Sitting on the desk in front of me are three empty silver flasks, a gaudy faux mother-of-pearl keychain and several identical gold-plated Cross pens that are as dry as the Mojave.
No, I'm not a drunken writer with bad taste in keychains. I just go to a lot of weddings.
As a single fellow only a few years out of college and a fairly decent friend to my contemporaries, I find myself attending an exorbitant number of weddings these days. And, unfortunately, I also find myself as a disgruntled yet willing participant in these "wonderful" weekends of matrimony.
I haven't ended up on the legally binding end of one of these affairs yet, but I have been the best man, a groomsman several times over and the impromptu (read: unpaid) photographer on more than one occasion.
And for all my troubles and countless hours of travel, hotel bills, tux rentals, bachelor party bar tabs and dry cleaner receipts, what do I get for my devotion to my friends and family? A crappy $20 engraved flask to add to the O'Siadhail Wall O' Horrible Wedding Party Gifts.
At a wedding reception when you see the twinkle in the groomsmen's eyes as they receive their "memento of appreciation," you know that they aren't simply enjoying the moment. They're really thinking, "I bet I can sell this crap on Craigslist!"
From the man's man's point of view, this tradition of bad gift giving has got to cease and desist! For starters, it always seems that the groomsmen gifts are one of the last things checked off the to-do list before the big day. So, instead of sending the groom's mother or soon-to-be sister-in-law out for "something nice" 30 minutes before the rehearsal dinner, start thinking months in advance about what your groomsmen really want.
Here are some simple tips:
• Your groomsmen don't really want to be in your wedding. A crappy gift says, "Too bad, sucka!"
• Groomsmen tend to be MEN!
• Men want cool manly things, not "cute" things, and certainly not a dainty 4-ounce silver flask from which even Carson Kressley from Bravo's Queer Eye for the Straight Guy would be ashamed of taking a nip.
• And whatever you do, don't go to one of those engraving stores at the mall. Unless you plan on engraving my initials on something useful like the hood of a new Ford F-150, please don't bother.
If you really want to show appreciation for the other men in your wedding, try giving tokens of your so-called appreciation that we will like and can actually use. If the men standing to your right at the altar are really your friends, you should know something about their interests.
If the best man is an outdoorsman (that is, when he isn't morally corrupting the groom-to-be on the wedding eve), take the same $20 you were going to spend on that humdrum flask and get him a gift certificate to the Orvis store or Bass Pro Shops. If you have a sports nut in the pack, which is highly probable, get him a gift certificate to use at his local sports pub.
And if any of your groomsmen has a vice, feel free to exploit it. They like whiskey? Get them some Jack. They like cigars? Give them a Cohiba.
If you don't have time to run around for gifts, you can still take the easy way out while remaining thoughtful: a Maxim subscription. Besides cold hard cash (boy, that's a novel idea), Maxim magazine is the ultimate catch-all groomsmen gift. It's basically Playboy Light so it shouldn't cause too much trouble between your groomsmen and their better halves when the first issue arrives about one month after your wedding.
It can come in handy when your groomsmen are semi-permanently exiled to the couch for the $1,000 bachelor party charges on the shared Visa card from Busty Betty's Gentleman's Club and Massage Clinic. Your buddies surely will need some great reading material then.