catherine-chairAs a professional wedding planner, I’ve seen my share of disappointing “ever-afters” in the gift-reception category after being a part of over 600 weddings.

I am often asked who would be so thoughtless to take gifts on such a happy day. Many of my clients say, “we knew every single one of our guests intimately and none of them would do something like this.”  The  sad reality is that it is not always the guests you invite, but their “plus ones” or children or relatives, perhaps some individuals that you may not know.  It is rarely the staff working the event, although in some cases, it can be.  At locations such as resorts and hotels where other non-wedding-invited hotel guests or the public have access or can pass through a ceremony or reception area, it can be complete strangers.   And finally, for off-site, non-hotel events where the caterer is brought in, I know first hand that many caterers, when desperate to staff an event, will call friends of friends or acquaintances of staff they use regularly just to make sure there are bodies to service the event.  They may not know a thing about the person working their event.  It happens.

With all these variables, there are some ways one can help minimize the potential damage.  Here are my top recommendations to help prevent (note I said “help” prevent  as nothing can guarantee 100%) the potential of wedding gifts being taken from your wedding.

Help ensure guests know that proper wedding gift etiquette requests that all wedding gifts be sent in advance of the wedding day and not brought to the actual wedding itself.  You can do this by making sure family members discreetly let others know this (not be publishing this in invitations) or gently letting them know on a wedding website for the couple.  Not having any gifts at the wedding will help reduce chances of them being stolen almost entirely.

Be prepared “day of” for those who did not get the “Gift Etiquette Memo” (and there will always be a few who prefer to bring something with them “day of”) with one or more of the following ideas:

  •  I always ask my clients to appoint a “Gift Attendant” to be in place 30 minutes prior to the    ceremony start time and to sit near (in view ) of the gift table during the ceremony, and immediately after the ceremony, transport the gifts to a pre-designated family vehicle, or if the wedding is at a resort or hotel, we have a Bell Captain come and load up the gifts and return to the bride’s suite.  I encourage the Gift Attendant to accompany the Bell Captain to oversee a safe transport and delivery to the room.  It is also important that whomever the client designates as the Gift Attendant be “on call” all evening long, as many guests will forget they have a card or gift and will need a safe contact/place of storage for their gift throughout the evening.
  • For cards which may have money or gift cards enclosed, always, always have a box that is locked or cannot be opened. In fact, I suggest that a gift card box be a part of the wedding design /theme (if possible) and be a bit large, dramatic (even if awkwardly so), so that it is difficult to just sweep off a table.  Example: think of shoe-sized boxes: while they are small, they can easily be swept under an arm and removed with hardly anyone noticing. While a gorgeous artpiece of a vintage bird cage is not only a conversation piece, but extremely noticeable if anyone tried to remove it.   Note: please do NOT ask the wedding venue, staff or your Coordinator to “hold” cards for you.  Most do not have the liability to do so and the reality is, they are so busy working doing their jobs producing your wedding, they cannot be held responsible as security agents over something so valuable.
  • Finally, if family members or friends cannot commit to being a Gift Attendant, ask your professional coordinator if there is an additional service for which you can hire him/her.  For a nominal fee, I offer my clients extra liability insurance and one Gift Attendant plus an assistant (if necessary, depending on the number of gifts and distance they must transport the gifts) to help ensure gifts are tended to and transported safely not just pre, during, and post-ceremony, but also at the end of the evening  We’ve found that many guests will hold onto cards and gifts and come up throughout the event as well as evening’s end to place gifts/cards, hand to the couple or the Coordinator.