Do You Have to Give a Wedding Shower Gift? And Other Gift-Giving Questions

wedding shower etiquette

While wedding gift questions might be more related to giving, knowing that some of your guests might not be 100% sure when it comes to gift-giving etiquette is enough reason for YOU to know how it’s all supposed to work as well.

I have to say that I, personally, am a stickler for not only GIVING wedding gifts, but for expecting a ‘Thank You’ note in return. There might be some people out there that don’t believe in giving wedding gifts (especially if they’re spending a bit of money getting to or being in one), but I fully believe that a “gift” does not have to be extravagant, and can be instead a small token of congratulations to the bride and groom. Even a simple card is better than no gift at all.

Given the general confusion around wedding gift-giving (and receiving), I thought I’d answer a few questions, below.

Do you have to give a gift if you’re invited to the wedding but are unable to attend? Yes! It’s customary to give a gift if you’re invited to the wedding ceremony and/or reception. However, if you’re only invited to a belated reception, you are off the hook when it comes to giving a gift.

If it’s a destination wedding, do you still have to give a gift? Yes! While etiquette says you should still give a gift despite having to spend money on transportation, lodging and the like, you can let your wedding costs play a factor in deciding HOW MUCH to spend on a gift. If you’re going to the wedding and spending a lot of money to get there, you can absolutely spend less on a gift…but you should still get one.

Do you have to give a wedding shower AND wedding gift? Yes! If you attend a shower you should give a gift, but if you are unable to attend you do not have to. If there are multiple showers, it’s customary to give a gift at the first shower and not the subsequent ones. Since not every guest might have been invited to each shower, if you’re a bride you might say something along the lines of “Lisa gave me a fabulous slow-cooker a couple weeks ago” while opening gifts so as not to leave the gift-giver out.

Are gifts expected at a second wedding? If you are a repeat guest at a wedding for the bride or groom, a gift is not expected. In fact, couples getting married for the second time often tell their guests not to bring gifts, in which case it’s totally up to the guest if they want to bring one.

What if the wedding never happens? Nobody wants to think about this one, but it sadly happens more than you think. While some etiquette experts recommend you wait until after the wedding happens to open any gifts, I don’t know how realistic that is. You should return any unused/unopened gifts if you can, however, and if you are unable because they are already used, you should write a note apologizing for being unable to send a gift back. Do not ask them how much it was or bring up reimbursing them for their trouble…you don’t want to bring money into it.

When should you send your gift? The sooner the better. While old-school etiquette says you have up to a year to send a wedding gift, you should ideally send one before the wedding. If not, send one no later than three months after.

Click here for tips on How to Write the Perfect Thank You Note.

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  1. says: Nancy

    I have been invited to a wedding shower for the daughter of a friend that I used to work with and still keep in touch with. I have never met the daughter and I am unable to attend the wedding shower. Am I obligated to send a gift even though I cannot attend the shower?