Wedding Gift Etiquette

We are now full swing into the wedding season and many of us are attending several weddings over the course of the summer. Sometimes the rules and expectations of gift giving are not clear cut and we can be left wondering what are some of the do's and don'ts.

Here are few of the most common questions that people frequently ask me at this time of year…

Do I have to give a gift?
Well you wouldn’t attend a birthday party empty handed so yes, you would be expected to give a gift when attending a wedding. Nowadays most couples opt for a gift registry with a store where you can select something you know the couple will like.

How much should I spend?
There is no right amount. How much you spend is strictly a matter of your budget, and how close you are to the couple. I never agree with the amounts that are written in magazines that people are expected to spend on gifts. Everyone has different incomes and therefore different budgets, and it’s unreasonable to think that everyone can afford the same. A good rule of thumb is the closer the relationship the higher the budget.

The couple asked for money and I would rather give a gift, can I ignore their request?
Nowadays many couples have been living together before the wedding and have accumulated many of the items that you would expect to see on a wedding registry. I would strongly recommend following the wishes of the couple, after all it should be about what they want.

Do I have to buy a gift from the registry?
The couple has created the registry to make the process easier for everyone. Do you really have to use it? No, it’s not set in stone but highly recommended that you do! The tradition of a wedding registry originally started because there would be distant family members invited to a wedding who didn't know the couple closely and needed some guidance. If you know the couple well then feel free to choose something different, perhaps using the registry as a guide to be sure of what they like, and don’t forget to include a gift receipt just in case. Otherwise, err on the side of caution and stick to the list.

When should I give the gift?
Ideally, not at the wedding! This is the most inconvenient time. According to older etiquette books, it was acceptable to give a wedding gift up to 12 months after the wedding! Nowadays most couples expect to have received their gifts long before their first anniversary! With so many brides having wedding websites and gift registries, there really is no excuse for waiting. Ideally send the gift a few weeks before the wedding.

I have to spend a lot on travel and accommodation to attend the wedding, can I give less as a gift?
Yes of course it’s okay to gift less but make sure that you do give something. The couple will understand that you have made the extra effort to attend the wedding.

Do I have to bring a gift to the wedding shower too?
When invited to any wedding-related event, a gift would usually be expected. I recommend that you budget before hand and stick to it. Know what you plan to spend on the couple and allocate an amount for each gift. Smaller gifts for engagement and bridal showers and a larger gift for the wedding present, or a more personal gift for the shower and a gift from the registry for the wedding would be best.

I won't be able to attend the wedding, do I still need to send a gift?
A gift would usually be expected and certainly appreciated.  You could send a gift of a lesser value if you prefer to, the couple will still be happy.

Now that you've mastered the gift giving process you can start navigating the wedding guest dilemmas!

Julia Esteve

The Etiquette Consultant