Wedding gift-giving 101

One of the most frequent questions I receive from friends, family and clients is how much one is expected to spend on a wedding gift. I guess it can be difficult to determine, with various options and so many rules of etiquette. First of all, whenever you are invited to a wedding, that invitation carries with it the obligation to send a gift, even if you are not able to attend. If I can’t make it to the wedding, I usually pick a gift from the registry that’s between $50-$100 depending on my friendship with the couple. If I do plan to attend the wedding, the amount I spend on the gift typically goes up. According to Emily Post, author of several books on etiquette, the dollar amount of your gift does not need to meet the dollar amount the family is spending, per head, on the wedding. In other words, you’re not expected to cover the cost of your attendence. You should always base your gift-giving decisions on your relationship with the couple.

Wedding registries are so standard these days, you almost always have the choice to buy a gift that the couple registered for, thereby taking the guesswork out of it. But you do have other options. Some people prefer to choose a gift that is much more personal than flatware and bedding. If you’re close to the couple, you may choose to do this. But don’t hesitate to buy from the registry just because you think it’s unoriginal, or expected. The couple probably spent a lot of time registering for their wedding gifts and the items they picked out will have a place in their new life together. You can also give cash gifts. Many couples prefer this because maybe they already own homes and have all the appliances they need. Or perhaps they can really use the cash to help pay for the wedding. If you’re not very close to the bride and groom, it’s a good idea to find out from a relative, or maybe a friend who is close to the couple whether a cash gift is appropriate.

If you hate the thought of picking something from a registry or giving cash because you feel it is impersonal, as I sometimes do, you can personalize your gift with an added touch, such as a card. If I’m giving a cash gift, I always purchase a beautiful card and write a very warm and personal note to the bride and groom. If your gift is a blender off of the registry, you can buy a book of drink recipes to go with it. Your gift, no matter what shape or form it come in, should show that you’ve given some thought to the process and not merely performed a formality.