Wedding Gift Etiquette 101 (Sorry, You Don’t Have a Year)


With invitations for weddings, showers, and engagement parties arriving with increasing frequency, there’s no question: wedding season is upon us! And whether you are an expert gift-giver, or this is your first go-round in gifting, we’ve got your most common questions answered…and some great gift ideas for the happy couple.

1) I’ve been invited to a wedding, and I cannot attend. Do I need to send a gift?

While an invitation alone once mandated that a gift be sent, times have changed and etiquette has evolved, so no, you are no longer required to you send a gift. Usually…although you may want to anyway. Confused?

OK, let’s back up. Long ago, when travel was much more difficult and people did not move around as they do today, invitations were largely reserved for those within a reasonable distance who were likely to be able to attend the event without much hardship. Nowadays, with people moving away from home for jobs, education, etc, and technology shrinking geographical distances (think how dramatically communications have changed from the days of calling cards to the immediacy of today’s social media platforms!), invitations are more likely to be issued to acquaintances far and wide by those, according to Emily Post, “not thinking about the obligation they impose.” (Side note: she’d advocate that’s what formal, printed announcements are for.)

That said, what if it’s a very dear friend is getting married in an exotic locale, and your budget simply doesn’t allow for the travel? Or, you have a family commitment that trumps a long-standing friendship? While you are not required to send a gift, you most certainly should – and yes, it is perfectly acceptable to send a gift even when you are not able to attend. In fact, Emily Post says you may even send a gift if you are *not* invited.

One last twist: according to Emily, “And you must always send a present to one who is marrying into your immediate family,” but presumably you’d attend that wedding!

So, the right really answer comes down to the nature of your relationship with the bride and/or groom.


2) How much should I spend on a wedding gift?

There is no minimum or maximum. Really, when shopping for a wedding gift you should consider two things: what is appropriate for your budget, and your relationship with the couple. There is a common misconception that your gift value should correlate to what attending the event costs the bride and groom (and/or their parents). A gift is simply a token of joy and affection, not a trade.

3) When should I send the gift? And to whom? Do I lug it to the reception?

As close to the wedding date as possible; the bride (or her parents) prior to the wedding, then the couple (if the address is known) after the wedding; and no, not if you can help it. As anyone who has been married or in a wedding party can attest, the details around the wedding day are 1) many and 2) stressful, so it is gracious when possible not to add a detail to which must be attended. If you bring a gift, it’s someone’s job to keep track of it.  Sending in advance or after will be appreciated.

4) So wait, I don’t have a year to give to a wedding gift?

No, sorry. You really should give the gift as close to the wedding as possible.

5) How do I handle the wedding gift if I’m also giving presents to the bride for her pre-wedding activities?

Determine how much you want to spend total on wedding-related gifts and then break it down this way: 20 percent engagement party; 20 percent bridal shower; 60 percent wedding. Or, if there are only two events, spend more on the wedding gift, say 65 / 35.

6) What about couples who elope? Is it proper to send them a gift?

Is it required? No, whether you receive a formal, printed announcement or just saw the great news on Facebook. But, as you can probably guess from the above, of course if you are so moved, a gift is a lovely and kind way to mark such a momentous and joyous occasion.

7) I’m married and I’ve heard that I am supposed to give the same thing as I received. Is this true?

Not necessarily. It makes more sense for the gift to reflect your now-relationship with the couple, how much you can afford, and where the couple is in their life. Say you got married at 22. The gifts you and your spouse received were likely practical items needed to establish a first home. Now say your BFF didn’t marry in her 20s, or even her 30s. She and her spouse likely have an established household (or two!) so that basic set of steak knives is likely to be less appreciated.

7) Does that mean is it best to give young couples practical items?

Well, define practical! The most practical, of course, would be day-to-day items to stock an empty home. But I would argue that having a lovely set of champagne flutes, a stylish ice bucket, and some serving dishes more festive than cereal bowls, while all items not used daily, would be wonderful to have at-the-ready as life’s spontaneous celebrations occur, making them practical luxuries.

Below are some of our favorite wedding gifts, sure to be enjoyed for years to come by brides and grooms of all ages.

  • Platinum Etched Wine/Juice Glasses, Set of 4, $90
  • Platinum Etched Champagne Glasses, Set of 4, $80
  • Tula Champagne Flutes, Set of 6, $90, and Rectangular Shagreen Tray (available in ivory or gray), $322.50
  • Silver Fish Shaped Serving Bowls, Small $40, Large $42
  • Largo Tray with Pearl Inlay, Small, $120; Large, $180
  • Bubble Glass Ice Bucket, $150
  • Chandi Ice Bucket, $290, with Caribbean Ice Scoop, $30
  • Small Ice Bucket Dotto Sugar, $111.25 (with flowers)
  • Glass Decanter/Rhombus Stopper, $97.50; Glass Decanter with Antique Brass Stopper, $90
  • Rattan Round Ice Bucket with Liner, $138
  • Dottino Silver Salad Bowl, $210
  • Five Piece Bone Handle Bar Set, $150
  • Equestrian Mirror Tray, $347.50
  • Vasi Cilindrico, $250, and Tratto Li Tall Vase, $297

  • The latest from Susie
With 22 years in business management—creating success and growth comes naturally.

Using the soothing color palette of a coconut by the sea—whites, neutrals and splashes of turquoise—Coco Blanca has created a trademark look. Her lifestyle boutique offers expert solutions for home design and women’s fashion—blending a clean, fresh, sophisticated, feel-good style.

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