Thursday, June 16, 2011

You Shouldn’t Have! – The Wedding Edition

When writing my previous entry about becoming an amazing gift giver (and receiver), I had planned to include guidelines for wedding gifting. While many of the same principles apply, wedding gifting is a somewhat different animal and therefore deserves its own entry. This guide is based on feedback from many married couples as well as my fellow singles. Hopefully this will assist you (and those you know – in particular GUYS) in becoming a successful wedding gift giver (and receiver!). So just in time for wedding season here it is!

1. How Much Should I Spend On A Wedding Gift?

The Basic Guideline

There are a variety of opinions online regarding what the minimum that should be spent on a wedding gift. What those opinions don’t take into consideration is the multitude of exceptions that may occur. My basic guideline is that the value of the gift should be at least $50 and adjusted based on the following exceptions.

The Exceptions

  1. Your Financial Situation – If you are fortunate that you are able to give a more generous gift to the newlyweds, by all means do so. I am sure you can recall a time when you were more financially challenged and appreciated the generosity of others. On the flip side, if you barely have two nickels to rub together there are some alternatives which I will get to later in this entry.

  1. Your Relationship With The Couple – For close friends and family members it is always appropriate to be a bit more generous. It is rarely appropriate to be less generous no matter your relationship as the happy couple has hopefully they only invited their nearest and dearest.

  1. Number of Guests in Your Party – Are you a single guest or a family of four? There is no hard and fast rule as to how much more you should spend however it is appropriate to spend more if there are multiple people attending the wedding. Keep in mind that for each person invited the bride and groom are incurring additional costs. Yes, the amount they spend is their choice but keep in mind they were not under any obligation to invite your boyfriend/girlfriend or your children. Choose not to bring these additional guests? Then you are not under any obligation to gift additional as long as you did not RSVP for them.

  1. Location of Wedding – Are you traveling a great distance to the wedding? Some people I have spoken with feel that this negates the need to provide a gift. I disagree. If you are financially able, you should still adhere to the basic guideline and exceptions. If you are spending all of your available funds on travel expenses, you can always gift a bit after the actual wedding (more on the one year rule below) or if finances are particularly sticky check out the alternatives later in this entry.

  1. Not Attending the Wedding – The general rule is that regardless of your attendance at the wedding you are still obligated to send a gift. The ultimate value of that gift can vary but I agree that something should be given to congratulate the happy couple. Emily Post states the following exception: "...if you send invitations to casual acquaintances, business associates you don’t know well or people you haven’t seen in years and they do not attend the festivities, then gifts are not expected.” I somewhat disagree as it is appropriate at the very least to send a card or even a small token of congratulations.
  2. Cultural Considerations - Some cultures have very strict views on the subject of gift giving at weddings. I recommend that if you are attending a wedding that falls in this arena that it is advised to discuss any questions with an individual more familiar with these traditions.


  1. Cost of the Wedding – The idea of giving a wedding gift is to congratulate the bride and groom on making a lifetime commitment – not pay for your seat at their wedding. If that was the case, we should just buy tickets! Whether the couple is having a cake and punch reception in the church hall or a black tie affair at the Four Seasons, keep in mind the reason for your gift.

2. Don’t I Have A Year To Give A Gift?

The answer to this is simple – no. The “one year” rule has become an accepted guideline but unless there is a financial reason to wait to provide a gift it is considered bad form to wait that long. Also, it leaves the couple unsure if a gift was lost or if you chose not to send one. Best bet is to avoid the awkwardness and be as prompt as possible with your gift giving. If your gift will be delayed by a month or more after the wedding, it is best to bring a card with you to the actual wedding. You even may wish to include a note advising the couple that their gift is forthcoming.

3. Do I Really Need To Provide A Gift? I Heard It Is Not Mandatory?

No, it is not “mandatory” but Yes, you need to provide a gift even if it is a small gift. Honestly it is just inappropriate not to give anything.

4. My Budget Is Tight And I Cannot Spend $50 On A Gift. What Are Some Of The Alternatives You Mentioned?

If you are financially challenged or even just looking for an alternate gift to cash or registry items, the next best option is a bottle of champagne or sparkling wine. What is great about champagne or sparkling wine as an alternate gift is that not only is it appropriately festive for the occasion it also does not scream the value of the item as a gift card would do. You are able to give something fun and not look or feel like you cheaped out (well, unless you buy André or the like). While the couple does not have the option to return your gift, it is quite possibly the easiest item to regift.

The best place to shop is a wine specialty store that does a high volume of business. They will be educated in the options available in their store and are likely to have bottles from smaller vineyards that can provide a great value. I personally like K&L Wines as they offer a lot of direct imports that would be difficult to find elsewhere. Due to their large buying power, you can get a very high quality champagne or sparkling wine for well under $50.

Of course you can always still give cash, registry items, and non-registry items (with gift receipts) if you prefer.

5. So What Are The Best Types Of Gifts In General?

This is very simple – cash or registry items. As I mentioned above, if you plan to give a gift off registry (other than champagne) it is critical to give a gift receipt. Otherwise you may have ultimately wasted your money on an item that the couple can’t use.

6. Should I Bring The Gift With Me To The Wedding?

Unless you are bringing a card with a check inside, this should be avoided. At the end of the night there is so much chaos that not having to deal with a multitude of gifts is a gift itself for the newlyweds. Shipping the gift or hand delivering before or after the wedding is the ideal way to handle.

7. I Am Getting Married And I Thought You Said There Was Advice For Me Too?

Of course I did not forget about the soon-to-be-weds out there! Here are a few tips:

  1. A Robust Registry – Even if you had a very successful shower, be sure to have lots of options on your registry as the wedding date approaches. While you may prefer to receive cash (and many people will likely gift you accordingly), you will have guests that would prefer to give you an actual gift. Do not leave them to their own devices! Well, unless they have read this entry that is! If they are registry items you can always return them later.

  1. A Registry With a Variety of Price Points – This will also help eliminate guests going off registry due to lack of availability of affordable items. I have a friend that received a number of “holiday” items she did not register for as a gift. These items were clearly purchased at a post holiday sale approximately four months prior to her wedding. Obviously the gift giver was a on a tight budget and while affordable registry items may not have ultimately played a role, let this be a cautionary tale. The items were not attractive.

  1. Send Prompt Thank You Notes – Yes, this is often the dreaded wet blanket on your post wedding bliss – the abundance of thank you notes. However getting them out right away not only makes the gift giver feel appreciated but serves as a confirmation that the gift was received. With many gifts being shipped these days, you never know what could have gotten lost in the mail.

I hope that after reading this entry you feel well poised to tackle all of your wedding season gifting needs! If you feel that I missed anything, please feel free to comment below.

This entry is dedicated to Melissa, Katy and Jen (as well as their fiancées) – may you receive only the most thoughtful and lovely wedding gifts!

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