Anybody who has received a gift parcel from me in the last 20 years or so, must have thought me particularly fussy, or somebody hungry for recognition, or quite eccentric – or ‘all of the above’.
And I can understand why, because I tend to put two or even three ‘From’ labels on my parcels.
But I have a good reason for this somewhat unusual behaviour. There’s a history behind it, as I sometimes explain to people.
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I tell them that I have among my kitchenware a wedding present from more than two decades ago, whose giver I still don’t know because the parcel came without any identification.
It had no label as to who had added it to the wedding gifts table.
That guest had taken the trouble to come to my wedding and the reception, in London, and had even very kindly brought a substantial gift, but had not left any clue as to their identity.
The gift was a household appliance, a big kitchen gadget then new on the market and thus it must have been costly.
Having assigned myself as the one who would make the ‘thank you’ calls, it gave me the headache of trying to guess who among our guests had brought it.
Another source of discontent was not being able to express our gratitude to the giver, and my husband and I didn’t like the idea of being possibly viewed as ingrates.
Did they forget to put a label on the parcel? Did the label fall off?
Or was it that they wanted it to be an anonymous gift? If so, why?
And, needless to add, the identity of that giver remains a mystery!
Probably I will never know the identity of the giver, but it taught me a lesson: always make sure that the recipient of your gift knows who the giver is; don’t forget to identify yourself! The ‘From …’ on a gift parcel is important.
This is why since then all my gift parcels have at least two, or usually even three, labels: bottom of the package, middle and then on top.
That way, even if one or two labels fall off, or are torn off by mistake, at least one will be left on the package.
Even if I’m handing the parcel to the recipient myself, I will still put the two or three identifications, based on the assumption that the person might be receiving a number of parcels that day and there might be some confusion later as to who had brought what.
Recently I was reminded of my wedding gift mystery when I was involved in a wedding of a ward here in Accra. When we were opening the presents, we realized that a few of the presents had no labels, nothing to tell us about who had brought them.
History repeating itself!
Another discovery I made, or rather a confirmation of a long-held suspicion, was that some people are confused about the difference between a wedding present and a birthday present.
My understanding is that whereas a birthday present is usually something for the personal use of the person celebrating their birthday – something they alone can use, wear or eat – a wedding present should be something the couple can use in their home: such as house accessories; things for the new home they are going to set up; kitchen utensils.
If a wedding gift parcel contains, for example, a shirt, it means it’s only for the groom, excluding the bride; if it contains a half piece of cloth, it means it’s for the bride, excluding the groom.
In both cases, although the gift may be welcome, in my opinion, it’s not an ideal wedding present.
And, of course, cash donations are extremely helpful because the couple or the family may have spent a lot on the wedding.
Incidentally, I also have a different view of traditional marriage or wedding souvenirs for the guests.
Although giving such souvenirs has become a standard practice that most people follow, it appears that some people have an ‘anything-will-do’ attitude; they don’t give much thought to what they give to their guests as ‘souvenirs’.
All sorts of things are given to the guests, with nothing written on the items.
Or maybe it’s plain ignorance about making it a real souvenir of the ceremony, with an inscription.
If a supposed marriage souvenir is even an expensive item, but has no name and no date of the ceremony inscribed on it, what is the point?
What guarantee is there that in a few years’ time the guest will remember whose wedding it was, or even whether it was a birthday or wedding souvenir?
My ideal wedding souvenir is something branded.
Even if it’s an inexpensive item, such as a key holder or a handkerchief, but it has the names of the bridal couple, as well as the date of the ceremony, to me that is a very appropriate, satisfactory marriage souvenir.
For example, I still have the white handkerchief souvenir I was given at the wedding of a friend nearly 30 years ago.
The inscription on it, with a motif of wedding bells, states simply: “Ben & Esther, 12th May, 1990”.
It was only a handkerchief, which I don’t use, but three decades on, every time I see it, I’m reminded of that momentous occasion in the lives of the couple, and of the fact that I was there to share in their joy.
Sadly, as for that expensive kitchen gadget, despite its size and obvious expense, two decades on, even though I would love to be able to express our appreciation to the giver, I still have no clue as to who I should thank for that lovely gesture, their demonstration of solidarity and love.