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Updated: Apr 14, 2023

4 Rules For Wedding Gift Giving


Wedding season has arrived, and with it comes a lot of questions. How much do I really need to spend on the gift? Must I give a gift if I’m not attending? To answer these and other important questions, created the Ultimate Wedding Guest Guide.

With more than 100 million guests attending a wedding this summer (and even more who checked off 'Not Attending') has tried to address the myriad questions on how to navigate the etiquette minefield of wedding gifts. Friends, coworkers, distant relatives and acquaintances have an ongoing struggle to determine which gifts to give and how much they should cost.

Here is a brief glimpse into what the editors of call the Ultimate Wedding Guest Guide, filled with pointers on gifting rules, common dilemmas, budget tips and the latest wedding gift trends.

First stop: Registry

Instead of trying to think outside the box to find that perfect handmade birdhouse, just take a look on the registry to see what they actually want. The registry is genius not only because it helps the happy couples pick out their gifts, but really because of the most essential part: you. The registry only works if the guests check it and utilize it, so make sure you get to it, preferably early so you are not stuck buying the $700 leather reclining chair. You may get lucky, they may want that birdhouse after all.

Hand-delivered Gifts are for Birthday Parties

Cash is king and everyone loves when an uncle slips a nice check into your breast pocket at a party, but monetary gifts are really the only appropriate gifts to hand deliver at the wedding. Make sure you ship your gifts to the bride and groom, and proper etiquette states it should be sent before the wedding. The last thing the bride and groom want is a bunch of boxes filling up their limo. An added advantage is that now you don't have to worry about wrapping and transporting it yourself.

Price per plate is not part of the calculation

Just because the couple is trying to cut back for their wedding, doesn't mean you have to also. Remember they are paying a lot more than you, and if they had the money they would probably spend it. Your gift is obviously not paying for the meal, so let it reflect your relationship with the couple rather than how much they spent on you one night. According to and 2010 Registry Study, engaged couples typically expect friends to spend $79 and family members to spend $146 on a gift.

Check out:Planning Your Wedding on a Budget

Presents without Presence

If you were invited to a wedding, it means the couple cares about you and thinks your presence will genuinely enhance their celebration. If you cannot make it for whatever reason, you should still give a gift to wish the newlyweds well with a note explaining why you’re unable to attend. Your thoughtfulness and generosity will go a long way.

There is a wealth of information available in the Ultimate Wedding Guest Guide for other difficult gift dilemmas like gifts for couples having a destination wedding and what to do if you are bringing a guest.

Have you had experience with any of these scenarios either as a guest or as newlyweds?