Wedding Gift Etiquette

Wedding Gift Etiquette Everyone Should Know


wedding gift

Spring is in the air, and that means one thing: It’s officially wedding season! Over the years I’ve written about various etiquette topics, and one of the most requested is wedding etiquette. Whether you’re planning a wedding or attending one, there are many things to consider and countless ways to be gracious and thoughtful. So I’m going to cover everything you need to know about wedding etiquette for everyone from brides-to-be to seasoned wedding guests who simply need a quick refresher on this important “What to Do.” Up first in our wedding series, let’s talk about wedding gift etiquette! 

How Much Should I Spend? 

There isn’t a set amount or set percentage of your income that determines how much you should spend on a wedding gift. Contrary to a popular myth, you are not trying to match the dollar amount spent on you as a wedding guest. (As a former wedding planner, I can tell you, in most cases you probably don’t want to spend that much!) And you don’t have to reciprocate what someone spent on their wedding gift to you.

Exactly how much you spend should be determined by a variety of factors including your closeness to the bride or groom and economic circumstances. If you’re in the stage of life where you have ten friends getting married in one summer, most likely you won’t spend the same amount on each gift as you would if you just had just one friend getting married that summer. If you have been out of a job for six months, your friends certainly don’t want you to spend as much as their friend who is working on Wall Street. Bottom line: be as generous as you can under your current circumstances. 

Should I take into consideration other costs I am spending on this wedding (i.e. shower gift and/or travel expenses)? 

That is fine. Some use the 20-20-60 rule for gifts. Determine how much you want to spend total, then divide that number into: 20% for the engagement present, 20% for the shower present, and 60% for the wedding present. Now this would only be the case for a close friend who would invite you to these events. 

As for taking into account other expenses, see the answer above. Be as generous as you can under your current circumstances.

If I am invited to multiple showers, should I bring a gift to each one? 

I recently heard of a someone who was invited to four wedding showers. That is a lot of gifts! And the reason why engaged couples should not invite guests to more than one shower. (An exception would be for members of the wedding party.)

If this happens, perhaps have a conversation with the bride and tell her that instead of giving multiple smaller shower presents, you will be giving her one bigger gift. This will work whether you planned to spend $50 or $200 on the gift. Most brides would not want you buying multiple shower presents anyway; they may just be too overwhelmed with wedding details to tell you!

If I can’t attend a wedding, should I still send a gift? 

Always. And that goes for showers as well. 

Do I need to buy them a gift off their registry? 

A registry is a suggested list of gifts, not a required one. However, one should usually start with a couple’s registry. After all, that is a thoughtful thing to get them what they want or need!

But sometimes couples don’t register, their registry fills up or the gifts on their registry in your price range have all been bought. In these instances, I think it is definitely okay to go off the registry. Again, be thoughtful and generous with whatever you give. We have lots of thoughtful ideas on our Wedding Gift Guide

What about handmade gifts? 

Handmade gifts (i.e. picture albums, frames, etc.) should be avoided unless it’s for a close friend or family member, but usually only when given by close family and friends. 

I am getting married. Can we request money in lieu of gifts? 

In most cases, it is inappropriate to ask for cash or funds for a honeymoon.  (If you are a guest and want to give cash, that is fine, and in some cultures a long-held tradition.)

Can I bring my gift to the reception? 

Traditionally wedding gifts are sent to the home before or after the wedding. This is the thoughtful thing to do so families don’t have to haul gifts home after a long day. But wedding planners still have to plan on the fact that many guests will bring gifts to the wedding and for that reason you will usually see a gift table at the reception. 

Does the one year rule on sending wedding gifts still apply?

You can send a wedding gift up to a year after the wedding but to be most thoughtful send your gift as soon as you can so they can enjoy it!

Do I have to send a thank you note for my wedding gifts?

No matter the occasion, the gracious thing to do when someone buys you a gift is to send a handwritten thank you note. You also want to let your guests know that their gift arrived safely so try to do so in a timely manner. 

What other questions do you have about wedding gift etiquette? Ask below!

Happy Wedding Season!

Florals and Styling by Christina Brockman and Photography by Brennan Smith. Wrapping paper and invitation from Dogwood Hill. 


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4 thoughts on “Wedding Gift Etiquette Everyone Should Know

  1. Great advice. With all of the different variables in terms of closeness, financial wherewithal, travel distance/expense, and reciprocation, this can be a really tricky things to navigate.

  2. Yes to thank-you notes…always! And they should be sent within a reasonable amount of time.

    I remember as a young 20-something, I wasn’t making much money but still made sure and sent lovely, generous wedding gifts to all my friends. Not receiving a t-y note and being left to wonder if the gift had been sent from the registry, received by the recipient, etc. really made an impression on me. I have been religious about prompt thank you cards ever since.