Winter 2006
Wedding Wows

Money, Money

Average amount ($) spent on a gift for each member of wedding party percent of respondents

0-99 | $81.1
100-199 | $15
200-299 | $2.8
300+ | $1.1
Median | $61

Source: Bridal Guide InfoSource 2006; Bridal Guide magazine

Today’s bride and groom thank their parents, their bridal parties, their friends and others who participate in their wedding with amazing gifts, going beyond the formal silver picture frame and monogrammed money clip to choices tailored to the recipients’ personalities and lifestyles. And they’re spending more on these gifts than they have in years past. Diane Forden, editor in chief of Bridal Guide magazine, says: “Brides and grooms want to choose something very special for each of their loved ones, and they’re willing to be more generous, because this is a very special occasion. So we’re seeing more fine jewelry for the bridesmaids and mothers; watches and pocket watches for the groomsmen and fathers; and upscale housewares, like the Vera Wang barware and vases collection, given as gifts. Even if the gift is a vehicle for a loving expression, it is still tailored to the recipient’s personality and what they will use for a long time in the future, perhaps even as gifts to hand down in the family as heirlooms.”

The bride and groom want to spend more

According to Bridal Guide InfoSource 2006, in Bridal Guide magazine, recent survey results show a trend toward upscale gift selections for the bridal party. The same survey shows that the median amount spent on gifts for each member of the bridal party was $61 in 2006, a 25 percent increase from 2005. According to The Wedding Report, a national survey of brides’ and grooms’ spending habits, the average spent on gifts in total is $1,104, compared with $1,136 spent on flowers and $1,841 on wedding attire.

The Fairchild Survey of American Weddings, run by the parent company of Bride’s, Modern Bride and Elegant Bride magazines, indicates that an enormous wave of weddings is quickly approaching. That’s because the Echo Boomers (those born between 1982 and 1995), the children of the Baby Boomer generation, are just entering the peak marriage age, and their demographic is three times the size of Generation X (typically defined as those born between 1963 and 1981). More weddings means more money spent on gifts and more reasons for gift shop owners to be in the weddings market.

Tradition stays alongside new choices

Michael Russo, chairman and president of The Gift Association of America in Johnstown, PA, says the general rule is: “For the parents, gifts are based on the memory of the wedding day itself-such as engraved photo albums and frames-and for the bridal party, gifts are more material and functional for use after the wedding, such as jewelry for the bridesmaids and money clips, cufflinks and pocket watches for the groomsmen.”

The Wedding Report says that 77 percent of couples use the Internet to help plan their weddings. But while 43 percent use the Internet to research gift products, only 13 percent purchase their gifts and favors online. “Brides and grooms want to see, feel, smell and sample a variety of gifts,” Forden says. “In our surveys, engaged couples say that they want to see how the item looks, how big it is, and actually hold it to see how it feels–how heavy it is, if it’s going to be practical for their bridesmaids or groomsmen. So they want to spend time in a store, exploring their options, and they want the guidance of a knowledgeable sales associate who can point out appropriate options, the shop’s best sellers, and hear a little more about each product-like who the artisan is, where it was made. Brides especially love items with a story. And if you have a bridal registry in your store, that’s even better, since you can suggest gift items for others as they’re picking out items for themselves. That’s add-on sales with a customer who’s ready to spend when they weren’t originally thinking of gifts for others at the moment.” So what gifts are couples looking to give?

Jewelry tops the list

“Since the trend for bridesmaids’ dresses is vibrant colors, brides want to give their bridesmaids silver jewelry as opposed to gold, since silver goes with everything. Delicate, smaller pieces are in, as these are the designs that the bridesmaids will wear again after the wedding, and brides want lots of variety so that they can custom-select styles to match their bridesmaids’ personalities,” says Carin Rosenberg Levine, owner of Hitched, a wedding salon and gift boutique in Washington, D.C.

Julie Martin, proprietor of Bella Perla Gallery, in Portland, OR, says one of the store’s most popular gift items to give the bridal party is a matched three-pearl drop necklace and earring set with one lavender, one peach and one white pearl on sterling silver chains. Dogeared Jewels & Gifts has capitalized on the fascination with pearls and designed special gifts for bridesmaids and other members of the wedding party.

Also look at lariats, which have been featured in the celebrity wedding magazines. “Lariats are popular gifts for both mothers and bridesmaids. They can bring sparkling detail or simple elegance to both front and back necklines of a dress,” says Kristy Nuttall, jewelry designer and owner of My Little Pretty, who recently had one of her lariats featured in Southern California Bridal Guide.

Handbags are the new bouquets

The big news in the weddings market is that handbags are replacing bouquets as sparkling accessories for bridesmaids and mothers to carry down the aisle. “Brides know that their bridesmaids are unique individuals, so they’re looking at individual styles of handbags-perhaps a round or oval style. What’s great about an ornate and sparkling bag is that even a conservative bridesmaid can carry it and feel more glamorous,”says Laura Lee, owner of Laura Lee Designs. Brides use her company’s crystal-beaded handbags as gifts for their bridesmaids.

Anne Ferenz, the buyer and manager of Tiny Jewel Box in Washington, D.C., a store that carries Laura Lee handbags, says: “Handbags are big right now, because brides tell us that they can’t find a wide enough selection of coordinating colors and different, appropriate, small-sized styles in department stores. Brides want unique, nicely made beaded bags with color, sparkle and shine, and a terrific gift shop [that stocks these] is their source of choice,” Ferenz says.

What men want

Russo, of the Gift Association, says men’s gifts are still very traditional, like personalized steins with monograms swirled on small pewter plaques or etched into glass.

“One thing to consider when looking at cufflinks, which also can be monogrammed for each man, is that those cufflinks will stay in a drawer if the man doesn’t have the opportunity to wear French cuffs like he would with the tuxedo,” Russo says. He suggests that men’s gifts be practical as well as elegant, something each man will use very often.

Designer-name wallets, money clips and pocket watches are big trends right now. “We’re seeing a twist on the traditional wallet with money clip,” says Laura Eisman, founder of Guy Shop in New York City. “We carry the ‘Sammy,’ which is a titanium money clip and combination credit/business card case from Gary Scott USA. They come in a brushed version and a polished version, they’re light, and they’re a conversation piece when others see them.”

Art Mandelbaum, president of Baekgaard Ltd. in Fort Wayne, IN, says the company’s tie sets are very popular. “We have a set of eight silk neckties designed by our sister company, Vera Bradley, and our retail shops report that high-quality ties are popular choices for groomsmen and fathers’ gifts,” he says. “Our leather tie cases are particularly attractive to gift givers, since their snap closures mean that valuable ties won’t get snagged and ruined by a zipper close.”

Mandelbaum also lists travel items and pewter flasks among his top sellers for men’s gifts. “We have a hanging toiletry bag with plenty of compartment pockets that is our most popular travel item,” he says.

Co-ed concepts

While separate gifts for women and men might be the way to go for some couples, more are ignoring gender. “They’re giving everyone on their list a version of the same item,” Forden, the Bridal Guide editor in chief, says. “Rather than separate male and female gifts, engaged couples are being creative in choosing one theme of gift-like a wine caddy-and personalizing each recipient’s present with a chosen type of wine, color of the caddy or engraving, monogramming, or extra contents.”

“Watches are very popular,” says Leah Ingram, author of Gifts Anytime: How to Find the Perfect Present for Any Occasion. “They’re practical, something that parents and the bridal party can wear and use every day.”

Unisex styles and matching sets for parents are among the most popular upscale gifts on brides’ and grooms’ shopping lists. “A gift of a beautiful watch is a symbol of lasting affection, so our four new styles of timepieces are attracting the bridal market,” says Patricia Russo, spokeswoman for A.T. Cross, a manufacturer of writing accessories and timepieces.

“A growing trend is for beautiful pens and pen sets,” says Randy Pellegrini, a Beverly Hills event coordinator. “Corporate types who sign big contracts love to have the gorgeous real or faux Italian marble pen in a fabulous case. They collect these pens and even display them in cases. This is the perfect example of an indulgent gift that most people wouldn’t get for themselves.”

Gifts that give back

A major trend in weddings is to incorporate a charitable cause into gift giving. Brides and grooms are creating charitable registries, where guests give to the cause of the couple’s choice in lieu of a wedding present. Another way couples give is to buy products from companies that donate a percentage of their profits to local or national charities. For instance, Laura Lee Designs donates a portion of profits from its pink handbags to the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation.

Unique is the big buzzword with bridal consumers. They absolutely do not want to have anything their friends or family have had at their weddings, or that’s shown on every bridal website. The gift shop is a bride’s saving grace. Brides say they consider it fate and good fortune to find a fabulous gift shop. So for them, finding you could be the best gift of all.

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