11 Wedding Gift Etiquette Rules to Always Follow As a Guest

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Congratulations! You’ve received a wedding invitation. Although it is a tremendous honor, it also means it’s time for you to get a wedding gift for the happy couple. Wedding gift etiquette, like modern weddings, has evolved over time, which can make choosing a wedding present even more perplexing. That is why we have created a detailed guide to assist you in becoming the best gift-giver ever. What are you waiting for? Read now this article with Viva Wedding Photography!

1. How much should I spend on a wedding gift?

According to traditional etiquette for wedding gifts, you should spend the same amount on a wedding gift as you anticipate the couple would spend on hosting you at their celebration. For instance, if you estimate that a couple spends $150 per person for a reception, that should be the amount of your wedding gift. But, in reality, how much you spend on a wedding present is determined by several factors, including your level of familiarity with the couple, the distance you are traveling for the wedding, and your financial capacity.

wedding gift etiquette on how much to spend
Wedding present etiquette on how much to spend (Source: Customised Photobook Printing Singapore)

The average amount for a wedding gift is $100, which is a good starting point to consider when deciding how much to spend on a wedding gift. After assessing your relationship with the couple and how far you will be traveling to make it, you can decide whether to add or subtract from your plans accordingly.

Here’s our breakdown of the wedding present budget based on how well you know the happy couple:

The amount for a wedding giftYour relationship to the couple
$50–$75Loose acquaintances or coworkers
$75–$100Distant relatives or distant friends
$100–$150Relatives or friends
$150–$200+Close family members or close dear friends

In addition, it’s also an essential wedding gift etiquette to take other pre-wedding events into account. Are you invited to the engagement party, the bridal shower, and the wedding? If so, we highly recommend adhering to the 20-20-60 rule, which means your budget should be divided into:

  • 20% on the engagement gift
  • 20% on the bridal shower present
  • 60% on the wedding gift

2. What should I give as a wedding gift?

When you start browsing the internet for wedding gifts, it can be overwhelming, especially if you’re unsure about the couple’s specific preferences. Here are two ways that can help you nail down your choice:

  • Checking the wedding registry
Wedding gift expectations from the couple's registry
Wedding gift expectations from the couple’s registry (Source: Editoralist)

The registry is a carefully curated list of items chosen by the couple, reflecting their tastes and needs. By selecting from the registry, you can be confident that your gift is something the couple truly wants

Additionally, registries typically include items at various price points, accommodating the budgets of all guests. This variety ensures that guests can find a suitable gift within their means while still contributing to the couple’s happiness. The registry, therefore, becomes a tool for guests to express their best wishes in a convenient and considerate way.

  • Checking the wedding website
It's a good wedding gift etiquette to check the couple's website
It’s a good wedding gift etiquette to check the couple’s website (Source: The Knot)

Finding ideas for wedding gifts doesn’t have to stop with the couple’s registry; their wedding website also has some hints. In addition to serving as a hub for all pertinent wedding information, such as transportation plans and dress code, their personalized website may also include additional information regarding their registry choices.

Furthermore, many couples utilize their website as a platform to share their unique love story, providing you with inspiration that goes beyond the conventional registry items. For instance, if the pair mentioned that their first date involved enjoying Italian cuisine, consider gifting them a pasta maker or a gift card to their preferred local Italian restaurant.

3. Is buying a gift not on the registry acceptable?

wedding gift etiquette for presents off-registry
Wedding etiquette for gifts off-registry (Source: The Spruce)

If you decide to shop off-registry, there is a chance that you might end up purchasing something for the happy couple that they already possess or something that they do not require. That said, buying a present from the couple’s wish list is not a hard and fast wedding gift etiquette rule, and there are three situations in which it’s okay to purchase a wedding gift that is not listed on the registry:

  • If you have a really close relationship with the couple, such as family members or close friends.
  • If all of the registry items have been purchased.
  • If you can’t afford any of the items on the registry.

4. Is it okay to give cash as a wedding gift?

wedding gift etiquette cash
Etiquette for wedding gifts in the form of cash (Source: Ivory & Beau)

Of course, yes. If you prefer to give the couple a monetary gift, you can do so by providing cash or a check accompanied by a thoughtful note. If you go for a check, write only one of their names to avoid confusion. And on the memo line (and in your note), don’t forget to clearly indicate that it is a wedding gift for both individuals.

Plus, some couples may choose to register for honeymoon funds, so contributing to their goal is also considered a nice wedding gift etiquette cash.

5. Wedding gift etiquette for group presents

wedding gift etiquette for group presents
Wedding present etiquette for group gifts (Source: Brides)

Group presents are perfectly fine and even encouraged according to wedding etiquette for gifts. Couples often choose to include a few high-value items on their wedding registry, making them ideal options for group gifts.

If the happy couple has registered for an item that is beyond the budget of a single person, consider asking other guests to contribute towards it with you. Your generosity will surely touch the couple, and depending on the size of your group, you might even be able to save some money. Just make sure that everyone who contributes to the gift signs their name on the wedding card so that the couple knows precisely whom to thank for the present.

6. Destination wedding gift etiquette

If you’re an out-of-town guest, giving a present is not required. The bride and groom understand that attending a destination wedding can cost you a lot. Therefore, they probably do not have any wedding gift expectations. A considerate handwritten note in place of a gift is a beautiful gesture.

Destination wedding gift etiquette for out-of-town guests
Destination wedding gift etiquette for out-of-town guests (Source: CBCP Online)

In case you would like to present the couple with a gift and have the financial means to do so, just go for it. There is nothing better than being present and giving presents.

Do you want to give a gift but are facing financial constraints due to the expenses of traveling for the big day? It is still considered appropriate wedding present etiquette to send a gift within three months after the wedding. This allows you to give yourself some financial flexibility and space out your expenditures.

>>> Recommend reading: Destination Wedding Etiquette: A Guide for Couples & Guests

7. Am I expected to send a gift if I don’t attend?

Etiquette for wedding gifts when you can't attend
Etiquette for wedding gifts when you can’t make it (Source: LUXlife Magazine)

Should You Send A Wedding Gift When You Can’t Attend?” This is a question that many people encounter. If you are unable to attend a wedding, it’s not a compulsory wedding gift etiquette rule to send a gift.

Nonetheless, it is a kind gesture, particularly if you know the couple well. Selecting a small, symbolic gift of minimal value from their registry is a good way to go. If you aren’t particularly close to the happy couple, expressing your well wishes through a thoughtful note by mail is more than enough.

8. When should you send a wedding gift?

wedding gift etiquette on when should send out a present
Etiquette for wedding gifts on when should send out a present (Source: Tudo sobre Eventos)

Traditionally, it was acceptable to send wedding gifts within a year after the wedding. However, this wedding present etiquette has become largely obsolete with the convenience of free two-day shipping. Instead, it is a common rule to send presents within the time frame of receiving the invitation and no later than three months following the big day.

Based on our experience, sending a wedding present two weeks before the wedding day would be perfect. This way, the couple can start writing thank you notes ahead of time, and they won’t have to hold onto your gift for months before their nuptials.

>>> Get more ideas about wedding guest etiquette here!

9. Is bringing my gift to the wedding appropriate?

wedding gift etiquette on whether bring a present to the wedding or not
Wedding gifts expectations on how to give the present (Source: Southern Living)

The answer to that question varies depending on the specific couple involved. In certain communities, it is common wedding gift etiquette to bring a present to the event, and there is typically a designated table at the reception where you can conveniently leave it.

But these days, purchasing a gift from the registry has become incredibly convenient. Most of the time, you can simply choose a gift from the registry, and the registry site will handle the shipping process, ensuring that it is delivered directly to the couple’s preferred address. In addition, sending the gift in advance ensures that the couple and their families won’t have to transport a car full of gifts after the celebration.

10. Should I spend more on a wedding gift when bringing a plus-one? 

Etiquette for wedding gifts when having a plus-one
Wedding gift etiquette cash when having a plus-one (Source: The Knot)

Follow Wedding Plus-one Etiquette. If you’re bringing a partner to the wedding, you should spend more on your present because the happy couple will be hosting your date when calculating the cost of food and beverages. A golden wedding present etiquette rule is to double your present budget when having your plus-one compared to when attending alone.

For instance, if you are comfortable spending $100 when attending on yourself, you may want to budget around $200 when you bring a plus-one.

11. How can I know if they got my present?

Wedding gift etiquette for guests
Wedding gift etiquette for guests (Source: A Practical Wedding)

A thank-you note from the couple can tell you whether they’ve received your gift or not. Also, it’s fine to contact the newlyweds to make sure they got your present if you don’t hear anything from them in the three months following the wedding. Just don’t do it in a passive-aggressive manner. Besides, you might always ask the shipping company for delivery confirmation if you’d rather not disturb the couple.

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In the larger scheme of things, wedding gift etiquette can seem like a little consideration, but it can significantly affect the happy couple. Using the advice in this guide, you may ensure that your present will be treasured and remembered for years. Viva Wedding Photography believes that the most crucial thing is to select a gift that reflects your support for the couple and comes from the heart. Hence, take your time, make wise decisions, and enjoy yourself.

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