The Wedding Gift Etiquette Guide by Lisa Scherzer
1. How much should I spend on a gift?
The amount you should spend on a gift is one of those gray areas that vary based on the wedding location, your age and your budget. A typical amount, says Betsy Goldberg, features editor at Modern Bride magazine, is $75. If you bring a date, expect to give a present worth double that. Don't be afraid to ask other attendees what they plan to spend to get a better sense of what people within your social circle are giving, she says.
Though the gift amount is somewhat arbitrary, Summer Krecke, deputy editor of WeddingChannel.com, offers a few guidelines based on the guest's relationship to the bride or groom: If it's your co-worker's wedding, you should spend $75 to $100; a relative or friend, $100-$125; and if it's your close friend or close relative, anywhere from $100 to $150 or more is acceptable.
2. What if I can't afford the $120 five-speed blender because I have four other weddings this month?
Most brides and grooms don't want you to go broke as a result of their wedding. Therefore, guests should always consider their budget constraints. If you've been invited to five weddings that take place within three months of one another, you'll need to take into account expenses for all those events (not just the gifts, but any required travel and lodging, as well). At destination weddings, for example, most couples understand that the $500 you shelled out to attend their Bahamas beach wedding doesn't leave you much to spend on a big-ticket gift. "They appreciate that people go so far to be with them for their wedding," says Goldberg.
Also, keep in mind that your gift obligations don't start and end with the wedding. Factor in the surrounding celebrations, like the bridal shower, the bachelor/bachelorette party and engagement party. Once you tally it all up, you'll probably feel like you need a second job to afford your loved ones' nuptials, making it all the more important you don't break the bank on one gift.
3. Should the amount I give depend on the price per dinner plate or how posh the venue is?
Quite simply, no. "Never think about it in those terms," says Martha Woodham, author of "The Bride Did What?! Etiquette for the Wedding Impaired." Instead, think about it this way: You're not expected to pay for your meal at a friend's dinner party, so why should you be expected to pay for a night of dinner and dancing at a wedding? A gift is separate from the party itself and should not be considered "the admission price to the wedding," says Woodham.
4. If I can't make it to the wedding, do I still give a gift?
Yes. Ideally, says Woodham, guests give gifts to help the couple commemorate the occasion and start their new life together — and that should be the case whether a guest partakes in the wedding festivities or not. "If you care about the couple, you send a gift — not just because you were invited to the wedding," she says.
5. Is it always best to get a gift from the registry?
The great thing about wedding registries — and the reason why they're such a big business — is there's little risk involved. Brides and grooms tell you what they want, so you don't spend an afternoon shopping for the perfect espresso machine only to find out later that neither of them drinks coffee. With a registry item, "you know when they get it, they'll be happy and excited about it," says Woodham.
Since registry gifts veer toward the impersonal, Goldberg suggests including a note with the gift to make it less so. If you buy a couple that loves to entertain a cheese board, include a note that says something along the lines of: "We love coming over for your parties and thought this would be useful to you," says Goldberg. One bit of advice when buying from the registry: Shop early to make sure you have various price points to choose from.
6. Is it in poor taste to hand an envelope containing a check to the bride or groom during the reception?
Generally, a gift of cash or a check is acceptable — and, for the most part, welcomed. "I don't know of any bride or groom turning down a check," says Krecke. Most couples will put either the best man or a parent in charge of receiving and holding onto checks at the wedding.
What is inappropriate, however, is bringing a gift to the wedding — especially if it's a cumbersome 10-pound rice cooker. Many couples don't get married in their hometowns, so you make it more difficult for them to haul the gifts home post-wedding. Instead, send the gift directly to the couple's home address or to one of their parents several weeks before the wedding, says Krecke.
7. I can send them a gift later, right?
While it's fine to celebrate the special day with the couple and send a gift later — don't wait until well after the bride's written all her thank-you notes. Some people think "you can wait up to a year to give a gift," says Krecke. "We generally say anything more than six months is poor etiquette."