An Ethical Dilemma that Melts in Your Mouth


Filling out our registry has been astonishingly difficult. Who would think that asking for presents would be such a pain in the butt? I feel like presents should be all about smiles and joy, but leave it to weddings to take something that should be awesome and make it stressful.

There’s a whole set of kitchen items I need that I haven’t put on the registry yet, even though I need them. Cookie items.

Because I live in Pittsburgh, we’re having a cookie table at our wedding, with hundreds of homemade cookies, many of which are going to be made in MY home, by me.  And when I think about how the month before my wedding is going to involve nightly cookie baking sessions, I realize there are so many THINGS that could make that process easier.

Cooling racks. Batter spoons. Freezer storage. And yes, a mother-effing stand mixer.

But if I DID register for those things, and received them in time to use them to make cookies for the cookie table, it wouldn’t help: etiquette dictates I do not use the gifts until after the wedding. Because if we do not get married, I have to send the gifts back.


Jinxing it is my real fear here. Because let’s face it, if I get jilted, buying a stand mixer to send back to the person who gave me it will be a tiny drop in the bucket of money blown on my non-wedding. And the money is sooo not what I’ll be upset about. But I still feel like using wedding gifts before the wedding is tempting fate.

So while I don’t really want to hand-mix the batter for a hundred dozen cookies, I’d rather do that and still get married to Collin.

So what do you think I should do? Did you use any of your wedding gifts before the wedding?


  1. Could you make Collin do it so that you KNOW for SURE that it will still happen?

  2. One of my friends gave me her gift-to-both-of-us at my shower (two days before the wedding). It was a hand-sewn quilt. You bet I slept in that thing that night.

    (Also, baking copious amounts of cookies prior to the wedding doesn’t SEEM like it’d result in a jilting… ESPECIALLY if you let Collin eat some of said cookies. Right?)

  3. Hmmm. It seems to me that there are some times when ignoring wedding traditions and superstitions is The Way To Go.

    If I were to receive a mixer for a gift before my wedding and I was planning to bake (many, many) items for said wedding… I don’t think I could hold back.

  4. We used our gifts as we got them. I made ice cream for my bachelorette party with an ice cream maker that was given as a wedding gift 1.5 months before the wedding. No jilting here….


    b) I totally almost bought GA and ID cookie cutters so I could incorporate state cookies in some way… never got around to it. Though I actually still sorta want them… they’re good shapes.

    c) Use it! Especially if it’s stuff you need. I can’t imagine not opening/not touching all those gifts that pile up for months before the wedding — we wouldn’t have been able to open the door with all the excess packaging. We opened as we went along and used as needed. Some things were used right away and often (like the hand mixer we got, which is a DREAM) while other things I have only recently gotten to (8″ cake pans) or not touched (bottle of Everclear [bar shower]). I am actually fairly superstitious, but it just seemed sensible to use it if I needed it, even if it was a wedding gift and we weren’t hitched yet. Though, now that I think back on it, nobody told me not to open or use things as we got them, so there’s that.

    • I also didn’t know about this business until about halfway through our engagement when I started talking about registering for cookie things and my sister told me I couldn’t do that. So my brother gave me a cookie press for Christmas and then I realized I should have also asked for cooling racks and freezer bins AT LEAST.

  6. We opened presents as they came but waited until after the wedding to actually use any of them. I never really had any fear that we wouldn’t get married, but somehow I just couldn’t get past the jinxy feeling. But I am not from Pittsburgh and did not have the cookie table tradition to contend with (though I was SUPER JEALOUS the first time I heard about it. I usually make about 10 different kinds of Christmas cookies/candies, so the cookie table seemed right up my alley. But alas, I couldn’t find a way to make such a tradition work for us. Further detour: does having a cookie table if you’re not from Pittsburgh count as cultural appropriation?) Anyway, if I had needed to make hundreds of cookies right before our wedding, you can bet I would have busted out that shiny new KitchenAid stand mixer and gone to town. Using quality equipment for baking makes the experience so much more enjoyable, and the last thing you want is to be tearing your hair out the week before your wedding when your old mixer dies/pan warps/cooling rack rusts. Just do it, and don’t look back. Otherwise there’s a good chance that every time you make cookies after the wedding, you’ll be like, “This mixer is AWESOME. Why the hell didn’t I use it when I was baking 3 bazillion peanut butter blossoms?”

    • I don’t think having a cookie table at a non-Pittsburgh wedding should count as cultural appropriation. After all, I’m from New Jersey and Collin is from St. Louis, but we’re having one, because that is what a large chunk of our guests will EXPECT, and also because we’re not having a cake so we need to not give our guests a double dessert disappointment.

      Also, I want to eat peanut butter blossoms!

  7. I only recently discovered that etiquette dictates not to use the gifts given at the shower. This was a true revelation because in my family no one has ever followed that kind of rule. I could never imagine my family wanting a gift back, even if a wedding didn’t happen. I mean, I was always brought up that when you give a gift it should have no strings attached.

    So we will probably use some of the gifts we receive at the shower if they are needed. Honestly I think our family would be taken aback if they found out we weren’t using them. They’d be like, “what, are you having doubts? No, then use that mixer.”

    But perhaps we won’t use the “wedding” gifts until after the wedding. Those make more sense to wait on.

    • I agree that a gift should have no strings attached. Etiquette is weird.

      • I knew about this rule, but still think it’s dumb. Believe me, if I’m on top of things enough to get the couple a gift before the wedding (and I don’t think I’ve ever once been that on top of things, Robin, so you should know that), and they split up, I’d so much rather one of them keep the relatively inconsequential mixer anyway. Single people need household things too!

      • I also rarely send a gift until after the wedding. When I’m just giving a check I usually bring a nice card with me but end up forgetting to take it to the wedding and have to mail it anyway.

  8. I am potentially going to steal your idea. Except use cookie cutters shaped like Australia and Ireland. Although Ireland kind of just looks like a blob. Hmm.

    I am generally superstitious, but I don’t think the present thing is something I’d worry about.

  9. The week of the wedding, we were making some traditional Finnish food that required a giant pot. We had one on the registry and kept hoping someone would buy it for us early enough to use it – and they did. We used it and proudly told them later how their gift contributed to the wedding!

  10. Yeah…we totally started using things after our showers. We have a small apartment, and after one shower (we had 3) the gifts took up our entire spare bedroom. We either needed to get rid of our old crap and start using the new stuff, or not have a spare bedroom for 4 months. Yeah, screw bad luck.

    We even hosted a party before our wedding and used a lot of our new serving dishes. Most of the people who bought those items were at the party. Nobody said anything negative.

  11. Ummm use them. Seriously. The idea of your poor, tired, unevenly-bulked-up arms makes me le sad. And I’m sure your guests would feel the same, and be all, “Why the f*ck didn’t you use that AMAZING mixer I bought you?!” Really, it’s kind of rude to your guests. I think? I don’t know. I’m going with it. Because making all those cookies [mostly] yourself will be hard enough. Don’t put undue stress on yourself.

    • This is still academic because I haven’t had a shower yet. But thanks to these comments I have registered for cookie items and I will use them if they arrive in a timely fashion!

  12. I was mulling on this yesterday, and in the dim recesses of my mind, I remembered hearing that you are TECHNICALLY supposed to give back the gifts if you have been married less than a YEAR when the marriage ends!

    I don’t know if this is actually true, and people would actually want their gifts back six months later, but eff that. I’d use the gifts.

    (Note: Also, do you get to keep engagement gifts if the wedding then no longer happens? Seems to me that the ENGAGEMENT still happened, thus the gift still applies?)

  13. Although you would expect, given my professional training, that I would be utterly logical about this and say, “Use It!,” I am surprisingly supersticious (but only when it’s convenient; we’re not spending the night before the wedding apart because we don’t sleep well like that and both wake up grumpy). I would absolutely not use wedding gifts pre-wedding, even while Tony would (over the sounds of my screeching protests) be unwrapping them and putting the pieces together.

    Also, I need a set of those cookie cutters. So, so badly.

  14. I just unwrapped/washed/put away all our shower gifts and absolutely plan to use them. Informed Cam that he can’t back out now; the composter has tea bags in it and the cookie sheets are in the cupboard! I guess we might save actual wedding gifts until after the wedding… My personal ethics won’t let me use a gift/deposit a check until after the thank you card has been sent.

  15. We compromised and used shower gifts before the wedding, but waited until after the wedding to use actual wedding presents. I figure since shower gifts are not wedding presents, they do not need to be returned, and are instead more like birthday gifts. It never occurred to me that if I didn’t get married, I would have to return the shower gifts, as I did not feel that they were contingent on me getting married…I’m not sure why, but I didn’t. Also, my shower gifts included things like running socks and crafting items that I used for the wedding.

    If you want to drive down to Baltimore, we can have ourselves a cookie bake with my stand mixer. It’s truly awesome. I’m now really psyched about the idea of a HitchDied cookie bake….

  16. If I weren’t pretty sure I’d be making HitchDied cookies in my kitchen, I’d offer to let you borrow my stand mixer after July 4th. But maybe someone we know who isn’t part of the cookie brigade would let you borrow theirs?

  17. I just wanted to say: I found you via APW, then spent hours of time that should’ve gone into studying reading back 16 pages in your blog. I so appreciate your sense of humor. And hey! My honey will be taking the bar exam about 2 weeks before our wedding and I, somewhat like Collin, am in grad school for something science-y. Thanks for the interesting read!

  18. Cookie table is genius!

    If you feel wrong about using them, don’t. I’d probably use them, but discreetly so the people who sent them wouldn’t get offended. :)

  19. Girlfriend. Use! I like what amandamayart said. I think if you write the thank-you fairly promptly, you’d feel a lot better about already using it (though I probably wouldn’t use giftcards until afterward… well…unless some last-minute Target purchases are necessary for the reception… it could happen.) I am so loving that you have a whole country of state cookie cutters. I have one from my home state of Texas and our current state of Arkansas, and was planning to purchase a Missouri cutter for our post-wedding home. I am really weirdly into geography, and the fiance is working on his PhD in American Politics. I am hella stealing the idea of using my (not so unusual!) state-shaped-dessert love in my almost entirely DIY reception food. Any good resources on DIY mass-cookie baking, as far as timelines? Freezing raw dough for awhile is cool, right?

  20. I think you can especially if it is for the wedding! also, I am know nothing about etiquette so maybe I’m a bad person to ask. I LOVE the idea of a cookie table, that will be so rad!

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