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Wedding Gift Giving Etiquette

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When a wedding is on the horizon, there can often be confusion about gifts for the bride and groom. Our handy guide to proper wedding gift giving etiquette answers common questions about which occasions require gifts, whether the bride and groom must have a registry, how much guests should spend on gifts, and more!

Engagement Party

What it is: These optional parties are a fun and typically informal way to announce your upcoming wedding.

Who attends: Family and friends of the bride and groom.

Are gifts required? Guests invited to the engagement party are not obligated to bring gifts. They may choose to, especially if the couple specifically announces that it is an engagement party ahead of time.

Gift etiquette: In order to avoid singling out guests who did not bring gifts, the bride and groom should not open any gifts received at the party in front of guests. Keep in mind that the more formal the engagement party, the more the implication exists that gifts are expected. To avoid this assumption, simply invite people to a party and make the engagement announcement a surprise. However, guests may send presents to the couple after the announcement, and each gift should be recognized with a "thank you" note.

Bridal or Wedding Shower

What it is: The bridal shower is thrown for either just the bride or for the bride and groom together. According to lore, the first wedding shower was thrown for a couple who was deeply in love, but lacked the money to marry. Their friends and family got together and "showered" the couple with gifts to help them start their new life together. The tradition lives on, but these days it's more of an opportunity for friends to celebrate with the bride and groom before their big day.

Who attends: Showers are usually smaller, more intimate get-togethers for close friends and family.

Are gifts required? Bridal shower guests generally do bring gifts, but they are not usually from the couple's wedding registry. Wedding shower gifts tend to be specific presents for either the bride or groom (or both), or geared toward helping them with something other than the household. For example, some showers are themed around the couple's honeymoon destinations. At these events, guests bring gifts that are related to the theme. These can be travel books, maps, pocket dictionaries, luggage, etc.

Gift etiquette: Bridal shower gifts can be practical or fun, depending on the theme and the people invited. Many female-only bridal shower attendees give the bride special gifts to make her husband happy. Often, bridesmaids will give gag gifts or presents designed to make the bride laugh - it's a great way to relieve stress before the big day!

Wedding Gifts

What it is: Wedding gifts are given to the couple to help them start married life out on the right foot.

Are gifts required? When you receive a wedding invitation, it is customary to send a gift, whether or not you are able to attend. A gift is a great way to express best wishes to the couple for a long and happy life together.

Depending on your relationship with the couple, the gift can be small or something more substantial. A gift should be a token of affection, and is not intended to pay for the wedding. Contrary to popular belief, the value of the gift is not determined by calculating the amount of money spent on the reception divided by the number of guests.

Gift etiquette: Registries can be helpful, but avoid making guests feel as if they must purchase something from it - some people may wish to surprise the couple with something personal. It is considered presumptuous to list wedding registries in your invitations. Guests who wish to find out where the couple is registered can ask a family member, someone in the wedding party, or others who are helping out with the planning. Last but not least, if the wedding is canceled for any reason, returning each gift to its sender is a must.

Rehearsal Dinner/Lunch

What it is: Just before the wedding, the bride and groom enjoy a meal with the bridal party and immediate family after rehearsing for the big day.

Who attends: Bride, groom, immediate family, and wedding party attendants.

Are gifts required? Typically the bride gives bridesmaids gifts to her bridesmaids and maid of honor, and the groom will give groomsmen gifts to his best man and groomsmen. The attendants can also give a gift to the couple to wish them well in their lives together.

Gift etiquette: It is customary for the bride and groom to give a gift to each individual in their wedding party as a "thank you" for their involvement. Being in a bridal party can often be very time-consuming and in some cases very expensive, so a gift for each of the bridesmaids and groomsmen is a great way to show your appreciation.

Day of the Wedding

What it is: The big day!

Who attends: Bride, groom, family, friends, and other invitees.

Are gifts required? Wedding favors are completely optional, but they are a fantastic way to send your guest home with a token of your love and friendship, and to thank them for being a part of your wedding day. Couples often prepare gifts for their guests as a personal thank you to each person for attending.

Gift etiquette: Preparing favors for guests is meant to be a sign of your appreciation and should only be what you're comfortable with giving. Don't feel obligated to measure up to someone else's standards of etiquette - whether you give one per guest or one per couple is completely up to you.

Wedding favors can also serve as mementos for the occasion. When it comes to picking out your favors, the choices are virtually limitless. There are some traditional favors still preferred in certain cultural weddings, but for the most part couples have the freedom to use their imagination and come up with something that their guests will enjoy and that truly reflects their personalities.

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