How to graciously decline wedding gifts
Here's the situation: I'm a mature (ahem...ok, middle-aged) bride who is getting married in July. Our wedding will be quite small, immediate family only, with the addition of my elderly aunts. The wedding will be on the east coast near fiance's elderly mother. We live in California but most of our family lives on the east coast, so it's a destination wedding for us, but a relatively convenient location for the rest of the family. About a month after the wedding we'll have a gathering of west coast friends at our home for a big but not fancy party to celebrate our marriage.
Fiance and I have not registered for gifts nor do we plan to. We do have accounts at kiva.org and similar sites that some of our west coast friends are familiar with, but no one in our families know about these. At our age, friendships and relationships are way more important to us than any material goods.
The question is, how to communicate this to our friends. For younger brides, I realize that the question of the registry is often asked of the mother-of-the-bride, who then directs the guest to the registry or to the couples' charity choices. For older brides, this seems a little problematic.
I've already made one faux pas, and I want to avoid making more so I'm turning to the wisdom of this site. The faux pas was when I got a call from a friend of mine who said she wanted to host a shower for me. I was completely caught off guard as I never imagined having a shower, and my first words blurted out were "that's great as long as there's no gifts!". Ouch...I winced at the implied assumption that showers were all about gifts (ok, they sometimes are, but in this case the offer was more about getting together with good friends). I wish I could take that statement back.
The situation I'm faced with now is an email from an elderly aunt asking if I'd like a certain vase that she has in mind. How do I graciously phrase a response telling her that I'd really prefer no gifts? I want to avoid a repeat of my previous faux pas, and I also don't want to seem ungrateful.
I'm thinking that this situation is going to be coming up a lot, both with family who are attending the wedding and friends who'll be coming to the post-wedding party.
Suggestions from the wise ladies on this site?