The gift list is one of the best parts of planning a wedding, yet it can be fraught with stress and anxiety – where should you have it, what should you ask for, where do you begin? Luckily, Battersea-based wedding present experts Wedding Presents Direct have an answer to all your questions. The Resident caught up with co-founder James Dundas
Tell us a bit about Wedding Presents Direct and how it is different from other gift lists?
I believe that what makes Wedding Presents Direct stand out from the crowd is the unparalleled service we offer to both our brides and grooms and their guests. As technology has improved over the years, there has generally been a sharp decline in good old-fashioned customer service and yet it is something we all appreciate so much. At Wedding Presents Direct most of our couples choose their presents in our fabulous showroom, where the friendly face-to-face advice from our consultants ensures that they are treated as individuals and ensure that we really can create a bespoke list for everyone. From then on, our close knit team in the office and the showroom, work tirelessly to ensure that everything runs smoothly and they are always there at the end of the phone or email to answer questions and help with any problems.
What process do the bride and groom go through to select their gifts at Wedding Presents Direct?
Usually the bride and groom will come to the Wedding Presents Direct showroom in Battersea, where they will be met by one of our consultants and, with a glass of champagne or cup of tea in hand, start to choose their presents. Alternatively, some couples like to select all their gifts from our online showroom, but in both cases, their consultant is always on hand to offer advice. The couple can then either come back to the showroom for another visit or choose the rest of their presents online.
What sort of suppliers do you work with?
As you can imagine, we have a vast number of suppliers, from the very well known major brands (such as Le Creuset or Wedgwood) to the much smaller artisan workshops and manufacturers (like Sarah K Designs, The Present Company or Oaktree Trays). As such, we aim to fulfill the desires of all our brides and grooms whether they are after a chainsaw or a leather hippo. We even sourced a lifesize fibreglass gorilla for one list! Our vintage silver is sourced to order, and so that is probably where the most unique pieces can be found.
What advice would you give a bride and groom doing their wedding gift list?
I would urge our couples to think of their wedding list as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to set up home together. The best presents are those that will stand the test of time, whether it be a beautiful garden bench or some fabulous Egyptian cotton linen, so it really is worth thinking of your future life together when choosing your gifts. However tempting the latest trendy electrical gadget might be, it will soon be superceded by an updated model, whereas some wonderful china for example, or Le Creuset kitchenware will be loved and enjoyed for a lifetime.
How do guests buy the presents via Wedding Presents Direct?
The vast majority of guests now choose to buy presents online from our website. I personally hate websites that over-complicate the buying process and so tried to design our site to make it as user-friendly as possible. We have people of all ages and computer abilities using our site so it is important that the process is as simple, quick and efficient as it can be. And for those who would rather speak to someone to help choose a present, our friendly and knowledgeable staff are always on the other end of the telephone.
What’s the most extravagant thing you’ve seen on a gift list?
There are so many amazing gifts that people choose, but it would probably be a beautiful, handpainted dinner service where each plate had been individually designed by the bride and groom in question.
What’s the best wedding present you’ve ever given someone? Do people have big expectations of you now?
As you would imagine, I am a strong believer in wedding lists and therefore always like to choose to give a present from the wedding list as I know I will then be giving the bride and groom something they really want. Personally I love beautiful glass, sumptuous linen or other items of real luxury that you probably wouldn’t go out and buy yourself; for me these make the best presents. I still remember who gave us some of the wonderful presents we were given as wedding presents, and we are reminded of our friends each time we use them.
Nowadays lots of people live together already and often ask for money for honeymoons etc, is this something you offer and if not how do you cater to the changing market?
I think there is a real danger these days of losing sight of what a wedding list if all about, which is to set up the happy couple for life together, while avoiding the multiple toaster syndrome. Of course a lot of couples live together before getting married, but they often have a mishmash of plates, glasses, towels etc. that they have gathered together over the years. So having a wedding list offers a fantastic opportunity to upgrade from the mishmash and choose some wonderful presents together that you will enjoy for many years to come. A honeymoon, as wonderful as it is at the time, will be over when you return home, but your married life is just beginning, and so I really believe that your wedding list is there to set you up for a whole lifetime together rather than a couple of weeks in the sun.
What’s the most bridezilla-like behaviour you’ve ever seen? And how do you deal with inevitable squabbles between bride and groom?
While we at Wedding Presents Direct know that wedding planning can be a little stressful and can cause even the calmest bride to become slightly irrational, I hope that we are able to help smooth out any wrinkles… It is, after all, a very exciting time and we really want to make the process of choosing your list of presents the fun and exciting experience it should be. I really believe that our friendly, expert service does help diffuse any tensions in the decision-making process and there is always Edith, the Wedding Presents Direct pug on hand with her snuffly reassurances to help as well!
Are you still as excited about wedding presents now as you were when you started the company?
Everyday in our business we talk to couples during one of the most exciting times of their lives, helping them choose beautiful presents that will give them enormous pleasure for years to come… what’s not to get excited about? New and exciting suppliers are popping up all the time with amazing new products, while technology is allowing us to offer our clients a level of service that would have been impossible 15 years ago. I get enormous pleasure from offering a level of service I know our competitors can’t and seeing how hard my colleagues work to provide that service.
What’s next for Wedding Presents Direct?
In 2014 we celebrated our 20th birthday with a brand new website. It gives our couples complete control over their wedding list from their own private section on our website. It even gives them assistance with their thank you letters. And because the website is fully responsive, it works as well on their smart phone or tablet as it does on their desktop so couples can stay constantly in touch with progress. So we will continue to develop this side of the business while never losing site of the very personal side of the service – that face-to-face interaction that makes our service unique.