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weddings and gifts

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I am not and never have been married. Which of course means that I’ve never had a wedding. I am invited to weddings from time to time, and of course weddings are gift giving occasions. Since I’m always the giver at these things, I’ve got more opinions on that side of things, and I’m going to share them with you.

advice to the happy couple

If you ever look in etiquette books, you’ll see that the bride and groom are always advised that their wedding is not a grabfest and they should refrain from suggesting directly that gifts are required or even anticipated. In English culture, it is definitely not considered polite to mention gifts on the invitations that you print, and including an insert about a registry is also frowned upon. Note that as with all etiquette rules this is culture specific.

Send thank you notes to all the guests that you invite who turn up (regardless of whether they got you a gift), and those who don’t turn up who send best wishes, congratulations or gifts. Essentially, everyone that you invite should be getting a thank you note. If they ignore your invitation and your wedding, then (and probably only then) you needn’t bother.

advice to the guest

Get a gift. If you’ve been invited, get a gift regardless of whether you’re going or not. It’s true that you don’t have to, but it is expected, by society at large, that you will. No gift needs to cost a lot of money and it doesn’t need to be taken from a registry. It should simply be something appropriate to both you and the couple, as far as is reasonably practicable.

There are exceptions. But if you’ve been invited, politeness requires that you send at least a card with your best wishes. Failure to do this is really an insult to the couple. Meaning to be rude and doing it is one thing, but inadvertently being rude is something to be avoided.

double standards

So, I’ve suggested that couples getting married definitely shouldn’t expect gifts from their guests, and guests definitely should send gifts to couples. Does this feel like a double standard to you?

It’s not. The rule of being polite and courteous is that you put yourself out in order to make things more comfortable for other people. It is more polite not to expect a gift than to expect one. But on the other hand, it is much more polite to send a gift to a wedding than not to send one. It indicates that you care about the couple, and that you support their marriage.

If you suspect that you’ve only been invited in order to solicit a gift, then you can either fulfil their expectation and send a gift, or send a gift of nominal cost - which could just be a card. If you aren’t that close, and they moan about it to other people, they will only make themselves look bad. Sort of giving them enough rope really.

what do I actually do?

I consider myself pretty lucky. All the weddings I’ve been invited to have been for people that I would consider friends to some degree or another. If they’ve had a registry of gifts I’ve always bought off that, which has worked out well because some/most of them have had very different taste in stuff to me. Otherwise, my standard gift is a bottle of champagne or wine, or extremely posh chocolates for non-drinkers. Plus a card filled with best wishes. I can be a bit cheap I guess, because I normally spend in the £20-£25 range (approx $40-$50). I would push the boat out for siblings or parents (and any other close relatives if I acquired them) but haven’t had the occasion to yet.

what about you?

What do you think about weddings gifts? Do you feel as more or less obligation to send them than I do? Let me know in the comments.

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12 comments for “weddings and gifts”

  1. I’ve only once not sent a gift, but it was to an ex-roommate of my partners- they weren’t close and we were living on another continent, so I just sent a card.
    Because my friends that are getting married are back in the UK, I’m all about gift cards- pretty dull but everyone can spend money at John Lewis, right?
    Although a friend is just back from her honeymoon and I like the idea of sending her a bottle of champagne- I see (on facebook) she is a bit upset it’s all over!

    Posted by Looby | July 11, 2008, 3:18 pm
  2. Interesting post. I’m getting married in 3 weeks. We did not mention gifts on the invitation (as I think it would be inappropriate), and we will be grateful for whatever we get. We definitely did not invite anyone just to get a gift. That’s just rude.

    As a guest, I usually give a gift from the couple’s registry for the shower (if I’m invited to that as well), and cash or a personal gift for the wedding.

    Posted by Kristen | July 11, 2008, 3:43 pm
  3. I always give cash and I have a sliding scale as far as how much I give (in USD):

    Friend/acquaintence: $100-$150
    Close Friend: $200-$300
    Family : $500

    I do have an interesting situation that may come up soon concerning someone who owes me $600 and has a wedding coming up. It’s been 2+ years since I loaned him the money and haven’t heard a peep from him about it. Do I give a gift ?? Most say DO NOT GIFT… What do you think ?

    Posted by PT | July 11, 2008, 6:40 pm
  4. I have mixed feelings. I’ve had enough of scrimping and saving to give family a good gift and never getting so much as a thank you. One of my friends got married, had 550 guests and after counting up all their gifts had £70,000 downpayment for a flat.
    My own extended family is very greedy always happy to receive not happy to give. My friends are wonderful, and I am always happy to send gifts and let them know how happy I am for them!
    When I lived across the pond, I couldn’t believe how many presents people got, the average person had 2 showers, an engagement party and the wedding, that was 4 presents and it was very rare to find anything on the list for less than $75!!! I did find that ridiculous!
    This reminds me of the scene in Sex in the City where Carrie Bradshaw says married people get all the gifts!!

    Posted by Frugal Trenches | July 12, 2008, 1:01 pm
  5. I ended up mentioning the registry on our little wedding website because we used an alternative one which was less store-constrained. But it confused some people, so I posted a short “how to.” Felt awkward, but people seemed ok with it.

    Anyway, we always give something. It may be a lettuce crisper if we don’t know the couple well and don’t have much money. Once I gave the sewing for the wedding dress (she bought the fabric). Our idea is that it we’re participating in the community that supports these two people, and that the gift is a real and symbolic way of showing that support.

    Posted by Mrs. Micah | July 12, 2008, 8:04 pm
  6. As you might have guessed I’m a big gift person. I think that if you support a marriage, the least that you can do is send a gift - and a card with warm wishes is as good a gift as anything.

    Gift showers are definitely not an English thing. I’m not sure how I’d react and as I say, I rarely spend a lot of money on these sorts of gifts anyway. I think it’s the thought that counts?

    Posted by plonkee | July 12, 2008, 9:50 pm
  7. It’s equally hard to be the people getting married… everyone has their own ideas of what is bad manners and what is not when it comes to gift registries. You can’t win!

    Posted by Claire | July 14, 2008, 9:51 am
  8. I come from an ethnic background that the custom is to give money at the wedding and at the engagement part. You gave gifts at the bridal shower and sometimes at the engagement party as well. -Expensive then, expensive now.

    I’m not married and over the course of my lifetime, I’ve aquired many of those items one gets as gifts-household items, BBQ grill, power tools (yes I own a Skil Saw, nice dishes and glasses, good linens.

    The married people do get the best presents.

    Posted by bouncing back | July 16, 2008, 2:16 pm
  9. I always give a gift, usually based on how well I know the couple. If it’s a close friend I may vary from the registry, getting something I think reflects the couple and that they will appreciate. When I’m not very close I’ll get something I can afford from their registry or get something I can’t afford with a group of friends. One group of 10-12 of us tend to pool our resources and have given cash, 3/4 the cash needed to a high end bed, and a great video camera for a couple that document everything.

    I think when it fits with the couple’s style (not just what you found for a good deal) it is the thought that counts.

    Posted by sara l | July 16, 2008, 3:07 pm
  10. @sara:
    I think if you’re getting something because it’s cheap and it doesn’t suit the couple, then the (lack of) thought speaks for itself. I’m definitely a gift person :) .

    Posted by plonkee | July 16, 2008, 4:03 pm
  11. All of the above is so very true. And when it comes right down to it, today the thing most couples seem to be doing is cash or checks in a card. Seriously a wedding i shot from this past weekend, maybe only two gifts on the table but the box was chuck full of cards which generally mean cash for the couple!

    Posted by New England Wedding Photographer | October 29, 2008, 5:48 pm
  12. Ultimately, when shopping for wedding gifts for a second marriage, remember that the couple will most appreciate the fact that you witnessed their union.

    Posted by online wedding invitation | October 28, 2009, 9:18 am

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