The Experts

“The wedding is about you and your partner, about your personalities. Don’t get hung up on what you think your guests want or expect. It’s about what you want to share with them.” -Jill Goldberg

The Gift Givers

wedding experts

Photograph by Jörg Meyer

The fantasy goes: It’s all about you. And it is, sort of. But what about your humble wedding party, parents, and groom? Turns out, you’ll have to give (almost) as good as you get.

By Sascha de Gersdorff

Jill Goldberg, Moria Flynn Riordan, and Elisabeth Herbert all work within a block of one another, just off the South End’s Union Park—and all married their matches in the past year. Goldberg, owner of home décor emporium Hudson, said her vows during a “cocktail wedding” at Cambridge’s UpStairs on the Square. Flynn Riordan, co-creator of preppy favorite M. Flynn Accessories, wed in front of 250 people at the Bar Harbor Club in Maine. And Herbert, founder of printing success Black Pearl Press, traded rings (and served a roast pig!) in Pittsfield, Vermont. Each ceremony was different, but the trio shared a common quandary—namely, what to buy their friends, fiancés, and guests.

What did you give your bridesmaids? EH: I popped into Holiday on Charles Street a few months before the wedding and found some pretty gold lattice cuffs. MFR: My sister Megan and I designed jewelry for the girls. I also gave them each a SeaBag (a recycled sail tote from a small Portland company), flip-flops for dancing, and a great headband. JG: We spent the afternoon at MiniLuxe on Newbury Street getting manicures and pedicures. It was pricey, but worth it!

What’s the key to the getting the maids’ gifts right? MFR: Be generous! These girls are your closest friends and family. They go to all the showers and the parties, and often wear ugly dresses with a smile. An iPod Shuffle is a great idea, and jewelry and clutches are fun gifts too. I always like to go local—the 46 Waltham Street building [in the South End] has great designers. EH: I think a mix of jewelry makes a lovely gift—you avoid the matchy-matchy trap and more likely than not give each of your girls something they’ll actually wear again.

And for your groom? JG:
I bought a bottle of his favorite single malt scotch, Caol Ila, from Brix in the South End. I think a great bottle of expensive scotch, whiskey, or bourbon is always greatly appreciated. MFR: I really wanted to give him a keepsake, so I got Kevin a watch. Paul Duggan in Downtown Crossing has a great selection of vintage and pre-owned high-grade watches. EH: Get something that lasts—nothing electronic or gadget-y, unless it’s a watch. But we didn’t give each other anything—is that terrible? At some point I’ll give him one of Corey Arnold’s amazing photographs. Maybe for Christmas.

How did the three of you pull off your favors?
JG: I made them. I got a mixture of chocolate truffles from Party Favors in Brookline and put together little white boxes with ivory grosgrain ribbons and small round stickers from Paper Source. Then I stamped “J&D” on the sticker—it looked pretty cute. MFR: We gave guests sea-salted chocolates filled with caramel from ChocoLee in the South End. EH: We didn’t do favors, really, although I did buy seven different Liberty fabrics from a shop in London and made pocket squares for all the gentlemen invited to the wedding. The boys loved them! We also served doughnuts as the night was ending. I walked around the room with a great big basket and they were gone in seconds.

What’s the deal with favors, anyway? I mean, you’ve already paid for the whole wedding…
MFR: People travel a long way to celebrate with you, and favors are a great way to show your appreciation. I recently went to a wedding that had pashminas hanging over the chairs for all the female guests—it was a great touch. JG: I went back and forth about doing an actual favor versus donating money, but in the end, I decided to go with chocolates. It’s always fun to top off the night with something sweet. EH: Something delicious will always trump a knickknack. Edible favors are the best—nobody wants a trinket monogrammed with your initials and the wedding date. At least, I don’t think they do. It’s the tasty treats that go the distance.

What should you keep in mind when shopping for gifts?
MFR: Think about gifts early, especially if you’re trying to find gifts to fit different personalities. It can get very hectic  as the day approaches, and you’ll find a more thoughtful gift if you focus on it early. EH: Art—good art—is the absolute best. Experiences are great gifts as well: a flower-arranging class, wine-tasting, that sort of thing. And I’d rather be late in giving a terrific gift than on time with a mediocre one. JG: The wedding is about you and your partner, about your personalities. Don’t get what you think your guests want or expect. It’s about what you want to share with them.

How much should a couple spend on gifts for their bridal party and guests? JG: It depends on your overall budget and how many people you’re having at your wedding. We had 100 people at ours, and I think we spent $5 per favor; there’s no need to spend more than $10. Unless you’re made of money—then, go for broke! EH: I wouldn’t break the bank on favors. They might appreciate a little something, but no one is going to be miffed that they didn’t get a bar of fancy soap or a jar of sea salt. MFR: I’m a firm believer in spending at least $100 per bridesmaid, though. Remember how much they are spending on your wedding. They deserve a nice thank you!

Tell us about your favorite wedding gift spots in town. EH: Good has the most beautifully curated selection, no question. And a Swan Island blanket from Hudson would be a pretty decadent gift. I’d give a food- and wine-obsessed Boston couple an evening at [South End cooking studio] Stir. MFR: Stores like Turtle in the South End and the Beauty Mark on Charles Street always have a really fun selection.

Hudson, 312 Shawmut Ave., Boston, 617-292-0900; 61A Central St., Wellesley, 781-239-0025, Black Pearl Press, 46 Waltham St., Ste. 202, Boston, 617-922-1051, M. Flynn, 46 Waltham St., Suite 101, Boston, 617-292-0079,

wedding experts

Photograph by Jörg Meyer



Tips on showing appreciation for family (i.e. the financiers).

JG:  All of our parents helped out in their own specific ways, so we took each set for their own private “thank you” dinner or brunch at their restaurant of choice. Another good idea would be a silver frame. But be generous—don’t opt for the cheap ones. It’s your parents!

MFR:  Jewelry, jewelry, jewelry!

EH:  I’d like to send my dad and his partner to the Parker in Palm Springs for
a week, though that breaks the rule of giving something that lasts. For my mother-in-law and her husband, it’ll be a weathervane from Period Furniture Hardware in Beacon Hill for the beach cottage they’re renovating in Falmouth, Maine. For my father-in-law, banjo camp—really! I’m stumped when it comes to my mom. She was totally amazing in putting so much of the wedding together and helping me keep my cool. Maybe a weekend at the Mayflower Inn in Washington, Connecticut. Does it count as a gift if I go, too?.