Wedding lists - self-indulgent or sensible?

As Wii games consoles top wedding lists, Annie Deakin wonders when the modern bride will stop

Here comes the bride... and here comes the wedding list. Forget saucepans, the modern bride is sparking controversy by demanding flashy gadgets and plasma TVs.

It seems the norm today for newlyweds to saunter from the altar into a home fully furnished with mod cons and designer furniture - all charitably paid for by their guests.

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"Two years ago, the top 20 products on the gift list were exclusively traditional items from linens, kitchenware, china and glass," said Tracey Yates, senior analyst at John Lewis. "But, in the second half of last year, the Nintendo Wii sports pack [that allows players to simulate playing tennis or golf] made it to the top 20."

What’s more, high definition televisions and mp3 digital music players are increasingly popular on the John Lewis wedding list.

Altar-bound couples used to fret about referencing their wedding list with the invitation. They didn't want to seem greedy. In the Eighties, doe-eyed fiancés dreamt of heated hostess trolleys, slow cookers and toasted sandwich makers. Couples from the Nineties craved microwaves and toasters topped wedding lists. Today's hapless couples are insatiable in their wedding lists. They think nothing of adding to their list expensive technology. Today, it's about designer digital Roberts Radios, Sony Bravia TVs and top of the range mp3 sound decks - never mind that these gadgets won't last the length of the marriage. Debenhams reported that their most requested gifts are iPods, flat screen TVs and vouchers. Silver photo frames, once the ultimate wedding gift, have been usurped by the digital photo frame.

The relatively new phenomenon of the wedding list traditionally comes from the dowry when a bride’s father gave money or gifts to his future son-in-law or family. Modern living has twisted this conventional notion on its head. Having long fled their parental nest, most newlyweds own at least one set of cutlery (and possibly a child of their own). So, instead of couples needing the basics, they see getting married as an excuse to upgrade their IKEA furnishings with items they themselves can’t afford.

The "you come to my wedding, you give me a present" notion leaves a sour taste in the mouth. However, I’m yet to be invited to a wedding without a gift list. The logic - ensuring no duplicate or unwanted gifts (especially important in our waste conscious era) - makes sense but it is intrinsically self-indulgent. It's rather like writing to Father Christmas in the knowledge that you won't be disappointed. But I must confess that like my peers, I couldn't resist creating a list when I got married. But, I hasten to add, I managed to dissuade my husband from sneaking a home cinema onto our list.

Instead of splurging on gadgets, guests do better to find a more memorable token that will stand the test of time. "Give something long-lasting and beautiful like a magnolia grandiflora or an olea europaea," says Lucy Clifton of the Designer Wedding Show, who has been married for nine years. "Every time they bloom, the happy couple will think of you and your good wishes for them on their wedding day."

I’ve been eyeing up the wedding plantabox (£56) from Not on the High Street which can be painted with a bespoke message. And as everyone knows, smug marrieds love nothing more than showing off their wedding photos. Leather photo albums are considerate gifts but only if they are the dimensions of their old albums. Neat freaks, like me, quiver at chaotic book shelves. Better still, opt for the bespoke framed pin board montage (£250) from 55Max is printed on photographic paper, using layers and shading to create the 3D pin board effect.

Wedding presents need not cost the earth. The secret is to be creative and find customizable gems like the Engrave this Date Stone (£12) or the wooden LOVE letters (£12 each) from Not on the High Street is charming. Add your own words of wisdom or a line from the song of their first dance to the Personalised Gallon Teapot (£125) from Emma Bridgewater.

After being carried across the threshold, modern brides might fancy a swing on the Nintendo Wii with their new husband. But in years to come and the courtship is ancient history, the plastic toys will be discarded leaving the more sturdy and thoughtful gifts to remain. After all, where is the romance in a remote control?

Annie Deakin is Editor of mydeco.com

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