Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Time is precious, wall clocks aren't !

I attended a wedding last week and I am still in the wedding mood. I usually pride myself on giving good gifts for any occasion. As I had just a week’s notice for the wedding, I was particularly happy with what I had chosen (will come back to that later). But as I was thinking about a gift, I decided that quite a few people are clueless and I should probably write a post with some helpful hints (my good deed for the day :D)

Put some thought into it: Gifts depend on the occasion, people and your relationship with them. Of course the budget one has in mind is also important but I believe that if you are clear about the first three, you can do wonders even with a modest budget. In general, men fair really badly in this category, so guys, be smart and ask your girl or some girl for suggestions.

A Gift should match the occasion: A self-help book as a wedding gift is a bad idea, a really bad idea. A wedding gift should usually serve as a reminder of the happy occasion, so avoid perishables like flowers, chocolates which are probably more suited for a birthday. These perishables can accompany the gift but should not be the gift itself.

A Gift should be usable, not redundant: These days, most people have a wish list and if they do not, there is no harm in asking them. After all, you want your gift to be used rather than be stored in the loft or pawned off on someone else as a gift, right? The latter is what happens to wall clocks, culinary sets and flower vases. Please avoid all these unless they are special or unique in some way. I know of friends who ended up with 7 wall clocks, 8 vases and 4 culinary sets after their wedding!! Even if you had a wall clock in every room, 7 wall clocks are simply too many!! Similarly getting a swamy padam as a gift for house-warming is a very obvious choice ergo everyone does it, remember the people are going to live in a house not in a Madam. So unless you have a special one, like a hand-made Tanjore painting or something from their wish list, skip this option.

Make safe choices and don’t get too personal: If you are getting a gift-certificate, for example, make sure it is from a store that they will use. If you do not know, ask. Unless the person is really close to you, avoid cosmetics, perfumes, jewelery, clothes etc. For one, you do not know the person’s preferences (not just likes and dislikes but even allergies!) and secondly, you might send a wrong message.

Include a wish/message: Your wish is more important than the gift itself. So write a note – doesn’t have to be a fancy card and/or a fancy poem, just a line wishing them well would do. A hand-written note is more personal than a print-out, don’t worry, not everyone is blessed with a good handwriting (experience speaks!). As long as your wish is not in a sealed envelope that you are sure will be opened by the person itself, avoid sarcastic and sexy remarks.

That was quite some blah..blah….so let me move on to some suggestions (I am sure this is the part that will be most interesting for exasperated male readers :D!)

Money would be one of my top suggestions. Cash is too blunt, so gift certificates would be a great gift. It is usable and the item they buy serves as a reminder as well. You can personalize it your own way with sweets or fancy decoration. That’s exactly what I did. I gave the wedding couple 2 gift certificates (each carrying a personalized wish) that I know they will use along with a photo frame that has a photo taken on their first weekend together, 2 years ago (Oh…I love my email archive) and everything nicely gift wrapped with all the fancy stuff I could lay my hands on :D!

I have listed only a few. I would keep updating this post regularly depending on what I buy or get...hopefully (makkale, take the hint :D)

Informal gifts (for near and dear ones): Assuming you know the person well, there is actually a wide range of choices. You only have to decide which one of the three following options you want to go for. Obviously something that falls into all 3 categories is a super-duper gift !

A gift based on their needs – Things they are most likely to buy
- lamp shades, book on interior decoration or a gift certificate to a furniture store are all really useful house-warming presents one can get.
- In case of a wedding, some gift based on their honeymoon - if you know the place chosen for the honeymoon, getting them tickets to a local show, a romantic boat ride or something similar
- If the bride/groom is moving to a foreign country after the wedding, travel-related gifts like luggage, passport holders, aircraft pillows or something very ‘Indian’ to remind them of home (swades music here…)
- Gift certificates to their favorite stores (Globus, Westside, the list is endless) are always useful
- If it is a b’day party or a celebration at home, you can help the host cook before the party and clean up afterwards. This is a gift for which you will be thanked a million times ! This would actually fall under things they desperately need!

A gift based on their preferences - Things they like but would probably never spend for.
- Pedicure/Manicure gift certificate for someone who shys away from grooming or something similar (like a massage)
- Membership to a fitness program (even for a week or a month) for someone who talks a lot about fitness but does nothing ;)
- Electronic items or accessories (Laptop speakers/portable batteries, iPod accessories etc.)
- Books/DVDs for collectors
- Movie/concert/live shows tickets
Here again men should be careful while going for jewelery, clothes and/or cosmetics.

A personalized gift – Here are a few examples:
- Create a collection of the person’s favorite songs or videos – for example, in keeping with technology, you can create a youtube or iTunes playlist and send/share it (I retain copyright for this idea and demand acknowledgement as and when it is used)
- If you can paint, draw a sketch and frame it
- I love photos and anything to do with it. So I have given people photo frames with special photos, custom-made photo calendars with a personalized message for every month, custom-made wall clock with photos in it, digital photo frames, custom-made photo albums, articles with photos (clothing, coffee cups etc.) and so far, everyone has loved it.

Formal gifts (for colleagues, neighbours and other friends) : One great option here would be for many people to chip in in-order to get a good gift without stretching the purse strings too much. Usually at work, we have a box that is passed around for the collection. This way, no needs to know what the other has contributed and all that matters is the final sum and what we get to do with it.

Most people like to get articles unique to a certain country. Here in Germany, all my colleagues like Indian spices, certain kinds of sweets, clothes, jewelry etc. So anytime I come home, I choose some articles to take back to them. In India, I assume, it is the other way around, people like to get stuff from Germany (even Lindt chocolates from Germany are special because everything on the wrapper is German unlike the Lindt chocolates in India with English on it….and I don’t think it’s a question of authenticity :D)

If you are a man or if you think like one and say – ‘It’s the thought that matters’…..then I would have to say, ‘yes’. But what is the thought, that’s the question – you probably say ‘I thought about showing up and remembered to buy something’ while for me it is ‘I am here to celebrate with you and here is something to make the day all the more special for you’….enna panradhu, its all in the genes !
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