Everything You Need to Know About Wedding Gift Etiquette

Your comprehensive guide to gift-giving.

Wedding gifts
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We've said it before, and we'll say it again: Weddings are the single trickiest parcel of etiquette territory to navigate, but luckily for you, we're here to be your good-manners guide. Below, we're tackling all of your questions about wedding gift etiquette, from how much you should spend to buying something that's not on the registry. Start taking notes.

How Long Do I Have to Send a Gift?

While tradition once suggested you could send gifts within a year following the wedding, the age of free two-day shipping has pretty much killed this rule. Rather, gifts should be sent between the time you receive the invitation and up to three months after the wedding. Ideally, though, the bride and groom will have received your gift before the big day. (Early gifting also allows the couple to get a jumpstart on thank you notes—and who wouldn't appreciate that?)

Is It Appropriate to Bring My Gift to the Wedding?

It depends on the couple. In some communities, it's expected that you'll bring your gift to the wedding and there will be a table at the reception where you can leave it. But for the most part, these days (again, this is the age of two-day shipping), you can simply purchase a gift off the registry, and the registry site will ensure it is shipped directly to the couple's preferred address. Plus, shipping the gift ahead of time means the couple and their families won't be loading up a carful of gifts following the reception.

Do I Have to Send a Gift If I'm Not Going to the Wedding?

The answer depends on your relationship with the couple. If you are close friends or family of the bride or groom, you'll want to honor their marriage with a thoughtful note and nice gift. If you aren't especially close to the couple, you can likely get away with dropping just a nice note in the mail with well wishes—no gift required. That said, recognize that a wedding invitation is a gracious gesture that demonstrates how the couple views their relationship with you. A wedding invitation is a signal that they appreciate your friendship and wanted to include you in the celebrations; even if you can't attend (and even if you don't reciprocate their feelings), sending a gift is an easy way to demonstrate your recognition of their thoughtfulness.

Am I Expected to Give a Gift for a Destination Wedding?

This is one scenario where your presence truly is present enough. The bride and groom recognize the financial undertaking that attending a destination wedding can be and as such, likely do not expect a gift. A thoughtful handwritten note is a lovely gesture in lieu of a gift. Of course, if you'd like to give the couple a gift and are financially able to do so, you should. Nothing beats presence and presents. Finally, if you'd like to give a gift, but finances are tight because of the wedding travel expenses, it's still acceptable to send a gift up to three months after the wedding, so you can give your budget a little breathing room between expenditures.

How Much Should I Spend on a Gift?

Somewhere along the way, someone suggested that you should spend as much on a wedding gift as was spent on you, the guest. So if you were attending a $100/head wedding, you should spend that amount on a gift. Let's go ahead and bury this one: What you spend on a wedding gift should not be determined by the wedding itself. Rather, let your relationship with the couple and your own financial situation guide you in the gift selection. All that matters is that your gift is chosen thoughtfully and with care; as long as you do that, how much you spend doesn't matter.

Is It Okay to Give a Group Gift?

Absolutely. Going in on a big-ticket item with a group is an easy way to gift the couple something they'll really love without totally breaking the bank. This is an especially good idea for members of the wedding party, who have already bought multiple shower gifts and sprung for bridesmaids' dresses and bachelor parties as well. Should you choose to give a group gift, stay away from the smaller, more inexpensive items: Spending $2 each may, indeed, be a bargain, but that's plain tacky.

Do I Have to Buy a Gift from the Registry?

While you aren't required to buy the couple a gift off the registry, shopping the registry will make your life infinitely easier: A) You'll know that your gift is something the bride and groom actually want and B) You don't have to deal with getting the gift into the couple's hands. All you have to do is write a little note to go inside the tag, submit your credit card info, and you're good to go! Piece of cake. That said, if you choose to shop off the registry, be thoughtful in your selection and make sure that you're buying the couple something special that they want or need, rather than something that's just convenient for you to give them.

How Do I Know If They Received My Gift?

A thank you note from the couple is the best way to know if your gift has been received, notes the Emily Post Institute. And if you don't receive a thank you note from the couple three months after the wedding, the Emily Post Institute advises, it's okay to check in with the newlyweds to ensure they received your gift. Just don't be passive aggressive about it. If you don't want to bother the couple, you can always ask for delivery confirmation from whomever shipped the gift.

Is It Acceptable to Give the Couple Cash?

Certainly. If you'd rather give the couple money than a gift, it can be given to them via cash or check, along with a nice note. Should you write the couple a check, include only one of their names on the check to avoid confusion at the bank, and include on the memo line (and your note, of course) that it is a wedding gift for both. Some couples will also register for honeymoon funds, which, whether you find them appropriate or not, simplifies monetary gift-giving.

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