Gift Giving 101

by Wediquette

I could write a lengthy novel on the topic of wedding gifts. The amount of information available on this topic is extensive and the rules around gift giving seem to be ever changing. So here is our Wediquette present to you: a ‘gift giving 101’ guide to help you navigate this complicated journey.

Historically, wedding gifts were given to a couple about to start their new life together; fresh from their parents’ homes. These couples were typically young and did not have anything to set up their marital home so needed everything from sheets to dishes.

The picture today is very different. While there are still some couples who marry young, many now wait until after university or until they have established their careers so they have likely already moved away from home and have ‘the basics’. This shift has not only resulted in weddings themselves taking on different forms, the nature of gift giving has changed as well. All this change can be confusing when one has to make a decision about giving the perfect wedding gift to celebrate your friends or loved ones’ new life together. Even etiquette guru Emily Post acknowledges that marital gifts are a tricky landscape: “While it’s customary for a wedding guest to give a gift…the couple should not view the custom as an entitlement.”

When do you need to give a wedding gift?:

  • Typically, a gift is socially required whenever you are invited to a wedding. One gift per household is the standard, but gifts can also be given by groups of friends. Gifts are usually given to the couple before, during or immediately following a wedding although some people still follow the “give the gift within one year” rule.

The grey area:

  • If you are invited to a wedding and are not a close friend or family member of the couple getting married, and do not plan to attend the wedding, you do not need to send a gift. You can make this
    decision based on your relationship with the couple getting married.
  • If you are traveling to a destination wedding and the couple has expressed that “your presence is the present,” you do not need to give a gift.
  • Some couples specifically tell their guests that they do not want gifts. For instance, couples asking for charitable donations to a cause close to their hearts is a current trend.
  • If you throw a pre-wedding event (cocktail or engagement party) in the couple’s honour and indicate to them that the party itself is the gift, you are not obligated to buy an additional gift.
  • If you travel to a wedding and have to spend money on airfare, hotel, a car rental, as well as take vacation time, the couple getting married may advise you not to bring a gift.
  • If you are a B-list guest, you do not need to give a gift. Wedding B-listers are guests who are invited to the party or dance but not the wedding ceremony itself or the dinner.
  • You do not need to give a gift if you cannot afford one. I have read a few unfortunate online etiquette posts stating that if someone cannot afford to buy a gift, they should not attend the wedding. Those posts miss out on the fact that friendships are more important and meaningful than presents.

When are you not required to give a wedding gift?:

  • You do not need to give a wedding gift if you know someone who is getting married but are not invited to the wedding.
  • When you are sent a wedding announcement or a ‘save the date’ card, but do not end up getting invited to the wedding, you do not need to give a gift.

Gift giving can be a lot of fun but it can also be complicated. If you have been invited to a wedding and are looking for a gift or more advice on gift giving, make sure you attend the Fall Ottawa Wedding Show!

Wediquette is by Simply Sociable’s Kate Charland

Photography by Laura Kelly Photography

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