Should You Send a Wedding Gift When You Can’t Attend

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What’s more joyous than being invited to a wedding? But sometimes, life gets in the way, and you can’t attend the big day of someone you care about. Maybe you have a scheduling conflict, a travel restriction, or a personal reason. Whatever the case, there’s no need to feel guilty or bad about missing the nuptials. You can still show your support and appreciation for the newlyweds by sending them a wedding gift when you can’t attend.

But what kind of present should you send? How much should you spend? And is there any case you don’t need to do so? These are some of the questions that might be running through your mind as you browse for wedding gift ideas. Don’t worry, we’re here to help.

In this article from Viva Wedding Photography, we’ll share some tips and suggestions on how to choose and send a not-attended wedding gift. Whether you want to stick to the registry, go for something unique, or opt for a gift card, we’ll help you find the best option for your situation and budget.

1. How to Turn Down a Wedding Invite

Before diving into the world of wedding gifts, there’s one golden rule you should follow: RSVP as soon as possible when you receive a wedding invitation. This is not only polite but also helpful for the couple to plan their guest list, seating chart, catering, and other details. Don’t make them wait or wonder if you’re coming or not.

wedding gift etiquette: RSVP is not optional
RSVP promptly to let the couple know if you can’t attend the wedding (Source: Etsy)

It’s recommended to respond to the invitation using the form of communication specified in it, whether it be an RSVP card, an email, or a text message. If you feel the need to elaborate further about why you can’t make it, you can always follow up with a phone call. But keep in mind that don’t go into too much detail or make excuses. Just be honest and sincere.

2. To Gift Or Not To Gift?

According to traditional wedding gift etiquette, no wedding present is expected or required if you are unable to attend the nuptials. However, your decision may be influenced considerably more by your relationship with the happy couple than by custom.

2.1. If you’re not that close…

In case it’s the wedding of a distant relative or a casual acquaintance whom you haven’t spoken to in years, all you need to do is send back the RSVP card with your sincere regrets. To maintain a positive and thoughtful approach, consider accompanying your response with a lovely card expressing your well-wishes for the couple. 

wedding gift when you can’t attend: card
A congratulations card is a nice wedding gift when you can’t attend (Source: Keep Prints)

Your heartfelt words put into writing will mean far more to them than a present purchased from an online marketplace. And who knows, perhaps it will even pave the way for you to get back in touch with them sometime when the bustle of wedding planning has subsided.

2.2. For a family member

Go for a small wedding gift when not attending
Go for a small wedding gift if not attending a family member’s big day (Source: The Knot)

Sending a small present is a thoughtful gesture that is sure to be appreciated. Consider selecting a registry gift that falls within the realm of affordability. Anything that costs less than $50 is a good wedding gift amount if not attending. Choosing from the registry also means you pay extra attention to the couple’s needs.

Alternatively, make it easy on yourself by giving a monetary contribution towards the couple’s honeymoon fund. The closeness of your relationship with this family member should be reflected in the amount of money you put toward the funding.

wedding gift when you can’t attend: honeymoon fund
A honeymoon fund is one of the wedding gift ideas when not attending (Source: Amazon)

Also, when one cannot attend a wedding, it is acceptable to spend a slightly lower budget on the gift compared to an in-person attendee. A small gift along with a note congratulating the newlyweds and expressing that you can’t wait to be toasting them the next time all of you get together is more than enough.

>>> Further reading: Wedding Guest Etiquette: 16 Best Guides Manners and Customs

2.3. For a close friend 

If it’s a close friend’s wedding, choose a present that speaks to your friendship but also fits within your budget. Typically, couples post a wide range of gift items on their registry. So, check out their list as soon as possible to find one that resonates with your bond.

It’s generally expected to spend less than you would for a close relative. But as we said, how much you spend on a wedding gift when you can’t attend also depends on the extent of your relationship. So, take a moment to reflect on your friendship before making your decision.

wedding gift etiquette: customized gift
A personalized not attending wedding gift (Source: Craftholics Anonymous)

In case you and the bride (or the groom) have been very close friends since the days of pigtails and playgrounds, it’s time to skip the wedding registry gifts. Let’s kick it up a notch and add a personal touch to your present.

If you still don’t know what to give, we’d like to share some of our favorite wedding gift ideas when not attending. How about a framed photo of the couple, capturing that priceless moment when they realized they were stuck with each other for life? Or better yet, a customized cooking lesson to help them whip up some culinary magic in their new kitchen? These gifts are not only more touching but can also be cherished long after the confetti has settled.

As you won’t be there on the big day, besides the wedding present, consider celebrating the couple’s engagement by getting together in advance of the nuptials.

3. How Much to Spend on a Wedding Gift When You Can’t Attend

According to traditional etiquette, whether you give a physical present or a cash gift, the average cost of a wedding gift is often around $120. You can use it as a guide when deciding on your wedding present.

However, when it comes to not attending but you want to present a wedding gift for the couple, there is no concrete answer to how much you should spend on it. As we mentioned above, $50 is probably a safe starting point. But, the actual number also depends on various factors, such as your relationship with the couple, your budget, the cost of the wedding, and the region’s customs.

Consider the consensus cost for your wedding gift when not attending
Consider the consensus cost when deciding wedding gift amount if not attending (Source: Garden & Gun)

A common rule of thumb is to spend as much as you would have spent on attending the wedding. This means you should consider the cost of travel, accommodation, and other expenses you would have incurred if you were attending the celebration. As you’re not spending money on going to the wedding, you can afford to spend more on the present.

Nevertheless, this doesn’t mean you have to break the bank on a gift just because you can’t attend the celebration. The most important factor that you should consider is your personal relationship with the couple and how much you can afford to spend.

wedding gift when you can’t attend
Your relationship with the couple can help you choose the wedding gift when you can’t attend (Source: The Knot)

Don’t put pressure on yourself to spend more than you are comfortable with or more than you think is appropriate for your level of closeness with the couple. Also, there’s no need to feel guilty if you spend less than the average amount or less than other guests. There is no strict rule or expectation about sending a wedding gift if not attending.

Remember, gifting is an art form, and you’re the artist. You have the freedom to go as big or small as you like. Basically, focus on letting the couple know they’re in your thoughts, not winning the prize in a gift-giving Olympics!

>>> Read more:

We hope this article has given you some guidance on whether or not you need to send a wedding gift when you can’t attend. From our experience, the most important thing is to let the couple know that you’re thinking of them and that you’re happy for their marriage. Sending a gift in your absence is a nice gesture, but it’s not a requirement or an obligation. As long as you’re sincere and thoughtful, the couple will appreciate your gift no matter what it is or how much it costs. So just follow suggestions from Viva Wedding Photography, be generous within your means, and let your presence be felt even when you can’t be there in person.

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