Wedding Gifts 101: A Guide for Wedding Attendees

Hi, ladies! Today, I’m thrilled to bring you another guest post from Ashley McCredie! Based out of Denver, CO, Ashley is the online content coordinator for an experiential gifts company, Cloud 9 Living (one of our amazing advertisers). She is a freelance blogger and writer, a photographer and a traveler. Follow her on Twitter at @ashleymccredie

The flights booked, hotel reservations are made, and you can’t wait to slip on that new dress for the wedding! What’s left? The wedding present.

Sometimes it’s simple — look at the registry, click the item you want, and have it shipped. Viola, easy! But sometimes there are questions that arise like, “can I give something not on the registry?” or other scenarios like what to wrap the gift in. I talked to three experts — gift guru Dana Holmes from Gifts.com, Lindsay Roberts from TheGiftInsider.com and Jay Remer of EtiquetteGuy.com — and combined their thoughts and opinions on wedding gift giving. Here is what I found to help you out when buying couples’ gifts.

Etiquette of Wedding Gift Giving

If your whole family is attending the wedding, is it OK to buy one gift from the whole family or should they be separate?

LR: Yes, always one gift from a family is appropriate, more meaningful and shows the closeness of the relationship.

JR: The rule might be that each separate invitation should bring a separate gift. And typically a separate invitation should be sent for anyone over the age of 18. That said, if the whole family wants to pitch in for a larger item, that is OK too.

DH: I think it depends on how you want the bride and groom to view you. If you’re still living at home or at college and you still consider yourself a child that lives at home, then you can by all means give a gift together. But if you’re setting out on your own and you want to show them that you’re an adult now and you want to be seen as your own entity and not just the child or Mr. and Mrs. Smith, then you should give your own gift.

How long do you have to give a gift?

DH: You have a year to send the wedding gift.

If invited to all three, is it necessary to give an engagement, bridal shower and wedding gift? 

DH: It’s customary to bring one to each of them. But you can decide which one means the most to you, and that’s the one you should spend the most on. So if you get really into the girly fun of the bridal shower, then you should go all in and do a big thing for that and get a smaller gift for the wedding.

LR: Gifts are always expected at the shower and the wedding. Engagement parties are supposed to be a celebration, a time to meet the fiancées, not a 3rd time to have to give a gift. Many choose to walk in to an engagement party with a bottle of wine or something nominal for the couple as opposed to walking in empty-handed.

When Shopping for a Gift

What do you think is a decent price range for wedding gifts? Does this differ if the wedding is black tie, formal or casual? 

LR: Price should not depend on type of celebration. Of course, location and cultural norms vary in areas, but as an approximate rule, $75 per person is appropriate. $150 for a couple. Very close or generous people might give up to $300.

JR: The cost of a gift comes down to two things: 1. Your financial ability; 2. Your relationship with the couple. The type of gift should not depend on the type of wedding as you aren’t expected to bring a “casual” gift if the wedding is casual. The price of a gift should be determined by your closeness to and relationship with the couple, and mostly ranges between $50 and $500.

DH: That’s a really personal decision, and it’s really frustrating to see guides that have actual price points on there. It really depends on your relationship with the bride and groom and your financial situation. Generally, I think that if you go to the wedding you should give a gift, and if you don’t go you should give an even bigger gift.

If just getting to and attending the wedding is all your budget can handle, is it acceptable to not have a gift? 

LR: You must give something. Perhaps a small but sentimental gesture, a special photo frames or mugs with their names on it. Giving a gift makes the amount spent less obvious. Just show you care.

JR: Something small would be best.

DH: I think a $25 gift goes a long way. There are lots of affordable gifts that make an impression, like collecting the photos of them you’ve taken over the years and making a photo book for them.

Is it OK to sway from the registry when buying wedding gifts?

LR: Yes, especially depending on the closeness of the relationship. Buying a personalized set of sheets or wine decanter or etched wine bottles is certainly more meaningful than a set of pots & pans that they will end up buying anyways. I always support trying to do something a little more unique if it is someone special to you. Some creative ideas are a fashion sketch of the bride, custom romance novels and Wedit, which allows guests to make the wedding video; all on TheGiftInsider.com.

JR: Yes, as the most important thing about gift giving is that you put time and thought into it.

DH: I think you have to make sure that you really know the couple if you are going to go off the registry. And even so, you should preview the registry no matter what to get a feel of what they are aiming for together. You may know the bride’s taste but you don’t know the groom’s taste and the life that they want to make together. So definitely preview the registry before buying something that’s away from it.

Trends in Weddings Gifts

Any thoughts on the best kind of wrapping paper for the bride and groom? 

LR: Simple, monochrome and classy is appropriate. The wedding is not the place for cutesy creativity; save that for the shower.

DH: It’s easiest to just get it gift wrapped and send it to them. I think the traditional white or metallic always looks good.

Any other recommendations or thoughts on the world of wedding gifts?

LR: Honey Fund is a new trend. This is a registry to give a gift during the honeymoon, treat them to a couple’s massage or a dinner at a restaurant during their honeymoon.

DH: One other thing I was noticing about wedding gifts is that if you’re not going to buy something on the registry, you should really buy something that’s really personalized toward the occasion with like their new name and the date on there or something that they can do together — give them quality time basically, and that could be in the form of an experience that they do together like a wine tasting or a cooking class or a picnic backpack that they can pack their own, etc.

So, when the registry doesn’t excite you, here a few unique wedding gift ideas from some of our gift gurus:

  • Book: The Bucket List for Couples, $15, Amazon.com. “It’s just a fun list that you can use to keep your relationship kind of interesting throughout the years,” said Dana.
  • Personalized Bride & Groom Canvas Art, $60, or personalized bride and groom black and white comic portraits, $348, at Gifts.com. These personalized gifts can hang in the couples’ home for years to come.
  • Picnic Backpack, $40, at Gifts.com. Makes it easy for couples to hike to the ideal location and dine elegantly.
  • Wine Tasting or Dinner Cruise, $-$, Cloud9Living.com. Give the newlyweds the treasured gift of time together with an experience gift.
  • Photos Under Glass, $65, TheGiftInsider.com. This personalized art piece takes a photo of the couple, chops it into tiny hearts and redisplays it with a glass covering. Instead of photos, they can also use the wedding guest book.
  • Wedding and Anniversary Wine, various prices, TheGiftInsider.com. This gift can be personalized with bottles of wine for any number of landmark anniversaries.
{Image by by project hotsauce. Used under Creative Commons.}

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