The Best (and Worst) Wedding Gifts You Could Give to a Desi Couple

2014 Aug 28 - by dulhan
It can be a struggle trying to figure out what the perfect gift is for your average newlywed couple, and Desi couples aren't much different.   You have to strike a balance between personal and practical. On one hand you want to be fun and get them a giant orange chair that would look oh so chic in their new apartment and on the other you want to get them something they'll definitely use.  You probably know the feeling when you're standing in the middle of Macy's torn between the glass bowl and a mental breakdown.  Well, worry no more! I've put together the definitive guide for Desi wedding gifts, and you'll be surprised to see that easy gifts are better gifts.


1. Money

Truly the best gift in the world is cold hard cash.  When in doubt, shell it out.  For the new couple starting their lives together, there is very little they can't do with money.  They can buy everything else listed here and they can choose what fits them best - so you won't have to be scared of sending them something they won't ever use.  Also, cash removes the need to look up their registry and go through the whole shopping kerfuffle.  Just write a cheque and you're set.

Desi tradition in particular values money over all other gifts.  While Western culture considers money to be largely impersonal and a bit rude, money remains the best thing you can get for a Desi couple (it's also much less of a hassle to carry home compared to a new bread machine).  Keep in mind it's a tradition in many places in South Asia to add an extra dollar for good luck! So if you're planning on gifting the couple $100 (you're so generous!), you should bump it up to $101.

2. Traditional and Religious Items

If a couple is moving in together for the first time (or even if they already live together), chances are they don't have all the religious items they need to worship properly (these modern couples, hai Ram).  Be sure to set them up with thalis, figurines, a gorgeous new Koran, etc.  These are not items many go into the relationship with but they'll be sure to come in handy soon after the wedding.

Many wedding traditions mark the beginning of the couple's spiritual life together, so new, high-quality or sentimental religious items and paraphernalia are appropriate.  Even if the couple isn't so religious, these items will become family heirlooms and pass through the generations.  And we all know it'll make the couple's mothers happy so that means extra brownie points for you.

{Photo by IQPhoto Studio, via Alok & Venu's Wedding}

3. Jewelry

Much like money, gold and silver never go out of fashion. Desis traditionally like gifting jewelry and gold or silver coins because they aren't as seemingly crass as giving cash.  Also, gold and silver coins tend to have other religious uses, so bonus points.  Chains can work for both the bride and the groom, as can special pendants with semiprecious stones or symbols.

It is less a matter of whether the couple wears the jewelry and more another chance for you to help them build their wealth for the future family and life together. Again, these items are likely to be passed down through the family, so they bring you a bit more bang for your buck.

{Photo by Jihan Abdalla Photography, via Caitlin & Vikrant's Wedding}

4. Housewares & Appliances

Regardless of whether the couple has been living together for a while before they've gotten married, or whether they have two kitchens full of equipment, there is always going to be something they need (like wedding china).  The wedding registry is obviously a good place to start when it comes to buying housewares for a newly married couple.

The only issue with this gift is it threatens to be a little impersonal despite being incredibly useful.  I would say go with some old classics, like that serving set every Desi household seems to have (you know the one I'm talking about - the set with the vegetables illustrated on the side), rather than artsy modern dishes that way the items you buy will definitely be used.

{via Rotimatic}

 5. Shiny Things

Regardless of the personal style and aesthetic of the couple, shiny things have a tendency to come in handy in Desi households be it for parties, poojas, or dinner with the extended family.  Something like a mirrored lantern or spangly wall hangings, while kitschy in the shop, may be the perfect thing to tie the whole event together.

Just be sure to purchase items that have an obvious cultural precedent (i.e. are culturally common and seen around the Subcontinent pretty regularly), that way you're not endanger of forcing your taste on the unsuspecting couple.

6. Candles

Much like shiny things, candles always come in handy even if the couple isn't really the candle type.  Diwali always requires fresh candles, and dinner parties are set off so nicely with candlelight.  Candles are a very safe and affordable option if you're attending a wedding and you don't necessarily know the couple well or aren't in a position to spend a lot on their gift.

The right candle with the right uplifting, warm, sweet, or floral scent could make all the difference one day.

{via Table Accessories: Mehndi Candles}

 7. Bedding

Chances are the couple, individually, have bedding but they won't have bedding they own together.  It's also very possible that they won't be able to agree on how to outfit their bedroom for a very long time in which case you gifting them a gorgeous bedding set will at least have their bed covered until they can find something they both like.

As well, nice bedding set, like one made with Egyptian Cotton or with high fiber counts, may not be in their budget right away, in which case you'll be doing them a massive favor and giving them a gift that will definitely be used.  Even if the couple defer your set to the guest room, it'll still bring them comfort and ease in their married life.


1. Anything that looks cheap

Desi families are especially good at picking up when people give them cheap or generally inexpensive items, especially if it looks badly made.  If what you're planning on giving has no nostalgic or emotional significance to the couple, then it better not be less that $50 (at the least).

Rather than buying a 'token present' which looks unattractive and the couple probably won't use, go in with other wedding guests to buy something AMAZING! It's all about quality not quantity.

2. Wall Hangings and House Decor

While religious, shiny items, and candles obviously have their place in the newlywed house, anything that has your personal taste stamped all over it like a special import print from India or a peacock-shaped vase may not go over well with the new couple.  The goal is to make sure your gift is useful to the bride and groom and won't end up in their first Goodwill pile.

Refrain from purchasing anything that has a personality of its own because there's a good chance the couple won't vibe with it.

3. Patterned Dishware

If it's not in their registry, don't assume you know better than them what their taste is.  Dishware is a great gift to help outfit their new home together, but it should be neutral if bought at all.  Anything that has a pattern or print can easily be gaudy, kitsch, or generally ugly for the couple and may end up in the unreachable cabinet with Auntie Sheila's cat face milk jug.

Remember, wedding gifts are not the time when you live vicariously through the couple - the old adage of gifting what you would want to be given does not work here.  Choose dishware (and most other things) in earthy tones and demure colors like navy, cream, and pale pink (if you're feeling gutsy).  Don't venture too far from the beaten track.

{via Zazzle}

Giving a new couple a wedding gift is a very personal experience - you're wishing them well and helping them along.  So make sure you don't upset what is otherwise a gorgeous demonstration of love and security by giving them something they definitely will not use.  Follow my simple rules and they'll be sure to mean everything they write in their thank-you cards.