Friendships, Lifestyle

Wedding Gift Giving: A Modern Wedding Gift Etiquette Guide

Great news! Someone you love is getting married. It’s time for celebrating, gathering — and gift-giving. 

Gift-giving is a wedding tradition that goes back hundreds of years. For centuries, wedding gifts have been a way to provide couples with what they need to start their life together. While traditions have changed over the years (gifts are now less about showing the status and wealth of the gift giver, and fewer couples need basic household necessities at the start of their marriage), one thing remains true. 

Giving a wedding gift is a way to show your support, love, and thoughtfulness. When you choose a gift with heart and mindfulness, it reflects your affection and respect for a couple's new journey together. 

Gift-giving is a heartfelt occasion, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t come with its challenges. 

Knowing what to give, how much to spend, and when to present your gift can be difficult. To help you through the process, we put together this wedding gift etiquette guide to help you handle wedding gift-giving like a pro. 


Understanding Wedding Gift Etiquette

While there are no set rules for giving gifts to the people closest to you, there are a few guidelines to help you through the process. This wedding gift etiquette guide will outline the modern expectations, social norms, and customs associated with giving gifts to newlyweds. Let’s start with the basics. 

  • Look at the registry. It’s common for couples to create a wedding gift registry that lists all of the items they would like to receive. You can remove the guesswork of gift giving by purchasing directly from the list. If you’d like to give something more personal, you can use the registry to get an idea of the couple’s style, wants, and needs. 
  • Consider gifting cash. For a wedding gift, it’s perfectly acceptable to give cash or a check. While it may feel impersonal, cash is a gift that all couples can appreciate as they can use it to pay for items as well as in-person experiences and other miscellaneous expenses. 
  • Stay focused on the couple. The key to giving a treasured wedding gift is giving the couple something that they will use, value, and appreciate. Always keep the couple’s style, story, and situation at the forefront of your gift shopping. For gift ideas, browse their social media accounts and wedding websites to get inspiration from their preferences, interests, and aesthetics. 


How Much to Spend on a Wedding Gift

Price is one of the first questions someone has when shopping for a wedding gift. How much should you spend? Well, it depends. 

A wedding gift etiquette guide by The Knot lists the average wedding gift cost as $160. This budget was determined by a survey of wedding guest attendees in 2022. The budget is a good starting point to help you find the right amount for your unique situation. Start here, then adjust the number based on other factors.    

  • What is your relationship with the bride and groom? You may want to spend more if it’s a close friend or family member, while you may want to spend less on a work colleague or coworker. 
  • Did you also give a bridal shower gift? If you attended a bridal shower, you are also expected to give a wedding gift. You don’t necessarily need to double your budget for two gifts. Instead, divide your budget between the bridal shower and wedding gift. 
  • Who is attending the wedding with you? If you attend a wedding on your own, you may want to budget for a less expensive gift than if you attend with a date or multiple family members. 
  • What else did you spend on the wedding? Your budget may increase or decrease depending on other expenses associated with the wedding, such as travel and lodging costs for destination weddings. 
  • What is your budget? When it comes down to it, a gift isn’t about the cost. As the expression goes, it’s the thought that counts. Your loved ones don’t want you to experience financial hardship to give them an expensive gift. Be mindful of your finances, and only give what makes you comfortable. 


Creative and Thoughtful Gift Ideas

Now that you have an idea of what to spend, what should you buy? Here are a few creative and thoughtful ideas to help you commemorate a couple’s wedding. 

Customized Gifts: Provide a one-of-a-kind keepsake for the couple by customizing a gift such as a: 

  • Personalized photo album or framed wedding invitation
  • Artwork or decor featuring their last name
  • Engraved glassware, cutting boards, or serving trays

Wedding Day Gifts: Give a gift that elevates the wedding day, such as a high-end serving set for cake cutting, a set of champagne glasses and a bottle of bubbly for the couple’s first toast, or a beautifully bound book for guests to sign and share their messages of love. 

Experience Gifts: Instead of giving an item, give an experience. Gift a couple something they can enjoy together such as a: 

  • Spa day or couples massage
  • Cooking class or wine-tasting
  • Honeymoon excursion

Group Gifts: If you have your eye on a gift that is out of your price range, consider asking a group of friends or family members to go in on a gift together. A group gift allows you to pool resources to purchase a more significant or elaborate gift.

Related: Gifting Made Easy with Charcuterie Board Gift Baskets


The Do's and Don'ts of Wedding Gift Giving

Everyone wants to deliver the perfect gift experience on a couple’s big day. To help you through the other nuisances of gift-giving, use the dos and don’ts of this wedding gift etiquette guide to help you navigate any other questionable situations. 

DON’T wait until the last minute. Some wedding gift etiquette guides say you can send a wedding gift up to a year after the ceremony, but we recommend gifting during the three months before or after the wedding. It’s even more important to shop early if you want to buy from a registry. If you wait too long, many of the items may already be purchased. 

DO keep the couple’s perspective in mind. The best gifts are the ones that people can use and appreciate. Always keep the couple’s unique style, lifestyle, and aesthetic at the forefront of your mind while looking for a git. For example, if the couple lives in a one-bedroom apartment, they may not have room for bulky gifts. Or, if their personal style is filled with bright colors, they may not want to display a black-and-white portrait. 

DON’T bring a bulky gift to the wedding. Physical gifts give couples one more thing to worry about on their wedding day. To make it easier on couples, it has become more customary to only bring cash or small gifts to the wedding ceremony. If you have a bulky gift, sending or delivering it before or after the wedding is better. 

DO address the check the right way. If you write a check to the couple, make sure they can easily cash it. Address it to only one person (the person you have a closer relationship with) and avoid using new last names as it can take some time for name changes to be processed. 

DON’T skip the gift even if you don’t attend the wedding. In most cases, even if you can’t attend the wedding, it’s a nice (and often expected) gesture to send a small gift. You don’t need to spend as much as if you were attending the wedding, but you should send at least a card and a small gift to the happy couple. (And of course, remember to RSVP even if you can’t attend.)

DO celebrate all weddings. Many weddings no longer look as traditional as they did years ago. While traditions may have changed (there are now more elopements, small private ceremonies, or second marriages than in the past), a wedding gift remains your opportunity to celebrate and cherish the couple’s love. It is meaningful to share a celebratory gift even in less traditional wedding situations.


Going Beyond the Gift

Throughout history, giving a wedding gift was a way to help a young couple get the items they need to start their life. These days, many couples have most of the essential items they need to fill their homes, so gift-giving has changed. It is less about things and more about thoughtfulness. 

As a wedding approaches, consider how else you can show love and support to the couple in addition to offering a tangible gift.

For example, reach out during the weeks before the wedding to see how you can help with preparation and planning. Small gestures such as assembling wedding favors, running errands, or helping with transportation around the wedding can make a huge difference to an overwhelmed couple. And when you offer a gift, include a heartfelt, personal message that conveys your best wishes and love for the couple.

Related: Gifts She'll Love: Fran's Women's Gift Guide


Put This Wedding Gift Etiquette Guide to Use

With the tips outlined in this wedding gift etiquette guide, you can go into the wedding season with the insight to pick out the perfect gift. Use these ideas to select a gift that represents celebration and support and shows your love and appreciation for the happy couple. 

For more inspiration on gifting with intention, explore Fran Berger’s other fine living advice guides and collection of homewares and curated goods.



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