“Required” Gift Giving

I’ve recently become engaged to my long term, 5-year relationship boyfriend and beginning the task of the infamous Engagement Party.

So let’s invite friends and family over to soon-to-be in law’s backyard deck, people will drop in and out (open house style!). We’ll prepare some finger food, I’ll rock a casual summer dress…

Wait, the gifts. Oh no, all of those engagement gifts! The cheap, cheesy and sweat-shop made nick-knacks that every guest feels obligated to give you. What are we going to do with all this junk!

I’m designing the invitations for our casual backyard barbeque celebrations and wracking my brain to come up with a phrase that, in a loving way, says “Please don’t buy us any junk. Because we will never use it and I will donate it, or worse, give it back to you at Christmas.” I’m still thinking if there is a way I can add to that: “Please don’t support a human-rights exploiting industry, we are better than that.” (Hard to make it sound like I’m not a total egotistical jerk though…)

Not that the act of gift giving at Engagements and Weddings are inherently bad, it does come from a loving and generous place and, in the past, it was a necessity for young newlyweds. Historically when couples did not move out of the family home until they were married. Then they truly did need plates, linens and appliances. In the twenty-first century however, most couples are living together and have all the necessities. So what else is there to support a couple?

Money. Money is great, please give us money. I need to save for a Thermomix. (The food processor of the Gods!) My Fiance and I also need to save for our wedding day. Luckily, most people are open to the idea. Money is easy. East to withdraw last minute and no stress of “What do I get them, what do they need?” Unfortunatley the older generation is harder to break-in. It was just “what you did” in those days.

I’ve had “The Minimalist Talk” with a few close friends and family. The “I’m trying to declutter my life of material things to live a simple and satisfying life. I know you like to buy me things to show you love me. Because you love me, and I know you respect me, please don’t buy me any material goods. I’m happy with everything I have. If you feel you must buy me something, buy me something consumable. I like chocolates or take me out for dinner one night.” (At least I can share the chocolates!)

Not that “The Talk” goes smoothly all the time. It can get awkward because you are letting them off the hook for a commercially driven social standard of gift giving (but really, “Gift-giving” a form of love language? No, just no. That’s ridiculous). It does confuse most people, and honestly, they won’t really understand why you are doing it. Some people I’ve talked to get quite sensitive because the obligation of gift giving is a source of anxiety. But those who know you well, truly love you, they will respect your decisions.

The insecurity of distant engagment-related family members is much harder. This kind of “Minimalist talk” is not going to work with them. It is exhausting expanding my energies to placate the insecurities of other people who, are trying to do a lovely selfless act, give us a gift we will enjoy but, in reality, gives me stress.

Oh well, I’ll have to suffice with the written word and come up with something truly brilliant so my Fiance and I will have no presents (Challenge accepted!)

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