The Many Sides of Gifting: Gift Cards, Registries,
Wishing Wells, & Money Trees
As a shower draws near, it is common for the hostess or expecting mother to request specific gifts. Often the guests will ask the hostess what the mom-to-be needs if it was not mentioned in the invitations. Sometimes what mom needs is a little help with preparing for baby, but she does not have an exact list of items, or wants to pick out things herself so that they match a certain color palette, design theme, or application.
Some questions we receive often: What is a money tree? What is a Wishing Well? How do I ask for cash? Are gift cards okay to give as a present? Should mom’s registry be mentioned in the invitations? We look at these issues below:
The Gift Card
Last Christmas, I purchased a card from Hallmark for my son’s hockey coach. It was designed for a gift card, and it had a funny story on it about how this was a multi functional tool “Both a gift card and ice remover for your windshield”. Living in the Cold White North, (Canada, although it isn’t as white as it is often depicted), I thought it was a great card and fit the coffee shop gift card perfectly.
That card was proof that gift cards are becoming a functional gift that takes much of the worry out of gift buying. No longer do you need to worry about buying baby the same items as other guests, and you don’t even have to go to a store anymore since many excellent gift cards can be purchased online from unique stores that might not be available in your local region. It isn’t considered rude to send or bring a gift card and, in fact, many people prefer to receive gift cards so that they can get exactly what they need and want. It has become a common thing on baby shower invitations to see “Gift Card Presents Only”, and if you are throwing a shower, you should feel free to place that request on your invitations.
I dislike gift cards personally. Sure they have many advantages, and you can buy cute gift card greeting cards (now there’s a tongue twister) but they have many other disadvantages. Some stores charge tax on both your gift card and the gift. Something that they shouldn’t do and in some places it is illegal to do so, but that hasn’t stop greedy stores from cashing in. Others have an expiry date on their gift cards, another no-no in some countries. It is important to find out what limitations your gift card has before you purchase so that you will not lose that money if the expectant mother is unable to get to the store quickly to cash it in.
The second and biggest problem that I have with gift cards is that it takes the thrill out of giving it. “Whoo-Hoo, I got you a gift card! Aren’t you surprised?” It isn’t a very personal gift and is okay for people that you only know in passing, as in the case of my son’s Hockey Coach, but for a close family member or friend, it may not be the best gift unless it is specifically requested in the invitation. I also find that people really like to pick out a gift that they think the expectant mother will love. If she doesn’t, no harm – no foul, since she can go and exchange it, especially if you stick in a gift receipt for her, perhaps in a sealed envelope that she only needs to open if she decides to exchange.
I’m not saying that gift cards should never be used. They are absolutely wonderful for guests who need to mail a gift or for a long distance shower where mom is far away, but they are not the most personal gift you could give your close friend or family member. As an alternative, I would suggest allowing people to have the option of either bringing a gift or a gift card or maybe both. This will keep everyone happy, and your guests will be able to “ohhh and awww” as the expectant mother holds up her little baby item gifts for all to see - let’s face it no one has ever “awed” over a gift card.
The Gift Registry
For me this is really the way to go for a baby shower. Some people may be opposed to this since they feel that they are being told what to buy but you can combat that by placing “You may use the gift registry at...or not” on the invitations. Don’t force people to use your idea of gifts since they may have a special gift already in mind.
A gift registry is a great way for mom to get exactly what she needs and wants. There are countless stores that offer gift registries for baby showers, many online. If you have a gift registry, make sure that you include both lower prized items and higher prized items. You should be aware that not everyone can spend the same amounts so don’t force them to spend 100’s of dollars on your gift.
Place all the information for your gift registry in the shower invitation so the guests can access it easily.
A Money Tree
Despite the common appearance of Money Trees at baby showers, this is one gift that I would recommend not having. I have found that many people dislike money trees and consider them to be a rude way of saying that all you want is money. They are not sure that the money will go into things that the baby needs, and they miss out on the fun of gift opening. If you want to have a money tree, or the expectant mom wants a money tree, make sure that you give the option to bring a gift or to bring money. If people are forced into a money tree gift, they are not going to be overly happy with you or the shower.
An alternative to having a money tree is to have a dream tree. This can be a nice way to incorporate a money tree without it being too impolite. You can either ask for money to be placed in the envelope or you can forgo money and just ask guests to write a little note, a dream that they hope will come true for the new family. People get to share something personal, give money like they were asked, and it can be opened and shared with the guests. Again, you can use this idea without introducing any money into it which will provide inspiring keepsakes for the expectant mother.
The Wishing Well
At one time in everyone’s life, wishes weren’t about money; they were about hopes and dreams, expectations and good will. You wished as a child for everything. “I wish that tomorrow is a snow day,” “I wish that I can get my new shoes in my favorite color,” “I wish that I can pass the exam.” We have said countless wishes, and wishing wells have become a popular device for collecting cards filled with gift cards and money.
Wishing Wells are very similar to the money tree and works along the same lines. People drop in money or cards and the expectant mother takes the money to purchase what she needs for baby. Like the Money Tree, many people feel that they are a rude way of saying that you only want money, and it is a gift option that I think you can gently suggest to guests but not demand.
There are some alternatives to wishing wells if you prefer to not have cash gifts, and these can be very simple to do. The first of course is the same as the money tree. Have guests write a wish for the new family and include it with money or simply place it in an envelope and insert it in an envelope that you have provided. You could also place pennies besides the wishing well and the guests could put in a penny with their wish for the mother to place in a book. Try to find collector pennies or something that will look nice or give the change to a charity since it is considered bad luck to spend other people’s wishes. (If you are superstitious.)
Another option is to use the same wish thought, but guests can bring a small gift to place in the wishing well along with their gifts. During the shower, gifts can be pulled out of the wishing well and read aloud. Each gift should reflect the wish, i.e. sunflower seeds to go with a note that says, “I wish for you and your family sunshine and laughter”, a small stuffed animal could be, “I wish for you a million snuggles from your new baby,” and so on.
Alternatively, you can even make a very large wishing well and simply put all the gifts in as guests arrive. Then the fun is reaching in and pulling out someone’s gift at random to “ooh” and “ahh” over.
Choosing alternatives to regular gift giving does not have to be rude but it should be done in a way that fits the theme, the tone of shower, and in a manner that does not offend anyone; the guests or expected mom. If the mom-to-be is requesting a cash shower, just mention to her that it is best to give an option for those guests who would prefer to bring something more personal. You will find that with a little negotiating, you can find the perfect gift requests for everyone.