Recently, the daughter of a family friend got married and, per instructions, the ninety guests gave no physical presents, only money. Well, that should cover the cost of the wedding and reception, and they wouldn't have needed anything else. I read that some engaged couples provide lists of presents such as vouchers for sky-diving, and other totally impractical items. Perhaps it is about time we accepted that, to a large extent, the rationale of wedding presents has disappeared.
The whole point of wedding presents is to help the young couple set up house together. (Baby showers serve a similar purpose.) But that assumes that they are still living with their parents. In fact, it is more and more common for them to be living independently. The reasons are not hard to see. People are marrying later. They often have to move for the sake of employment. But even if they don't, the current level of affluence means that many can afford to live independently. Indeed, getting out of the parental home is, for many young people, a rite of passage. We frequently hear comment in the media voicing surprise that so many unmarrieds are "still" living with their parents, as if that weren't the normal, default position up until recently.
If they are living independently, they already possess most of the items for their married abode. If both are independent, the issue becomes, not "What do we need?" but "What duplicates do we have to get rid of?"
There is another irony. If you are still living with your parents when you get married, you can take out of the parental home a lot of the things you used to use: your pillow slips, towels, for example - even wardrobes. Your folks will probably be glad to get rid of them. But you may rest assured there will only be one hammer and one saw in the place, and you can't take that. But nobody ever thinks to give a hammer or saw as a wedding present.
And what about birthday and Christmas presents? Once a friend arranged a surprise birthday party for her husband's 45th birthday. (This was a long time ago!) At the party he commented to me that it said a lot that half of the guests gave him alcohol. "Well," I replied. "You're a reasonably prosperous middle aged man. You have everything you want and need except the things your friends and relatives can't afford."
And I think I've now reached the same position.