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Family or Marriage Finances & Money

Can you be too old to register for wedding gifts?

I really want to hear what you have to say on this, because recently we were invited to a few weddings where the grooms and brides were in their 30s (or very late 20s), had successful careers and maybe even their own homes.

I got married when I was 25, still living off my junky college furniture or even free furniture we got from near the dumpster, and, for many in their early- to mid-twenties, you’re in the same boat. You have junky dining utensils, plates, etc., small appliances, towels, etc., especially if you’re a guy. In my opinion, married life generally is the main impetus for getting rid of the junk and bringing in nicer replacements in part as an upgrade but also most definitely as a bonding exercise with your mate. When my wife and I picked our dining room furniture together (a set we stained ourselves), it was a momentous occasion and we still love what we chose. It was a lot better than the folding table I had in college!

But now I’m in my early/mid 30’s and so are most of our friends. And some of those friends are just getting married now (I’m not even going to bring up gifts for 2nd/3rd marriages!). They’re ecstatic about getting married and expect to go through the same process as many of us did 5-10 years ago. However, they’re in a much different place in their lives and I think they should have different expectations.

Should “older adults” register for wedding gifts?

Granted, some of you had your lives in order when you were 15, but from what I’ve observed, you don’t start hitting your stride in the professional world until around age 25-27. That’s when you start getting better tastes for design, electronics, appliances, and in general want to “nest” and make a place your own. Again, just my observation and your experience WILL vary.

But when you hit 30, society thinks you should start settling down in your career because you’ve had almost a decade out of college to figure out what the heck you should be doing with your life. You’ve had a decade+ to find a soulmate, and a decade to get situated where you live to the point of having a support network of friends and colleagues. Some of us are late bloomers and don’t find “the one” until long after our “prime” (aka our 20s), but regardless, the norm in society expects young adults (those in their 30s) to be stable and situated in life…and be married and probably have a few kids.

So, when a couple, both in their 30s, announces their engagement, then sends out the wedding invitations, replete with a list of cheap or expensive registry locations, are you obligated to buy them an expensive gift?

In all of the cases we’ve experienced over the last few years, the registries were just full of “fluff” meaning stuff you would never buy yourself, probably never use, but feel obligated to register for because you think your guests would feel obligated to buy you a gift. This is the one chance most people take to get a complete china set they’ll never use, or that matching towel set that will be thrown in the closet with all the others.

But ultimately, what do you get for someone who already has what they need? You can get them money, but when they make a good living wage, it just seems tacky. Same goes for a gift card, but at least you can give them a Home Depot, Bed Bath & Beyond or Amazon gift card because they’ll most likely use it and it’s more specific than cash.

Your thoughts? Should “professional” couples be registering for gifts for their wedding? Should they expect to be given much? Where do you draw the line? Or am I just being cheap?

I expect those who are younger won’t have experienced this situation, but those of you in your 30s and older most likely will have been invited to at least one “professional couple” wedding, so I’d like your feedback (especially since I have a feeling we’ll have a few more of these coming).

 

About the author

Clever Dude

22 Comments

  • Good topic! I just got married this summer. I’m 34 and gainfully employed, while my husband is 29 and is a full-time student and is in the Air Guard.

    We did choose to register for gifts, for the following reasons:

    1) We knew people would want to get us something. And though we tried our best to tell everyone that we’d be happy with Lowe’s, Home Depot or Fred Meyer gift cards, we knew that some guests would prefer to give us an actual gift.
    2) There were some things we could use. We didn’t register for any plates or glassware, but we did register for some nicer kitchen knives and gadgets. My collection of assorted Corelle plates is exactly what we want and need, and we didn’t see the need to to try to upgrade it on someone else’s dime. But our knives were crappy, and I chose good-quality, inexpensive knives for replacements.
    3) Our Amazon registry also included several power tools we’d love to have, and we aimed big and put a Roomba on there in case anyone was feeling generous.

    In the end, we got a few things we wanted (I’m looking at you, deep-fryer and pressure cooker!), and most people just got us the more practical gift cards.

    If I were attending a wedding, I would expect to bring them some sort of gift. No matter their age, or whether it’s their first or third wedding, I’m still going because I want to celebrate with them. I think of registries as guides to their tastes, and it helps me figure out what they want and/or need.

  • I’m a little confused by this post. Are you saying that people in their 30s register for things that they don’t need and shouldn’t register or are you advocating not bringing a gift to a wedding because you don’t believe that the couple needs a gift or both? My thoughts are that bringing a gift to any wedding is appropriate and it is up to the gift giver to decide what to give. All things being equal (i.e. my relationship to those getting married), expcept age, I would give the same amount to a couple starting out in their 20s than to one in their 30s. Imagine being in your 30s and not getting married until later in life . . . you have bought the shower, wedding, baby presents for all your good friends and watching them do the same for the others in your group. Then they determine that you don’t ‘need’ a gift because you are older and more established then they were when they married.

  • I’m saying that if I got married at this point in my life, I don’t think I would expect people to give me as much as they gave 8 years ago when I did get married. I was looking over our records (we had a spreadsheet to track gifts) and I highly doubt our friends and families would have given nearly as much as they did knowing that we’re doing pretty well for ourselves now.

    Granted, if we screwed up or got unlucky and found ourselves in a bad spot financially throughout the years or just right now, perhaps they would kick in the same amount, but it’s all speculation.

    Also, I’m not saying “don’t go to the wedding without a gift” (although I tend to mail the present or give it to the couple another time), but you’re right that it’s up to the giver on what to give.

    I’m just a bit irked by the fluff I see my friends or colleagues putting onto their wedding registries when I know they’ve lived together for years, or already upgraded all their cookware, appliances, etc. Do they really need a cotton candy maker? I’d feel like an idiot being the one who actually bought that!

  • I agree with some of the items that people put on registries and if I don’t ‘agree’ with the item, I do not purchase it. I find another present. (If its off-registry, returnable with a receipt.)

  • I don’t agree with the idea of a registry at all, eventhough I did it at my own wedding. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize how tacky and tasteless it was at the time. “Here’s an invitation to my wedding, and here’s a list of the stuff you should bring me.” (you get the idea).

    It seems like 99.9% of the stuff on registries is just absolute junk…dishes from china purchased at BB&B, a $50 toaster also made in china, other crap that will break within 6 months….

    Wedding presents should be heirlooms, and items that the couple and their descendants can appreciate for generations. Unfortunately it seems like that kind of stuff just doesn’t exist anymore.

  • I’m in my mid-20s and I’ve owned my house for three years. I’ve already gotten rid of all my college crap and as an avid cook, I have pretty much every kitchen gadget I need and the things I “want” generally range in the $250+, which I occasionally splurge on for myself.

    I’m not married, but in a long term relationship, so getting married is likely in my future. I will not choose to use a wedding registry, because the only stuff I want from Target is laundry detergent, etc. and I wouldn’t dare ask my family to purchase a $250 cast iron dutch oven.

    I will probably select a couple of larger ticket items and disclose those to my mother. Should my large family want to all pitch in toward a nice grill, I would be elated.

    Oh, and the new “honeymoon registry” trend is also tacky beyond tacky.

  • Hah! I REALLY didn’t want a registry at our wedding but the Mrs beat me out on that one. Was the only time we fought the entire planning of it all 🙂 Though I will say I am a HUGE fan of the Honeymoon idea (Sorry Walnut). Most of my family helped out w/ that part cuz they wanted to help give us an experience over “stuff” – which I really really appreciated. A lot of them had never heard of honeymoon registries either and thought the idea was cool. Whatever you’re comfortable with though, right?

  • It makes me crazy to see gift registries for people who have previously set up house together. The purpose of a wedding is not to receive gifts! You are right on the money here because it’s not just wedding registries that are broken; now baby shower registries too. A baby shower is for a first baby. To have a subsequent shower for subsequent children and a registry is tacky, greedy, etc. and I would never choose a gift from one. My mother taught me in the day to bring a cash gift if attending a reception and make sure the cash at least pays for the meal. A gift, to me, if “necessary” would have been send prior. I think Stephanie said it well. It’s all just tacky. What is this about a Honeymoon registry? I’d not heard of this before. People expecting others to pay for their honeymoon? As if you’re entitled to that also?

  • IMO, it is time to change expectations of gift giving from both gift givers and recipients. In today’s economic environment, most are concerned with paying bill’s and placing food on the table. The unexpected wedding/baby shower invite with the expectation of a pricey gift off a registry is not in my budget.

    I’ve been invited to two weddings this year: The wedding of a young couple in May and the wedding of two 40-year olds [with children] in December. The May wedding was a 20-year old niece whom I gifted a $100 Wal-mart card.

    The individuals in December have lived together for five years, have children in college, yet are planning a huge wedding. The bride worries about daily living expenses yet is proceeding with a ceremony which ‘common sense’ screams she/he cannot afford. I’ll be gifting a $50 restaurant gift card and if my budget doesn’t allow it, it will be $25.

    Do older professional couples whom invitation blast individuals [other than immediate family] have a social agenda they feel obligated to fulfill? Times are changing. The transparency of the situation is showing and if the gift giver believes in an obligation to provide a token because of a social agenda, he/she deserves to be parted with his/her hard earned money.

  • I’m confused. Your argument seems to be “I should not give you a gift if I perceive you do not need one”. If I have misread this, feel free to clear the air. It is not always in the control of people when they get married. I am 32, own my own house, work as a college professor, and live alone. You might say I don’t ‘need’ anything, and in truth you are probably right. Who can say who ‘needs’ what they say they need? However, I take some pause at the notion that I should subsidize people who marry before they are emotionally and financially able to stand on their own. By your interpretation of the tradition, I am expected to give them a gift but you think I don’t need one. For what purpose is the tradition? It feels in essence that they are to be rewarded for being hasty while I am to be punished for being prudent.

  • @Doug, I think you’re just having an argument with yourself here. I think many of the other commenters actually one-upped me by saying that the tradition of giving gifts for weddings should be ended, while I was just commenting on the assumption the tradition continue. And this is just the Christian wedding tradition; we’re not even talking about other faiths and their multi-day wedding rituals with lavish gifts, etc.

    If you think you’re being prudent with your money, yet you would appreciate a gift, then good job, but tough luck. People give gifts when they either feel someone else deserves it or they feel obligated out of tradition of some sort. You don’t get a gift because you paid off a debt, even a mortgage. No one gave us a gift card to Applebees when we paid off our 2nd mortgage!

    In your case, I think you’re being outright foolish for saying you’re being “punished” by not getting a gift. This is a tradition that dates WAY before you and I and will not fall in our lifetimes, but there are some that are cropping up that we can rebel against. For instance, the aforementioned “honeymoon registries” or 2nd/3rd/etc. baby showers (and God help us when dog registries take hold).

    Our friend is single, 32, a college professor, has no dating life, rents a meager place (although she can afford more), but she’s not getting any “reward” for her prudence, so deal with it. You can’t stop millennium-old traditions, but you can protest the new ones. Spend your time doing that instead.

  • I think Doug and Ten are absolutely right!
    I think you are wrong Clever Dude! It doesnt matter what point you are in your life. Your wedding should be celebrated and those that love you will want to give whether you need it or not. And, likely, you have been giving all those years. Doesn’t matter if love comes early or late, it should be celebrated and one is just as deserving of generosity of family and friends.

  • I will say however, that I just got married (my second) at age 35. My new husband is 40 (never married). We make a good living and recently bought a nice home. We don’t NEED anything. I wanted to write “no gifts please” on the invitation, but his family didn’t feel it was fair to him since he has never had a wedding. And, honestly, the wedding was $112/plate, so we were providing a very nice evening to our guests. So, we didnt register but also didnt put ‘no gifts’. So, besides the few photo frames, etc., that we received, we mostly received cash. I felt very guilty getting gifts from my family and friends (as they had bought gifts the first wedding). But, when I told them I didnt want anything, they insisted because they love me and Jeff has never been married and because they were invited to a nice event with drinks and dinner.
    We did however, have a few guests give a donation to a charity my husbands family started, which was VERY cool (it benefits brain cancer patients, as his sister died of brain cancer at age 34 in 2005).

  • I don’t understand. How are you seeing these registries if you have not requested that information? I registered, but never told anyone about the registry unless they specifically asked. If these couples are putting the information on the invitation, then that’s a huge breach of etiquette, and I understand feeling that these couples are demanding gifts.

    Please don’t discount the pressure some folks’ families put on them to register. My MIL even asked me to register for specific items because SHE wanted to buy them for me with the protection of wedding registry policies. Some of these companies are quite generous about returns, which acts kind of like a short term warranty, and isn’t that nice on high-dollar items?

    Also, for what it’s worth, there’s a difference between generosity and charity. Were your friends and family being generous or charitable when they gave you those gifts?

  • This is a dicey one. I think that if you don’t want to buy the couple a gift, you need to politely decline the invitation (we’re broke so we have to turn down almost all invitations that involve gift-giving, but we do so politely). My husband and I got married in our 30’s and we didn’t feel we needed gifts. We also didn’t feel we needed a big wedding (or a poofy white dress for that matter) so we actually had a surprise wedding — guests had no idea they were coming to a wedding.

    I’ll give you that was a radical plan! 🙂 Some people, women in particular, have had GRANDIOSE wedding fantasies since childhood. It’s hard to judge them harshly just because we have different views. I guess my rambling point is this — you should bring a gift to any wedding to which you are invited. You have the freedom to decide what to buy and/or how much to spend. It would be impolite to accept the invitation but to arrive empty handed. Just my two cents.

  • Bridal showers started out for young couples that didn’t have much at all. Small gifts were given like dish towels & other necessary items. NOW a lot of couples already have everything thing they need, so its pretty much a greedy grab for gifts. Showers make me CRINGE. I refuse to have one. To obligate friends and family to buy me stuff is just awful.
    Time for showers to be outlawed!!!

  • Ok, I come from a VERY large family – 51 first cousins, whose children are now all getting married, AFTER they have been living with their significant other and had a first child. I’m still single. I’ve bought a ton of gifts over the years and spent a small fortune on gifts I will never see. I’ve seen it all, but even my family stops short of registering for the honeymoon.

    A shower SHOULD be just that – a showering of gifts for a young couple starting out that has nothing, and even though I’ve bought my own things myself, this still doesn’t bother me much. Hopefully, this will be the only wedding they will ever have, and you know what? I want to bless them as their great-grandparents, who came to this country with nothing, were not blessed, because I can.

    What bothers me is when someone in their 50’s gets married and expects to register. Or when it’s a 2nd or 3rd wedding. I mean seriously. I don’t go up with the single gals to catch the bouquet anymore. There’s just an age/time when there should be a cutoff. People are getting married later, so if they want the big wedding with the gift registry, fine. But if they’re out of their 30’s, that’s too old. And if they’ve already been married once, enough already. Sure, if you feel like you WANT to give someone a gift for the 2nd or 3rd wedding, fine, but those weddings should be smaller, more tasteful affairs, immediate family only, IMO.

  • IM 52, this is my first marriage, fiance’s #2. I was a single parent, so everything i own came from thrift stores, yard sales, granma cast offs or i made. I have asked not to share in a young coworkers shower who is marrying 1000 miles away, didnt want to steal her thunder. I just said.please.come.celebrate with.us. I didnt register because it is tacky at my age, but would love to have a few NEW nice things, but wouldnt know what to ask for til i can inventory all HIS stuff. I dont have the time to thoughtfully shop to register as i am doing all tbe prep, decor, flowers and gourmet food on my own and at my own expense. The reception wiil be an garden party type affair at my home, w extensive bar, server, professional type setups & am workin my fingers to the bone, taking a whole week off before to Cook, cook, cook. I literally invited everyone at work. They bought nice gifts for the other bride but no gifts for.me yet. .Should i expect any gifts? I will be spending ~$60 per person. I have always been quite generous at all the showers, collections, cookie sales, etc. Did i send the wrong message? Shoyld i expect gifts from the bridal party since they have been no help, and i paid for dresses, etc?

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  • Wow! A wedding is a celebration, not an obligation folks. I am a 33yo bride getting married next year when I will be 34! I have attended, gifted and been in nearly all of my friends and families weddings…which was a huge expense to me as a single 20 something who was struggling with my career and I did it proudly because I was happy for them! I find it insulting that people think because MY love life didn’t follow YOUR plans I should be celebrated any less. Personally I don’t care if I get a single gift it’s about my friends and family celebrating with our love and accepting a new person into the family. If someone sees that as an obligation or a money grab maybe they should reconsider attending that wedding!

  • I am getting married later this year for the first time at age 41. It’s my fiance’s first marriage too. We are established and have a house. We don’t have any kids. We are having a small, simple destination ceremony with our parents and a few close friends. Then after we return home we’re having a reception with our extended family & friends. Like some of the others have said, I too have attended many friends/family’s showers & weddings and bought them gifts over the years, regardless of their age. I am not having a shower, but I do plan to register for the wedding. My dishes and silverware are the same that I bought myself on clearance at Target when I first moved out on my own 20 years ago. My dishes are terribly chipped. I have no need or desire for china, but I could definitely use new everyday dishes and silverware. I only plan to register for items we need. I’m very practical and budget minded when it comes to spending and would never register for expensive items. We had a house-warming a couple years ago and included “no gifts, please” on the invitations, yet 90% of people still brought us something. (a plant, gift card, cash, bottle of wine, etc) So I plan to register for a few household items that we would definitely put to use. I don’t expect people to bring a gift, but if they want to then the registry would provide some ideas of what we’re actually needing. I agree that having a bridal shower at this point would be a tacky request for receiving gifts twice. But I don’t feel we’re in the wrong for registering for the wedding reception. Guests are not obligated to bring a gift, but most of our family/close friends will want to give us something. So whether it’s something from the registry, a gift card, a bottle of wine, or a greeting card saying Congrats, that’s up to them, and everything is always appreciated. And you can be sure I’ll be sending Thank You cards. Now that’s another topic…I’ve been to 3 young people’s weddings in the past few years who never sent a Thank You card!

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