Wedding Gifts, Part Two: Just the Thing

Art by Ali O’Brien Schaffner, Chocolate Moose Design

Not My Day

Being the stepmother of the bride is a precarious position. Rebecca was 24 when I married her father, so I’d had no role in her upbringing. She had her own mother to help her select a gown, share in the fun and challenges of planning a wedding, and hear her dreams. I’d cherished that job when my own daughter married last year, so I was determined not to usurp her mom. Even though Rebecca had spent a year living with us, and she and I had grown close, I’m not her mother. I needed to stand down. 
Rebecca and I shopped for her bridal shoes and lingerie one day after work. Then we enjoyed dinner together, chatting about the wedding over tomato-basil soup. I was in bonus-mom heaven.

But that was the only occasion that arose for the two of us to do something “wedding-y.”

I developed a bit of a fairy godmother complex. What special little things can I do, I kept thinking to myself, to signal my joy without overstepping my bounds? 

The gift! Rich would depend on me to help him choose an appropriate gift for his daughter and her new husband. I determined to throw all my pent-up mom energy into the selection of the Just Right Thing.
Rebecca’s registry was sparse, as she and her groom are established adults, so a little research was in order. One day when the kids joined us for lunch, we asked them what they might like. 
They needed a new camera. My heart collapsed. I couldn’t conjure a way to turn a camera into the Just Right Thing I dreamed of presenting to them.
A little more questioning uncovered the point that they weren’t after a fancy, DSLR, bells-and-whistles camera. They wanted a nice little camera they could take anywhere. Hope rose anew. A camera like that might leave space in the gift budget for something more personal–something that wouldn’t be obsolete before its warranty expired.
I spent lunch hour upon lunch hour cruising the vast shopping expanses of the internet, looking for the Just Right Thing, though I had no idea what that Just Right Thing might prove to be. One day I found an Etsy website featuring personalized wedding art. I loved a piece that featured a silhouette of the bride and groom, their names, and the wedding date. 
It also featured crossed golf clubs above the couple and a putting green. But Rebecca and Jeff were not being married at a golf course. They had selected the historic Padua Hills Theatre as their venue after a comprehensive and diligent search. 
Rebecca didn’t want nice. She didn’t want pretty. She wanted enchanting, and she’d found it. A unique gift that captured the charm of the venue would be perfect.

But a golf course-themed gift made no sense. On a whim, I sent the Etsy shopkeeper, Ali, a crazy question.  It seemed like an impossible request, but the idea of it settled in my heart. I felt inspired. So I asked: could she create an artwork similar to the golf design but without the golf?

She could. I sent her pictures of the venue and of Rebecca’s dress. She sent proposals. Rich and I examined them. We emailed back and forth, asking Ali to tweak details. I worried that I was being too particular; Ali protested that she delighted in making the art personal. After several rounds of her indulgent revisions, Rich and I agreed that it was just right. 
We gave the kids their new camera after the rehearsal dinner. I suggested, rather cryptically, that they might wait and open the other package after the wedding. Months earlier, I’d blurted out a detail of the top-secret wedding gown. I didn’t want our gift to reveal the gown’s design to Jeff. They took the wrapped package with them when they left. 
The wedding was indeed enchanting. I’d hoped to steal a moment with the bride before the ceremony to wish her happiness, but the opportunity didn’t appear. I refused to be disappointed, reminding myself that it wasn’t my day. 
Once we returned home, I fell on my familiar habit of second-guessing concluded decisions. They’ll have a ton of beautiful photographs, I thought. Will they even like the art? Maybe they’ll think it’s dumb, with that silhouette instead of their own likenesses. Maybe I should have kept looking. 

Rebecca phoned us the day they returned from their honeymoon. They’d opened our gift the morning after the wedding. 
Mr. and Mrs. Jeff Rae. October 14, 2011; Claremont, CA.
Photo by Ryan Lagrand. 
They loved it. 
Happy tears gathered in my eyes. I’d been honored beyond my expectations at the wedding, with flowers and a place in the processional. And the gift–the Just Right Thing into which I had poured all my maternal energy, as a love offering from us to them, because it was the thing I could do–the impossible golf-without-golf artwork commemorating their enchanted wedding venue–the gift pleased them. 
And that fact made my day. 

16 g]’>deceived, M)’>from above, coming down from O)’>with whom there is no variation or , hope, James 1, wedding


  1. What a gracious one you are…

  2. Lyla, thanks for reading. It’s not my grace–it’s His. Even in my “best” moments, I’m just a warped reflection of it.

  3. What a delightful “bonus-mom” you are. God radiates through you. So glad they loved the gift. What a fantastic idea.

  4. This post brought tears to my eyes. You are a precious God sent Bonus Mom.

  5. Sweet Sheila, I know for a fact that being a stepmother is hard. Coming into the picture when the kids are grown gives it an added weirdness at times. I completely understand what you were going through. So glad that God blessed the effort the way He did!

  6. Jennifer,
    Thank you. The artist who made it does amazing stuff and loves to customize–I’d order from her again in a heartbeat.

  7. Hazel,
    Thank you. As someone who always wanted a big family, but only gave birth to one (though she’s an amazing one), I feel like my bonus kids and grandkids are God-sent!

  8. Carolyn,
    Thanks. Me too!

    I’m glad my daughter’s wedding came first. The special things she and I did together while planning her wedding were more precious to me than I could have imagined.

    Having that experience helped me to be aware of Rebecca’s mom’s role and privileges.