Infest the Waters: A Blog About Design, Life and Making Stuff

Illustrate 2012: April

Illustrate 2012: April

I wasn’t sure what I was going to do for this month’s installment of Illustrate 2012, but then I started working on an illustration for wedding invitations for a friend of mine who’s getting married this summer.  She and her fiancé are into gnomes, so it only seemed fitting to incorporate them into the invitations.  They’re also getting married in their backyard, which is surrounded by woods, so the trees also seemed appropriate.  The hedgehog, however, is purely my doing.

Illustrate 2012: April

It turns out, however, that they’ve decided to forgo the gnomes on the invitations for fear of receiving an abundance of gnomes as wedding gifts.  They’re all for gnomes, but really, how many gnome-themed tchotchkes does one couple need?  Plus, there are some pretty tacky wedding-themed gnome gifts out there.  To wit, check out this little beauty:

Tacky Gnome

And now you understand why their fear is a very real one.

So it sounds like the illustration will be used on the wedding program instead.  That suits me just fine because now it’s able to be my April illustration.  Of course, this whole thing got me to thinking about wedding gifts, our culture of “stuff,” and what purpose asking for a 12 place settings of fine china serves in this day and age.  (Seriously, do you really need a brand new set of fine china?  And if you’re the kind of person who really wants fine china, aren’t you going to inherit one at some point anyway?)

When my husband and I got married, we actually asked people to not give us gifts.  By the time you’re in your early thirties, it’s pretty likely that you have most of the trappings you need to run a household (dishes, towels, pots and pans, potato scrubbers)–at least we certainly did.  So registering for more stuff just seemed really wasteful and somewhat greedy.  Plus, when you’re asking people to travel hundreds (if not thousands) of miles and pay for a hotel room, it also seems a little demanding to expect them to fork over a gift, too.  I know it’s a cultural norm to give gifts for weddings, and I understand that it made sense when people got married young and were just setting up a household, but in an age when people are more and more frequently entering into marriage later in life, I think we need to consider what purpose the gift-giving serves.

We’re programmed to give “stuff” to people for all kinds of events, but what if they don’t actually need stuff.  We’re burdening them and our planet.

So instead of gifts, we asked people to do other things–bake us a pie, sing us a song, participate in our bike caravan, donate to our favorite charities or give us something useful, like Home Depot gift cards.  Of course, because we knew that some people would still want to give us a real gift,–cultural norms are hard to break people of–we did set up a very limited registry of things we could actually use, like a leaf shredder to make mulch for the garden and a swell pump for the rain barrel.  I’m pleased to say that we received only two gifts from the registry, but how awesome would it be if we didn’t have to set up the registry at all?  And no one would have to live in fear of receiving a tacky garden gnome on their wedding day.


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