So Long, Wedding Registry: A Virginia Couple Makes a Bloody Gift Request

Saving a life sure lasts longer than another household appliance.

(Photo: BSIP/UIG/Getty Images)

Staff Writer Liz Dwyer has written about race, parenting, and social justice for several national publications. She was previously education editor at GOOD.

It’s wedding season in America, which means browsing gift registries for the perfect present for your friend or family member who is about to tie the knot. Instead of plunking down cash for a hazardous toaster oven that might just set the newlywed couple’s house on fire, why not let someone stick a needle in your arm and draw out some blood?

Don’t worry, you haven’t descended into a recap of a creepy scene from the latest vampire flick. Before their nuptials, Barry and Monica Gamble joined the ranks of people asking wedding guests to skip traditional presents. The pair, who got hitched last weekend, asked guests to donate plasma to Virginia Blood Services in Richmond, Va.

“We weren’t really into the whole registry thing,” Barry told WTVR-TV. “We figured gifts would be nice, but it would be nicer if our family and friends could save some lives.”

Because of last winter’s polar vortex, in January the Red Cross reported that hundreds of donation centers had been forced to cancel blood drives, which resulted in nationwide shortages. According to the organization, someone in America needs blood every two seconds. More than 41,000 donations are needed every day to maintain the supply.

The center’s staff was so thrilled by the Gambles' bloody gift idea that it even decorated the donation room so that it resembled a wedding chapel and served cake to guests who were willing to roll up their sleeves. Although it’s unclear how many individuals attended the wedding, about six people agreed to donate.

Because Barry and Monica had recently donated—as you might guess, they’re regulars—they could only provide platelets. If any of their guests were gay men, they too would have been prohibited from donating; the FDA has banned gay men from donating blood since 1983. Monica told the station, “Not all our friends and families were eligible to give blood, but they all really supported the idea.”

Michelle Westbay, a spokesperson for Virginia Blood Services, expressed gratitude over being a “part of their celebration and introducing others to the importance of donating blood. Through their simple act of giving, lives were impacted and forever changed,” said Westbay.

Will this catch on and become the hot new thing in wedding gifts? It’s not painful to give blood, but given folks’ fear of needles and the prospect of guests dancing at the reception wearing formal clothes and Band-Aids on their arms, maybe not. Still, it’s a sweet gesture that has helped raise awareness about the need to donate.

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