Good news. For this one Groom Duty, the consequences of failure are low. Compare it to your other tasks: screwing up the DJ will ruin the music and possibly your whole party; botching the tux will ruin the photographic legacy of the event—and, someday far in the future, cause your children to question your judgment—and flubbing the honeymoon plans will result, potentially, in increasing the odds of divorce from 50% to 75%. But if you mess this up? Whatever. We’re men. Good friends don’t demand good gifts.
They do, however, deserve them.
Your groomsmen have earned it. They’ve spent hundreds of bucks on your bachelor party, tuxedos, and your wedding gift. So throw them a bone. You don’t have to spend gobs of money, but you need to think outside the wedding planning box.
See also: Groomsmen Gifts
The gifts that you should (and should not) get, broken down by category:
Sound great… but actually suck
Isn’t this the most traditional of all groomsmen gifts? Yep. Which also makes it worthless. He already has a flask. He probably has seven. Like parking tickets and credit card fees, flasks have a way of adding up.
Are you his uncle? Is he graduating from prep school? To paraphrase Pulp Fiction, never give another man a pen or a foot massage.
Coffee Mugs, Beer Mugs, and Shot Glasses
You’ve just found the perfect gift if the sentiment you want to express is, “I really don’t give a shit.”
Too personal. Everyone has their own system. Either you go with the “minimalist” approach—circle, keys, nothing else—or you cherish your vintage Camaro (or whatever) key chain. Never presume to tell another man what he should keep, play with, or fondle in his pockets.
See above. Potentially even worse, as you’re forcing the guy to overhaul his entire money-spending methodology. The only way this makes sense is if you know that your groomsmen—all of them—already use money clips, and that yours is superior. Not a smart gamble.
Why not also compliment this thoughtful gift with scented candles, edible massage oil, and an IOU for a backrub?
There’s an endless supply of this junk. Swing analyzers, divot tools, towels, luxury tees, everything short of diamond-studded golf balls. This is a potential source of inspiration…if you know for a fact that they actually like to play golf. Otherwise? It feels like the impersonal goodie bag you get at a convention for accountants.
Leather Toiletry Kit
He’s not 12 years old. He has some type of shaving kit. So only buy these if you splurge and if you’re confident that this bag is nicer than the one he already owns.
On the one hand, as men, we like things that have sharp blades and can kill people. On the other, when you think about it, when’s the last time you said, “Ahhhw, man! I really wish I had my pocket knife handy!” Moreover, the groomsmen who flew to the wedding could be open-cavity-searched at the airport, afterwhich the gift will be confiscated. If the beloved knife does make it home, it will be immediately stuffed in a drawer and forgotten. If you do decide to go with knives, consider something like this folding pocket knife by Damascus.
Only if your friends have money, like to dress up in suits and wear fancy French cuff shirts. Otherwise, opening this gift yields the same amount of joy—and has less utility—as unwrapping a new pair of socks.
Business Card Holder
Depends on age. If your buddies are 21-24ish, they might not have a good business card holder…and it’s because they have utterly no interest in one. If they’re older? They’ll (maybe) appreciate the gift but they’ll already have several. Still, you could do worse.
The Plunge’s favorite. This is a gift that will last, a gift that will actually get used, a gift that the guy probably wouldn’t buy on his own. The downside is that it’s a fairly large item to be lugging around. These Everlane bags make great gifts, and the selection or colors and materials make it easy to choose one for each of your groomsmen.
Even for guys who don’t actually smoke, a nice cherry wood humidor makes a classy accessory for the living room. The same vibe as a flask, but more functional and less obvious. You can include some cigars too, if you’re feeling generous.
Even if they already have grill accessories—and they probably do—a nice set in a travel-ready compartment will be appreciated.
If you know he already has a weekend bag (above) this is a solid substitute. He probably already has a bag that he uses for the gym, but this will be nicer, newer, and it doesn’t smell like ball-sweat. This duffel by Herschel would help your buddies hit the gym in style.
The whole point of a groomsmen gift is that, like your marriage, it’s something that will stand the test of time. So technically, electronics fail this test. Up to you.
Anything else cool but fleeting
A million things that your buddies would actually like—gift certificates to Best Buy, Blu-Rays, sunglasses, bottles of Maker’s Mark—don’t “sound” like the kind of stuff you’re supposed to give, and are deemed inappropriate by the industry. Don’t cower to convention. You know your buddies better than we do.
A few other questions you might have…
[You]: When do I give them the gifts?
Failure to give the groomsmen their gifts at the proper time will result in….nothing. This is the beauty of it. Who cares? There’s no exact protocol.
The best time, however, is probably the day of the wedding itself, hours before the ceremony when you have nothing to do but screw around. And obviously you need to use some common sense. If your wedding is in Costa Rica, don’t wait until they’ve already packed their bags and cleared their hotel rooms before giving them another bag.
All my friends are a little different. Do I have to get each one the same thing?
Nope. In fact, the more personalized you get, the more you seem like a friend and less like a schmoozing business partner. It’s fine to think about their tastes and cater to their interests. Careful, though. Ensure they all cost roughly the same.
Yeah…but what about the Best Man? Can’t I get him something nicer?
Sure. After all he’s carried more weight and probably spent more money. If it’s obviously nicer and more extravagant, however, we recommend you deliver the gifts individually. Getting your groomsmen coffee mugs and your best man an Armani watch won’t go unnoticed, even by your non-materialistic buddies.
How much should these little knick-knacks cost?
They’re not expecting lavish gifts. They’re probably not expecting any gifts. And most of the above items can be had for $15 – $100. Obviously, though, the more they have to spend on the wedding and bachelor party (particularly weekend destination trips) the more it makes sense for you to shell out a few extra bucks.
One final note… don’t let this process stress you out. Your friends will be happy with whatever you give them, and if not, they’re piss-poor friends. A few years ago, the groom gave one of our staff an iron cattle brander as a groomsman gift. It’s in the attic somewhere. It was a dumb gift, a waste of money. But you know what? He’s my best friend so I didn’t care. Be generous but don’t be obsessed—let’s remember our gender.
Next groom duty: The Bridal Gift.