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Wedding Gift Do’s & Don’ts

Answers to your most common questions on when and what to give for a wedding celebration.

Whether you’ve been invited to a full wedding and reception in your hometown, asked to attend a destination wedding or simply been sent a wedding announcement, you probably have questions on the proper etiquette for giving a gift.

Wedding etiquette may seem old-fashioned. And then just to mess with you, the rules frequently change. If you’re stuck wondering what to do, trust your gut. In the end, it really comes down to good manners and common sense.

In the meantime, here are the answers to some of your most common questions on the etiquette of wedding gifts — starting with “When do I need to give one?”

Do I need to give a gift if …

I was invited to, but don’t attend, the wedding?

Yes. It’s customary to give a gift when you’re invited to the wedding ceremony, even if you don’t attend.

I received an announcement in the mail but was not invited to the wedding?

You’re not required to give a gift if you simply receive an announcement in the mail. It’s still nice to give something (and most people do), but there’s no etiquette faux pas in simply saying “congratulations on your marriage.”

I already gave a gift at the bridal shower?

Yes, you still need to give a gift. The shower and wedding are two separate events. If you’re invited to a bridal shower, it’s a safe bet you’re also going to be invited to the wedding. Keep this in mind before purchasing either gift. Figure out your overall gift budget and divide it between the two however you see fit.

I’m already spending a lot of money to attend a destination wedding?

Attending a destination wedding is a pricey endeavor and rightly feels like a gift in itself. Often, a couple hosting a destination wedding will let guests know their presence is their present, and if they do, you need not give a gift.

If they don’t make this known, however, you’re still expected to bring a gift. If this is the case, it’s absolutely okay to factor the cost of attending the wedding into your gift-giving budget and give a smaller gift.

OK, I’m going to get a gift, but …

How much should I spend?

How much you spend on a newly married couple is a personal decision. It should factor in both your relationship with the celebrants and your personal budget. If you’re giving multiple gifts (say, for a shower and the wedding itself), decide your total budget first and then divide it between the gifts.

Do I need to buy something off the registry?

It’s customary to give a gift off a couple’s wedding registry. They’ve put a lot of thought into what they need and want, and there’s no need to second-guess their wishes. Also, purchasing from a registry makes gift giving easy! It takes the guesswork out of finding the perfect gift, and you can also have it shipped directly to the new couple.

However, if you’re in the wedding party, and therefore presumably closer to the bride or groom, you might have some inside information and be able to go for something a little more personal. A special set of earrings from the maid of honor or the bride’s parents will be an important keepsake.

What about cash?

Like giving a gift from the couple’s registry, cash is also a great option. With cash (or a gift card to one of their registry stores), the couple can use their gift in the way they need it most to start their new life together.

I have up to a year from the wedding date to give a gift, right?

Well-known wedding etiquette dictates you have up to a year from the date of the wedding to give a gift. While this is still technically true, it comes with some common sense caveats.

In a real-life sense, sooner is always better. By a year after their wedding, most couples will have moved on to the next phase of their life together. (Just think: a year is plenty of time to have a baby!) The ideal approach is to give a gift as close to the wedding as possible, taking up to three months after the event date.

On the flip side, if extreme circumstances come your way, it’s also true that a wedding gift, like any good deed, is better given late than never given at all.

In the end, wedding gift etiquette, like any etiquette, largely comes back to common sense and good manners. Keep these two things in mind  and enjoy picking your gift and celebrating the newly joined couple.

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