Modern weddings aren’t like those traditional events of the past. The rules have changed and etiquette has shifted – in line with the lifestyles of young couples in today’s day and age.
We were recently guests at a wedding and the topic of gifting came up (outside the earshot of the bride and groom of course). There were conflicting beliefs around the table, which prompted us to delve deeper into the new social norm for wedding gift etiquette.
Everyone has a different interpretation of good etiquette when giving a wedding gift. For instance: is it standard to spend what you estimate the married couple paid for you to attend? Are you supposed to spend less if you had to travel? Should you save up and budget to spend a certain amount on the newlyweds?
Let’s clarify what the appropriate wedding gift etiquette is and some basic answers to the the age old question: “How much should I spend on a wedding gift?”
We outline the wedding gift etiquette and that align with the evolution of the modern wedding below in easy to break down categories.
Essential etiquette for the modern wedding
Buying from the registry or other wedding gift ideas
Once upon a time it was considered inappropriate to include gifting expectations in the invitation, and the only way you heard about a gift registry was through word of mouth. These days, most couples on their way to the altar have a registry which you can access via a family member or member of the bridal party. Don’t be fooled into thinking this seems greedy; if anything, the lovebirds are doing both you and the environment a favour by saving you from buying items they simply don’t need. Many modern couples are live together before they get married, so they don’t require the typical household ‘startup’ gifts like toasters and wine glasses anymore. Instead, we’re finding that there’s been a steep increase in a preference for useful gifts over sentimental ones – so don’t be surprised if you see luxury appliances or technology in place of a set of linens.
If you find that the registry items are outside of your budget, consider teaming up with other guests attending the wedding to purchase a gift together. Nine times out of ten the couple would prefer to have one gift they really wanted instead of several smaller presents they might already have. Alternatively, if you’re finding cost to be an issue, have you thought about contributing to the wedding itself? If you are looking for a wedding gift that is helpful, you might like to take care of organising the wedding cake, ordering the wedding flowers, or helping to make the reception decorations, instead of spending cash on something ‘wrappable’.
Should I gift money? How and when?
It’s not uncommon for modern couples who already live together or out of home to opt for a Wishing Well or Honeymoon Fund in lieu of a wedding gift. If the couple has asked for a contribution to a fund in place of a wedding gift, but you’d prefer to buy them something tangible, you are not required to stick to a donation. However, take the time to consider whether the gift you intend to give is practical, thoughtful or personal.
How much should I spend on a wedding gift?
There is no set rule that says you should spend X,Y or Z on a wedding gift for the newlyweds – just that you factor in your relationship to the bride and groom and your personal budget. There are a few tables floating around the internet that have roughly outlined the appropriate amount to spend. We found this table to be a good average example, from Cheryl Seidel, a wedding etiquette expert in America.
Destination wedding gift etiquette
The destination wedding is only growing in popularity; contemporary brides and grooms are opting for holidays away with close friends and family over the expense of a more traditional wedding. While destination weddings are a blast, they can be expensive for guests to attend – so whats the correct gifting etiquette? Most couples will make it clear on the invitation if they aren’t expecting gifts. If there is no mention of it, it is proper manners to send a gift, though financial expectation is often far lower.
Travel to wedding gift etiquette
If the wedding isn’t necessarily at a ‘destination’ but significant travel is still required in order to attend, it is absolutely okay to factor those costs into your budget for the gift. The extra effort you put in to take time off work, book flights, accommodation, and even potential need for specific items of clothing can take a major toll on your hip pocket – especially if you are taking your family. More often than not, the bride and groom will understand this too.
It’s important to remember the two golden rules when buying a gift: 1) your relationship with the bride and groom, and 2) your personal financial situation. If you are close to them both, rest assured that the fact you’re there to share their special day with them is more valuable than any gift you could possibly buy.