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Sunday, 4 January 2015

No gifts please, just be present...........

While unwrapping presents after their wedding last June, newlyweds Sahipi and GV Shrikant were excited to see a big beautiful gift box. "I opened it to find a book on self-control and meditation," Shrikant, a Hyderabad-based consultant laughingly recalls. Looking through their loot, the couple regretted leaving out the 'no boxed gifts' line — code for hard cash only — on their wedding card. "We thought it was a little tacky to put that down," he explains. 

Not everyone's concerned about the fine print. Gone are the days when decisions about wedding gifts were made on the basis of notings your parents had made about the amount to be reciprocated or choosing between pressure cookers and hideous ceramic ware set aside for recycling. Today, more Indian families say they want you present, without a present, on the auspicious day. It's a request being made directly ("no gifts please") or tastefully ("presents in blessings only", "your blessings are the only gift we need" or poetically (Please do not fuss/The most important thing of all /Is that you come celebrate with us!). 

Himanshu Sharma, a wedding card designer from Delhi's Chawri Bazar, says that while 'No Gifts' was once a trend limited to wealthy business families, today young, upwardly mobile professionals are also opting for it. "Recently, we designed a card where the host's handwritten note requesting guests not to get any gifts was printed on all the invitations," he says. Delhi-based wedding planner Vandana Mohan says gifting was once a way for friends and family to contribute towards the cost of a wedding. "It not only helped with expenses, but it was also a gesture. Today, most families say no as they really do not need the help and they don't want the pressure of having to reciprocate," she says. 

That's one of the reasons why Roopali Thakkar, who hosted an American-style reception for her NRI son's wedding, declined gifts. "Our invite said we wanted people to participate in our joy," says Thakkar, who didn't want the party to come with a price tag. "I have heard guests saying how much they have to spend on gifts to ensure that they don't offend the family. We didn't want them to feel pressured." 

Delhi-based businessman Alok Gupta believes that when guests end up overshooting their gift budget, especially because it's an elaborate wedding, they tend to get crabby. That negative energy isn't good for the occasion which is why his family decided on a no-gift policy for his younger brother's wedding. "Couples and their families don't want their guests to feel obliged to gift or give money," says Ravish Kapoor, wedding invite designer for celebrities including Shilpa Shetty. 

Dr Diksha Batra, who got married last year, didn't want to end up with a bunch of useless gifts and was weary of the whole process of accurately valuing the gifts to ensure they are similarly reciprocated. "All this takes the joy out of gifting," says Dr Batra. At her wedding, the Mumbai resident intercepted and returned the cash envelopes guests attempted to slip in. 

A wedding present of value, some believe, is in delivering what the happy couple wants. As Mumbai's Deepak Agarwal, a management consultant who is soon to be married, jokingly puts it, "The best gift I could get is if my guests could convince their bosses that they really need time off for my wedding."