Friday, December 3, 2010

What do I give my secretly pregnant sister for her super secret wedding?

Dear ESB,

I need a rockstar gift idea for my secretly pregnant sister's secret wedding. Superduper secret, like her man and I are the only ones who know about it. Being the only one there to celebrate, I'd really like to present them with something fabulous for the occasion. Any ideas?


I haven't exactly been batting a thousand with the sister posts,* so I asked two of my favorite bloggers-who-have-sisters to field this one.

Lauren said:

first, friar lawrence, congratulations on being the +1 at a secret wedding! from this i infer that you are both trustworthy and awesome. were i you, i'd give the happy couple either A) something that'll stick with them forever or B) the complete absence of things.

if A's your route, i suggest you offer to go out and spring for matching tattoos to commemorate the day you're all sharing. seriously. they don't have to be big or visible, just on each of you for good; nothing says "i've got your back forever" like "i've got this on my back forever."

if you're more of a B, i think you should give them a day that's complete from start to finish, no input needed. they've been making decision after decision for this secret wedding and secret pregnancy - engagement and conception force you to have opinions about and make calls on a frightening array of things - and could probably use some "don't worry, i've got this one." book them a dinner someplace they'll love, a room in a hotel that will treat them right (whether that means making them feel like serge and jane or making them feel like wills and kate), and a day of something they've talked about wistfully. if you happen to be an oil magnate, throw in some plane tickets so all of this can happen in a place they've been meaning to visit.

(psst: A.)

Celia said:

Lucky you! If I had only had one other person at my wedding, I would have also chosen my sister. Seeing as she's pregnant, and this super secret wedding is a tiny celebration, I'm assuming that your sister and her fiancé might be on a bit of a budget. If I were you, I'd hire the most badass photographer in town to document every special moment and all the sweet details of the day.

You don't even have to reveal your rockstar gift before the wedding. Just arrange everything with the photographer before the big day, and have him/her show up to surprise the bride and groom. Not only will they have gorgeous photographs of what will most likely be one of the best days of their lives, but your sister will also have great professional pregnancy photos. Trust me, when you're pregnant, you're kind of desperate for beautiful and tasteful pictures of yourself. 

And the cherry on top? Not only will this be a great gift for them to cherish forever, but it's something that your future nephew/niece will treasure too.

(Image via Vejde Gustafsson)

*Celia pretty much schooled me here and here.


  1. Celia, will you please be my sister (I have too many tattoos and not enough pictures).

  2. I'm so glad that I re-read Celia's previous comments because I almost forgot how much I L-O-V-E the story of the titty-twisting brawl at LAX. Who else, but your sister, can you claim that experience with?

    Also, I personally vote for both the photographer AND the matching tattoos.

    And btw, I love this question. There's been so many frustrated-sister Dear ESB's lately, it's nice to see the other side of the sister relationship.

  3. great question and answers BUT.

    LMO- I am pretty sure tattoos are a no no while pregnant. :(

    CELIA- if she hasn't hired a photog you hit the nail on the head, but what if she has? so many elopers do now adays.

    based on this i implore you each to submit an alternate "forever" type gift.

    god am i greedy. xoxo

  4. Yeah sorry tattoos have to wait 'til post bubba as far as I know.

    Love the arranging the day and photo options!

    Ahhh so romantic :D

  5. hey kids, questioner here:

    1. would love the tattoo thing, as would she (he may not), but my meanger pregnancy knowledge leans towards that being a no-no.

    2. love the photog idea, but that's actually a part of why i get to be there - i'm taking the pictures!

    3. i'm traveling to them on my tight budget, and as much as i would love to treat them to a day of things they don't have to plan... plane fare took a chunk out of my gifting options.

    hmm. guess i just made this more complicated. as jamie said, any other "forever" ideas?

  6. What about taking some of the pics with a Holga or Polaroid or a Roliflex and giving them the camera and some film for the honeymoon?

    Or what about commisioning a cool illustration style portrait of them? I bet some interweb scouring could find something.

  7. I have a younger sister. If this were me...

    I would splurge on a Haptic Lab baby quilt ($95). Quilts are forever. You can customize the quilt to map out the city/neighborhood (complete with tiny landmarks) of their top-secret wedding ceremony site, which would be a special tribute to that day and that city. Plus, they can wrap their young one in the quilt and tell him or her their favorite memories from their special day in that special city.

    Good luck! xoxo.

  8. Since you're the photographer, maybe put together a nice quality photo album for them? I also love the idea of taking a favorite photo from the wedding and having a painting done as seen here:

  9. What about an instant camera and film? I have the Fuji Instax Wide and it is my FAVORITE thing in the whole world. People get all crazy nostalgic over instant film and there aren't enough physical prints around these days. Plus, it would make for fun pics of the wedding. If you have a little extra wiggle room in your budget, you could buy a nice frame for an enlargement.

  10. my parents planted a tree for me when i was born, and one for my brother when he was born. it is really special to visit those trees, see how big they've gotten, take photos with them, etc. it's a physical and visual way to mark the years. this could be a very cool gift, and something you could all do together as a family.

  11. Here's a cheap idea,
    Plant an acorn in a jam jar (cotton wool and water initially), let it germinate and grow a bit, then give it to them so they can plant it wherever they like (garden, woods etc). Then they can visit it and it will be their tree! I have an oak tree someone planted for me when I was born - it's nice, and it's exactly the same age as me.

    If you're short of time, buy a tree seedling ready grown a bit, or ask a farmer for help :)

    Also, if it's small enough you can carry it in your hand luggage. Maybe?

  12. Is the wedding secret because the family/families are difficult to manage? If so, you could craft the announcement and then deflect all discussion for a specified period of time. In my family, sometimes the biggest favor is to be the interface.

  13. So, if funds are limited, and tattoos are not okay for the pregnant sister, then go for sentimental value.

    One way is the handmade route. Seems like being the photographer is already a great forever type gift in this mode though. But if you want something else, look at whatever other skills you have. I think an IOU is okay here if time is an issue for piecing that quilt or turning the spindles for that rocking chair.

    Another way is to use your insider family knowledge to your benefit. With you as her only family representative there, can you bring something that only people who grew up in your house would know about? Is there some piece of heirloom jewelry or some other special family talisman you have in your possession or can borrow for her to have with her for the wedding? Some silly toy or treat or book from your childhood that she always loved that will make her laugh? Is there something curmudgeonly your grandfather used to say at family events that you can have embroidered on a handkerchief?

    Or what about writing her and her fiance a letter telling them how awesome they are, how awesome their kid is going to be and how awesome you feel to be able to witness this kickass secret wedding?

    (But, also, those haptic lab quilts are definitely drool worthy.)

  14. hey erin!

    exactly how tight is your budget? rockstar gifts tend to come with rockstar price tags, if you know what i mean. what if you engraved their rings for them? obviously, you'd have to confiscate the rings beforehand, or do it after their wedding day, but it would still be a lovely gesture. or, how about giving them a custom portrait? i know ashley g and merilee make smart ones.

  15. set up a babymoon for them! aka set up a vacation for them before the baby comes. :) it doesn't even need to be super fancy! maybe something like a cabin or random vacation home nearby away for a long weekend.

  16. i like the acorn idea. super cute.

  17. WOW, those quilts are amazing, and totally worth an IOU. the acorn idea is fascinating and just perhaps, this might be THE most appropriate time for a babymoon.

    thanks everyone - keep the ideas coming!!

  18. get a custom marriage certificate made! it won't cost you out the ass and it will be something they'll always have and can frame. hit up cevd & see if it's something she could letterpress

    rifle paper co is also known to do that but their turn around time isn't very quick. example of one they've done (the second, darker set of pics down)

  19. You could hire their favorite band to serenade them....
    or commission a portrait. Very old school.

  20. "whether that means making them feel like serge and jane or making them feel like wills and kate" - instant blog follow right there.

  21. I don't know if it is the fact that Christmas is approaching that made me think of this but this could be a sweet (and low bedget!) idea-

    What if you set up an "It's a Wonderful Life" style honeymoon night for them? Do you remember that scene- they give away all the money that they were going to use for a honeymoon and their friends deck out their house with travel posters and dinner and wine so they feel like they were able to take a trip?

    Go to their house and go crazy with homemade decorations, stock the fridge with tasty treats (and in this case Martinelli's Sparkling Cider instead of champagne). Leave a stack of romantic old movies on DVD. Give them something special to go home to! A little staycation.

    Good Luck!

  22. Oh man I am totally getting long winded (please excuse me). But you could get as elaborate as you want if funds allow:
    - Hire a cleaning person to go in and scrub. I know I would love to come home to a sparkling apartment that I didn't have to clean myself!
    - Get some cozy bathrobes/slippers etc.
    - Leave candles and bubble bath by the tub

  23. oooh i love the photographer idea! super sweet!

  24. Yeah, women can't get tattooed while pregnant. You might as well get her a bottle of scotch and a pack of marlbro reds.

  25. I heart the tattoo idea (I realize your sister wouldn't be able to partake in this until after she has her baby, but it would still be relevant & many reputable tattoo shops will allow you to purchase gift certificates & book the sessions well out in advance).

    I also extra-heart the photographer idea. Because with that, you can create a family memory book, starting with the wedding photos, and leave blank pages blank for photos of your niece/nephew. Also, parents/family tend to take the "surprise! we're married!" news a little better if they're able to see pictures of how happy & perfect the day was.

  26. I vote for LPC and / or Sofia! Practical things that will make their post-amazing-wedding-day life easier / more special are priceless without being pricey!

  27. no tattoos while one is pregnant?! my apologies, eRiN - i should've looked into that one a bit more. given that and your budget, i say waste no time getting yourself to the international star registry and naming a small chunk of the firmament "[sister]and[fiance]gothitchedfuckyeah," or whatever the equivalent affectionate phrase would be for the three of you. put the resulting certificate in a good vintage/thrifted frame (etsy, ebay, and your local salvation army should be able to help you there) and call it a day.

  28. with all due respect, TMM, i'm not sure potential infection should be up there with hard alcohol and tobacco on the risk-to-fetuses spectrum. per the march of dimes (referenced by the national institutes of health), there's a dearth of information on how dyes and inks could affect a developing baby; it makes sense to avoid the risk there. as for the infection angle, a responsible and reputable tattoo artist (in possession of properly sterilized equipment) should pose no more danger to mum and baby than a tech at one's local blood bank would. let's not be alarmist.

  29. whoop! i see that a comment i thought i posted awhile back (prior to both my previous comment and TMM's) appears to have been eaten by the internets. what i said back then, roughly:

    my bad on the tattoos-and-pregnancy risk, eRiN! i am a childless goblin myself, so i'd never researched that particular combination. given the conventional wisdom there and your budget, i suggest you get yourself to the international star registry and rename a piece of the firmament "[sister]and[fiance]gothitchedfuckyeah," or whatever the equivalent of that sentiment would be in your family. then find a sweet vintage frame (ebay, etsy, and your local salvation army should be of help there) for the resulting certificate.

  30. lauren - i LOVELOVELOVE it!!! superb back-up answer!

  31. @lauren just found your lost comments in my spam folder. blogger thought you were a bot for the international star registry :P

  32. follow-up: wedding was had. hugs were exchanged. the newlyweds loved their star. thanks for the help, ladies!

  33. aw, i'm so glad! hearty congrats again to you and the fam, eRiN.