Wedding Gift-Giving Guidelines

Written by Susan Clot de Broissia

Whether you’re planning a wedding, or attending one, gift-giving plays an important role in the “big day.” Here are some guidelines to help answer some questions on this part of the wedding process.

For the wedding guest

So you’ve been invited to a wedding? Are you wondering what to do about the somewhat obligatory gift? Most brides and grooms have registered their gift wish list with a local department or specialty store. Does this mean you must select from this list? Not necessarily. While it is nice to help the couple complete their flatware selection or informal place settings, remember that a unique gift can be just as welcomed. With the convenience of shopping online, you can now purchase, gift wrap, enclose a personalized gift card and ship a gift to the couple without leaving your home or office.

Some things to keep in mind:

  • Do not take a gift to the reception. You cannot be guaranteed that the bride and groom will ever see the gift, as there is generally no security at the reception (with the possible exception being if the reception is at the home of the couple or a family member). Gifts can easily be damaged or misplaced. Remember, the last thing on the couple’s mind that night will be gathering up gifts. It could easily be left behind.
  • Send the gift to the address on the registry or the RSVP address on the wedding invitation.
  • Etiquette says that it is a nice gesture to send a gift whether or not you plan on attending.

For the couple

Planning a wedding can be a very time-consuming process. If you’re like most couples today, you both work full-time, leaving little time during the week to complete the many details. Fortunately, with the explosion of the Web, many excellent resources are now available online to help you to plan your big day. You can gather ideas for your ceremony and reception, locate local vendors, read tips from those who have been there, register your gift wish list, and purchase gifts for your wedding party.

Giving a token of appreciation to bridesmaids, ushers, groomsmen, and others who have taken a role in the wedding planning process has long been a custom. After all, these individuals are generally close friends or family members who have given of their time to help make your day special. And taking part in a wedding generally comes with financial responsibilities with the purchase or rental of wedding attire, throwing bridal showers and bachelor/bachelorette parties, and travel expenses. Giving gifts to members of the wedding party is left to the discretion of each couple. There are no set standards on the cost of the gift, nor do all gifts have to be the same. Below are some guidelines to help you decide what is most appropriate for your situation.

Who should receive a gift?

The Bride and Groom – One of the oldest wedding-gift traditions is the exchange of gifts between the bride and the groom. While this custom is followed by many couples, it is not mandatory. But why not give each other something that reflects your commitment? It’s best to find something that is lasting, and if appropriate, engrave it with each of your initials and your wedding date. Ideas: A picture frame, a poem, an elegant desk clock, a collectible, jewelry.

  1. Parents – One of the more recent customs is to give a gift to your parents as a token of appreciation for all they have done in raising you – and to symbolize your continued ties even though you are now starting your own family. Gift ideas for parents: A nicely framed photo from the wedding, a letter expressing your gratitude, an engravable bowl.
  2. Maid of Honor / Bridesmaids – These are the women who will be helping you with the wedding planning and the actual day. They’ll throw showers/parties for you, take you out to lunch to relax, pick up your dress from the seamstress, etc. They’ll also most likely be the ones to buy those dresses and dyed shoes that they’ll wear only once. So it is nice to thank them with a small memento. The Maid of Honor generally receives a gift of greater value, but this is not mandatory.Gift ideas for Bridesmaids: Bud vases, photo frames or albums, bath oils, crystal bowls, gift baskets, Limoges boxes or other collectibles, key chains, clocks, some part of their wedding attire (hair clips, jewelry).
  3. Best Man/Groomsmen/Ushers – These are the guys who will throw the bachelor party, help you with your tuxedo, help with honeymoon arrangements, walk family and friends to their seats during the ceremony, etc. They may travel a long distance to make the wedding, and will most likely rent their tuxedo to match the rest of the wedding party. It is therefore a nice gesture to thank them with a small gift. The Best Man generally receives a gift of greater value, but this is not mandatory. Gift ideas for groomsmen: Desk clocks, business card holders, photo frames, key chains, pocket watches, Swiss Army products, high quality pens/pen sets.
  4. Flower girl(s)/ Ring Bearer(s) – These children add a sweet touch to your wedding ceremony and they are thrilled to be a part of such a grand event. While they generally do not play a large part in the planning aspects of the wedding, they do often spend a lot of time practicing for their “big and important role” in your wedding. It is generally customary to give them a small token of appreciation to commemorate their role in your wedding day. Gift ideas for flower girls and ring bearers: A framed photo of him/her with you on your wedding day, a small collectible (figurine, box, bowl, etc.), a small item of jewelry, a stuffed animal, a hair clip.
  5. Anyone who plays a special part in your wedding – Do you have a special uncle who walked you down the aisle, or a friend who sang a solo during your ceremony? Anyone who does something that you find especially touching should receive a token of appreciation. Gift ideas for people who played a special role: A note expressing your appreciation or a framed photo from the wedding.

Size of the wedding party

If you will be having a large wedding party, it is oftentimes a better idea to choose two gifts – one for the males and one for the females – and buy them in bulk. This helps keep costs down (large weddings can be expensive!) and helps save time. Clocks, pens, key rings and photo frames all make elegant statements and can be easily personalized with engraving.

For smaller wedding parties, you may opt to select more personalized gifts for each member of the wedding. Tickets to a local sporting event are great for the sports fan, while a bottle of a good vintage wine would be more appropriate for the wine connoisseur. Generally these people will have played very active roles in your wedding planning, since they number fewer than in a larger wedding party. Why not recognize their roles with individualized gifts?

Cost of gifts

Couples on a budget need not worry about breaking the bank when purchasing gifts for their wedding party. The cost of the gifts is dictated by what the couple can afford. The adage “It’s the thought that counts” holds true here. A little creativity and thoughtfulness can go a long way. Write a poem that expresses how you feel about the individual. Do they like outdoor events? Offer to take them camping – drive and bring the food. Other ideas include creative gift baskets, small vases, clocks, and spa items (bath oils, soaps, etc.) Whatever you chose to do, all gifts for bridesmaids should be of equal value, all gifts for groomsmen should be of equal value, etc., whenever possible.

Presentation of the gifts

Presentation of a gift is almost as important as the gift itself. First, be sure to enclose a short, personalized note thanking the individual for the important role he or she played in your wedding and mention any details that you especially appreciated. Second, be sure to elegantly wrap the gift. Nice paper, bows, and tissue paper help to make a nice gift even more charming. Some couples opt to incorporate the wedding colors into the gift wrap, tissues and bows.

When should you give your wedding party their gifts? Generally, couples prefer to present the gifts at the rehearsal dinner because of the intimate setting with your family and closest friends. Other appropriate times include a small gathering or party for your wedding party the week before the wedding, or in a private setting where you can express your gratitude to each participant individually.

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23 Responses to “Wedding Gift-Giving Guidelines”

  • Vijay Dhawan says:

    Very informative post for Wedding gift.Thanks Susan for this Lovely article.

  • Aldo says:

    Abhishek, in my opinion, if you have not received an individual invitation to your friend’s wedding, I suggest that you not attend.

  • Abhishek says:

    I wanna attend my friend’s wedding ceremony. But he hasn’t gave me an individual invitation. He has sent on a group. So what should I do. Whether I should attend or not.

    And my friend is male not female.

  • Abhishek says:

    But my friend is male not female

  • Abhishek says:

    I wanna attend my friend’s wedding ceremony. But he hasn’t gave me an individual invitation. He has sent on a group. So what should I do. Whether I should attend or not.

  • Tom Tom says:

    Rita V–
    I would suggest that since you did not receive an individual invitation, that it would make sense to simply contribute to a gift with your boyfriend, putting both of your names on the card.

  • Rita Vassalotti says:

    My name is on my B/F’s invitation as his guest to a wedding. Should I give gift?

  • Aldo says:

    Chris, though your niece is already married, giving her a Bridal Shower would be a nice act of goodwill, especially if she has not previously had one. I am not aware of anything which would dictate that she cannot have one.

    On the other hand, it is entirely up to you and any others who would go in with you to foot the bill, whether to do so or not. By all means pray about it.

  • Chris says:

    My niece lived with her husband over year they took trip to Hawaii and had a beach wedding now one year later she is having a church wedding do we give her a bridal shower?

  • Jamie Jamie says:

    Hi David, I am not an expert on wedding etiquette but I don’t think you should feel compelled to give a gift. Gift giving comes from a generosity of heart and if that is missing it spoils the value of the gift and the friendship. I know that I would value your presence at my wedding than I would any gift that you would bring if I had to choose between then two. And I would also feel terrible if you were put in financial hardship because you attended and felt compelled to give a gift at my wedding.

    But again, that is my opinion which may have very little connection to proper wedding gift protocol.

  • Claire Colvin Claire Colvin says:

    Hi David, Jamie has given you an excellent perspective. If the couple getting married are aware of your financial situation then yes, your presence at the wedding is probably more important to them than a gift. However, traditionally all guests do bring gifts to a wedding and it’s possible that by not bringing a gift you may unintentionally cause hurt feelings. (They may misinterpret the lack of a gift as lack of support for the marriage.)

    Yes it is expensive to be in a wedding, especially one where travel is involved but the expectation is that you agree to these costs when you accept the invitation to be in the wedding party. If your means are limited, talk to the couple ahead of time and let them know your situation. If you don’t say anything and simply arrive empty handed, be prepared for a negative reaction.

  • David says:

    Do you give a wedding gift if you are in the wedding party and travel out of state? That given all the costs that you incur to attend the wedding, plane ticket from Las Vagas to RI, Tux rental, etc.?

  • Jamie Jamie says:

    Hi Carol, I don’t think that it is a good idea to expect that people will give wedding gifts. Their presence on the day of the wedding is valuable enough. Some people choose not to give gifts for many reasons and it is not likely that they have forgotten. It would be my opinion that you should just let it be and not allow something like this to negatively impact family relationships.

  • Carol says:

    What do you do when you didn’t a gift from close family members? My daughter wasn’t sure if they forgot or it something else? Should we ask them about it? We know they have a year to give gift. These are close 1st cousins.

  • Rasheil says:

    wml24, I agree with Sharon. There are many people who usually give the gifts at the reception and family members usually make sure that they secure the gifts. Also, if you have a way to keep the gift in a car (in the trunk out of plain sight) during the church services, you can wait to see if they will announce where to leave the gifts. That way, you can access the gift and leave it where they are asking you to.

  • Sharon says:

    a good article, we or my family ususally give the gifts at the reception and it is plce with others and some family mamber usually take the gifts home so the bride and groom can ope them usually the next day

  • wml24 says:

    I will be travelling from overseas and won’t arrive until the day of the wedding. When/where should I present my gift? I don’t want to take it to the church, and the advice here is not to take it to the reception.

  • Claire Colvin Claire Colvin says:

    Hi Jeanne, The very easiest way to sort this out would be to call the mother of the bride and ask her preference. Do you know if the bride is planning to change her name when she marries? Are you mailing the gift to the bride? If so I would put her maiden name on the address label and then put a card in with the gift that is addressed to both of them but first name only.

  • jeanne steuck says:

    What name do I put on the gift if I mail it?
    Just the bride’s maiden name?
    The bride’s maiden name and the groom’s name?
    Do I sign the card Aunt Jeanne or Jeanne Steuck?

  • Jess says:

    Pete, It really depends on the person/ financial position of the person. For instance my siblings are 26,23 and 9 and my soon to be step sisters 19 and 13 but even though I am only 17 I am the one buying our mum and step dads wedding presents (they refuse to give joint gifts) because I work more hours, and earn better money then my brother and sister and my step sister doesn’t work.

  • Claire Colvin Claire Colvin says:

    Pete, I would not expect a child to give their own gift. As a general rule I’d say if the child is over 18 and working (ie has their own money) and the wedding is for a friend of theirs, not a friend of the parents, then that would be the earliest that it is appropriate expect them to give a gift of their own. At that point they are an adult and can begin to take on the responsibilities of adulthood. If the young person is a student and giving a gift of their own would be a financial burden then contributing toward a gift can make a lot more sense.

  • Pete says:

    At what age should a child be giving their own wedding gift, and not be a part of their parents gift? Thanks

  • Wedding4444 says:

    Interesting article. I think it is always important to do some research. In other words, I would talk to the bride or groom or their family to discover what they would really need. There was so many great choices out there and everyones tastes are unique.

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