Social Question

jordym84's avatar

Can you help me with this wedding registry/gift etiquette?

Asked by jordym84 (4752points) April 10th, 2013

Dear Jelly friends, I need your help: one of my really good friends is getting married this coming June and I am to be one of her bridesmaids. I’ve only ever been to one wedding in my life and I was only 6 years of age at the time and it was in a different country with a totally different culture from the US. Also, needless to say, I’ve never been a bridesmaid, so my knowledge of pre-wedding protocol and etiquette in the US (especially as it pertains to me as a bridesmaid) is almost non-existent. As such, I have a few questions for the collective:

1) What are my duties/what is expected of me as a bridesmaid?
2) In terms of gifting, as long as it’s on the wedding registry, does the price point really matter? (I just checked her online registry and most of the items that are left are way out of my budget, but I don’t want to skimp on her gift because she’s a great friend and she and her family have always been very kind to me).
3) Also, is it acceptable to deviate from the registry when buying the gift?
4) What other handy advice can you give to this inexperienced bridesmaid/wedding-goer?

*Please keep in mind that 1) the bride and I live in different states, over 1,000 miles away, and 2) I’m on a tight budget, and will be even more so on the weeks preceding and following the wedding because I’ll be accounting for travel costs, unpaid time off work (5 days), expenses while away, unplanned expenses, etc, all of which will surely add up quickly.

Thanks in advance!

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10 Answers

pleiades's avatar

I wouldn’t really deviate from the registry, but anything additional is always a plus!

JLeslie's avatar

Are you the maid of honor? The maid of honor usually has additional duties.

As a bridesmaid living so far away just do the girl thing of keeping in touch, asking how her plans are going, being excited for her. If she just got engaged you can send her a care package of bridal magazines and/or a bridal etiquette book as an inexpensive little girlfriend gift right now if you think she would like it. But, since you said only expensive stuff is left on her registry, I assume she has been engaged for a while. Most brides buy a lot of that stuff in volume when they first get engaged.

Since you are close girlfriends you could tell her you noticed on her registry that all the gifts under $100, or whatever the price is, are gone and she might want to add a few more items. She might actually have two registries, you could ask her that, ask if she is registered anywhere else. Her china and stemware might be at a department store, while her every day stuff might be at Bed Bath and Beyond.

I would give a check if the registry was dwindling down, well, I give a check a lot of the time anyway, and I usually don’t like when people buy items not on the registry, but many people don’t like to give cash/checks. If you go off the registry I say go for practical. Does she have bakeware on her registry? Kichen mitts and dishclothes? Or, look at what is on her registry and buy another piece from the set that matches what she picked out. Like another serving dish that matches the serving dishes or dishes she has picked out. Definitely buy from the same store as her registry so it will be easy to return or exchange.

Having said all of that, I would not care if you bought me nothing if I were the bride, especially considering you are travelling from far away and I am assuming having to buy a dress the bride picks out. That is already a lot of money spent. But, I understand you want to give some sort of gift, which I think is very nice, don’t worry about spending a lot of money.

glacial's avatar

Why not get a little something from the registry, then an extra gift that is more personal? A registry is a fine idea, but personally, if 100% of my guests bought off the registry, I would be disappointed. Who wants to open a pile of gifts when there are no surprises or personal touches?

Before people get all Miss Manners on me, I realize that not everyone feels the same way. But if she’s a close friend, you will likely know how she will feel about a gift that you choose. Your experience with her is more important that what the wedding etiquette books say.

JLeslie's avatar

@glacial When you say experience with her, do you mean when she goes out there for the wedding? Or, when they open the gift together?

marinelife's avatar

Asking someone to be a bridesmaid is a big deal because of the costs involved. You did not mentione buying the outfit but that gets expensive.

Your duties as a bridesmaid really involve walking up the aisle ahead of the bride looking pretty, but not so beautiful that you outshine the bride. Making nice with whichever one of the groomsmen that you are paired with. Posing for photographs. Enjoying the reception. Sometimes helping the bride get dressed before and after the ceremony. Possibly working with the Maid of Honor to throw the bridal shower (probably not if you are at a distance).

As for the gift, registry’s are only a guideline. Do not spend more than you want to. If you know the bride or the couple well, pick any gift you think that they would like. You can always go for an experience (concert tickets; restaurant gift certificate) rather than something for their home. One other possibility is to go in with others to purchase one of the expensive gifts on their registry.

Go to the wedding and enjoy!

glacial's avatar

@JLeslie No, I mean having experience of that person; knowing from experience what the person will like and not like.

Judi's avatar

Maybe I’m a hick, but I absolutely don’t think you need to stick to the registry. You know your friend and the things she likes. I feel like registrys are for people who may not know the bride well.
Pick something out that you know she will love and that’s in your price range. If the bride is gracious she will be touched that you took the time to think about what she would want.

JLeslie's avatar

@glacial I agree that experience can count for something, but my experience is people usully don’t know their friends don’t like surprise gifts. When I get a gift I put on my, “oh thank you so much I love it,” whether I like it or not. Some of my dearest friends know I am not keen on gifts that are unexpected or not what I would pick, but they didn’t know when we were young. I don’t know how old the bride is. I have softened a little and become more used to receiving gifts as I grew older.

Having said that, I do have gifts that mean a lot to me because they are unique, and something probably never would have picked myself and from people I love, but at least 50% of those things are inside a cupboard or closet in my house.

jordym84's avatar

Hi everyone!! Thank you all so very much for the feedback and sorry it’s taken me so long to reply (I don’t get much of a chance to spend time on Fluther on work days =/).

@pleiades Though I would love to give her something extra because she’s a very special friend, I, unfortunately, can’t afford to spend too much money on the gift, so the little extra isn’t really an option at the moment. But thanks for the suggestion!

@JLeslie Just a bridesmaid, not a maid of honor. She got engaged almost a year ago and at the time I was out of the country and I never got a chance to send her a care package. She does have two registries (and yes, one of them is at Bed, Bath & Beyond lol), but one of them is not online and it seems like it’s a local shop. And as far as the bridesmaids’ dresses go, she actually did something a little different and a lot more cost-effective than your typical bridesmaid attire: she found a really cute lace-type, peach colored skirt that goes well with her theming which she had all of us bridesmaids purchase (it was only $35) and then left the top and shoes up to us (she gave us basic guidelines in terms of color – white – and included a few pictures of what styles might go well with the skirts so that we’re all color-coordinated, but the final decision as to how we dress up the skirt is up to each individual bridesmaid).

@glacial That’s what I would want, too! I’d want to be surprised (within reason, of course haha). She came to visit me about a month or so ago and while browsing through the shops at my workplace (my company has tons of merchandise shops) she kept repeating how much she wished we had a bridal registry so she could get her kitchen sets from there and I took mental notes on what seemed to have caught her attention the most, so I might just get her some things from there (and since I get an employee discount, I’ll be able to get her more things than I would’ve otherwise).

@marinelife Thank you for the wonderful words! They’ve certainly helped to put my mind at ease because I was beginning to feel like I wasn’t playing my role as a bridesmaid very well. I love the idea of going in with someone else on the gift, but unfortunately I don’t know anyone else at the wedding besides the bride, her mom and the groom, so I can’t do much with that in this particular case. However, that idea might come in handy very soon because, just yesterday, another friend asked me to be a bridesmaid at her wedding (set for this coming October) and we have a few friends in common, so if things get to be too expensive I may have to go with your idea.

@Judi Thank you for the advice, I think that’s what I might do…it’ll be a bit more personal than just picking something off her registry.

Thank you all, once again, for the wonderful advice/ideas!! :)

JLeslie's avatar

@jordym84 The skirt idea is really nice, I had never heard of someone doing that before. There does not need to be an online registry, you can just call the shop, tell them how much you want to soend and they will tell you some of the items in that price range, you can do it all over the phone. This is still done all the time. Back in the day, which is just 15+ years ago we all did it like that if the store was not near us.

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