Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Giving the Useful: Bridesmaid’s Gifts

The tradition of giving a gift to bridesmaids evolved from the bride providing her attendants with dresses to wear to the wedding ceremony. Remember the dress-the-bridesmaids-the-same-as-the-bride-to-fool-evil-spirits trick? It was that trick that prompted brides to gift bridesmaids anything at all: not only were wedding-appropriate gowns rare in the days of hand-spun cloth, but multiple women having the same exact dress was pretty much impossible, unless the bride created the dresses herself. Additionally, it was nice for your girlfriends and female family members to put themselves in the way of evil spirits, right? For doing so, they definitely deserved a new dress.

As the industrial revolution reinvented the way clothing was made and allowed for off-the-rack dress purchases, the tradition of bridesmaid gifting didn’t disappear. Instead, the type of gift given changed from one of necessity (read = wearing clothes in church) to accessory (read = handkerchiefs).

Yes, handkerchiefs. Those little swaths of linen were (and still are) the traditional bridesmaid gift. This was because a bride could create numerous delicate, personalized handkerchiefs for her bridesmaids that could match any attire and be useful.

Did you catch that word? Useful

Today, that word is still foremost in most brides’ minds when giving gifts. To us, this is awesome because “use” rarely factors into any other gift giving event. To bridesmaids, however, this is usually less awe inspiring because “use” does not easily translate to any time after the wedding.

A handkerchief is a beautiful, traditional, and very handy (get it?) gift. However, how many of your bridesmaids now use the more-modern Kleenex in lieu of linen? We’re guessing quite a few.

If you want to gift a useful and thoughtful present to your bridesmaids to thank them for their service, consider their lifestyles. Will they really wear a hot pink shawl ever again? Do they write a lot of thank you notes, thereby warranting that stationary? Does a monogram jewelry box match their home décor? If not, consider these options:

The bridesmaid dress. More and more brides are actually paying for their bridesmaids gowns. We love this idea, especially since very few dresses actually fit into the category of “being wearable after the wedding”. (We know that this statement is not a popular one, given that it is claimed by many brides. However, it is a very honest one, because we, in our experience, have found that very few bridesmaids re-wear their dresses). Regardless of whether the dress actually fits into the re-wearable category, however, we’ve learned from the bridesmaids in our weddings that a bride’s covering this expense is always appreciated.

Hair, makeup or nail services. We must admit that this gift is less altruistic than it seems. Brides who really want their bridesmaids’ hair, makeup or nails to look a specific way might consider gifting a spa day for their attendants. Time in the spa gives a bride the opportunity to spend time with their friends and family and achieve the perfect look for their group.

Brunch, lunch or some other meal. Treating your bridesmaids to a meal is always an appreciated “thank you” gesture. Not only do your bridesmaids get to eat, drink and be merry together, but they also get to be merry with their bride-to-be friend. A bride might consider giving a short toast to make the time extra special.

Individualized gifts. Nothing says that all bridesmaids must receive the same gift. Being able to pick and choose what you give each individual bridesmaid makes it easier to select something that is actually “useful” to her. If you’re uncomfortable with each gift being different, wrap each item similarly in one of HJ’s gift bags from its Charmed line.

If you’re the traditional sort, go ahead and gift those handkerchiefs. After all, giving a gift is always generous, and any bridesmaid who scowls at the gift horse might just need to be moved to the back of the processional.