Dear Anna and Mark. When the marrying couple say they don’t want wedding gifts, should I provide one anyway? I’m broke, you see.
Tim, Kettering
 
Mark: Here’s where you need to scrutinise the wording on the invitation and accompanying bumpf. If the couple getting hitched have said something about your presence being the most important present yaddayaddayadda but then proceed to supply a link to a John Lewis wedding list that looks like the memory round in a boomtime episode of ‘The Generation Game’, you can assume those two are hungry for stuff and no mistake. In which case, select something simultaneously modest but indulgent (a picnic blanket, for example, rather than salad tongs) but don’t stress too much about its exact identity – in all likelihood, the monetary value of the item you select will be added to a fund that the couple can redistribute at will, once they return from Mauritius and realise that an iPod, 33 sideplates and a panini grill press probably isn’t the best foundation for domestic bliss.

Anna: Every couple wants ‘the stuff’ – whatever they say. So, you have to pick a lane: are you going to brazenly quaff vats of her grandfather’s vintage champagne then stash away the silverware in your back pocket before touching up the wedding planner, or will you politely nod, clap and guffaw at opportune moments before telling her mother she doesn’t look a day over 35 and the corduroy applique dining cloth was an inspired idea? If the former, suck it up and hit the JL list. In fact, go large or stay home. The latter option (i.e. being the perfect guest) opens itself to a wealth of DIY options that will only cement yourself in the couple’s affections. I find a quirky hand-written, framed poem inspired by the couple (to the rhyme of ‘beans, beans, good for your heart, the more you eat, the more you…’ etc. but instead with ‘Kim, Kim, you’re perfect for Charles’ etc. and so forth) seals the deal. Equally, a collage of your favourite photos of the pair shows forethought and genuine comradeship, which will far override their lust for a 200 quid Magimix. Only beware of the halfway house: the airport or train station pick up. No newlywed should ever receive a gift emblazoned with the slogan ‘See, Buy, Fly’.

DO: Remember that a hardback book that you’ve loved is also a great option that will probably last longer than a Nespresso machine

DON’T: Get carried away looking at the mountains of swag bestowed on the couple by other guests. It’s not a competition.

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