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Wedding Gift Giving Etiquette

Marry your gesture to your closeness to couples    

By Rebecca Padgett Frett

For the happy couple, a wedding registry parallels a Christmas list and the receipt of gifts is a joy. For the gift giver, the experience is typically either delightful or daunting, depending on a variety of factors.

Inescapably, certain expectations come with wedding gift giving.

 When in Doubt, Consult the Registry

Couples invest time in putting together a wedding registry for a reason; they want what’s on it. A wedding registry reflects the couple’s needs, wants and preferences. And, it makes things easy for wedding invitees. You just need to determine your price point and the gift you want to be recognized for giving.

To some, the registry just isn’t personal enough. That’s perfectly OK, but when shopping outside of the registry, ensure that your gift aligns with the couple’s style. It may be practical, handmade, unique or something that strongly reminds you of the recipients. Another option is to buy a relatively low-cost item from the registry and have it personalized. Handwritten cards are another go-to for showcasing that extra bit of care that a Crate & Barrel box doesn’t always convey.

If you can find a listed item for less outside of the registry, don’t hesitate to buy it there. But send the item well in advance of the wedding, so the couple has time to remove it from the registry. Everyone loves a smart spender. It is also a good idea to use the wedding registry for shower gifts.

Photo courtesy of Coton Colors

Cash, Honeymoon and Donation Funds

Honeymoon and donation funds have become increasingly common. These days, many couples live together before marrying and many wait longer to marry, acquiring blenders and toasters on their own. If the couple sets up a cash fund, they almost certainly have specific plans for the money they will receive. They are likely to disclose their intentions in fund instructions or tell you what the cash was or will be used for in a thank-you card. Many funds are specific with options for funding a date night, a honeymoon excursion, a home improvement project or contributing to a cause or foundation they care about.

Photo by Indie Pearl

Give What You Can

On average, guests spend around $100 on a wedding gift. Depending on your budget and relationship with the couple, you can spend less or more. If you’re in the bridal party and have already spent a lot on the wedding, it’s acceptable to give a smaller gift.

If you RSVP “no,” you do not have to send a gift, but it’s still a kind gesture to do so. Consider your relationship with the couple. If you’re close and can’t attend because of a schedule conflict, send a gift. If you’re not particularly close, consider sending a congratulations card. Giving something small is better than nothing at all.

Group Gift

This could be ideal for pricier items. Give a gift as a bridal party, or as a group of co-workers, college friends or family members. Be sure that everyone who contributes is noted on the card.


Photo by Jessica Winkler Photography

Destination Weddings

In the case of destination weddings, spending money on travel is more important than a gift. Presence over presents. If you do choose to purchase a gift as well, it will not go unnoticed.

When to Send

Send gifts up to a month before the wedding and within two months after the ceremony. The sooner the better. For many couples, coming back to gifts to open keeps the celebration of marriage going. While you can bring a gift to the wedding, it’s typically preferred that you mail the gift to the couple’s home. If you’re unsure whether your gift was received, give it three months, the typical time allotment for thank-you cards to be sent. At that point, you can reach out and inquire.

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