Guest Guide

So Gifted: Everything You Need to Know About Giving Wedding Gifts

by Rachel W. Miller on

The topic of wedding gifts often leaves guests (and couples!) feeling uncomfortable. If you're heading to a wedding and aren't sure which events necessitate bringing a gifts, how much you should spend, or if giving cash is OK, read on for our tips.
Wedding Gifts

Pre-wedding events

A gift is never required, not even for the wedding. But sometimes a gift feels more required than others. Here's what you need to know about gifts for all the non-wedding events.
The engagement party. If you want to bring a gift to the engagement party (or send one to your long-distance pals), keep it small ($20 or so) but fun. Think: personalized coasters, a fun bottle stopper, or a unique art print.
The wedding shower. While wedding showers have traditionally been about "showering" the bride with gifts, sometimes it's just not in the budget. If that's the case, you could skip the gift entirely, give a DIY gift, or help contribute to the shower in some way.
The bachelor/bachelorette party. It's become standard to give a gift at the bachelor/bachelorette party, but if you're spending a lot already and can't swing it, that's OK. If you have a little budget to work with, give something small (like a book of sexy poetry!) or organize a group gift with your pals.

Using the registry

You don't have to use the registry, but it's a great starting point. One faux pas: buying the couple a different version of something they registered for. (I.e., don't buy them a set of pans you find on sale if they registered for a different brand of pans.) But if you want to get them something special, meaningful, or surprising, feel free to get creative! And if the registry doesn't feel personal enough to you, check out our tips for upgrading a registry gift.

Giving cash vs. giving a gift

Whether or not cash is an acceptable wedding gift is entirely dependent on the culture. If you do decide to give money, we recommend writing a check -- cards with cash are sometimes stolen from weddings, so don't risk it.

How much to spend/give

No gift is too small, and any couple who believes otherwise is rude. What you spend is up to you, and socially acceptable amounts vary by region, culture, and class. But the old rule that you have to pay for the cost of your plate is no longer in effect; if that were the case, the couple would just charge admission.
If you're worried you can't afford much, we suggest buying a gift rather than giving cash; you can shop sales, use coupons, or get creative with something vintage or handmade to make it look more expensive. And if you can't afford a gift at all, always bring a card with a thoughtful message written in it!

When and where to give the wedding gift

This also varies by region, but generally, it's OK to send the gift to the couple after you receive your invitation, bring it with you the day of, or send it up to a year after the wedding. Most couples -- and guests! -- like the convenience of gifts sent to their homes. And if it's been a while since the wedding, don't be embarrassed -- you can send the gift for the next big holiday, or make it a first-anniversary present.

Gifting if you're not going

A wedding invitation doesn't obligate you to send a pricey gift to someone you barely know. While many people send a gift even if they RSVP "no" (and tend to splurge on the gift since they are saving on a flight, new dress, hotel stay, etc.), you don't have to send a gift if you aren't attending.
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