Since the beginning of the wedding season, every week, whether on Twitter, on Facebook or via email or the end of a business etiquette conference, I have been asked numerous questions about the dos and don’ts of our present day, wedding gift practices.
To help you decide what to get and how much to spend, here are the answers to five general wedding gift queries.
1. Does every wedding invitation require a gift?
Although a puzzle for many, the wedding invitation is the key to this question and many other details, such as what to wear and who to go with.
Even if it never contains a gift mention, the unspoken tradition of a wedding invitation does contain that gift-giving obligation.
Hence, the short answer is, yes, every wedding invitation requires a gift. This includes giving a present when you will not be present at the wedding. You also offer a gift when you are coming from out of town and spending a lot on travelling, accommodations, attire plus whatever else.
The only exception is for remote invitees, such as acquaintances or business associates that have not been in touch with either member of the couple within the last the couple of years and will not be attending the wedding. If you are an acquaintance or a business associate that had not been in touch with either member of the couple within the last couple of years and are attending the wedding, you must give a gift.
2. How much should you spend on a wedding gift?
Contrary to popular belief, there is no set rule or magical formula for the appropriate gift amount. A wedding gift should not be viewed as an exchange or reciprocation by trying to figure out the amount the couple will be spending on each guest, on their big day.
The choice of what to get and how much to spend is still the guest’s prerogative. For the perfect wedding gift you should consider: your relationship to the couple, your feelings for them, their likes, their wishes and your budget. Support them and respect yourself.
3. How should brides and grooms spread the word about their wish list?
The ideal way of informing guests of a couple’s gift desires is the good old fashion ‘word of mouth’ through loved ones, family members and wedding party attendants.
The couple should express their gift wishes to these select few by providing them with complete gift details, registries or charitable donations that include addresses, phone numbers, websites and the desired delivery address for the receipt of the gifts.
For cash or cheque gifts that will contribute to a big gift, such as a home theatre, living room furniture, a vacation or a down payment on a home, could be stated as: “They have been dreaming of a Mediterranean cruise, if you wish, you may make a contribution to the realization of that dream.”
Do what is traditionally or culturally acceptable, in your world. Generally, the couple should never insert gift information with a wedding invitation. It is simply tacky and inappropriate. But, as we say, you know your people.
Even the cute and clever mention: Your presence is present enough, should be avoided. It switches the emphasis from requesting the presence of a guest to receiving a gift.
Note that a hostess adding wedding gift registry information on a shower invitation is acceptable and appropriate.
When the couple is directly asked what gift they would like, they should always answer that the choice is the invitee’s: “As you wish. Whatever you want us to enjoy will truly be appreciated.” If the guest insists the future couple should only then give details.
4. What is the timeline for wedding gift giving?
It starts as soon as the invitations are received and ideally ends by the wedding day.
The one-year allowance is a myth, but it is never too late to send a wedding gift.
It is always best to send or hand deliver a gift before the wedding.
Avoid bringing wedding gifts to the reception unless you are aware that it is part of the couple’s culture.
Cash gifts in envelopes, hand delivered at the wedding reception, is acceptable.
5. How should the couple thank guests for: their gifts, the hosting of events, the gift of time or special favours, and the wedding attendants?
Wedding gifts and favours must always be acknowledged with thank you notes, even if the giver was graciously thanked in person.
When writing thank you notes always consider the person, your relationship with him or her and the gift her or she offered. Write genuinely, gratefully, and positively, with personal references to the people and gift.
One good practice is to keep a gift record with: a detailed description of the gift, the senders’ names (proper spelling) and addresses, the date of the receipt and the date of the sent thank you card.
Send thank you notes as you receive gifts. Couples have up to three months to send the thank you notes. Nowadays, the load may be shared between the bride and the groom.
To reassure the sender, delivered gifts should be acknowledged by a phone call and followed up by a thank you note.
When thanking for the gift of money, do mention what the money will be contributing to in your note.
Write special, personal thank yous for all the wedding attendants (maid of honour, bridesmaids, best man, groomsmen, ushers, flower girls, ring and train bearers) and hand them out personally at the rehearsal dinner.
Thank you notes to contractual services are not required but should be done for those who exceeded expectations along with a surplus tip.
Thank you notes to parents, stepparents and grandparents are not expected but are certainly heart warming and sentimental keepsakes.
Wedding gift thank yous via email, as a general social network thank you for all to read or generic pre-printed messages, are not appropriate.
In the end, a wedding gift is about love and support. Give with your heart, respect your budget and if you’re the newlyweds, thank promptly and graciously.
May you all live happily ever after.