Even though we requested not to receive any gifts and asked our friends to instead donate money to one of the charitable organizations that we support (see the list below), some of them still decided to shower us with gifts.
During the wedding in the Bay Area we got several bottles of good wines (among them a bottle that we should open on our thirtieth wedding anniversary!), "Lazy Suzanne", a few books (always greatly appreciated), a wonderful gift certificate for a private architectural walking tour through downtown SF, a few lottery tickets (unfortunately none of them winning), as well as many gift certificates to the shopping malls (we finally exchanged them for the kitchen appliances in January this year...) and some cash.
Interestingly, Indians think it is bad luck to gift round numbers, like e.g. $100, so instead we got many checks and envelops with $101. At first, I though that it was some sort of a geek humor (in the end we do live in Silicon Valley), but as it repeated several times I asked Anil about it, and he explained to me that in Indian culture $101 is more auspicious than $100. (Other auspicious number is 1116, as I learned this week in India.) Something to remember if you go to an Indian wedding.
Gifts of clothes to close family members are also traditional according to Hindu wedding customs. The bride and the groom receive clothes from their family members, as well as they give clothes to them. For example, during our recent stay in India we had yet another small wedding-related celebration for the closest family members of Anil. To all of his aunts we gifted saris, whereas to all of his uncles we gifted a shirt and trousers material (luckily Anil's mom took care of picking and buying all of those). Traditionally, we should have received similar gifts, but as our luggage space was limited, we requested cash or other smaller and easier to carry gifts. Unfortunately, not everybody understood our luggage constrains and most of the gifts we received we had to leave behind in India. (We got several pretty but heavy statues of elephants and of God Ganhesh, we got a couple of photo frames, a beautiful carpet, a few kitchen items, a reproduction of a famous Indian painting, sari and pearls for me, and a couple of shirts and a tie for Anil.) Even though we will not be able to enjoy most of those things in SF, we still had fun unpacking all the gifts. They made us feel like kids on a Christmas day :)
In accordance with this Hindu wedding custom, we also gave gifts of clothes to all my close friends and family in Poland. I'm proud to report that all clothes that we gifted we had brought from India.
To all guests that attended our wedding in the Bay Area we gave ceramic angel-bells that my parents had shipped from Poland. It is not only an Indian custom, but also American, to offer a small gift (favor) to all wedding guests as a way of saying "thank you" for coming to the wedding celebration and hence making it even more special.
Here is our little army of angels before they got packed:
And here are packed wedding favors:
Here is a text that we had on our wedding webpage under a link "Gifts/Donations":
Since we have each other, we have everything that we could possibly need.
Therefore, in lieu of gifts, we kindly ask that you donate to one (or more) of the following charities close to our hearts:
1. Asha for Education is a secular organization dedicated to change in India by focusing on providing basic education to underprivileged children in the belief that education is a critical requisite for socio-economic change.
Donations to Asha are tax-exempt in the US and can be made via credit card or check.
2. The Great Orchestra Of Christmas Charity is probably the best known and the most reputable Polish foundation that collects money to buy medical equipment for the pediatrics departments of hospitals all over Poland. It also supports health promotion and preventive medicine.
You can donate money (tax-deductible in Poland) to this foundation via bank transfer:
IBAN: PL 58124011121111001009449739
SWIFT: PKO PPLPW
3. Child Rights and You (CRY) is an indigenous Indian movement working towards restoring to underprivileged Indian children their basic rights to: survival, protection, development and participation. The foundation provides link between the millions of Indians who could provide resources and thousands of dedicated people and organizations at the grassroots-level who are struggling to function for lack of them.
You can make donations to CRY either through their original Indian website (tax-deductible in India) or through their American counterpart (tax-deductible in the US).