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The Refined Rules of Wedding Gift Etiquette

The Refined Rules of Wedding Gift Etiquette

When it comes to giving wedding gifts, it can be hard to know what to give or how much to spend. 

How much is too much? Should I stick to the registry or is cash a better option?

We asked a few experts to answer some of the most common questions about present-day present giving.

Here’s what we unwrapped:

How much should I spend?

What you choose to spend on a wedding gift depends on how well you know the couple or their parents and your budget, says Peggy Post, great granddaughter in-law of Emily Post and co-author of the 18th edition of Emily Post's Etiquette

Wedding guests should be realistic about how much they can afford for a gift and not spend outside of their budget, Post advises.

As for the bride and groom, etiquette expert Charles Purdy recommends registering for gifts in a wide range of prices.

"This way, [guests] won't feel pressured to spend a certain amount," he explains. 

Can I give cash?

Some couples prefer cash, Post says. But how much should you give?

“Some people say there’s a benchmark of $100 but that’s a huge stretch,” Post says. “Other people like to spend more — but the bottom line is, cash is certainly fine.”

Purdy agrees that money is definitely an acceptable wedding gift, and "in some cultures, it's more commonly expected that you give money."

If I'm attending a destination wedding, is my presence enough of a present?

No, it is not,  our experts say.

Most couples understand that the expense of travel might cut into the gift, but according to Post, "it is still customary to send a gift if you are attending.”

Purdy agrees. “It’s customary to give a token gift even if it’s just a token, but it should reflect your relationship with the couple.”

What if I've been invited but cannot attend?

According to Post, it is still customary to send a gift if you cannot attend, but there are a few unwritten guidelines to the rule.

"If you have been invited by someone you don’t know well or don’t keep in touch with, use your judgment, just be sure to RSVP as soon as you know,” she  explains.

Purdy agrees that the choice is yours, but says it is not customary to give a gift if you aren't attending.   “My advice is actually for the couple getting married. When you send your invitations, only send them to people you truly want to come to your wedding,” he explains.

If I bring a gift to the bridal shower, should I still bring a gift to the wedding?

“Shower gifts are not a wedding gifts,” Post reminds us. “I know some of these shower gifts are expensive, but be smart so you don’t have to break the bank.”

I've been invited as someone's date. Should I bring a gift?

"You don’t have to give a separate gift, especially if you don’t really know the couple," Purdy says. "But when in doubt, always offer.”

Post agrees that a plus one is not normally expected to bring a present, but notes that "depending upon how well the plus one knows the family, they may want to give their own gift.”

How long after the wedding can I send a gift?

Post says the common belief that gifts can be sent within a year of the wedding date is somewhat of a myth.

“One year is actually really long,” she says. “Try sending the gift as close to the wedding as possible. It’s good manners. "

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