You’ve already got a long to-do list as your wedding approaches, and we don’t want to add to your stress level by making that list longer. But we’d be remiss if we didn’t remind you to get a gift for your in-laws.
Do you have to get your in-laws something? Not really. In the old days, when it was customary for the bride’s family to foot the bill for the wedding, you might be expected to give them a token of your appreciation. But as with many out-dated, gender-based traditions, that’s changing. New traditions create new etiquette questions.
That said, we think getting your in-laws a wedding gift is always a thoughtful gesture, and a nice way to acknowledge the beginning of this important phase of your relationship.
The Greatest Gift
Regardless of whether or not they’re paying for the wedding, you may feel your in-laws have given you the greatest gift you’ve ever received: their daughter. You may be tempted, therefor, to respond with a gesture of similar emotional resonance: by adopting a woman of approximately the same age as your fiancée and giving her to your in-laws. They can feel like they are not so much losing a daughter as gaining a son. And also getting a new daughter.
(Note: our lawyers inform us that while adopting an adult is, technically, legal, giving one to someone as a wedding gift is, technically, slavery. So, let’s take that one off the table and never speak of it again.)
Sentiment Over Practicality
Ok, if literally replacing their daughter is out, let’s go with something sentimental. Sentimental is, in this case, better than practical. As much as your future father-in-law might like a new lawn mower, you are better off giving him a framed photo of you with their daughter. This won’t cut down on his yard work, but it will remind him that his little girl has found happiness.
Money Is An Object
As a general rule, your in-laws gift doesn’t have to be expensive. In fact, “money is no object” should not be your motto in this case, especially if your in-laws aren’t wealthy themselves. Giving them something too pricey could backfire, as it might make them feel inadequate, or compelled to respond with an equally lavish gesture they can’t afford. They may also conclude that you are a complete disaster with money, and worry how the two of you are going to keep your heads above water.
Time Is No Object
Of course, the gift doesn’t even have to be something you bought with money. You could donate your time to a cause they care about–maybe volunteering for a charity which is important to them, like the Zombie Squad or the Tall Clubs International Foundation (an organization dedicated to helping extremely tall people).
You could also just write a really heartfelt letter, explaining how honored you are to marry their daughter and why you look forward to having them as your in-laws. Authenticity and emotional impact will go a long way towards helping them accept that a donkey like you is now part of their family.
The Two Gift Power Move
You aren’t the only one with new in-laws: your bride is getting a new set as well. Coordinate with her to get gifts that both sets of parents will appreciate. Or, if appropriate, make the two gifts related to each other. You could do something that throws them together, like getting four tickets to “Book of Mormon” (which we’re pretty sure will still be playing by the time you read this). Just make sure they actually like each other as people, or this lovely gesture will lead to a terribly awkward evening at the theater.
— Dimitri Ehrlich