Showers and gift cards?

1-24-2009-gift_box_w_pk_ribbonQuestion: We are throwing a bridal shower for a young lady in our Bible study. She is moving right after the shower to her fiancé’s hometown and won’t be back until the wedding, which will take place here, her hometown. She and her fiancé are trying to limit the things she has to move. It has been suggested that a gift card shower be given rather than actual gifts. Call me old fashioned, but this seems so impersonal. Is this new method of showering a bride proper protocol? Do you have any suggestions for making this more personal if we have a gift card shower? Your advice would be greatly appreciated. And feel free to edit this message to make it more understandable. Sincerely, Renee

Answer: Dear Renee~ Here we are with one of those twists that make today’s living more complex. You understand the importance of gift giving. Your question is thoughtful, well stated and a good one. Thank you for putting it forth.

Individual gift cards make some people nervous. Although gift cards can be appropriate and appreciated in instances involving long distances, I agree with you and prefer “personalized” gift giving. There’s a lingering sweetness about gifts that remind of us of the people who gave them. Here are some suggestions that will make a group’s gift more personal, as well as general protocol in such circumstances.

The main idea behind showers involves helping the couple get started in their new life together as well as showing friendship and goodwill. We don’t want our gift to complicate their circumstances.

Discreetly doublecheck her preferences: Ask the bride-to-be’s friends in the group, her mother or a relative for specific input. Discovering what the young lady thinks is an important step in meaningful gift giving. What item(s) might she most like to have? For example, a travel shower with luggage since she’s on the move? Personal items?  Consider a nice group gift– A special household item such as a stand up mixer or nice iron or a group gift card? If individual gifts are preferred, and don’t pose a problem in later moving, is there someone in the group who could temporarily store gift items for her? Consider her preferences before making final decisions about gifts, a specific item, or individual gifts. Some young ladies like the idea of a gift card, others do not.

If your group goes with a gift card shower choose a theme to help personalize the event; such as a recipe or garden motif, where each invitee contributes a small personalized theme item as well. Since yours is a bible study, favorite scriptures as well as favorite recipes would personalize the shower without costing extra dollars. Pass out identical recipe cards in advance or send them in the shower invitation with instructions to include names on the card and return it or bring it to the shower a few minutes early. I still have –and use–recipes from a shower years ago, and I treasure each one for the memories of friendship that the cards bring. Put all recipes in a nice book or recipe file box with a big bow or present the cards to her one by one before going into the keepsake file. When the group is large assign a recipe category such as appetizers, main dish, quick and easy meals, dessert, etc.

If the honoree enjoys gardening each person could bring one or two seed packets of their favorite flowers or vegetables. The packets are small and easily transportable to a future home. Guests can include tips and comments to personalize these small gifts thereby adding much to a group’s gift.

The challenge with individual gift cards is their actual up front value and if they aren’t for a certain satisfactory amount the recipient can feel slighted as though she’s been “undervalued”. Not that her attitude is realistic or right, but it has happened. Many gift givers are uncomfortable with what amounts to “leaving a price tag” on the gift.

Because individual gift cards are problematic for some and can cause budgetary embarrasment, I think they work best when given as a group gift. Whenever a group gift is given, whether it’s a gift card or single item, it’s important to specify a reasonable price range so everyone contributes  a similar amount. ( Reasonable amounts are another advantage of group giving, especially if your group is large and enjoys numerous gift giving events).

It’s also proper that those who contribute are acknowledged on the card to the bride. No one’s name should be left off. When an absent individual contributor cannot personally sign the card, the organizer or hostess has the responsibility to sign their name in their absence.

Group gifts are generally more costly than individually purchased gifts. Gift cards work best when the group is large enough to afford a larger than normal or expected amount. Group gift cards also provide a time saving advantage for all involved and assure that the bride will choose something she really wants or needs.

The honoree always thanks each person individually at the shower, usually after opening each gift and then once again she expresses thanks to everyone there after the final gift is set aside and before the shower ends. Common contemporary etiquette excuses her from later writing individual notes of thanks to those shower attendees, provided she has specifically thanked them at the party. Those, however, who practice a higher form of  protocol still write follow-up thank you notes.

Higher protocol recognizes that when friends care enough to present a gift, an additional follow up note remains a considerate and appreciative response. The practice of thanking friends for special kindness, especially in this “take it for granted” age, should be cultivated. We do well when we don’t fall victim to the “too busy” mentality.

When receiving a group gift, however, a general thank you followed by a thank you card or note to the hostess suffices. This communication should be shared with the group at their next meeting.

Our PM friends include some savvy people who may have other suggestions or ideas, but in the meantime I hope my answer helpful. Have a fun shower! Protocol matters.

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