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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Check out our latest issue of What’s Up? Weddings on newsstands this week!

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For more on wedding guest etiquette, read my article at: http://whatsupmag.com/weddings/wedding-features/0708-wedding-guest-etiquette.aspx

For my article on general wedding etiquette (brides- and grooms-to-be take note!) or to return to What’s Up? Weddings home page: http://www.whatsupmag.com/weddings/wedding-features.aspx

Return to What’s Up? Magazine’s home page: http://www.whatsupmag.com/

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