What on earth do you buy a royal on their wedding day?

Published by Esther Rantzen on 28 April 2011.
Last updated on 25 August 2011

Esther Rantzen

Spare a thought for the lucky guests who are proudly displaying their invitations to the Wedding of the Decade. Poor things, they must have spent months wrestling with problems such as "where can I find a flattering hat for the ceremony?" and "where will I be able to park?"
However, their biggest dilemma is likely to be "what on earth do you give the bride and groom who have everything?" Not only will Wills and Kate inherit works of art and treasures beyond compare, but they have also been living together for so long you know they must already own a set of saucepans and a duvet cover.

The happy couple are asking for donations to charity instead of presents. But for someone wishing to give them something personal, that's not much fun.

I got married twice, both times – rather unoriginally – to the same man. The first ceremony was in 1977, when life was a bit more conventional than it is now, and we had a wedding list in a large department store.

Strawberry bowls-aplenty

The fun things we wanted were all snapped up immediately, as only a true friend will give you something as boring as a vacuum cleaner.

A number of guests, having wandered around the gift department, all came to the same conclusion: what we really needed was a strawberry-sugar-and-cream dish. This was made of porcelain, with a handle, a central bowl for the berries, and little dishes slotted in on either side for the cream and sugar. We were given eight of them. 

I don't remember ever using one. Instead we just recycled them. Each time another wedding invitation arrived, we would send one out, until they had all gone. However, recycling has its dangers. While Nancy Reagan did it, and so has Prince Charles, it can be perceived as ingratitude.

Read: Give the gift of thrift

The charitable approach

So for my second wedding, I tried Wills and Kate's idea of asking for donations to a good cause. By that time, Desi and I had been married almost 30 years, so we suggested to our friends that they might give donations to ChildLine and Wessex Heartbeat, our two favourite charities.

But some of our friends were quite miffed at the idea. It was clear they thought it was up to them if they gave to charity, and which charity they chose. This was a time when they wanted to express their affection for us, they said.

We decided to ask for a Spode breakfast service, a lovely blue design, which would have been an indulgence to buy ourselves. It had the great advantage of allowing our friends to spend as much or as little as they wanted on anything from a saucer to a set of dinner plates.

And still, more than 10 years later, when I sip my tea out of my little Spode mug, I remember that wedding and all my friends with huge pleasure.

This is why I wish Wills and Kate had found another way, just a little more personal, to mop up the generosity of their friends and families. Maybe a lovely new park, or a forest, where we could all buy a tree?

Although I do recall a famous friend who happens to own a lake, and whose friends decided to stock it with trout. The next day a cormorant appeared in the sky overhead. The day after, a flock of cormorants arrived, gave a magnificent diving display, and scoffed the lot. Which is, I suppose, a kind of recycling.  

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