Proper Manners: Wedding Gift Etiquette Rules For Guests

Simple guidelines and traditional etiquette rules, customs, manners and standards for giving a wedding gift or present.

We often hear of "wedding etiquette," that there's a specific way to handle even the smallest detail. There's proper etiquette when it comes to paying for the wedding, inviting guests, sending thank you cards and making seating arrangements. There's also etiquette to be followed when hosting a shower or walking down the aisle. Lest you think etiquette is something only the bride, groom and their immediate families need to concern themselves with, you should also know there's etiquette to be taken into consideration when giving a wedding gift.

Choosing a gift for a couple who is getting married seems like such a simple thing, doesn't it? Something for the home or some cash in an elegant card is a couple of ideas immediately springing to mind. One of the biggest debates among wedding gift-givers centers around whether or not it's proper to bring a gift to the wedding, rather than send it ahead of time. While it's certainly more convenient to send it through the mail rather than carry it around with you until reaching the reception, it appears to be a regional decision.On the East Coast, most prefer to send a gift ahead of time or soon after the wedding, but to bring cash gifts and gift certificates to the reception. Some couples will even set up a decorative basket in which guests can leave their monetary gifts so the happy couple doesn't have to make table-to-table collections. In the Midwest, it's perfectly acceptable to set up a gift table in a discreet corner where guests can drop off the gift prior to being seated. If you're unsure, you can either check with the family of the bride or whoever will be hosting the reception, or simply send the gift to the home of the bride or her parents. It has been said that wedding guests have up to a year in which to send a gift, but waiting that long is extremely poor etiquette. One should send a wedding present as soon as possible, preferably within three months of the joyous occasion.

In all likelihood, the bride and groom are registered with a department or specialty store. This should ease any dilemma over what to type of gift to purchase because the couple has chosen those gifts they need or desire. If you feel you'd like to give something that's not on the list, that's perfectly acceptable, too. The registry is only a suggestion, and it's bad manners for the any couple to tell you specifically what gift to purchase or how much money to spend.


There have also been discussions and debates over how much money is proper to give or how much one can spend. There is no rule for this. A gift should come from the heart and money should not be an issue. Don't feel obligated to spend more than you can afford or feel is right. There have been those who say it's appropriate to give a certain amount per person, to help the bride and groom defray their wedding expenses. This couldn't be farther from the truth. What's not appropriate is to expect a certain amount from any guest, or for a guest to feel as though he or she has to help pay for the party. The only reason a guest should be invited to a wedding is to help share in the joyous occasion, not to cover the costs.

If you were invited to a wedding but cannot attend, proper etiquette dictates you send a gift anyway. This can be sent at any time before the wedding, but it's considered bad form to send the gift any later than three months after. There's an exception, however, if you haven't been in touch with the bride and groom for years and don't live close by. You're not required to send a gift. Gifts sent before the wedding should be sent to the home of the bride or the bride's parents.

If a couple of months have passed since the wedding and you've received no acknowledgement or thank you card for your gift, it's acceptable to contact the bride or groom to find out if the gift was received. Other than that, it's considered tacky to discuss wedding gifts.

Choosing a gift for the happy couple should be an enjoyable experience and should not be stressful in any way. Hopefully, these simple guidelines have helped you to understand what's expected from you as a guest. Just give a gift from the heart, and it's sure to be a hit.

© High Speed Ventures 2011