How to deal with gifted accessories that just don't go

Updated Oct 12 2015
I have a question that is probably going to make me sound really mean, but here goes: how do I gracefully turn down offers of jewelry or other accessories to wear on my wedding day?

Both my mom and mother-in-law-to-be are very nice, generous people. But they have taste in clothes & jewelry that really clashes with mine. They love delicate gold sparkly pretty princess things, and I love big chunky bold modern stuff — soooo very different.

I will let them know in advance that I have already purchased everything I need, but that might not get the point across. Is there a decent way of pre-emptively saying "please don't give me anything, no really, please DO NOT"? How do I say this TACTFULLY but make sure the message is loud and clear? OR, if they ignore me and give me something and it's awful, how do I turn it down tactfully?

Definitely make it clear that you've already purchased your jewelry. Show off what you've gotten in person or via email. Explain why you love it so much and how excited you are about it. Hopefully this will nip things in the bud. But if they insist on giving you jewelry anyway, try this technique:

"Thank you so much," you can say. "Although I've already purchased the jewelry I'll be wearing at the wedding, I'm so honored that you thought of me and I'm so excited to integrate your gift into the wedding day — let's find a way to make it work!"

The key here is not to turn them down, but to find an alternate way to use the gift. Here's one example: I asked a friend if she would make me a necklace for my wedding day. A month or so later, an old blogging pal asked if she could send me a necklace she'd made. Not only did I already have a wedding necklace I was happy with, but I wasn't sure if necklace #2 was going to go very well with my wedding day aesthetic. I told Friend #2 that I wasn't sure I'd be able to wear the necklace on my wedding day, and she was fine with that — she just wanted to gift it to me.

When necklace #2 arrived, I immediately saw that no: it wasn't what I'd be wearing around my neck. I'd already set the expectation with Friend #2 that I wasn't sure I'd be wearing it … but then, on a total whim, I tried sticking Necklace #2 in my hair.


Necklace #2 became a headpiece I hadn't even realized I needed!

Now, not every piece of jewelry would work in your hair, but you could easily integrate jewelry that just doesn't go into a bouquet, a centerpiece, or your altar (wrapped around a candle, perhaps?).

The key is to set the expectation up-front that you've already purchased your wedding day jewelry AND (not but — AND!!) that you'd love to find a way to integrate the jewelry that you've been gifted. You can be gracious and accepting while also maintaining your own vision.

  1. I'm really glad you answered this question! My fiance's step mom just gave me a tiara that she wore at her wedding, and I'm not really the tiara-wearing type. Now, I've got some ideas about what to do with it.

  2. awesome solution, Ariel! I used my late grandmother's necklace as a bouquet wrap, which is another great option.

  3. I was the person who posted this question to Ariel. I love the answer, It's perfect! Thanks Ariel!
    (BTW: what raised this question in the first place? It was the Simpsons episode where Homer gives Lisa's fiancee pig cufflinks to wear at his wedding. LOL!)

    • With the comments coming from other readers, I hope that you see you aren't being mean at all! SOOOOO many family members offer advice and gifts for upcoming nuptials, and of course the bride can't use them all in the same capacity. You have a lot of company with this problem!

      ~~Love and support!

  4. I did a somewhat similar thing: my grandma gave me necklace that my grandpa gave her when they got married for my 16th birthday. I never wear it because it's not really my style, but I love that she gave it to me. For the wedding, I made my own hair accessory out of 2 peacock feathers wired together with the pendant sort of dangling from the feathers. It looked pretty good and it made both my grandma and me very happy.

  5. Great advice! As an accessory designer, I offer to make customized things for friends but I always keep in mind that accessory choices are an extremely personal decision, especially for such a special day! I wouldn't be offended if I saw a brooch of mine on a candle, I'd think that it was a thoughtful way to let me know she appreciates what I gave her! I would mind if I saw it in the local thrift shop the next week though! 🙂

  6. And don't forget about rehersals, dinners, showers, parties! If you're doing any of those, you could wear your family's/friend's gifts to those.

  7. I ended up wearing a lot of the beautiful jewelery I received (but didn't want to wear on "the day") at my multiple showers, and the rehearsal dinner. People seemed to appreciate that I was wearing their gifts, and they understood they I had already chosen my wedding accessories. Plus I still wear all the gifts! 🙂 And people always notice when you wear something they bought/made you!

  8. So I really didn't like my grandmother.s pearls when they were given to me for my wedding – I certainly wasn't a pearl wearer. 29 years later I treasure (and wear) that strand of pearls. Ariel.s suggestion about gracefully accepting and then finding a different use for it may be particularly wise for family treasure that may mean more with the passing of time.

  9. I'm in a similar boat – I am fairly sure that I'm getting my grandmother's pearls on my wedding day, but I don't want to wear them. I love pearls, but…but…I have my own hand-made jewelry and it's so crazy that I can't wear pearls too. I also have a necklace for the rehearsal dinner (a gift from my fiance).

    I can't wear it as a bracelet and can't put it on a bouquet as I am carrying a fan. It's worth too much to use in a centerpiece (chances are it would NEVER get nicked but I can't take that chance).

    I'll probably wear it at the family brunch the next day.

    • Could also try wearing as an anklet, as a hair piece, you could attatch it carefully to the bottom of the fan as a kind of tassle ( a bit of wire wrapped carefully round the base of the fan (when open) and around the center of the necklace….)

  10. THANK YOU! Though I haven't had this problem yet (and am probably a little self-centered to assume… oops!) it's good knowing what to do ahead of time before you have to back-track and try to re-build some bridges! 😉

  11. My mom gave me my grandmother's garter which she wore at her wedding as well. I did my best to nicely let her know I would NOT be wearing that.

    • Perhaps she wants to start a tradition? In which case you could wrap the garter round the base of the bouquet, or do something else with it so that its a PART of the wedding, w/o being your garter. That way your mother and grandmother are aknowledged, but w/o you having to mess your sense of style up (or deal with the possible ickyness of wearing someone elses undergarment lol). Just a thought, then it could later be passed down to your own child/ren.

    • I was given a garter that belonged to my fiance's grandmother by my future sister-in-law. I asked her why she gave it to me and she said, well I'm just passing it on because it was given to me for my wedding. I asked her what she did with it for her wedding and she said she didn't use it for anything. AWKWARD!!! So now I have a garter for a woman I've never met (she passed away a VERY long time ago) and no use for it. UGH.

  12. Ariel you have great advice…and your a total babe. and not the talking pig kind, the attractive female kind ;D

  13. I love the way that the pair of necklaces turned out. They look like they were designed almost as a set with the way that you wore them. Good job to you AND yoru friends!

  14. I was given a garter by a family friend of my husband. He's incredibly close to this woman and when she offered he said yes without checking if I was even planning on wearing a garter because he wanted her to be involved in his wedding any way possible. She ended up also playing piano for our ceremony, and was the mother of the best man, her husband was the MC and her other son sang while we signed the paperwork so I think we had the family covered, but she offered in the tone that suggested it was going to happen anyway so I just hoped it would be fine and left it.

    Four days before the wedding she handed me a parcel, which turned out the contain the MOST ABSURD GARTER. I'm pretty short and slim and this thing could have been a lampshade in another life. I don't think I could have walked with it on. Plus, I'd ended up with another garter I actually liked (which was a free bonus from some online shopping). My idea was to do the garter toss with the smaller one and not let her know that her creation hadn't made it anywhere near my leg (thank god for hoop skirts).
    On the day I completely forgot to put either garter on, and so had to go with the true story that I was forgetful and apologise profusely!

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