Modern Day Etiquette: Gift Giving

Let’s face it, the do’s and don’t’s of wedding etiquette can leave friends, family members, and acquaintances of the bride and groom feeling restless. And especially when it comes to the mannerisms of gift-giving, the lines can seem helplessly blurry.

As You Wish team to the rescue… Take a look at some of our “must-do’s” and “un-necessaries” of gift giving throughout the engagement and wedding process.

The key here; being aware of your budget AND your relationship to the bride and groom. Assess a maximum and minimum that you are willing and able to spend on an engagement gift, a shower gift, and a wedding gift. Then, consider the bride and/or groom’s role in your life, and your’s in theirs. Are you close friends or acquaintances? Coworkers or family members? Distant relatives or first cousins who spend every major holiday and annual vacation together?

And as far as disbursing your finances among various events, our rule of thumb is to allocate 20% on an engagement gift, 20% on a bridal shower gift, and 60% on the wedding gift. Of course, if the couple opts out of an engagement party, we run into some confusion. In this case, consider your relationship to the couple, and if it feels most appropriate, give them a lesser-scale gift and a card congratulating them on their engagement, anyways. If not, save your means for the bridal shower and the wedding, and gift them something they’re dying to have off of their registry.

 If you are invited to a bridal shower in addition to the actual wedding; and you’re debating whether or not to bring a gift to both occasions, the most sound decision is to divvy up your resources between the two. However, it is not always imperative to every bride and groom that you have a gift for them at the wedding, in the case that you’ve already purchased them a full-scale gift for their shower. Make a judgment call based on your relation to the couple and your ability to extend your finances. Our recommendation: play it safe and get a smaller scale gift for the shower, and a full scale gift for the wedding.

Another question of much debate; to shop from the registry or give cash?  Typically, picking a gift off of the couple’s registry is your safest bet. The reason for a registry, after all, is so that the bride and groom will receive items they both need and want. Keep in mind if the couple has organized a honeymoon registry, too. If so, this is a unique and efficient way to put your dollars towards the pair’s future. If their registry is extremely picked over by the time you’ve gotten online to buy the couple a gift, chances are, the bride and groom will prefer a check instead of something you thought of off the top of your head. They’d likely enjoy a cash gift just as much as a gift off their registry, even. The typical cash or check gift amount is upwards of $100-$150. Again, distant friends and coworkers tend to spend on the lesser side of that approximation, whereas close family and friends will usually spend more than that.

If they didn’t give you a gift for your wedding, should you still give them one for theirs?  Our word of advice is yes. Cut a little slack and consider the circumstance they may have been in when you were saying your own vows. And in the event that they really just forgot, it’s probable that your gift-giving will remind them. If you feel better about scaling down the expense of the gift you purchase for them, that’s fine. The bottom line is, it will likely give you a happier spirit to choose to act out of pure kindness instead of spite.

If it’s a destination wedding or requires you to travel out of town; it is acceptable to spend less on a gift. However, this does not necessarily mean it’s appropriate to skip out on a gift all together. It’s never alright to deem your attendance at the event equivalent to a gift.

If you are unable to attend the wedding; you should consider your relationship to the couple above the financial cost to send them a gift. If it is someone you feel close to or see often, a gift is probably expected even if you unfortunately can’t be there for their special day.

If you are on rocky ground financially; it’s okay to consider a thoughtful and creative gift. Something fun and lighthearted that the couple may or may not have registered for will let them know that you care for them and wish them a bright future together.

After all, it really is the thought that counts!

Photo Credits:, A Guy and A Girl Photography,