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Wednesday July 19, 2006 // By Sandy

Of gifts and giving

It was a struggle to convince me to have a registry at all. Ever since we merged our belongings into one household almost two years ago, I’ve been encouraging a slow and steady purge of excess stuff. We have lots of it, and we certainly don’t need more. In this age of gluttony, to seek a net loss of goods seems almost heresy. But that’s what I’ve been after. Then we got engaged.

Getting married means getting lots of presents. That’s not news; that’s the way it’s been for as long as marriage has been a communal event. But because gift-giving is so ingrained into the marriage custom, it’s remarkably easy to take the whole thing for granted. The wedding registry doesn’t help one bit and risks driving the true meaning of giving a gift deep into the background. I wanted to avoid this, so I suggested that instead of registering, we ask people to donate to some of our favorite charities.

Sarah was immediately on-board, but didn’t think it was wise to give up on the registry entirely. She made a convincing argument: there are people who must give a gift, and who won’t want to go hunting for something. For these people we might as well direct their generosity toward a registry. So we set one up—okay, four—but hid them at the bottom of the registry page on our website, and focused all the above-the-fold attention on how to donate to charity. Seemed like a good compromise.

Building a registry is a dangerous activity. It takes seconds to register for any one item, and it’s so easy to think of every item on your registry as “soon to be mine” that it’s tempting to go nuts and list all kinds of crazy shit that you’ve been lusting after. The retail stores know exactly how to capitalize on this, arming you with a scanner gun, pointing you toward their stock, and shoving you off like a hunter in a forest full of very slow, very stupid deer. We struggled to keep a rational set of heads about us.

There’s actually one little unexpected benefit to a registry provides that I never realized until it came to pass. Despite the hours of time spent traveling, calling, emailing, faxing and discussing wedding plans, nothing made the event so real as seeing an item move from the “requested” column to “fulfilled.” Seems weird, and I was surprised to bear this feeling myself. But it made a kind of sense. Up until then, the event had been committed to only by a handful of people. Now that other people were committing themselves—or their money, at least—the wedding took on a new weight of reality. It was both exciting and humbling.

Nevertheless, I hope most of our guests choose the charity route. As much as we love new toys, these people and organizations—Donors Choose, Planned Parenthood, Inspiration Corporation & Jewish Fund for Justice—can use some new toys much more than we can. We’re more than happy to share this simcha with them in any way we can.

COMMENTS
Posted by Andrew // Jul 21, 13:50
Posted by Kandinsky the Great // Jul 21, 23:19
Posted by paul merrill // Jul 22, 01:26
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