daughters, made us a set of napkins. Yes, I said made, as in sewed. I guess napkins are feasible in quantity, if you know how to do that sort of thing. She’s one of the original Artsy Cousins, of course. The beige and black color scheme works really well with my table.


She said the punctuation marks were perfect for a writer. Melted my heart right there.

5.  And finally, my son gave me glass Christmas ornaments. From a vintage shop in Brooklyn, of course.


I had first moved out of our family house, in the divorce, in June of 2006. That Christmas, I set up a small tree. I’d left the ornaments behind, and much else. So I went to Gumps, that parlor of bourgeois glory, and bought a set of gaudy blown glass fish. Some covered in glitter. Of course my son gave me ornaments, come wedding time.

Reading through this post, I realize I say “Of course,” a lot. There are two sorts of “of course” in wedding presents: “of course” you give glass, crystal, pots and pans, or, “of course” the ones who know you mark the occasion exactly.

The nexus of etiquette and deep community.

6. Oh, here’s one more idea. Something I gave myself, at 22, when I moved into my first solo apartment, Le Creuset cast iron enamelware. This I believe holds 2 quarts, Williams Sonoma sells them now in 1 quart or 3 quart  sizes.


Turns out it’s perfect to cook for two. And, as you can see, it survives all kind of indignities.

Cheers to all who are marrying, to those who will some day, and to the families and guests.


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47 Responses

  1. We also said no gifts, but still got some lovely presents. My college roommate sent me a box of tulip bulbs, so every spring, when they bloom (I am still waiting this year), I look at them and think of her and think how nice it was that she thought of us.

    My mom gave us a kitchenaid stand mixer, which I had wanted for years.

    My husband’s parents, however, had intended to boycott the wedding after telling my husband not to marry me because I was a gold digger. They came anyhow, after some drama.

    He flew them to our home, driving 90 miles to another airport so they could take a direct flight. They told us they would buy us a lamp as a present, which was nice because we needed a good lamp in the living room, but when his mom and I went to the lamp store, she balked at the prices (which were not unreasonable for good lamps and which were well within their ability to afford) and we ordered something from, which turned out to be a piece of junk. Oh well. In laws. It’s how we get blogs and novels.

  2. I love, love, LOVE the decanter! The cast iron, too; there’s just something wonderful about good quality cookware that’s seen some use.

    I shuddered a little when you wrote about leaving the Christmas ornaments behind after your divorce. If Beloved and I were to part ways and I could only take one thing from the house, I’d seriously and sincerely have to sit down and debate between my clothing and my ornaments. In fact, it might not be a debate at all – I’m far less attached to my clothes, which can be replaced. My ornaments represent over 30 years of my personal family history, good and bad, and are priceless in that regard.

    1. I should have given more details. I moved back into the house in 2008, and all the old the ornaments were still here:).

  3. What beautiful pieces. When we got married we had zilch, even though I was 35, I had pretty much focused my life on fitting everything I owned ( aside from bricks and mortar) into one suitcase to facilitate heading off at a moment’s notice – hubs was ten years younger and had even less, I remember sitting watching TV in two deck chairs!

    Emeralds are my weakness – I may have said yes.

  4. Oh my, such thoughtful gifts and I think that is true thoughtfulness and kindness. You said no gifts, but those who know and love you knew exactly what you might need even if you didn’t know it yourself. My baby brother is getting married in August, and yes I will be giving him a gift.

  5. Ooh those pillows…are they pure heaven?
    Of course people would insist on giving you gifts.
    Personally I find shopping for wedding gifts rather daunting….we opt for something appropriate and significant if we know the couple well….if not we buy a wooden salad bowl.
    You could take that emerald off when you garden….

  6. Funny story from our wedding: A close family friend gave us a set of glass canisters. They looked simple, well – cheap. But we were young and didn’t care much. A year later she calls to tell us that when visiting a friend she saw a beautiful glass set, saying – oh, I bought the same for a young couple… ooops, she mixed up the gifts. We now have my parents Rosenthal set from their wedding.

  7. All beautiful and appropriate. I’m curious if you or your son have attached any meaning to the symbolism of the hummingbird and the fish.

  8. I think that the silver cake cutter engraved with both initials is fantastic – might be my new “go-to” gift. You got really wonderful things, but I confess I would have said yes to the emerald!

  9. A nice selection!

    Sister and I are contemplating a Le Creuset dutch oven for a child-of-a-cousin who is getting married this summer.

    It’s not the kind of thing a 22 y/o has the cash to buy and it’s indestructible.

    1. @RoseAG,

      Sadly, this is not true. My husband destructed my Le Creuset dutch oven. After 30 years it still makes me sick to think about it. I have long forgiven my husband, though.

    2. @RoseAG, @AK, So, guys, ironically, the very night after I published this, I blew up a Le Creuset pot. Turns out you cannot use them to stirfry over an 18,000 BTU burner. Dang. I heated the pot, added oil, and then heard a “pop!” Like popcorn. Except it was the enamel itself flaking and popping off the cast iron:(. Live and learn.

  10. I would trade you the cheesy $5.00 frame we received for any of the above! LOL It was a gift from from someone that didn’t think as much of us as we did of them (the gift should have been a hint). But I love and use the outdoor table and chairs my best friend bought us. She always buys something that will be used and loved for years. She was also the one that found old silverware that was engraved with the name of the town we were married near. Priceless! We pull them out and use them every anniversary.

  11. This is wonderful, Lisa, and the personal stories behind the gifts are the best gift of all. My Beloved and I eloped, for heaven’s sake, in order to preclude every wedding-y attachment, including gifts. But dear friends of ours in L.A., whom we’d met at the Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf in Westwood and who mourned our move to New York as it ended our Saturday morning latte tradition, sent us the perfect one: a beautiful espresso machine.

  12. Such heartfelt, personal gifts given with attention. I love all of them; have often given beautiful pillows.

    When my mother offered me one of her jewels in my fifties, I did not accept because I felt it should be worn by her- and one day by me, but only when she could no more. Is that so for you or am I projecting my own experience?

    1. @Duchesse, In my case it’s mostly to do with making sure, at this stage in our lives, than any parental gifts are fair. I <3 my siblings:).

  13. Such thoughtful and meaningful gifts, each one will bring your beautiful memories of the giver. My favorite are the ornaments from your son. Beautiful.

  14. Love the engraved silver server, especially. It’s elegant and personal, but small. My married girls have limited space for big wedding gifts but could find room for this (or I could store it if necessary for awhile.)

  15. What lovely and thoughtful presents, each one of them. I especially love that one of your cousins made the napkins, instead of simply purchasing; I’m sure they are especially treasured because of that.

  16. Erickson silver in Gardner, MA, makes beautiful hand wrought silver. My MOH gave us a pitcher spoon when we were married. The pictures on the website don’t do the pieces justice…they are really nice and you can tell they are made by hand, but they have a refined look, not like a crafty type thing, if that makes sense!

  17. What lovely, and personal, gifts! The best kind. I adore the idea of the two initials coming together on your cake cutter. Brilliant!

    When we got married I remember we barely had a thing between us. I was fresh over from the UK with just my suitcase, and my husband had just sold his motor bike and put the few posessions he owned into storage so we could look for an apartment to rent. We made use of the freebie plastic utensils from our meals at a nearby Wendy’s, and also their great plastic containers that held their baked potatoes had now become our cereal bowls. Oh, those were the days. Great memories.

  18. I love Le Creuset cast iron. It stands the test of time and I have given it many times as a wedding gift!

    LOVE the idea of the cake server!

  19. When we asked for no gifts, my favorites were cocktail and champagne and wine glasses because we, and our friends, are always accidentally breaking them and can never have too many. I warned my friends, who are marrying soon, that their request for “donations to food bank, no gifts” would result in some gifts.

  20. The wedding gifts you were given Lisa are actually so thoughtful and beautiful. I know they will be special to you for many years to come!

    xoxo Karena
    The Arts by Karena

  21. Those are all wonderful gifts. Perhaps you could give me an idea for a gift for a friend turning 60 – she is hosting a tea at a historical site, and although it’s clearly meant to be a “no gifts” event I feel like I should do something anyway. Any thoughts?

    1. @MJ, It so depends on who she is…If I am giving a present that needs to be small but enjoyed, I will choose something consumable. Food, notecards, etc.

  22. And if you are in a mood to suggest appropriate and somewhat “traditional” gifts, what would you recommend for high school graduations? I am a bit stumped. Thanks!

    1. @RS, The high school graduation gift that was the biggest hit for my sons (besides $$) was a very large, good quality bath towel with his initials monogrammed on it. The thinking was 1) towel, necessary and 2) monogram, permanent ID in the dorm. He still had it when he graduated from college! (My cousin had 4 kids, so she had learned a thing of two.)

    2. @RS, These days I think technology gifts have become traditional. New phone, HBO2GO subscription, laptop case/carrier, solar-powered charger, etc. Well maybe not the solar-powered part, but still:).

  23. Ooh, I don’t know that I could ever bring myself to say ‘no gifts’. I just love gifts!

    We certainly needed everything on our wedding list when we got married at 24 – me still a student, husband just started full time work. All the practical things like a cheap knife set, basic crockery, a vacuum cleaner were appreciated and well used for many years.

  24. The Le Crueset baking dishes are a great wedding gift idea. I received a few Le Crueset items as a wedding gift back in 1982 and I am still using them regularly today. I love the idea of gifts that last for decades.
    Jewelry works in that way too!

  25. I am definitely a “no gifts” person on days like my wedding, birthdays, Christmas, etc., but am delighted if someone gives me something out of the blue on any other day.

    Truly, though, what’s the protocol for a no-gifts event? My children have attend no-gifts parties and have been the only ones there NOT bearing a gift, which baffled me.

  26. Beautiful piece, Lisa! Congratulations on your wedding! I love old silver, and since I never registered for it when I got married, I had to buy my own. Found a beautiful old pattern at a flea market (with my initials!), and have been collecting ever since. The idea of engraving old pieces is genius!

  27. My new go-to wedding present is plain white napkins (although I love those hand made ones) tied up with a vintage sterling serving piece.) So many young marrieds don’t do the silver thing anymore but serving pieces ALWAYS come in handy.
    My most-used, least-appreciated-at-the-time wedding present almost 30 years ago was a magnetic plastic holder that sticks to the fridge and holds a notepad and pencil. I received it with some other (forgotten) tchotchkes and thought “weird”. Who knew it would be the one present that has been used daily?
    Love the idea of bulbs and have also given Christmas ornaments. First Christmas for all the newly married nieces and nephews is always a wedding couple ornament.

  28. Love your blog, look forward to it every week. Can I ask which pillows you received? The down or the down alternative? Good pillows are so hard to find!

    1. The down. One of Hungarian Down, one of regular premium down. They asked if I could tell the difference between the two, and yes, but only very, very slightly.

  29. I have been thinking about those pillows since you posted this and was delighted to find that the Hungarian down pillows are now on sale. Soon I will also have the best pillows.

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