The Wedding Gift

August 27, 2008

Like many other aspects of a wedding, there are social rules and expectations that pertain to gift giving. I wasn’t fully aware of all of these “rules” until I began researching the topic for a story I was writing on wedding etiquette. There are many of them–and maybe a few you that you wouldn’t guess to be true. When I celebrated my own wedding last year, I was astonished at how many others didn’t know the most general rules of gift giving–you know, like the one that says you should give one. I will admit that this mostly proved to be true of the younger crowd, and that our 40s and older guests seemed up on their etiquette. (Maybe it was because they had attended more weddings, or because they had celebrated their own and/or their children’s. Or maybe it was because the younger generations just don’t care as much about etiquette.) Either way, if you are going to a wedding and care to know what is expected when it comes to gift giving, here goes:

Let’s start with my favorite.

If you are invited to the wedding, you should give one. This rule applies to each guest regardless of whether or not he or she can attend. (Really!) The gift doesn’t have to be expensive, but is meant to acknowledge the couple’s joyous occasion. The few exceptions to this rule are second marriages (if you gave a present at the person’s first wedding, you are not obligated to give another–this doesn’t mean you can’t give one, however) and if you decline a wedding invitation from someone you don’t know very well or no longer keep in touch with.

Registries are good. The traditional reason for bestowing wedding gifts upon the couple is to help them prepare for their new life together. Though you may think that it’s boring to choose something from a registry list, the bride- and groom-to-be registered for those items for one reason–because they need them. Registry items are sure to please and will always prove useful. More and more couples are also setting up alternative registries, such as honeymoon registries/funds and new home funds. A contribution to these is also a very welcomed gift.

* Traditional etiquette says that bridal registry info should never appear on the wedding invitation, but should only be spread by word of mouth or in an insert in the bridal shower invitation. The popularity of wedding web pages has enabled couples to post the information for guests who are interested–without foiling etiquette rules.

Cash and gifts are also good. It also goes against proper etiquette for the bride and groom to request money in lieu of gifts, but that doesn’t mean it’s not greatly appreciated! Most weddings cost a pretty penny these days and it’s likely that the newly betrothed couple would be thrilled with a little cold hard cash to replenish their bank account. Although there is no set rule that says how much you should give, family members and friends who are close to the couple are expected to give more. Fifty dollars is the minimum you should give for a wedding gift. The average monetary gift for a co-worker is $75- 100; for a friend or relative is $100-125; and for a close friend or relative is $100-150. (Before all of this wedding research I had always believed that you should give enough to cover your meal, and double that if you went as a couple. Turns out this is horse pucky. Modern etiquette says give what you can afford.)

Don’t bring the gift to the wedding. This isn’t a horrible faux pas (I mean, a gift is a gift, no matter where you get it), but it it easier for the bride and groom (or their families) to enjoy themselves at the wedding if they don’t have to worry about keeping track of presents or lugging them away at the reception’s end. If sent before the wedding, gifts can be shipped or delivered to the bride’s home (or to the home of her parents, if that’s where she lives). If sent afterwards, they should go to the couple’s home. There is debate about the popular notion that you have until a year after the wedding to send a gift (some etiquette experts say yes, some say no way). To stay out of trouble, it’s best to send it before the wedding.

Armed with this knowledge, I’ll trust you to do the right thing!


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I Propose a Toast!

August 19, 2008

I’ll admit it. The other day, while watching a wedding video, I shed a few tears. They didn’t come when the proud father of the beautiful bride gave her away, nor when the bride and groom exchanged vows, nor when the beaming couple were joyfully pronounced man and wife. It was at the beginning of the reception, during the damn toasts, that the waterworks began—and I don’t even know any of these people!

It’s true that many times, a well-written, heartfelt wedding toast will bring me to tears (then again, so can a commercial for cat food on the right day), but these people really had it down. The whole gamut of “man” speeches–the best man’s to the groom’s to the father of the bride’s–were original, personal, and profoundly sincere. You have to agree, it’s not every day that grown men (or women, for that matter) publicly declare their love/pride/admiration for another person/people in front of a room full of their closest family, friends, and acquaintances. This particularly fine display truly moved me.

Traditionally, several people at a wedding would make a speech or toast, specifically the three men mentioned above: the best man, the groom, and the father of the bride. Occasionally, the bride and maid/matron of honor would say a few words, as well. But times they have a-changed and many brides and grooms are choosing to do their own “thang.” These days, anyone can make a toast/speech at almost any time during the reception–as long as it is expected and (fairly) tasteful. (The rehearsal dinner is a better time for impromptu speeches.)

That said, if you plan to give a speech or toast at an upcoming wedding, how can you guarantee that you’ll produce a stellar delivery? Well, you can’t. (Sorry.) But there are a few tips that can get you in darn good shape. Here goes:

Prepare your speech ahead of time. Practice reading it aloud. Make notes on an index card if necessary.

Rehearse the first few lines as you wait to take the floor. You won’t stumble for your first words, and the rest will usually follow easily. If you don’t know all of the guests, introduce yourself first.

As I’m sure all of the gentlemen in the tearjerker video would advise, speak from your heart. It’s not everyday that you are given the opportunity to publicly acknowledge the people you love. Share memories and anecdotes. Create original material rather than borrowing from what others have done–how do they know what you’re feeling?

Be yourself. Remember that the wedding guests are rooting for you. Have fun and enjoy the moment.

If you feel fidgety, walk around a bit. Speak slowly and in the same voice as you normally do. Pause for laughter, if delivering a joke.

Keep it brief. The toast shouldn’t go on for more than two or three minutes.

In closing (or if at a loss for words!), lift your glass and toast.

Now for the DON’T list:

Don’t deliver a speech while drunk.

Don’t use R-rated humor or bad language.

Don’t bring up the bride or groom’s past relationships or money. (This is a toast, not a roast.)

Now that you have all of the basics, go forth and make some people cry!

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We want your wedding toast stories and videos! Did you or someone at your wedding follow all (or none) of the toast writing rules? We want to hear about it! Send your stories/videos to me at

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If you’ve been shopping around for (or gazing longingly through store windows at) engagement rings or wedding bands, chances are you might already be familiar with the Four Cs. The letters represent important qualities to look for when selecting a diamond: Carat, clarity, color, and cut. (To learn more about these, check out this article from What’s Up? Weddings:

When you’ve got that down, there’s something else to consider: a newly added fifth C, which stands for chemistry. Apparently, scientists have developed brilliant cut jewelry that supposedly rivals the color and clarity of natural diamonds. They’ve named them DiamondAura. In an ad I saw for the lab-created stones, a 2.5 carat DiamondAura is compared to a mined flawless diamond in 6 categories. Here’s how they measured up:

In the hardness category, they both cut glass. Both were brilliant (cut) and “D” flawless (color). The mined diamond was “IF” (internally flawless) in clarity and 0.044 in dispersion/fire, while the DiamondAura was clear and 0.066 in dispersion. Now, for the last category—the one that caused me to do a double-take: Cost. The 2.5 c.t.w. (carat total weight) mined flawless diamond costs $60,000+. The DiamondAura costs $145. (Hot dog!) Now, I haven’t personally seen a DiamondAura ring (unless you count the image in the ad—which looks pretty good), but at that price, and with the cost of weddings these days, I thought they might be worth investigating. If anyone knows more about these intriguing new stones, please comment.

And happy hunting!

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