What is your first reaction upon receiving a wedding invitation in the mail? Usually it is something like, “Oh great! Can’t wait!” And this is quickly followed by, “Oh boy. What do I get them?” It can be tricky to maneuver the labyrinth world of wedding gifts. Can I give cash? How much? What about gift cards? Are they registered? What if the registry is too expensive? How much do I have to spend? What is appropriate based on your relationship? How can I cut costs without looking like a cheapskate? Here are some wedding gift etiquette guidelines to consider.
First, let’s take a look at the guidelines suggested by the WeddingChannel.
- Co-worker: $50 - $75
- Relative or friend: $100 - $125
- Close family member or friend: $100 - $150, or more
The economy has thrown a wrench into those particular works however; it may be simply too much to spend, especially if you have five June weddings, a few in July…it can and does add up quickly. The best policy is to do what you can comfortably afford.
As a side note: you do not have to accommodate your gift to the type of wedding (expensive gift for formal, upscale wedding, for instance), but it is nice to give a larger gift if you are bringing a date or your family to the wedding.
Factor in all of the costs of your attendance at the wedding. For instance, you may spend $100 on the gift, but how much are you spending to travel to the wedding? To attend the bridal shower or bachelor/bachelorette parties? If you have more than one wedding to go to, again, costs can quickly become outrageous. Figure out what you can spend in total, and stick to that budget.
Cash is perfectly acceptable – and much appreciated by the vast majority of couples. Many times, couples have a birdcage card holder, wishing well, money tree, or other system for collecting cash gifts. It is the gift that is most requested, and you can choose the denomination with which you feel comfortable.
Another good idea is to look at the wedding registry. Many people think these are impersonal, but it is simply a list of everything the bride and groom want and need. What could be more personal? Registries add the benefit of convenience (you can ship right to their home, which is far better than lugging a 10 pound juicer with you to the wedding), and there are usually lower-priced items for smaller budgets.
Now, what if you are invited to the shower and the wedding? One gift, right? Not so fast say etiquette experts. They recommend bringing a bridal shower gift (at least to the first shower to which you are invited) and one to the wedding as well. However, because brides and grooms are being more cost-conscious themselves, most are likely to expect only one gift. If you choose to go to the shower, you may present it there, or you can have it shipped to their home. If you are invited to the shower and choose not to attend, you are not obligated to give a gift. If, however, you are invited to the ceremony and choose not to attend, you are still on the hook.
That doesn’t mean you have to spend a fortune; you can make gifts (a photo album or scrapbook of the couple before they were married, for instance), you can offer your services (maybe you love to edit home movies and can offer to compile all the amateur video of the wedding), you could make a smaller donation to a favorite charity in their honor, or you can pool your money with other friends and get one bigger gift.
Because most couples today are more aware of their budgets, they certainly do not expect their guests to exceed their own limits with gifts. With weddings, it really is the thought that counts.