Wedding Gifts for Minimalists

Gifts for the toughest couples: minimalists.

What the heck do you buy someone who doesn’t like “stuff”? So many engaged couples are Tiny Homeowners. We live in RV’s, urban apartments, trailers, and converted garages. We choose to live with less. It’s not because we can’t afford more, our priorities are just a little unique. And, for so many people, gift giving is a way to show love.

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I first discussed this with my friend, Molly. She and her husband got married last year. They live in a small apartment and their engagement gifts alone took up every inch of extra space.  There had to be a different way.

So when Mike and I got engaged, Molly offered her advice for whenever we need it. Molly had some fantastic ideas and happens to be a wonderful writer. She was also happy to share her advice with you. I have some ideas of my own (surprise!) and have commented in italics. And with that, I give you Molly…

Ashley: When did you know you’d need to get creative?

Molly: After we received the first round of gifts (just for our engagement!) I was standing in our Guest Room (i.e. where we keep our power tools) with a Crate and Barrel box as big as me. Greg asked me to move over so he could walk out of the room and I was like "I CAN'T THERE IS NO WHERE TO GO! WE HAVE NO ROOM FOR THIS STUFF". After the initial panic wore off, I appreciated a lot more what the gifts meant. People said they were too excited for us to wait to send our invites and they were thinking of us. They were just so, so sweet!   

A: When we got engaged, many people asked if we had a registry. Since we don’t have a Guest Room (the trailer is two rooms, total) I replied that we hadn’t figure that out yet. Asking for cash seemed like a huge faux pas and we had too much stuff as it was.

A: What's frustrating about the traditional wedding registry?

M: There are so many rules about what you "should" do! That was frustrating in all our wedding planning. Way too many "should", "have to", "can't live without".

We did look into a honeymoon fund and other ways to receive cash. But asking for cash can be tacky. We just didn’t feel right doing it.

A: Here, here sister! I mentioned this to a few loved ones wanting to give us gifts. They replied that they’d be happy to give cash! That they usually do that anyway but were interested if we wanted material gifts. I know that not all gift-givers feel that way. But they opened my eyes, why not ask for what we want… cash! However, my mom raised me right. We couldn’t just stick out our palm and ask for cash. We had to help people understand where the cash was going.

A: What do you suggest for couples?

M: We eventually achieved a happy medium between material and non-material things. Here are some tips:

1. Get a wedding website that explains a little about your life. It helps people understand why you’re saying “no thanks” to tons of material gifts!

2. Choose a registry that suites your needs. We used Zola.com and loved it! It is so flexible on the kinds of gifts you can ask for. We had a honeymoon fund and a bunch of big things that we probably wouldn’t buy for ourselves.

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3. After you first make your registry, wait a few days and go through it again. Think about what you actually want and the specific place you will keep it. Do you have room for 12 of each type of wine glasses? Does your home even have seating for 12? If yes, what are the chances they’ll all drink wine?!

4. Tell your parents and close friends what you really want but may not be on the registry. Guests (if they’ve read this article or are very smart) will ask your loved ones for unique ideas.

5. Don’t forget to appreciate each gift. People put a lot of thought and energy into choosing them. Handwritten Thank You notes are really nice. We had a lot of fun sending pictures when we used things for the first time or even now when it makes us think of the gift giver. That is one great quality about material gifts…

A: Two weeks before our wedding, we’re moving to Maine where we’ll have even less “stuff.” However, our honeymoon is going to be epic. We have some time and are spending six weeks in Southeast Asia. It will be an expensive trip and the most amazing gift anyone could give us, are the resources to create lasting memories.

6. We’re using Honeyfund.com for our registry. We can explain exactly what the money/gift is buying; plane tickets to Thailand, overnight trips on a boat in Vietnam, lake houses in Myanmar. Epic!

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7. We will also have a very short registry of REI gear to help us travel light. And maybe some stuff for our winter season in Maine (new snowboards?).  

A: What do you suggest for gift givers?

M: If couples are saying they don't want “stuff” that doesn't mean you have to give cash. Restaurant gift cards for places near their home, fun experiences (from Groupon or Gilt City in the US), or cash with a note that says "for lunch on your honeymoon" are all great gifts!

If you aren't sure or don't love the things on the registry ask their parents or closest friends for suggestions! My mom was amazing about stressing that we live in a tiny apartment and have no plans to move. 

A: What about Bridal Showers?

M: Bridal Showers (as a gift-giving event) make way more sense if you’re moving out of your parents house and into your first home with your husband. Since we had already lived together for many years it seemed silly to ask for stuff we didn’t need. That being said, I love the tradition of getting all the girls together to wish you well in your new life.

Our wedding was really small (70 people) and my mom wanted to have an event with her female friends. Sounds like a Bridal Shower but we put our own twist on it. She threw me this big wine tasting luncheon and we were very clear that people should not bring gifts. We just wanted to host a fun party. My mom had the genius idea of asking everyone to bring a recipe, a piece of advice, and a pair of pretty underwear. People don't like to show up empty handed to these celebrations but there are some creative ways to end up with minimal stuff. It was a super fun (and funny) party and I now have one very full underwear drawer!

A: I’m with Molly on this. The obligation for gift giving was one reason I decided not to have a Bridal Shower. But we do want some sort of engagement celebration! A chance to share our excitement with loved ones and those who can’t come to the wedding. As usual, our Wedding Shower will be a little weird. It will be a no-gifts-unless-it’s-beer-or-food kind of party. 

A: What were the best (non-cash) gifts you received?

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M: Some of our close friends took the liberty of coming up with their own ideas. Our best creative gifts:

- Art! My mother-in-law got us a really cool map of Boston. A friend made us gorgeous hand lettered prints with wedding song lyrics. We also got cool wooden signs of the places we got engaged, married, and had our wedding shower.

- Blue Apron for a week. Free meals and we got to use all our new cooking supplies!

- Penzeys spices. A family friend got us a HUGE selection of spices and we love them.

- Restaurant gifts cards. Free date nights!

We did register for some material gifts. We replaced some of our cheaper stuff with quality products that will last us years. Our best traditional gifts: 

- Cuisinart coffee maker. We use it like 4 times a day (we drink too much coffee).

- New rugs for our living room and dining area/kitchen.

- Cast iron. That stuff is the best! We have a Dutch oven and two cast iron pans (big and little).

- Pillows & bedding. Our bed is so cozy now.

- Pelican cooler. It keeps stuff cold for a week!

- Really nice floor mats for our truck.

A: These are all fantastic ideas. Especially the personalized art and Penzey’s Spices.

A: Any other tips?

M: Engaged couples, this is YOUR wedding, you’ll (probably) only do this once (and you'll definitely only get gifts like this once). At first I didn't want to get rid of all our current stuff for nicer versions of the same thing but we did it and don’t regret it for a second. We got stuff that works better in our small space, is nicer, and will last longer. People will get you “stuff” no matter what so you may as well get what you can use.

A: Agreed on all points! Thanks for the advice Molly!