Wedding Gift Etiquette Dos and Don’ts

wedding gift etiquette

Wedding gift etiquette has changed quite a bit in the last several decades. Thanks to innovative registry tools, giving an actual wedding gift might be easier, but figuring out the dos and don’ts of wedding gift etiquette has gotten a bit trickier. The pandemic also created a seismic shift in weddings (and attendance) quite a bit (hello, micro weddings). Some couples even chose to forego the traditional wedding entirely and decided that eloping was more their speed.

“Couples today prefer to arrange and orchestrate their wedding the way they want to and choose not to follow the strict rules of their parents and relatives,” says Maryanne Parker, etiquette expert and founder of Manor of Manners. This also applies to wedding gifts.

Wedding Gift Etiquette: The Rules to Remember

Despite the fact that etiquette (and wedding gift etiquette in particular) is an ever-changing concept, it’s still an important one to know. To make sure you’re brushed up on the latest in case you do get an invite to close friends or family members big day, we asked our wedding pros to answer the most popular wedding gift etiquette questions. 

Our Experts

Kathryn Cooper, photographer and owner of Kathryn Cooper Weddings
Brittany Barbosa, founder and creative and editorial director at Fawn & Sable
Maryanne Parker, etiquette expert and founder of Manor of Manners
Lindsay Quinn, Marketing Director for nationwide wedding videographer, N.S.T. Pictures
Diane Kolanović-Šolaja, owner Dee Kay Events

How much money should you give for a wedding gift?

According to Parker, there really is no set amount—it’s truly based on your budget and your comfort level. However, if you are someone who really needs to have a base number, she’d advise at least $75. In the hierarchy of life events, weddings top the list, she says. “They generally occur only once in someone’s life and, aside from childbirth, are often said to be the most important and memorable event.” The average she sees for gift amounts is between $100-$200. However, she notes that the best wedding gifts she’s seen have been handmade or extremely sentimental heirloom gifts. “I’ve seen a bride receive a hand-sewn quilt for her new home. Those kinds of gifts are priceless,” she says. “The gracious couple knows that it really is the thought and effort that counts.”

How long do you have to give a wedding gift?

The old saying “you have a year after the wedding” is sadly not true. You should send a wedding gift soon after you receive an invitation and their registry information has been included on their wedding website or other invite. If not, you should send a gift within three months after the wedding.

When should you give cash or a check instead of a tangible gift?

Cash is king, as they say, but even more so when it comes to weddings. This is especially true for older couples already living together, or couples who may create a wedding registry solely for shower gifts. “Chances are, they only have a registry for the shower or engagement party, or to appease guests who feel giving cash is uncouth,” says Lindsay Quinn, Marketing Director for nationwide wedding videographer, N.S.T. Pictures. If you feel like giving cash, it will (most likely) always be appreciate. “Give what you feel is appropriate and what you’d feel was generous if it were your wedding,” suggests Quinn. 

WGM Says: Check to see if the couple has created a section on their online wedding registry or wedding website for honeymoon funds. This is typically how couples politely indicate they’re hoping to receive monetary gifts instead of traditional ones. If there are no funds on a couple’s wedding registry, you can mail them a check if you have their home address, or bring it to the actual wedding and place it on a card table or give it to the couple directly.

If giving a physical wedding gift, does it need to be off the registry? 

It’s customary for a couple’s registry to include a list of items that they’re hoping to get for their wedding. This can run the gamut, including everything from bath towels and fine china (as well as the aforementioned honeymoon and cash funds). The fact is, not every item on the list is something you might want to give, let alone can afford.

According to Brittany Barbosa, founder and creative and editorial director at Fawn & Sable, the registry is really just meant to be a guide or a blueprint. “For decades, registries served as a couple’s wish list and that’s still true to this day, but it’s by no means a must,” she says. “Many people choose to give a very heartfelt gift that cannot be quantified or found in stores. Things like handmade crafts, passed-down items from within the family, or special experiences like a couples massage.”

READ MORE: The Best Online Wedding Registries

Do you have to send a gift if you don’t go to a wedding? 

Believe it or not, traditional wedding etiquette dictates that it’s not necessary to send a gift, even if you receive a wedding invitation. However, it has become customary to do so anyway. “It should be seen as a privilege that you were invited to someone’s wedding in the first place” says Barbosa. “You matter to that couple enough for them to include you in the list of people they want at that celebration. So to not give something, even if it’s small, is offensive, and could have implications on your friendship with them in the future.”

On the other hand…

Is it rude to not give a wedding gift?

If you do attend the wedding day, you should give a wedding gift. Whether the couple is a close relative or friend, they’ll appreciate any sincere gesture you give them. And remember, you can spend as little or as much as you want.

What is the best way to go in on a group gift? 

When it comes to going in on a group wedding gift, Diane Kolanović-Šolaja, owner Dee Kay Events in Manalapan, New Jersey, recommends using technology to your advantage. If buying big-ticket items on an online registry, the app or website usually makes this process pretty easy by offering a “group gift option.” And, you don’t need to coordinate with anyone to do it. You can simply contribute as much as you want towards that gift. Alternatively, if you want to go in on a wedding present with a group of friends, you can elect one person to buy the gift, and everyone chips in. Apps like Venmo, Cash App, and Zelle will even help divvy up the charges. “Start a group chat so you can all set your spending limit per person, then decide what gift you would like to purchase,” she says. “One person can be in charge, and everyone can easily pay that person before purchasing.”

And remember: “If all else fails, a gift card to the store they registered will be appreciated too,” she adds.

Wedding Gift Etiquette FAQ

Is $200 too much for a wedding gift?

There is no wrong answer when it comes to “how much” you should give as a wedding gift. Personally, my rule of thumb as a married couple is to give the amount we would likely spend on a nice celebration dinner.

Is it rude to ask for no gifts at a wedding?

Absolutely not! But, it’s probably good to know that you will still likely get gifts. My suggestion is to instead direct guests to your favorite charity, and ask them to kindly donate if they insist on getting you a gift.

What do you do if you don’t get a thank you for a wedding gift?

This is my biggest pet peeve. So, if you haven’t yet received a thank you for a wedding gift, I completely understand your frustration. Generally, a couple should send a thank-you note for wedding gifts within siz months of the wedding date (really three if you ask us). But that’s not always the case. If you’re worried whether or not they received it, you should be able to get confirmation it was delivered if you bought it online. If you want more of an acknowledgment than that, you can always text or email the couple and ask them if they received it. That should give them a hint. 🙂

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