Wedding gift etiquette 101: Everything you need to know

You’ve been invited to a wedding and it’s the first time you have had to fend for yourself in the gift department – we feel your pain. Hopefully the couple have provided you some guidance on what they might hope to receive, and just in case, here’s some guidance on everything to do with gifts.

Do I need to give a gift?

While couples usually won’t expressly ask for a gift when they send out invitations, it is assumed guests will bring a little somethin’ somethin’ with them on the big day.

The only time you don’t need to give a gift to the couple is if you have been invited to the wedding and you cannot attend. That said, if it is an close friend or not-too-distant relative, it might be nice to send something small to them anyway – you can be the judge on that one based on how you feel.

What if I’ve given a gift before the wedding?

Lots of couples will host an engagement party and/or a hen’s or buck’s party to celebrate the lead up to the wedding day, and you might give a gift at one or both of those events.

Yes, it seems a bit full-on, but there are some simple formulas you can use so that you aren’t buying an expensive gift every time.

It’s best to start with the total amount you can afford to spend on gifts for all of these occasions, and you can work back from there. Allocate 20% to the engagement party and 20% to the hen’s or buck’s night, then use the remaining 60% for the wedding gift.

Some organised attendants may arrange a group gift at a hen’s or buck’s party, or simply ask for you to pitch in to pay for an organised activity. Anything you have left over from your allocated 20%, you can add to the wedding gift fund.

How much should I spend?

There are different ideas about how much is ‘acceptable’ to spend on wedding gifts, but in reality there is no hard and fast rule, so the golden rule should be what you can afford.

You don’t need to go overboard to try to get the ‘wow’ factor from the couple and pay for it for months afterwards. Be sensible and buy within your means.

Also, it’s important to know that the myth you should spend on a gift what the couple would spend on you to attend their wedding is craziness – this is not some tit-for-tat situation where you are trading with one another.

You might like to take your relationship with the couple into consideration also. You might spend slightly more on a best friend or sibling than you would a co-worker or distant cousin.

How long do I have to give the gift?

There is a myth floating around that says you can take up to a year to give the newlyweds a wedding gift. It is absolute rubbish.

You should send your gift to the couple either before the wedding, or bring it with you to place on a table at the reception.

While you could be forgiven for being a little late – say if you ordered something and it didn’t arrive in time – you would only cause offence to the couple if you didn’t bring along even a small token to mark their wedding day.


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Do I have to buy from a gift registry?

While some couples will leave presents open to interpretation, others will set up a gift registry to give their guests some guidance on the things that they might need or would like to have.

These days, registries can be anything from homewares to leisure equipment, holidays, and even pooling together for large-ticket items like art or a house deposit.

The sky is the limit, and couples are directed to include items from all price points so everyone can find something they can afford.

The rule here is, if they have taken the time to put together a gift registry – you should buy from it. The trick for guests is to get in early, so you can secure something that is within your price range.

If you’ve waited too long and missed the boat, you can join forces with other guests to buy a more expensive item and split the costs.

Can I make something as a gift?

If funds are extremely tight, or you have a creative talent, you can absolutely make something for the couple.

It will feel more personal and they will know it is a one-off item that nobody else will have.

How much do I give in a wishing well?

You might be relieved when a wishing well poem accompanies your invitation. But then a new problem arises – how much do you give?

As we touched on earlier, this should be dictated by both your budget and your relationship to the couple.

What about destination weddings?

If you are heading off to an exciting destination wedding, you are already forking out for flights, accommodation, and other expenses associated with travel, and chances are the couple will not expect lavish gifts because of that.

While your presence is said to be present enough, it would be nice to give even a small gift to the couple on the day. You might choose to think outside the box and spring for an experience they can enjoy at the destination – like a couple’s massage or a dinner for two.

Thinking of having a wishing well? Find out everything you need to know here!

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