Wedding gift etiquette can be a confusing thing to work out. This week we’re going to demystify wedding gift etiquette – and answer all these tricky questions and more:
- How much should you spend on a wedding gift?
- Do you still have to send a gift if don’t attend?
- Is it polite to give gift vouchers or cash?
- When people say ‘no gifts’… do they really mean it?
- What to do when you can’t afford anything on the gift registry list?
1. When you’re already spending a lot of money to travel to a wedding…
Many people resent having to go to many weddings per year because they have to pay for travel, a new outfit and accommodation.
So when you’re paying out a lot of money to go a wedding, should you buy an expensive gift on top?
The answer is no.
If you’re already forking out for a flight or an expensive overnight stay, it’s fine to just give a small, affordable gift.
⭐ Top tip: Either choose an inexpensive item on the gift registry list, or chip in on a bigger gift item with friends. Alternatively, if no gift registry list is stated, give the couple a small but meaningful present, like a framed photo.
2. When you don’t attend the wedding at all
Even if you RSVP ‘no’, you should still send a gift.
There might be an gift registry list on the invite. In that case choose whatever you think appropriate. Again, it’s perfectly acceptable to chip in on the cost of a bigger gift item with your friends.
If there are no instructions, you should still send something small as way of thanking them for the invitation and to showing you want to celebrate their marriage.
When should you send a gift if you’re not attending the wedding?
The best time would be when you send your RSVP. However, it’s also within the bounds of etiquette to send your gift up to 60 days after the wedding.
⭐ Top tip: Experience vouchers – a day at the spa, a night at a boutique hotel or a fancy meal at a great restaurant – are perfect ways to say, “sorry I couldn’t make it but enjoy this one on me”.
3. When you cannot afford anything on the gift registry list
If you cannot afford anything on a wedding gift registry list, don’t panic. A gift list is not an obligation, it’s a guideline.
Find out if the gift registry shop has any cheaper non-listed items that match the ones the couple has chosen.
For example, if the gift registry list has a set of tea cups on it, you could add a sugar bowl from the same collection.
4. When the couple asks for cash but you’re embarrassed to ask how much
In Mediterranean countries a wad of crisp bank notes is the only proper wedding gift. But in the UK asking for money can cause a lot of controversy.
When you think about it, though, cash gifts can make a lot of sense. Most people today don’t need furniture, appliances or cutlery for a new household, because they’re probably already living together. A note or two in a nice envelope with a card is much more practical.
The word “cash” will not usually be stated on the wedding invite. If that’s the case on your invite, you should phone the couple’s close family or friends and ask.
They may tell you outright to give cash, or casually mention something like, ‘I’m sure Sarah and John would be so grateful if you wanted to help with the baby/house/honeymoon’. Then you know cold hard cash in an envelope is the thing to do.
How much cash should you give? The same amount as you’d have spent on a gift.
⭐ Top tip: Not convinced? There are banks, department stores, honeymoon travel agencies and websites where you can open a cash gift account for the couple.
5. When the couple says NO gifts
‘No gifts’ really does mean no gifts. Giving a couple a gift when they’ve expressly told you not to, could make them and the other guests feel very uncomfortable.
And finally, for the couple…
If you invite someone to your wedding, you should take into account your guests’ financial situations, time constraints and the stress of travel. You should never expect a present, nor make a fuss if you don’t like a gift. Presence, not presents, is what counts.
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