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Two Wedding Gift “Rules” That Are Meant to Be Broken

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The Wedding Morning by John Henry Frederick BaconWedding gifts are important. They allow us to show our support to the happy couple and to help them start their new lives together. Maybe that’s why wedding gift-giving can get emotionally charged and high-stress. But it turns out that those rules are less complicated than you may think.


The Real “Rules” for Wedding Gifts

When it comes to wedding gifts, you may be surprised that two of the most “sacred” rules of gift-giving are actually myths.

  • You don’t have to buy off the registry. Bridal registries exist for the gift givers’ convenience. A registry provides suggestions for the kinds of things a bride wants and what she thinks she needs. While it is an excellent guide, a thoughtful, off-registry gift is always appropriate. Gifts cards, especially to the stores at which she is registered, are also a great way to help a bride fill-in the gaps after she has received all her gifts.
  • Spend based on what you can afford, not the price of the wedding. There is an etiquette old wives’ tale that a gift ought to cost as much as the bride (or her parents) spend on each guest. Give only what is within your means to give. It’s also fine to let the closeness of your relationship dictate how much you spend—maybe $25 for a college friend, but $150 for your sister.

When Should You Give a Gift

You are never obligated to give a gift, wedding or otherwise. But there are the wedding-related occasions when gift-giving is customary.

  • For bridal showers to which you are invited. Generally, you should bring a gift to every shower to which you are invited in addition to your wedding gift. If you’ve been invited to several different showers or have spent a lot of money on wedding-related expenses, consider something small and thoughtful like a bottle of champagne for “christening” her new home. Alternatively, save money and help the bride by volunteering to help her address place cards or collect packages during her honeymoon. Personalized presents like photo albums or recipe books are another thoughtful, low-budget option.
  • Before or immediately after a wedding you attend. Although many weddings feature a table piled high with gifts, you can make the bride’s life a little easier by shipping a gift directly to her home or, even better, delivering it to her home personally. Just make sure gifts will arrive before or after the honeymoon—otherwise, they might disappear from the bride’s porch before she arrives home.
  • Before or immediately after a wedding you don’t attend. Yes, you should consider sending a wedding gift even if you can’t or choose not to attend a wedding. Buy gifts for weddings you simply can’t attend and weddings of the family of close friends as you would for a wedding you can attend. If you don’t know the couple that well or you’ve fallen out of touch, at least send a warm notes expressing your regrets and best wishes.
  • When your own name is on the invitation. Plus ones are never expected to give gifts of their own.

This post is adapted from Emily Post’s Etiquette, the indispensible guide to good manners and one of Experimental Wifery’s 100 Books Every Woman Should Read. Pick up your copy today or check out Emilypost.com’s Wedding Guest Guide for even more great information about being the perfect wedding guest.

2 responses »

  1. I have to disagree. Unless you know the couple really well and are sure you’re giving them something they need and want, buy off the registry or give a gift card. Each individual framed wall scroll or photo album or kitchen gadget the bride didn’t request but you love might be thoughtful and well-meant, but by the time the bride ends up with twenty of those and none of the items she actually needs to start her household (and no money left after spending it all on the wedding), it’s harder to be properly appreciative.

    This goes for baby showers, too. My six-month old has enough adorable blankets to warm the entire population of Alaska and more sweet little outfits than he could wear before he outgrew them, but we were left scrambling for money to buy a car seat and play pen.

    And never, ever feel guilty for giving a gift card. I don’t care if your budget is five dollars. My budget is tight, too. I would rather have five dollars off something big I need and can’t afford than some cute little five dollar trinket (unless said trinket was on the registry, of course).

    The registries are there for a reason. Use them.

    Reply
    • I guess I should have added a caveat that off-registry gifts have to be truly thoughtful. (For example, the mother of a high school friend doesn’t have the money to give lavish wedding presents. She works at J.C. Penny, so she uses her staff discount to give a small hamper of towels to newly-wed friends.) It is much better to avoid cliched gifts like picture frames or cloth napkins unless they are something a couple has asked for.

      Reply

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