Tying the Knot in a Meaningful and Memorable Way (Without Losing Our Savings or Sanity)

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Q&A: Thanking Families and the Wedding Party with Gifts

Reader's Question: Here’s a question for ya. We’re doing our best to have a low budget wedding (5k or under), and both our parents have said, or are very understanding about not getting them anything. I still feel bad that we’re not going over the top with beautiful expensive thank you presents (they have helped us a great deal!) nor are we getting presents for the groomsman and bridesmaids. Are we evil? How did you guys avoid buying presents for both parents, flowergirl, bridesmaids, helpers, etc.? or did you??!! Actually, thinking back to what I've read of your wedding, you didn’t have a wedding party or flowergirls etc, but I imagine, there were still people who “traditionally” would have gotten thank you gifts.

I hear you. Matt and I originally planned to get presents for our families and wedding party. We had seen this done at other weddings, and it seemed like a thoughtful gesture. Our friends and family did a great deal to help make our wedding happen, and we wanted to show our gratitude.

We struggled to come up with a budget-friendly gift idea, and we settled on the idea of buying inexpensive terracotta pots and painting them with birds (like our wedding invitations). Since we gave away seeds for our wedding favors, we figured the pots would fit nicely.

But then a couple things happened:
  1. We got busy with a lot of other stuff (like writing our own wedding ceremony, making our wedding quilt, making Matt's tie, embroidering my dress, writing personalized notes on our invitations, making funny nametags for our Welcome Picnic), and giving gifts no longer seemed like an important priority.
  2. We admitted to ourselves that our friends and family would likely think our pots were a cute gesture, but the pots probably wouldn't actually align with everyone's diverse styles.
  3. We ran out of money.
We decided to thank them with sincerity rather than money.

1) In our ceremony, we thanked each of our families this way:


  • [Andy holds up microphone for Sara to speak]
  • We would especially like to thank our families who have nurtured our independence …


  • [Andy holds up microphone for Matt to speak]
  • …and have put up with our quirkiness.
  • [Sara and Matt walk into the audiences to hug their families]


  • [Andy holds up microphone for Matt to speak]
  • And we would also like to thank each other’s family for welcoming us so kindly…


  • [Andy holds up microphone for Sara to speak]
  • …and for putting up with our quirkiness.
  • [Sara and Matt walk into the audience to hug the other’s family]
2) Instead of a traditional cake cutting ceremony, we took the opportunity to thank everyone for all the work they did to make our wedding possible (citing very specific examples).

3) We wrote thank you notes to everyone (regardless of whether or not they gave us a present), and talked specifically about the ways in which we were thankful for their help.

4) We stayed calm and relaxed on our wedding day and didn't treat anyone like crap because we were frustrated or frazzled.

Now that I think about it, I bet the best "gift" we gave to our friends and family was simply spending quality time with them throughout the entire wedding weekend: at the inclusive Welcome Picnic, the two-hour leisurely breakfasts on the patio, and the relaxed reception.

In a consumer culture, it's natural to equate products with happiness. It's easy to lose sight of the fact that true happiness and contentment can't usually be purchased.

2000dollarwedding kindred spirits: What are your thoughts and ideas for how to thank friends and family?

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Kaitlin Wainwright said...

I second Sara's comments--include them as much as possible and spend as much time as you can with them, and they will feel your gratitude (um, I've been exuding gratitude for the last week at my best friend).

If you feel you're still lacking the material thank you, make some baked goodies, or some jam, or do whatever it is that you're good at (candles, jewelry, other knick knacks) and send it along with the thank you card.

Alternatively (and this is something we're considering), have a big thank you party with the people that helped the most and keep it low key. It sounds a bit silly, but I think hosting people is an excellent way of saying thank you.

Sarah said...

Thanks for this post. We've been struggling with this, as well. Sara, I love that you thanked them during the ceremony and at the reception. We're planning to do the same. Who doesn't love a little public recognition :)
Our parents are incredibly supportive and generous and we want them to know how much they mean to us. However, they are also both contributing to the wedding so it feels like we'd be buying them something with their own money, which is a bit awkward. We have plenty of time to figure it out, so i'm hoping we'll come up with a creative and meaningful idea.

Luis said...

During our wedding ceremony we presented each of our mothers with a single rose. It was our officiant's idea, and it turned out to be a very touching and very simple thing for both of us to pick up two roses placed at the altar before the ceremony and both walk to each of the mothers together.

Anonymous said...

Absolutely agree that sincere verbal and written thanks are a must (and perfectly sufficient), but I'm also a fan of small handmade and/or consumable and/or practical gifts. My big helpers got things along the lines of organic cocoa, handmade notecards, or handmade grocery bags, depending on their personalities.

SystemError said...

Although not the most economical thing to do, as a "thank you" to our wedding party, we are picking up their hotel tab for the weekend.

Kate said...

If you are adept at sewing and embroidery, handmade hankerchiefs for your parents make a very simple, very sweet idea. Handmade jewelry to match your bridesmaid's outfits are also a sweet and simple idea.

megan said...

i'm actually making my 3 attendants duvet covers from a pattern dirived from amy butler's site. it seems easy enough, and it's a homemade, crafty gesture that i know will mean more than a pink engraved flask or a monogrammed picture frame. my fiance is in charge of figuring out what is best for his attendants.

as far as our parents go, i think a heartfelt thank you letter will be the most valued present we can give them, but we are going to give them quriky presents that do represent them, as well.

Alison said...

For us, thanking our parents in a tangible way was really important, but we didn't have a whole lot of extra cash to do it with. So, I made a "memory jar" for my parents. For the month or so before the wedding I jotted down any memory that came to mind on a pad of paper, or something I was thankful for. Then I wrote each one on a small piece of scrap cardstock I had lying around, folded it up and labled it "Mom" "Dad" or "Both". It didn't cost anything, but my mom said the day after the wedding my dad pulled every one out and read them in one sitting. They still have it displayed in the living room. Sam wrote a really nice letter to his parents and we also printed out an egagement picture for each parent and put them in frames we got 1/2 off at a craft store. All in all it cost us about $10 total, but I think it really meant a lot to our parents.

I know not everyone is close to their parents, but this was a nice way to take the focus off of us and put it on the fact that, for us, our families were growing not shrinking. Uhhhh, did I mention I'm an only child? :)

I think whatever you do, people just like to feel appreciated, whether it's your wedding day or a Wednesday, so I'm all for finding some way to make that happen, whether it's a gift or some well chosen words!

Maxim Photo Studio said...

Many of my prospective brides are seeking a minimal amount of coverage and then supplementing my images with those of their guests. I guess that is one way of saving money.

Eco Yogini said...

I LOVE the wedding jar idea!!!!

Anonymous said...

As gifts for our parents, I hand embroidered hankies that said "Mother of the Bride", "Mother of the Groom", "Father of the Groom" to use at the ceremony for their happy tears. You can get vintage hankies at thrift or antique stores for less than $1 and they're not very much more bought new. I just used regular sewing thread I already had for the embroidery. Inexpensive, heartfelt, practical, and reusable.

Kate said...

Again, another timely post for me! We set a budget of $25 for each gift for parents and wedding party. Since the wedding party is just a MOH and Best Man, they aren't as hard. But I'm totally stumped on the parents. I love that memory jar idea and am going to try to put that into action.

Additionally, we're giving gifts to our friends who are helping with photography and music. For these folks, we're doing $25 gift certificates to Amazon.

nickblack said...

I applaud all these ideas. The memory jar is a very lovely idea. I'm so moved by the father reading through the messages. As a pro wedding planner I see much too much waste and consumer-ism-from some very well-meaning people- who fall into the trap of focusing on everything except what is really happening. Marraige is about people and family ultimately not stuff. When did presents for everyone come to be a part of weddings? My grandmother was married in about 1928. She told me after the wedding at church they had cake and coffee, got into a car and went to the train station for the honeymoon and that was it!The presents were FOR them not FROM them- and they needed the stuff for their new life, that is the whole point of wedding presents.
But.Of course cool and well-chosen stuff to give to your loved ones is pretty neat, and if you think it out well and don't spend a lot then you can be practical and proud...... what about this for a gift: a meaningful book of poetry prose or fiction with a personal dedication from both bride and groom. Books are forever and old books are more beautiful than new.
-Z in Chicago

RP said...

My fiance and I are giving books (from half.com) to everyone who's helping in our wedding, including the wedding party and our parents. (different books for each person)
Plus letters.

Anonymous said...

Our budget was about $6000 so I understand trying to keep things reasonable with the gifts. This may be over the top, but I made crocheted/felted bags for each of my bridesmaids - each one fit their personality and they LOVED them so much. They actually gave a speech at the rehearsal dinner about them b/c they like them so much. My husband bought his groomsmen really affordable belt buckles that fit their personalities. And we purchased nice but affordable picture frames for our parents with the promise to provide a picture of us from the wedding down the road. Flower girl and ring bearer gifts were $5 - $10 each and the kids loved them! We were not elaborate and everyone still really appreciated their gifts.

Lisa said...

I had emailed you a similar question and came up with another idea, which I am now doing for all the folks that are contributing their talents. So, I wanted to share. :-) I decided to get copies of The Giving Tree, by Shel Silverstein to each of the friends that are giving of their talents to help our wedding be lower in cost and more personal. We plan to write individual notes to each person inside the book and I will also be giving them a small aloe plant that comes from a much larger aloe plant that was my great grandmother's. The book is one of my favorite children's books, I work with kids, and the plant is tied to our family and a connection to our history, so I felt it was a great way to give a personal and meaningful gift on a budget.

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