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Wedding Gift Giving Etiquette

Make no mistake, wedding season is always an exciting time of year! As spring bridges into summer, the sunny weather and blooming flowers create the perfect backdrop for a couple’s big day. And sure enough, you might be asked to attend one of life’s most cherished celebrations. 

Whatever your relationship is to the lucky couple - relative, close friend, acquaintance, coworker - you may find yourself wondering what is expected of you as a wedding guest. The average couple spends over a year planning their wedding day, so you’re going to want to make sure you do your part to make it easy on them and their families on their big day. Here are some tips for wedding gift-giving that will help you become the ideal wedding guest!


Find out how many Events You’ll be Attending

When you first start considering what gifts you’ll be giving the wedding couple, you should first find out how many events tied to the wedding you’ll actually be attending. If you’re close with the couple, chances are you’ll be invited to a number of events; such as the engagement party, bridal (or wedding) shower, and of course the actual wedding. Naturally, some of these events are optional and will depend on what the couple decides to do. Additionally, bridal/wedding showers are typically thrown for brides and bridesmaids (although the groom may take part in it, as well). So, don’t feel too left out if you don’t end up getting invited to such an event! 

Engagement parties are typically attended by close friends and family of the bride and groom. It is at an engagement parties that couples usually announce their plans to get married. Gifts are not always expected at engagement parties, especially if the couple decided to surprise their guest with the announcement. However, if the engagement was announced prior to the party, it is certainly possible that gifts would be accepted. As a general rule of thumb, the more formal the invitation to an event, the stronger the implication is that a gift is expected. If you happen to attend an event where gifts are exchanged without you knowing or preparing, it is proper etiquette to send a gift soon after the engagement party.

wedding shower

Flow Event Group

While bridal/wedding showers are also typically attended by close friends and family, as well, they’re usually attended by a smaller crowd, and are meant as more of an intimate gathering (usually, of the planned bridesmaids). It is generally expected that you bring a gift to bridal/wedding showers, but you’ll have a bit more creative freedom in terms of what you decide to give. By the time the bridal shower rolls around, a couple has generally sent out invitations, as well as made their wedding registry apparent to guests. However, you aren’t obligated to purchase something from the registry for the shower, saving that for the wedding itself. Instead, gifts can be of personal or sentimental value, and reflect your relationship to the bride or groom. It is also not uncommon to give humorous or “gag” gifts, or a gift related to a known honeymoon destination. 

After receiving a wedding invitation, you should check out the couple’s registry and send a gift (a family member, close friend of the couple, or someone involved in the wedding planning process should be able to tell you which registry the couple is using, if the couple hasn’t shared that information publicly already). Nowadays, couples commonly use a wedding registry website to communicate which gifts they’re seeking to establish their new life together.

wedding gift

It is not recommended to purchase a gift outside of the registry, as couples have typically spent months communicating their needs and desires towards new living essentials and may have little to spend on these items, in light of wedding expenditures. If most of the items listed on the register come with heavy price tags, there is usually an option to chip in toward an item on the registry’s site. This is a great option if you plan to attend the wedding with a friend who is also unsure what to buy. If you do decide to purchase something outside the registry, just be sure you’re extremely familiar with the couple’s interests, and that you provide a gift receipt or an option to return the item if the couple is not satisfied with it, or is already in possession of it. 

If a couple has been living together previously and does not require many of the essential household items typically needed by newlyweds, many registries provide the option to contribute toward a honeymoon experience (such as a hotel, or flight toward a destination). This is a great way to contribute to lasting memories your favorite couple will be forever grateful for! And the best part: registries allow you to choose the amount you’re comfortable contributing.

Allocate Your Budget Accordingly

In the event that you will be attending multiple wedding celebrations, you’ll want to budget accordingly. If you happen to attend the engagement party, bridal shower, and wedding, you should allocate your wedding gift expenses based on the 20-20-60 rule; where 20% of your budget goes toward the engagement gift, 20% goes toward the bridal shower gift, and the remaining 60% covers the cost of the wedding gift itself. 

destination wedding

Brooke Images

If you’re traveling out of town or attending a destination wedding, it’s not expected to spend as much on a wedding gift as you normally would. While there is no set limit for how much you should or should not be spending on a wedding gift, it’s common to spend about $50-75 on gifts for acquaintances, coworkers, or distant relatives, and $100-150 plus on gifts for close friends or relatives. Although, this amount is based entirely on your relationship with the couple and what you’re comfortable with spending. 

Don’t Delay Giving Your Gift

There is a long-standing myth that wedding gifts should be received within one year of the wedding, though it’s important to note that it’s not recommended to procrastinate, since you run the risk of forgetting entirely (and hurting your relationship with the couple in the process)! Thankfully, registries allow you to select which dates you want the gift to be received. It may also be worth asking the couple when they’d like to receive gifts, as some may not want to deal with an accumulation of gifts a few weeks prior to their wedding, while others may be away on their honeymoons and unable to receive them, shortly after the wedding. To be on the safe side, try sending a gift within 2 months of the wedding. By this time, the couple has probably returned from their honeymoon and all remaining festivities have likely concluded. Whatever you do, just be sure to avoid showing up to the wedding with your gift, as the wedding party surely does not want to handle large boxes at the end of the night and risk damaging expensive items. 

gift table

Hannah Kate Photography 

Bear in mind that your wedding gift signifies your best wishes for a long and happy life together. So, you’ll want to give the right gift for that purpose, at a time that allows them to enjoy their big day to the fullest!

Are you a super creative gift-giver? Ever received a gift that you'll treasure forever? Leave us a comment and tell us about it!

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Leave a comment

Alisha Dan
May 11, 2020 10:34

So good to know! I went to a wedding last year and had no idea what I was doing in regard to this.

April 21, 2020 22:39

This is really helpful! My friend is getting married this year, so it helps plan for expenses!

September 30, 2018 14:20

Great tips! I have been giving a sketch of the couples dress and suit by Dreamlines. Their style and detail is amazing. I have a sketch and love it.

June 05, 2018 09:55

This guide was extremely helpful in planning my expenses for my friend’s upcoming wedding!

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