I like sharing ideas for meaningful and unique gifts for weddings.
How to Approach Gift Giving for Second Marriages and Older Couples
Many weddings are not the first one for either or both members of the couple. According to a Wall Street Journal article from Sept 20, 2011, 19 percent of marriages in 2008 were second marriages (almost 1 in 5). However, the traditional advice about wedding gifts always seems to assume that the couple is getting married for the first time and setting up their household together. Many first time couples have registries, so the strategy for gift giving is easier, though I do think it's very nice to consider going off registry and getting a creative gift. But for second, third, or fourth marriages, gift giving is sometimes uncharted territory.
I have only been married once, but have seen my parents marry and re-marry, so I am fairly familiar with the types of gifts people seem to give. I have some inside info on those which are best received!
There are a few questions I think are important to ask before deciding what approach you want to take with your gift giving:
- Joint residence: Does the couple live together, or do they plan on living together? This may seem like an odd question, but I know multiple older couples (including some in my family) who did not live together even after they got married. If this is the case, strongly consider giving an experience-oriented gift.
- Children: Does the couple (or either member of the couple) have children? Even if they do, you don't necessarily need to include their children in their gift, but it's worth considering, especially if you think it would mean a lot to them to have a gift that would involve their children. If you want to involve children, consider a family-oriented gift.
- Homebodies: Do they like to stay at home a lot? For some second marriages, or older couples, they may really want to settle in to a home together in a way maybe they didn't in their first marriage. In this case, it can often make sense (assuming they are living together) to get them something nice for their home. For these types of couples, consider a home-oriented gift.
In general, I think the safest approach, assuming you know the types of experiences that the couple enjoys, is an experience-oriented gift. But the others can be very fun as well. Regardless, I think that giving a nice and thoughtful gift is a great way to honor the couple's relationship and commitment together, and for second marriages or older couples this may be particularly appreciated.
I think this is a great type of gift for any type of couple, assuming you know enough about their interests to make an educated decision. There are so many types of experiences you can get a couple. I think it's also nice to pair the gift with something they can keep, but this is not at all necessary. The easiest example is getting someone a gift certificate to a nice restaurant and then a cookbook from the same restaurant. Our friends gave this to us for our wedding and it was one of our most memorable gifts. Of course, I've only cooked one dish out of the cookbook, but just having it on the shelf makes me remember our dinner, and makes me feel like I'm a better chef than I really am. The fact that it's obviously unused, and my Pillsbury baking cookbook is falling apart at the seams, probably gives me away, but that's alright.
Types of experience-oriented gifts:
- Gift certificate to a local restaurant. The fancier the better! It's nice to get your friends something that they might not otherwise treat themselves to on their own. You can accompany this with a cookbook.
- Night (or two) at a bed and breakfast, or a gift certificate from bedandbreakfast.com or some similar website that allows them to pick from many different bed and breakfasts. You could accompany this with a guidebook to bed and breakfasts.
- Concert tickets. This requires some knowledge of their preferences and their schedule, but if you're sneaky enough you can probably figure it out.
- Dancing lessons. Maybe your friends are already into going out dancing, or you know they would like to try. If so, dancing lessons could be fun. Just be sure you pick the right level so as to not offend them if they're already pros, or not get them in way over their heads if they're just starting out.
- Museum membership. This could also be a great present if you know their interests.
Family-oriented gifts—and by this I mean gifts that include any children the couple has—can fall into either the experience or home category. The main point is that the whole newly composed family can enjoy the gift together. This can be particularly nice if you know that it's important to the couple that their children feel that they are part of a newly formed family. Some ideas:
- Tickets to a sporting event that the whole family can enjoy.
- Membership to a museum that the whole family can enjoy (aquariums and zoos immediately come to mind, but some other types of museums could work too, depending on the ages of the children).
- Gift certificates to mini-golf or amusement parks. This could make for a great memorable day for the whole family.
- Camping gear and/or camping guidebooks.
- Ice cream maker to enjoy at home.
- Collection of DVDs that you know the family could enjoy together. It could be cute to pair this with a popcorn popper, or a set of comfortable pillows.
- If they have a sense of humor or would genuinely think this is fun, matching slippers or robes for the whole family.
For some couples, the nicest gift may be something more traditional. Even if they already have a lot of the basic household items, and aren't registering for plates, bowls, silverware, or glassware, you can still get them something extra special to enjoy in their home together. Some ideas include:
- Champagne flutes: My mom and step-dad really enjoyed a pair of champagne flutes that a friend got them and it made them feel like newlyweds for the first time, even though it was not the first marriage for either of them.
- Picture frame or album: A picture frame is also always a safe and thoughtful gift, because it's highly doubtful either of them wants to use a picture frame from a previous wedding for their new wedding pictures!
- Of the month clubs: Beer or wine or chocolate of the month clubs are also a great gift, and you could pair that with a nice set of beer mugs or wine glasses.
- Espresso maker or other fancy appliance: If you know they don't already have one, these always make great special gifts.
Have Fun Picking Out a Meaningful Present!
I know wedding presents are often a source of stress for many people, and I have felt that way as well. But when I focus on it as a fun opportunity to show friends that I care about them, and provide them with something or some experience that they will really enjoy and that they might not otherwise get for themselves, it can be a lot of fun. All of my favorite wedding gifts were ones that people picked out themselves.
With second weddings, or weddings of older couples, there are other factors to consider, such as those discussed above. Bottom line, I think it's important to pick something that honors the two people getting married and steers clear of any reference to any previous marriage by either person. This can be particularly important when you are much closer friends to one of the members of the couple, and may even have been good friends with them and their previous spouse. The gift you choose is a chance to tell this couple that you care about the two of them and have thought about what they will enjoy together.
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twoseven (author) from Madison, Wisconsin on January 16, 2013:
Deborah - thanks for the comment! I thought since I had some direct experiences seeing what my parents have liked, I might as well share what I've learned. I'm so glad you found it useful!
Deborah Neyens from Iowa on January 16, 2013:
What a great idea for a hub. I always struggle with what to buy for a wedding gift for a second marriage and usually default to a picture frame. You have some much better ideas here.
twoseven (author) from Madison, Wisconsin on December 29, 2012:
chefmancave - You are cracking me up! Personally, I think no wedding is complete without a "crazy uncle" type to mix it up a bit. Your TV gift sounds awesome and hilarious! My husband definitely would have appreciated that the most if someone had done that at our wedding!
Robert Loescher from Michigan on December 29, 2012:
My philosophy about wedding gift giving...If you are gonna be seen then make a scene. I have always been the social misfit of my family and I get invited to very few weddings. I am the "Crazy Uncle" you always hear about. The last wedding I was invited to I gave the couple a 40" big screen TV. (It takes a lot of wedding wrapping paper to wrap one of those things.) Now, imagine the gift table full of a bunch of small and medium sized boxes and this one big huge box. Remember-"Be seen". I was still assigned to the "losers" table at the reception but I heard a lot of "Who got them the TV?" comments as I made my way back and forth to the open bar.