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Tips to choosing the right traditional wedding gift

There are some tried and true rules for choosing a traditional gift that has significant meaning for the special day.

Updated

A traditional wedding gift offers a bride and groom much more than just a present. It’s a gesture that recognizes the symbolic importance of the day and their union. Think about your relationship to the bride and groom and what you can give that will have sentimental value.

You can’t go wrong with a traditional gift that the newlyweds will cherish forever.

What is a gift registry?

A gift registry is a list of wanted gifts that the soon-to-be-wed couple chooses from a retailer, typically a department store. Many modern couples also choose to create registries on Amazon or online elsewhere. Once the gift registry is complete, the wedding guests can choose a present from the list to purchase. This can be done either in store or usually online.

As soon as the gift is bought, it’s removed from the registry so that no other guest can buy it. The gift itself is put aside by the retail assistant and then delivered to the couple. It’s the responsibility of the retailer to manage the items on the gift registry. Some modern registries require the buyer to transport the gift to the couple.

Examples of traditional wedding gifts

There are many traditions associated with wedding gifts. Depending on the culture, particular gifts have greater symbolic and sentimental value. Some traditional gifts are:

  • Something personal. Perhaps you have a photo of the couple when they first started dating or a letter written by one of them about the other.
  • An experience. Inviting the bride and groom to a traditional tea ceremony, for instance, is an important ritual for some families to welcome in new beginnings.
  • Art. A piece of artwork has the dual purpose of providing decoration for a new home and an image that is rich in meaning. Talk to friends and family to find out more about their cultural roots.
  • Simple, symbolic gifts. A plant is a practical and aesthetic gift — a sage plant is a symbol of longevity and good health. It’s also traditional to give a couple some lavender sprigs. The belief is that placing lavender under a mattress or in a pillowcase will help newlyweds begin their life together in a loving and supportive manner. Lovebirds are a popular motif in ancient Chinese art and an important symbol of romantic devotion. It’s believed a lovebird dies when separated from its mate and as such, offering a gift with a lovebird symbol is believed to protect a married couple from infidelity.
  • Family heirlooms. There is great sentimental value in receiving jewelry silverware or a tea set that has been handed down for generations. The bride is then expected to continue the tradition and pass on the gift to her daughter or special relative on her wedding day.

Remember that there are symbols in everything. By doing some research, you’ll find there is great meaning in colors, scents and materials.

More gift suggestions when attending other types of traditional weddings:

Traditional Indian wedding gifts

A traditional Hindu wedding has some different expectations than a western wedding. It is not at all traditional for an Indian couple to create a gift registry. They have so many other things to plan! Hundreds of people are invited to Indian weddings, so planning one is a hugely time-consuming process.

Many Indian families will give group gifts that multiple people contribute to. If there are other non-Indians like you, perhaps you could all go in on a bigger gift together. Like western wedding gifts, the gift should be something that helps the couple start their new life together, such as something for their home or a cash gift. If you’re giving a monetary gift, it’s considered good luck for the denomination to end in an odd number, especially a one.

If you want to give something more personal, you could try a religious item. Some good idols to consider are Ganesh, who represents new beginnings, and Lakshmi, who represents prosperity.

Traditional Irish wedding gifts

Irish weddings have a special and unique tradition that is hundreds of years old. One traditional gift at an Irish wedding is the claddagh ring, a symbol of love, friendship and loyalty that is passed down from mother to daughter. The ring is switched from right to left hand at the wedding.

Horseshoes are another symbolic item at a traditional Irish wedding. It’s said to bring good luck to the wedding, as long as the U is facing up. You could buy a small horseshoe necklace for the bride as a good luck wish.

Finally, for a very traditional gift at an Irish wedding, try a small set of bells. The chimes are said to drive away demons and evil spirits to keep the couple safe from harm.

Traditional Hawaiian wedding gifts

A traditional Hawaiian wedding gift should promote love, sensuality and joy. Although not a material gift, many friends and family member will choose to honor the new couple with a traditional auana hula or kahiko dance. It’s also considered traditional to honor the couple with a musical performance.

If you’d like to give the couple something tangible, try a lei or a traditional flower arrangement. If you want your gift to last longer, you could try a silk arrangement from a retailer like Nearly Natural in lieu of real flowers, but be aware that it might not hold the same significance for a very traditional couple.

Traditional Japanese wedding gifts

Most Japanese weddings take place in June. Japanese culture as a whole tends to be steeped with tradition, and weddings are no exception. Japanese weddings call for a monetary gift called Goshugi, which is given to an attendant rather than directly to the couple themselves.

There are several rules associated with giving the gift of Goshugi. The money you give should be placed in a special Goshugi envelope, if possible. The bills should be crisp, new and unmarked: you can ask the bank teller for help with this. Finally, you should try not to give denominations that start with an even number like two or four because this is symbolic for being split. Numbers like 10 and 20 are acceptable.

If you are attending a wedding in Japan, you’ll be able to purchase a Goshugi envelope there. If you’re attending a Japanese wedding in the US, try ordering a cute Goshugi envelope like this one online.

Traditional Mexican wedding gifts

Bring your appetite if you’re invited to a Mexican wedding! These celebrations are filled with food, dancing, joy and festivity. You may encounter a traditional money dance, in which male guests pay to dance with the bride and female guests pay to dance with the groom. This is a way for the couple to receive monetary gifts from guests to help pay for their home and honeymoon.

Other traditional gifts for a Mexican wedding include a Catholic prayer book or a rosary, but bear in mind that if the wedding is very traditional, the couple’s padrinos, or godparents, will likely purchase these gifts for them. Any Catholic faith themed gift will be appreciated by a traditional couple.

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Did you know?
  • At weddings, the practice of gift giving is thought to originate from the dowry system when a bride’s family offered a form of payment, such as cash or gifts, to the family of the groom. For wealthy families, the bride’s dowry may have come in exchange for favorable business opportunities. In other cases, it was a way of preparing the newlyweds with the household goods they’d need to build a home together.

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