Wedding Gift Etiquette

Wedding Gift Etiquette

You’ve been invited to a wedding; you should send a gift.

If gift buying in general fills you with doubt (“Will they like it?”; “What size, what color?”), then this is your lucky day, because there really is no easier gift-giving than wedding gift giving.

Most couples register for wedding gifts. They literally make a list of what they want to get, so you can’t go wrong if you buy them something from that list. It’s considered impolite for the couple to tell you where they are registered unless you solicit the information, so be sure to ask them, or someone close to them.

If buying a gift from a registry list seems odd to you — because they won’t be surprised, or because it seems “unoriginal” — put your fears to rest. Couples create their registry because they know that their guests will be buying gifts for them, and it saves everyone time and trouble if the guests know they’re getting the couple exactly what they want. The place where they are registered will be able to facilitate appropriate gift wrapping, and will ship the gift to the address where the bride and groom have indicated they would like to receive their gifts — so you don’t even have to remember to bring your address book. You’re doing the couple a great favor by buying from their registry list.

Thousands of today’s couples are now taking advantage of the ease and convenience (for them and for you!) of wedding gift registries that can be viewed online. has thousands of soon-to-be marrieds and newlyweds whose registries can be seen online. You can buy a gift for the couple online, without that drive to the mall, the hunt for a parking space, the struggle to find a sales clerk.

If the couple is not registered and has not indicated something in particular that they want, you can feel free to get them just about anything for their new home and their new life together. Be sure to select something for both of them, something they can enjoy together. Even if you are primarily friends with just the bride or just the groom, you must not select something that only one of them will use and enjoy. The gift is for the couple, not for your friend.

While it may seem odd to show up at the wedding empty handed, you need not bring the gift to the wedding. In fact, it is probably easier for the couple if you have the gift delivered to them before or after the wedding, as they will already be busy dealing with countless other details on their wedding day. There is also risk that in the hustle and bustle of the wedding, a gift might be misplaced, a card might be lost (leading to a gift of unidentifiable origin), or, unfortunately, an unattended gift might disappear.

In some cases, a monetary gift is not only acceptable, but very much appreciated. How close you are to the couple is, to a large degree, the determiner. If you don’t know them well, it might be awkward for them to receive a cash gift from you. If you do give them a monetary gift, be sure to include it in a small envelope within a card (which, of course, is in another envelope itself). That way, if they open the card in front of others, there won’t be a check or bills flying loose. Avoid any explicit mention of what it is that you gave them, but perhaps note in the card that you hope that they can use the enclosed for something they that will enjoy.

If you do bring the gift to the wedding or reception, there will probably be a gift table upon which you should place the gift. The couple typically will not open gifts on their wedding day — they simply don’t have time — so don’t expect them to do so.

Custom dictates that you have up until one year after the wedding to send a wedding gift — although the new couple will no doubt especially appreciate receiving items in the weeks leading up to or immediately after their wedding, when they are settling in to their new life as husband and wife.

Remember, it is not the dollar value of the gift that matters, but the thought.


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