Wedding Gift Etiquette

Though the word etiquette may sound very old-fashioned by today’s standards there are still some rules that the giving and receiving of wedding gifts go by. The following will provide some insight in what to do if you are the one expected to provide a gift, or the happy couple who are getting married.


When you receive an invitation to a wedding it is typical to be expected to arrive bearing a gift. Whether you are able or unable to attend the ceremony and reception it is good etiquette to provide a gift to the soon-to-be-married couple. For some this can be quite a challenge, particularly if the wedding is being held at a significant distance from you. This may have some impact on the gift you choose.

Businessman holding gifts

It is quite typical for brides to set up a gift registry at a chain department store. There are several advantages to doing this. One of them is that you can check the registry to see what gifts have already been purchased by other guests and which ones are still to be purchased. In this way you are assured that the couple will not receive the same gift from both you and another guest.
You do not have to provide a gift from the registry, though in doing so you are more likely to give the couple things they can use in their new life together. While often young people already have many of the common appliances and furnishings it is just as common for the newlywed couple to want to begin their married life with new ones. If you don’t want to purchase a gift from the registry list just bear in mind the types of things a young couple will need to set up their home.

If you are not able to attend the wedding you will need to find out where to mail your gift to. Shipping of  large and/or fragile items will take some care, but this can often be alleviated by purchasing online and having the supplier ship directly to the couple’s designated gift receiving address. This will save you time and often money, as well as the challenge of ensuring the gift is packed well enough to arrive undamaged.

Female hands taking giftbox

A monetary gift is often a good idea if you don’t know what else to buy. Gift cards to home improvement and/or department stores can also be advantageous to newlywed couples. In this way they can purchase things they need. There is some debate as to whether gift cards and/or money is suitable to give as wedding gifts but this is something you will have to decide for yourself. On the one hand money and/or gift cards may seem impersonal and lacking in thought, but on the other hand the opposite may well be the case and the giver wants the couple to buy something special rather than be sent something they don’t want, need or even like. Gift cards and cash are also handy when you are on a strict budget and many of the gifts on the registry are outside of your price range.

Whether arriving with a gift, shipping one or arranging the shipment of a gift ensure you include a card that clearly states who the gift is from. A small notation in one bottom corner that indicates what you are giving the couple will make it easier for the bride and groom to acknowledge your gift after they return from their honeymoon. It can be quite a nightmare to figure out who gave what if cards get mixed up or gifts are given with no card attached.


When sending out wedding invitations have your gift registry already organized. Some guests will immediately purchase a gift so that they get the best choices before anyone else sees the list. If you don’t have your registry list organized you run the risk of receiving phone calls from guests inquiring as to what you want. It may seem somewhat mercenary to then tell them you want A, B or C. A gift registry takes all the guesswork and potential embarrassment out of the equation.

Golden gift boxes

Bear in mind the financial resources of your guests. There is no point in putting large, expensive items on your list and expecting out of town guests with limited funds to be able to purchase and arrive with such gifts. Often when finances are tight just being able to be there to see you get married and share in the celebration afterwards is as much as some people can afford. While they may be able to stretch to a nominal gift to expect an expensive one will cause some guests great upset. If you make your expectation of expensive gifts widely known it may be enough to cause some guests to turn down your invitation. To this end ensure that your gift registry list includes lower priced items as well as the pricier ones.

Be suitably appreciative. Everyone wants to know that the gift they spent time selecting and money buying is going to be well received and appreciated. When the gifts are laid out on the table for everyone to see try and make sure that every gift is able to be viewed and that none are shoved half hidden under others. Your guests are likely to wander past the table and will be searching for the gift they sent. If they fail to see their gift it may lead them to wonder what happened to it, whether it arrived safely or whether you in fact like the gift.

It is not only good etiquette but imperative that once you return from honeymoon you take the time to write a personal thank you card to everyone who purchased a gift for you. A handwritten note will take a little time but shows that you really do appreciate the money and time spent to give you what you asked for. Whoever does the unpacking/unwrapping of gifts must make a note on the card of the gift that came with it to prevent a logistical nightmare when gifts and cards get mixed up. One way to do this is to photograph each card with the gift as it is unwrapped.