Complete Wedding Gift Etiquette Guide: Gift With Confidence

Know the dos and dont's of giving wedding gifts so you can relax and have fun with the happy couple.

Published March 27, 2023
bride opening a gift

You've checked the box on your RSVP card to let the happy couple know you'll be at their event, so it's time to start thinking about what to give them as a present. Wedding gift etiquette can be a bit mysterious, but there's no reason to let it stress you out. Simplify the process and avoid any social faux pas with a quick refresher about all those little dos and don'ts surrounding giving wedding presents and the timeline for gifting.

Timeline: Give a Wedding Gift Within Two Months

Although it's not a disaster if you give your wedding gift late, it's best to give it no more than two months after the wedding day. Bonus points if you can do it closer to the actual day, since this will help the couple keep track of their thank-you notes and ensure it still feels like your gift is about celebrating this event.

Send the Gift Ahead of the Wedding if Possible

It's not always practical, but it's proper etiquette to send the wedding gift ahead of the wedding if you can. This helps simplify the event for the couple, and it's also more convenient if you're traveling to the wedding. Don't worry if this doesn't work for you, though. It's more of a nice-to-do than one of those major wedding gift etiquette rules.

Don't Bring Big Gifts to the Reception

Most couples have a gift table at the reception, but someone will be responsible for taking all those gifts back home. If your gift is large or bulky, give it to them after the wedding instead of hauling it along to the reception.

Buy a Gift Off the Registry if They Have One

If the couple has a registry of gifts, you should plan to buy your gift off that list unless you have a good reason not to. These are things the couple really wants or needs, and the use of a registry makes it easy to avoid duplication (you don't want to give them the same gift Aunt Edna does, after all).

If they don't have a registry or you want to give them something really specific that you know they'll love, be sure to include a gift receipt in case they don't want it or need to return a duplicate present.

Is It Rude Not to Give a Wedding Gift?

If you're invited to a wedding, it's usually appropriate to give a gift. In the case of events where the couple has requested no gifts, you can give a nice card with a personal message. Otherwise, though, you should show your support and appreciation with a present. What or how much you give is a bit more nuanced and depends on the specific situation.

Quick Tip

When it comes to wedding gift etiquette, if you're not attending the ceremony, you can skip the present. The couple would still appreciate a thoughtful note or perhaps a token gift, but these aren't required.

Specific Gifting Situations to Consider

wedding gift table

Just like everything else, general rules about gifting are a little vague. Your specific situation may mean you have certain rules or expectations to keep in mind with your wedding gift. These are a few common ones.

Wedding Gift Etiquette for Parents

Parents of the couple often help out with the expense of the wedding itself or chip in for the dress, honeymoon, or rehearsal dinner. If the parents are helping out financially (or practically) already, they are not required to give a present.

In fact, the gift-giving can be the other way around. It's customary for the couple to give their parents a gift as a thank-you for helping with the wedding. This isn't an etiquette rule, but it's something to keep in mind.

Etiquette Considerations for the Wedding Party

Just like the parents, people in the wedding party are helping out with the wedding in a lot of ways. They may be responsible for travel to the ceremony, as well as buying or renting clothing for the event. Add in hosting a bachelor or bachelorette party, and the whole thing can get pretty costly.

However, wedding gift etiquette for bridesmaids, groomsmen, and other attendants means giving a wedding gift. If you're already spending a lot to be a part of the event, the gift can homemade or not super expensive. The important thing is showing that you support the couple.

Wedding Gift Etiquette if You're Not Invited

For whatever reason, you may not have been invited to the wedding. That doesn't mean you can't send a gift if you want to. It's up to you. There's definitely nothing wrong with sending a present when you weren't on the guest list.

Gifting Etiquette for Second Weddings

Traditionally, wedding gift etiquette doesn't require a gift for a second marriage. However, things are changing, and it really depends on the type of wedding and the preferences of the couple. To be on the safe side, plan to give a gift even if it isn't the first wedding for the couple.

The amount you spend on a gift for a second wedding may be lower than you would for a first wedding. In general, the couple already has a lot of the things they need to set up their home, so the gift is more a show of support than it is a practical contribution to their future.

Gifting Rules for a Destination Wedding

If the couple is having a destination wedding and you'll be traveling to attend, it's customary for them to request no gifts. Ultimately, they are already asking guests to spend a lot of money to be there. Instead, you can give them a special photograph or note.

How Much You Should Spend on Wedding Gifts

wedding gift table

How much you give for a wedding gift, whether it's a purchased present or a cash gift, really depends on your own financial situation and how well you know the couple. The old wedding gift etiquette rule was that you should spend about what the couple is spending to host you at the wedding, but these days, that just doesn't make a lot of sense. Instead, the modern best practice is to base your gift amount on the relationship you have with the couple.

  • Friend - Expect to spend around $75 to $150 for a wedding gift for a friend.
  • Family member - If you're buying a gift for a family member, it's customary to spend a bit more: around $150 to $200.
  • Coworker or acquaintance - For people you don't know as well, expect to spend less. A typical gift might be $50 to $75.

Giving a Wedding Gift Is a Way to Show Support

Basically, giving a wedding gift is a way to show your support for the couple, and the etiquette rules surrounding gifting are mostly about avoiding any awkwardness. Knowing how to avoid those little social faux pas will help you relax and enjoy the wedding, so send in that RSVP and choose a gift you know they'll love.

Complete Wedding Gift Etiquette Guide: Gift With Confidence