Tips on what to do with unwanted wedding gifts

Every great wedding contains at least one obligatory, cringe-worthy moment. And no, it’s not your sister’s wine-fueled speech about your early bedwetting days. It happens as you’re opening your wedding presents, when you eagerly tear away the wrapping paper, only to recoil in disappointment at the third toaster of the evening, extra-large nose hair trimmers, or a combination egg timer and VCR.

What do you do with these thoughtful, but completely useless gifts? If you’re lucky, it’s an item that the givers won’t expect to see when they walk into your home. If it’s a piece of art or an article of clothing, there’s not much you can do except display it in a remote corner of the house before they come over.

But the vast majority of bad presents aren’t quite as useless as they seem. For the clever bride and groom, there are a few ways to turn clunkers into better gifts–or better yet, cash.

Store Returns

Returning unwanted gifts to the store can be tricky for a number of reasons, the least of which is you probably don’t have the receipt. Most stores have policies protecting themselves against fraud, which means you’re already at a disadvantage if you can’t prove you’re the one who purchased the item.

The first and most important step is to determine where the item was purchased. Luckily, with a computer and a little bit of search-engine ingenuity, this isn’t too hard. One-of-a-kind boutique stores can be a bit trickier, but even so, many stores have inventories available online. Once you find a match on a store’s website, it’s time to visit in person.

If at first you don’t succeed with a gift return, try, try again. Chain stores with multiple locations offer you multiple chances to make your return. You can try several times, even at stores with only one location, as long as there are different employees working multiple shifts.

Factors that can improve your chances of returning a gift include: leaving the product in its original packaging, bringing it in a bag with the store’s logo on it, and acting as soon as possible. Even if you’re tempted to open the gift or try it on just once, don’t.

It’s not worth the risk of wrinkling or scuffing the product, and even opening the box is enough for some stores to reject you offhand. Many stores also have time limits on returns, so the sooner you act, the better your chances are.

Even if a store accepts your return, they may not refund you the full price. Often, items bought previously at full price will have gone on sale by the time they have gone through the gifting process and reached you. If you don’t have a receipt, most stores will only refund you the item’s current price.

You can improve your chances of returning a gift successfully if you accept store credit instead of cash, so be sure to ask whether this is an option. Chances are, you can shop around the store and find a gift that’s much more to your liking.

Selling and donating unwanted wedding gifts

If you can’t make a store return, don’t despair yet. You can often get a good price for items that are in good shape by simply selling them online. Many large websites offer “seller sections,” where you can make a free profile and immediately start selling your unwanted possessions all over the world. Sure, they take a fraction of the profits, but you’ll have the luxury of naming your own price.

If the gift is expensive, such as a vehicle, technical appliance, or jewelry, you may want to consider donating it to charity and taking a tax write-off. Donating is a good option for less expensive gifts, too, as they will still be able to improve someone’s life.

Prevent bad gifts before they happen

The most effective way to avoid bad presents is to give guests clear hints ahead of time. Sign up for bridal registries at multiple stores, and be sure to choose a variety of items in a wide price range, to make sure every guest can find a gift option they’ll feel comfortable giving. If you’re putting racy items on the registry, such as honeymoon lingerie, you may want to make two separate registries to avoid embarrassing select family members.

If you and your fiancé already have most of the essentials, you may want to encourage intangible gifts instead of objects. Especially for couples living in small homes, having more possessions isn’t necessarily better. Ask guests to donate to your honeymoon fund in lieu of a wrapped wedding present. You’ll be able to treasure the photos and memories for a much longer time than the lifespan of the average kitchen appliance.

You may want to encourage guests to give donations to a charity instead of giving you presents directly, although in this case, you should provide a list of several charities so guests can choose one that aligns with their ideals. Or, you can simply tell your guests, “Your presence at my wedding is the only gift I want.”

If you’re planning a DIY wedding, you can encourage guests to contribute their talents and time to help make the celebration possible, instead of asking for traditional gifts.

Even with all the hints and encouragement in the world, some guests will still not take heed, and you’ll most likely end up with a few useless gifts. If this happens, just remember that the gift represents kindness and well wishes from a loved one, and as such, contains more value than the eye can see.

Give effusive thanks, put it on a shelf, and hope that your loved one is better at gift-choosing when it comes time for your birthday.