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Sophia Money-Coutts: Wedding List Etiquette

Sunday Telegraph columnist Sophia Money-Coutts highlights her dos and dont's for couples and guests when it comes to Wedding Lists.

I’m going to let you in on a secret which is embarrassing for a fully-grown woman, but here goes: I used to be scared of wedding lists. For other people it’s spiders or heights, but me? It was the wedding list. It was the ‘thwack’ of a wedding invitation landing on the doormat and the absolute certainty that I would open the envelope, think ‘Oh Rupert and Clementine, how lovely’, and immediately forget to do anything about their present until the morning of the wedding. Then, panicking, I would find their wedding list online and be faced with the stark choice of one Egyptian cotton hand towel for a tenner or a Kitchen Aid for £600. Help!

Do not panic if this sounds familiar. Below is a list of wedding list tips – to help both engaged couples and those wanting to buy a present for a couple – and it includes my top tip for overcoming the fear of the wedding list. Which I have done, by the way, although I still hate spiders. So any tips on conquering arachnophobia would be fab.

Sophia's Top Wedding Presents from WPC

Bath Towel, Egyptian Cotton, White, Super Jumbo
The White Company
Champagne Coupe, 18cm, Starr, Clear
William Yeoward Crystal
Rectangular baking dish, 33 x 27cm, Penguin
Alice Peto
2 slot toaster - 11526, Vision, Brushed Stainless Steel
Table Bundle, Large Acacia
Big Green Egg
Jug, H27cm/1.3l, Gluggle, Sage Green
Gluggle Jugs
Blanket, Herringbone, Dove Grey, 230 x 130cm
Weaver Green
Candleholder, Flower, Distressed, Cream, 28 x 20cm
Luna Home
Photograph frame, 7 x 5", W Series - Plain, silver plate with mahogany finish back
Carrs Silver

1. Buy on-list. This is it! This is how you beat the fear. Because several years ago, when my friends first started getting married, I ignored the list. ‘Ha!’ I thought, ‘I don’t need a list to tell me what my friends like, I am going off-list and will buy them something unique and more special than a decanter.’ And then, invariably, I’d either freak out on the morning of the wedding, as mentioned above, or buy them something a bit rubbish six months after their wedding when my guilt had reached crescendo point. The simple way round this is to buy from the list, and buy early. Or not even that early. Just, you know, a few weeks before the wedding when the choice will be greater. There’s a reason that couples put items like hand towels and placemats on their list, and that reason is they want them. They will be ecstatic if you stick to the list, not disappointed.

2. If you want to buy something special that the couple will really appreciate, don’t be afraid to ask them what they most love from their list and buy that. The bridesmaids for one bride we know clubbed together and bought her a set of Sophie Conran plates. The bride was thrilled and now thinks of her bridesmaids every day. 

3. One for couples: help your guests by spreading the price bracket of your list. Wine glasses for £5.95 are a good place to start (thank you, India Jane), but don’t feel afraid to put on a few more expensive items. You might have someone generous coming to your wedding who’s desperate to buy you that walnut dining room table from Oka. Lucky you. And when it comes to the number of items on your list, more is better. Then it gives forgetful people who look at the list late (ahem) more options to pick from.

4. Buy on-list. Did I mention that? 

5. Couples, don’t be coy when it comes to the wording about your list on your invitation. ‘If you would like to buy a present, we have a list.’ No point in setting up a list and then being awkward about it. It’s your wedding and people want to celebrate – let them. If it helps any awkwardness, The Wedding Present Co. offer little insert cards to be sent with your invitation, explaining you have a list with them. (They also make a charity donation for each couple based on the value of their list. Lovely, right? Exactly. Now stop feeling embarrassed about it.)

6. Hmmm. The tricky topic of ‘funds.’ You may have plenty of towels and plates, right? But you’d love a swanky honeymoon. Can you ask for contributions towards that? Or towards a house deposit? Well, two things. Firstly, think about your guests. They’re your friends and family. Will they be shocked by this? Will it cause snootiness? It’s worth bearing in mind because the last thing you need when you’re stressed about your wedding is Granny Violet being offended and difficult by a certain choice. And the other thing is, this is your opportunity to be given some wonderful presents which will last your whole married life.

7. Bride and groom, listen to one another when you’re walking round The Wedding Present Co. showroom. Behold, a tray of sparking glasses and a wall of pretty placemats! Now is not the time for a row about what sort of bed linen you need. Have a glass of champagne on the house and enjoy the experience. 

8. Try not to be too swayed by current fashions. Think about what you will love using together for a lifetime. Does that really mean a set of gold cutlery?

9. Buy on-list. I mean it. 

10. The Wedding Present Co. advises putting your list together four to five months before your wedding. Any earlier and you could discover that certain products have been discontinued by the time it comes to delivery, which would be a tragedy. 

11. Pay careful attention to the antiques shelf in The Wedding Present Co. showroom, where various items have been sourced by an antiques dealer Dancing Duck. This is a unique feature only they offer. Fancy an 18th-century silver salt cellar? Not a problem.

12. Buy on-list. Seriously. 

13. Fancy a bespoke painting of your dog? Sophie Harden is your woman. Don’t just think about items for the kitchen or dining room. The whole point about The Wedding Present Co. is their bespoke approach – whether that’s an invitation embroidered on a cushion or a picture of Fido. It’s not necessarily about having the same lamp as everyone else. It’s about items which will be special to you forever.

14. The Wedding Present Co. showroom is open by appointment only from 10am every day, and on weekdays evening slots are available until 8pm so you can head there after work for a drink and a browse. On Saturdays and Sundays, it’s between 10am and 4pm. Don’t panic, you won’t be fighting over the Le Creuset because it’s by appointment only and there's only ever two couples at any one time. And if you open a list here, you’re encouraged to visit as many times as you like. Make the most of it. And the free champagne.

15. Couples, you have a while to write your thank you letters. Some people say up to three months, others up to six months. As always, the sooner the better with thank you letters, but only you can judge which guests will expect a letter within weeks and which guests are more relaxed. These days, some couples may even write as soon as they receive an email from The Wedding Present Co. telling them a specific item has been bought. The Great Aunt Agathas of this world may disapprove of such modernity but it’s better than sending no letter at all.   

16. Guests, just remember, buy from the list. Truly, it’s what the couple wants.  

Sophia Money-Coutts is a novelist and author of the Sunday Telegraph's Modern Manners column. Her debut novel, The Plus One, is out in August.