What are the standard gifts that chassanim and kallahs today, in 2019, are supposed to give to each other from the time of their engagement until their wedding?
Before directly addressing this inquiry, there are three vital, preemptive qualifications that I feel must be communicated, as I take some exception to the usage of the phrases “standard gifts,” and “supposed to,” in this context.
1. The list which will soon be detailed is not intended to forcibly compel anyone into an immutable gift-giving schedule. Indeed, if a gift is deemed to be a rigid expectation, it ceases to be a gift at all, and may cultivate resentment and distress rather than regard and delight. And when that is the outcome, the envisioned joy of giving and receiving may swiftly vanish, as the seeds of malcontent are sown, leaving all parties worse for wear than had no gifts been given at all.
2. As has been discussed in this column in the past, that a particular present is socially typical is no guarantee of its appeal to any one individual. Furthermore, there are single men and women who may already own some of these items, or have family heirlooms which they have been longing for years to be passed down to them. As such, a choson or kallah may very well be fully satisfied with, and emotionally connected to, that which they posses or anticipate will be bequeathed to them. Accordingly, in order to ensure that each endowment is truly treasured and put to good use, it is not unusual for the choson and kallah to be included in the process to some degree or another.
3. The compilation below is merely a rundown of items which I have seen or heard to be normative. This is not Torah MeSinai, nor has any of the below been codified definitively throughout sifrei halacha. Consequently, it would cause me great personal pain if, as a result of this list, even one choson or kallah walked away feeling disappointed, or that they were treated unfavorably, due to not having received each and every gift that has been inventoried. This is simply an adumbration of relatively conventional gifts, each as a stand-alone item. However, it is in no way meant to imply that every choson and kallah always is, or should be, afforded all of them, or even any of them, necessarily.
That said, it my understanding that the following are commonly conferred items between a choson and kallah.
Kallah: Bracelet, engagement ring, leichter, machzorim and/or Tehillim, earrings or necklace (often given in the yichud room).
Choson: Watch, Shas, tallis and tallis bag (sometimes two, weekday and Shabbos, and if for weekday, a matching tefillin bag is generally given, as well), kitel, becher.
Addendum 1: If there are birthdays, milestones, or yomim tovim that occur during the engagement period, there are some who who give additional gifts which are reflective of the occasion.
Addendum 2: It appears that there are varying customs with respect to sheitels; in some instances, it is funded by the in-laws, while in other cases, it is provided by the kallah’s parents, and sometimes, the cost is split.
Once again, the goal here is not to create a burdensome benefaction bestowing bonanza. On the contrary, it is designed to enhance closeness and appreciation between choson, kallah, and both sets of parents, and should thus be approached with a mindset of equanimity and flexibility.
Lecha Hashem hagedula vihagivura… vihaosher vihakavod milfanecha.