Wedding Gift Etiquette

Unsure what to give as a wedding gift or how much to spend? Or perhaps you’re the couple and instead of a gift you’d like to ask for honeymoon money, but aren’t sure of a polite way to do so? We are unveiling the mysteries of wedding gift etiquette. These are five top tips for the guests, and another five for the couple.

wedding gift etiquette

Advice for guests

Should I send a gift if I’m not attending the wedding?

The golden rule of wedding gifts is that if you receive a wedding invitation and the couple have included specific gifting instructions, then you should always give a gift even if you cannot attend. The ideal time to do this would be when you RSVP no, but it’s acceptable to send a gift up to two months after the wedding.

While having said that, it’s not polite for a couple to expect anything. So if one of your non-attending guests doesn’t send a gift, don’t hold it against them. They may have financial difficulties or things going on in their lives that you’re not aware of, for instance.

What about cash?

In Italy it’s rude to give anything other than cash, but traditionally in the UK it’s not the done thing. However, when crisp bank notes seem the only common sense gift for a couple who has everything, there’s a tactful way to get around this.

wedding gift etiquette

Maybe you are aware that the couple are saving for a new car. You could purchase a small representation, in this case a toy car, and wrap the money alongside that. As a result, the money will be treated like a gift rather than going towards bills. Furthermore, the token will be a reminder to the couple of you helping them towards their goal.

Finally, how much should you give? That’s up to guests individually. In short, a good guideline is to work out how much money you’d spend on a gift item, and give that.

Help! I cannot afford anything on the gift registry list!

When a couple decides to go with a gift registry, guests are free to spend as much or as little as they want, depending on their budget and relationship with the couple. Ideally, couples should pick a selection of big and small gifts so guests have a price range to choose from.

However, if you get stuck and cannot afford anything on a list, there are two simple solutions: either find someone who’ll chip in on a present with you, or contact the store to see if they have other, more affordable items. If buying off-list, just make sure your gift matches the ones the couple has already chosen. For instance, if their list has a set of tea cups, you could add a sugar bowl from the same collection.

wedding gift etiquette
I’m already spending a lot travelling to the wedding! Do I need to buy a gift too?

Not an expensive one, no. Firstly, budget your expenses, including the hen or stag party, your outfit, transport and accommodation, and work out what you have left over for a gift. If it’s very little, you can still give a small personal present, like a framed photograph or a book of love poems. It’s the thought that counts, and giving your time to make or find something truly personal is worth a lot.

If the couple says NO gifts, is it really fine not to give one?

Absolutely. If the couple expresses their wishes that clearly, then they really do just want your presence, not presents. On the other hand, if you’re the couple who said “no gifts”, but someone brings you one anyway, just smile and say ‘You shouldn’t have’ and then thank them without making a fuss.

wedding gift etiquette

Advice for the happy couple

When should I set up my gift list?

Traditionally, you should include your gift list when you send out your invitations. That way, everyone attending (or not attending) your wedding will have plenty of notice.

You need not be ashamed of putting this on your invitations. However, if you are feeling awkward about the idea, you could slip the information inside the envelope. In fact, many registries offer cards with the information about how to access the gift list. On the other hand, if you have a wedding website, put the list up there and simply mention the site on your invitations.

What do I put on the list?

In days gone by wedding gifts were necessary for building a home. However, nowadays plenty of couples live together before tying the knot. The box must be thought outside of.

wedding gift etiquette

There are plenty of options nowadays for how you set up your gift registry. Find a varied registry so you can ask for that sound system you have had your eye on as well as a particular design of homeware. Moreover, a lot of registries now offer experiences and subscriptions, so even your Spotify could be covered by your guests.

How many items should I pick?

Your guests are going to have different budgets. Therefore, you need a selection of items at different price points. Moreover, you can even encourage guests to shop together for higher price-point items, or set up the option for sharing online.

wedding gift etiquette

That being said, you should pick double the items than the number of invitations you send out. For example, if you send out 50 invites, have 100 gifts on your list. Not only will guests be able to choose a present which suits their own personality, but it gives the option to split gifts or purchase several.

But I really don’t want anything.

If you are the sort of couple who already has everything sorted and does not want heirlooms and gifts from your wedding, consider other things. Perhaps you are struggling to save for your honeymoon? You could ask for contributions to that fund. Similarly, you might wish to recoup some wedding expenses.

You shouldn’t feel guilty about asking for this, however. The British stiff upper lip about cash can be a hindrance sometimes. Instead, you could ask your family to spread the news, or else phrase the money concretely. For example, you could separate your honeymoon into travel, meals and accommodation.

wedding gift etiquette

Likewise you could decide that you really do have it all and you wish to be a philanthropist. In other words, list a charity (or several) and ask guests to donate in your name instead of gifting.

Should we give each other anything?

With gifts coming in from friends and family members, it may be easy to overlook your future spouse. However, a little token to give your betrothed the night before your wedding would be really special.

Consider getting your bride-to-be a personalised necklace or other jewellery. You can get it inscribed with both your (future) initials and the date. Likewise, a notebook, pen or anything else that might suit your fiancée can be engraved.

wedding gift etiquette

An ideal gift for a groom-to-be would be a watch or cufflinks. These can be similarly engraved. In particular, try to find items that match your wedding theme or one of his interests. For instance, if he loves music consider a personalised plectrum or a framed vinyl record.

For both parties, you will get bonus points for anything that is wearable on the big day. That is to say, ask for hints about colouring and other matching items. As a result your gift should suit perfectly.

Finally, if you’re the bride or the groom, always say thank you no matter what. Your wedding day is all about celebrating your marriage with the ones you most love, so don’t let gifts or money get in the way of that.

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