The New (& Improved) Guide to Wedding Gift Giving

Gone are the days when you can slap a bow on a blender and trot off to your cousin's wedding -- in an era of Amazon and online registries, how and what you give as a wedding gift says a lot about how you function as a friend. But what does that mean for your shopping cart?

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Here with the details is Sue Fox, founder of the Etiquette Survival Group and author of Wedding Etiquette for Dummies, Business Etiquette for Dummies, and Etiquette for Dummies.

"A gift is a free-will offering that expresses your affection and regard for another person," she says. "Although the world may insist that it's the thought that counts, you do have a few factors to consider when it comes to selecting wedding gifts. The rules are not set in stone, but it may be a good idea to stick to them pretty closely."

So, yes, there's pressure. But there are also guidelines to make the whole process a little easier on you, and the first guideline is easy to follow: Listen to what the bride and groom want, and stick to that.

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"The historical purpose of wedding gifts is to help the new bride set up a household, but it's becoming increasingly popular for couples to stray from traditional gifts," Fox explains. 

Instead, look for calls for donations to help offset the cost of the wedding, big-ticket items that you can split with a group, or the opportunity to pay for honeymoon expenses (like buying the newlyweds a dinner in Rome while they're there). 

If the couple is opting for a more traditional registry, it's still probably a good idea to buy gifts straight from there. It makes the shopping easier on you, and it guarantees that they'll get something they like. 

And, if you're going that route, make sure to buy early. "This gives you additional options of gifts and prices," Fox says. "Make your wedding gift purchases in time to have the gift delivered before the wedding date."

But Fox says there are exceptions. "If you know the couple well, know their taste, and feel confident that your gift-giving etiquette is intact, it's perfectly fine to give them a gift that is not on their registry," she explains.

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The second guideline is to follow tradition. "Different families have different wedding gift customs, so you need to check with your relatives when a wedding in your extended family occurs," Fox says.

Many traditions call for cash gifts for the bride, and in that scenario, you'll usually hand an envelope to the bride as you go through the receiving line. 

Otherwise, most gifts will get sent straight to the bride's (or the bride's parents') home. 

"This practice frees members of the wedding party and family from the worry of transporting gifts -- which may be breakable -- during or after the reception, when they should be enjoying the party," Fox explains.

And lastly, Fox emphasizes the importance of good wrapping -- if you can, get your gift professionally wrapped. If not, do an extra nice job yourself. Weddings are a formal occasion, and wrapping a gift worthy of that puts a more positive spin on the whole day.

 

Image via Jayme Burrows/Shutterstock

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