Learn what to look for when buying a wedding gift, how much you should spend, etiquette for wedding gifts, and tips for finding a good wedding gift.
Introduction: I Do (Give Gifts)
A wedding is something of a magical occasion, isn’t it? The union of two people who vow to there for each other, through thick and thin, for as long as they both shall live. It’s a beautiful thing.
And if you’re invited to the wedding, or even if for some reason you’re not, what better way to mark your shared joy for your family member or friend than by gifting them something special that they can treasure for years to come.
It marks not just your blessing, but moreover, that you’re happy to see them happy.
And if you’re after a little advice on your wedding gift giving, who can blame you? You don’t go to a wedding every day, so the various rules of etiquette are unlikely to be already lodged in your brain.
Here, we’re going to tackle some of the most frequently asked questions about buying wedding gifts. Feel free to scroll through the questions that are most playing on your mind.
And following on from that, as a bonus, we’ve also got a list of 15 top wedding ideas.
Psst, think you’re going to love them!
Why Do We Give Wedding Gifts?
Did you know, before the invention of the gift registry by Macy’s in the 1920s, wedding guests weren’t expected to bring gifts?!
That said, wedding gifts, while not necessarily expected, have been around far, far longer.
It all started with the notion of paying a dowry to the bride’s family, going as far back as 3,000 B.C.
Needless to say, this idea has gone under some considerable reform over many years.
During the Renaissance, for example, a typical wedding gift would be an ornate marriage chest, which would hold the bride’s goods, ready to take her groom’s house after the wedding.
Fast forward to the modern-day, and many couples these days use a wedding gift registry. This way, couples can draw up a list of wanted items from the stock of a retailer.
But that’s not by any means the only form of acceptable wedding gifting – and don’t worry, we’re going to cover everything here.
You may not be thinking as far as head as anniversary gifts just yet, but we’ll touch upon it briefly anyway.
But, buying anniversary gifts is much less common than buying wedding gifts. And to be honest it would ruffle my feathers if a friend of mine expected an anniversary gift every year.
Although, you would undoubtedly expect one from your partner.
However, this depends on how close you are to the couple, and whether the couple are sticklers for wedding and anniversary traditions.
For those who are unfamiliar with the tradition of themed wedding anniversary presents, these presents are usually themed according to cheap and easy to come by materials for the first few anniversaries.
E.g. paper for the first wedding anniversary, going onto cotton for the second.
Then the presents become more precious (in terms of financial value) over the years. Here’s a quick breakdown of some of the main markers:
- 20th Wedding Anniversary: China
- 30th Wedding Anniversary: Pearl
- 40th Wedding Anniversary: Ruby
- 50th Wedding Anniversary: Gold
- 60th Wedding Anniversary: Diamond
For a more complete list, why not check out the Wikipedia website?
The history of themed anniversary gifts is actually rather intriguing and dates as far back as the middle ages.
We haven’t got the scope to go into it here though, but if you’re keen to learn more, have a little Google.
How Much Should You Spend On Wedding Gifts?
You know, we’d love to say there are really no rules as to how much you should spend on a wedding gift.
But we’re going to level with you here, and let you know that many couples have high expectations as to how much is spent on a wedding gift.
Yet, this will depend on many varying factors, in particular, how well you know the couple. (Or either one of the couple.)
You may have heard of the price-per-plate “rule” that says your wedding gift should cost the equivalent of the price for your meal at the wedding.
But you cannot go by that rule. Not least because you may never actually find out what the price-per-plate is in the first place.
The good news is that, if you’re paying for your child’s wedding, as many parents often do, you’re more or less off the hook in terms of how much you spend on a wedding gift.
But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t bother at all. A small well-meaning keepsake will suffice.
For everyone else, you should be looking at spending in the region of $50 or more. But, as we’ve mentioned this does vary according to your relationship with both or either member of the couple.
The usual hourly wage in the US is just under $20, so $50 isn’t too excessive for most people.
We’re just going to map out those current expectations in a quick list for you. Here goes:
- Close relative or friend: $100 – $150
- Relative or friend: $75 – $100
- Distant friend or relative: $50 – $75
- City dweller: $150 – $200+
Your Handbook To Wedding Gift Etiquette & Gift Buying
There’s a lot to consider when it comes to wedding gift etiquette and gift buying, but we’ll certainly cover some of the main issues.
We’ve already covered how much you should spend, but there’s still plenty more to cover!
Here’s a quick rundown of what’s coming up next:
- Buying From The Couple’s Registry
- Be Prompt About Your Gift Sending
- Group Buying Is Definitely Okay
- Using Cash As A Wedding Gift
- Buying Both Shower And Wedding Gifts
- Consider Your Relationship With The Couple
- RSVP’ing No: Should Gifts Still Be Sent?
- Can I Send Something I’ve Found Cheaper Elsewhere?
Buying From The Couple’s Registry
If the couple has taken the time and trouble to put together a gift registry, then without a shadow of a doubt, you should consider this when choosing your gift.
When you buy from the couple’s registry, then you know it’s something the two of them like and have already agreed upon. It may even include items that they sorely need.
So buying from a gift registry will save a lot of painstaking thought about whether both halves of the couple will like the gift.
It makes choosing a gift 100 times easier, and more likely to be truly appreciated.
In effect – they’ve done all the hard work for you. Buying a gift from their registry means you can’t possibly buy a gift they won’t like.
But if you already have your heart set on a particular gift, then don’t feel that the registry is a mandate, it’s merely a convenience for guests. You’re not obligated to buy from it.
And if there’s nothing that strikes you on the list as something you’d like to get them, then at least you’ll have garnered a sense of the couple’s needs and style.
It’s worth noting at this point that a wedding gift registry on average lists more than 125 individual items, which still leaves quite a large selection to choose from.
To find the wedding gift registry, simply head over to their wedding website, which they likely provided you in their invite.
Be Prompt About Your Gift Sending
It’s no longer the done thing to bring the gift to the actual wedding. I think this is somewhat of a shame, however, it makes sense really.
The happy couple is not going to want to spend the day (or night) lugging loads of presents around.
Not only is it cumbersome for them when they want to get up on the dancefloor, but you don’t want to risk your gift getting accidentally damaged during the evening.
That is unless you’re giving cash – that’s different, and we’ll look at that more closely later.
The sensible thing to do is to send your gift in the mail, direct to their home. But it’s important to arrange for delivery as soon after the wedding as possible.
The last thing you’d want is for them to think that you’d forgotten, or worse, that you didn’t want to get them anything or were ungrateful about the invite.
As a general rule, you should get your gift delivered to the couple within at least 2 to 3 months of the wedding.
But that’s an absolute maximum, and you should really have it mailed as soon as they have returned from their honeymoon.
The wedding gift registry is generally put together well ahead of the actual wedding day and with two-day shipping available from most online retailers, so there really is no excuse to send it late. Be prompt about your gift sending.
You may have heard of a “one-year” rule for sending the wedding present, but unfortunately, the couple themselves may not have heard of it.
So, your best bet really is to send the gift as promptly as possible after the wedding.
Couples typically send out thank-you cards for the gifts they receive, so you will know if it has been sent. Or you could give them a call to check, that would be nice.
On the flip side, if you manage to pick something out from the registry straight away, you shouldn’t rush to buy and send it before the big day.
Group Buying Is Definitely Okay
Group gift buying isn’t just ok – it’s an excellent idea.
We encourage it.
It’s a great way to give the happy couple a big-ticket item that neither you nor they would necessarily be able to afford.
Group buying is also a chance to bond with members of the group prior to the wedding, as you gather together to decide what to get and to shop around for the best deal.
Group buying is often the done thing with the bridal party in particular. However, group buying is fine for other members of the event too, whether you’re family members or a group of friends.
But since it may be a big-ticket item, you should first be sure that it will be something the couple likes.
And while gifts are often best presented as a surprise, it may be worth consulting with the couple beforehand if you’re not 100% sure how it will go down.
Using Cash As A Wedding Gift
Cash is hands down THE most versatile gift you give.
It can go towards absolutely anything.
But it’s also the trickiest option because the couple will know exactly how much you’ve “spent”.
However, if the couple doesn’t have a wedding gift registry and has specifically asked for cash instead, then there is no getting around it.
The gift of cash really comes into its own for couples who already live together, and hence do not need to draw up a whole host of gifts for a wedding gift registry.
The key thing to remember with giving a cash gift is not to be too tight with the cash.
For a guide as to how much cash you should give, please refer to our earlier section, “How Much Should You Spend On Wedding Gifts?”
However, we would like to advise you not to bring the cash gift to the wedding itself. It can easily get lost (or worst-case scenario, stolen) during the course of the event.
Instead, you should send a cheque through the mail, enclosed in a greeting card.
There is an exception to this rule about bringing a cash gift to the actual wedding, and that is when the cash is intended as spending money for a honeymoon that they’ll be going straight off to, in which case, you will have to take the cash to the wedding.
Buying Both Shower And Wedding Gifts
A wedding shower, referred to traditionally as a bridal shower, has come to be used to refer to the gifting of presents before the wedding, where members of all genders are included.
Whether as members of the happy couple or as guests.
One of the main reasons for holding such a gift-giving ceremony before the wedding itself is to ensure that the couple has everything that they need for the wedding day itself.
This usually includes the “Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue.”
It is thought by some that having such items on the bride’s person on the day of the wedding would bring luck throughout married life.
While the other main reason is simply an excuse to have a little get together, and talk about how excited everyone is for the wedding, and maybe have a little gossip.
If you’ve been invited to the wedding shower and the wedding itself, then you have to buy gifts for both events. And of course, there’s the engagement party to think of too.
The important thing to note here is that these gifts do not have to be equal in value.
There’s what we call the 20-20-60 rule, which provides some guidance as to what percentage of your budget to spend for each event.
- 20% of your total budget for the engagement party
- 20% of your total budget for the wedding shower
- 60% of your total budget for the wedding gift.
However, this is strictly guidance and not a hard and fast rule. And the wedding gift should cost over $50.
Consider Your Relationship With The Couple
This is one of the most important considerations in your gift-giving.
The gift should be a reflection of just how much they mean to you.
If either of both members of the couple have played a special or significant part in your life, then the amount of money you spend on the gift should reflect that, even if you haven’t seen so much of them lately, or even if you haven’t seen them in a long time.
If this applies to you, then we advise that you start saving and budgeting in advance, to ensure that you buy the best possible gift.
If you’re not particularly close to either member of the couple, you can make an affordable gift more precious by getting it personalized or engraved with initials and the date.
RSVP’ing No: Should Gifts Still Be Sent?
Technically, the answer to this question is No.
However, it was very thoughtful of them to invite you to the wedding, and out of the few people they were able to invite, they thought of you.
If you’ve ever been close to either member of the couple, it is only fitting that you send them something in appreciation.
This would be a very different set of circumstances to sending a gift for a wedding you’re attending though, so the rules about how much to spend don’t apply.
How much to spend on a gift when you’re RSVPing No, should be determined by how close you are to either member of the couple.
If you’re not particularly close to either member of the couple, then perhaps a “congratulations on your wedding” card will suffice.
Can I Send Something I’ve Found Cheaper Elsewhere?
Items from a wedding gift registry typically form part of a wider set.
If you were to buy an item for the home that falls outside this range, you run the danger of it clashing, instead of helping to make a complete set.
However it has an identical function and looks identical to an item on the registry, then the couple isn’t going to know you’ve found it cheaper if you don’t tell them.
But, there’s a “but”. If you do decide to buy a more affordable version of a registry gift item, you should not disclose to anyone that you bought it cheaper, as this information could easily get passed to the couple.
So, in short, the answer is, Yes, you can. But you have to be very careful about doing so.
Bonus: 15 Wedding Gift Ideas That Always Impress
In our exploration of what makes the best wedding gift ideas, we found that they typically fell into 3 broad categories. These are as follows:
- Activities for the couple to enjoy together
- Personalized sentimental and nostalgic mementos
- Items they can make use of on a regular, if not daily basis
- Gifts with a difference (more on that later)
Although we’re going to tackle these wedding gift ideas according to these three categories, we’re not going to present the gift ideas themselves in any particular order.
It’s hard to say which gift is best and why, because everyone could have a different reaction to the very same gift.
Some of these gift ideas may fall outside of the budget we laid out in our FAQ section earlier, however, we strongly feel that each one of them would make a great wedding gift.
Just have a little scroll through – you’ll be sure to find something you like the sound of.
Ideas Around Couple Activities
There’s a reason why honeymoons make such a common wedding gift – it gives the couple a stretch of good quality time together to enjoy their newlywed status.
Honeymoons are particularly chosen as gifts by parents of the couple, more so if they didn’t contribute much cash to the actual wedding.
Honeymoons don’t necessarily have to be in exotic locations (but it does help), since the magic of a honeymoon does not come from long haul flight, but rather from sharing time together relaxing without a care in the world, and only their happiness to think of.
Neither does the honeymoon need to be a long one. Sometimes it’s just nice for the couple to have a couple of days away with no-one to bother them, and have a nice change of scenery.
2. Experience Days
If the couple’s honeymoon has already been chosen and booked, that does not mean you can’t find some way to enable them to share an exciting time together, making yet more fond memories.
Rather than giving them more clutter for their home, you can buy them an experience day, where they have all the excitement of trying something they’ve never done before.
It’s the perfect gift for adrenaline junkies – they can go white water rafting, parascending, abseiling, caving, rock climbing, ride in a helicopter…the list goes on.
But it’s not just for those who are particularly daring. You could buy them a day of wine tasting, or a cocktail making class.
If you feel that the cost of a honeymoon is more than your budget will allow, then you could opt for a much simpler affair.
I, for one, have made many great memories on simple day trips that you can go to and get home from in the same 24 hours.
This is a great idea for couples who have strong commitments to their time, and who simply can’t risk being away from the office for an entire week or more.
For this kind of excursion, you can investigate tourist hot spots in the couple’s current location and surrounding areas.
But it doesn’t have to revolve around run-of-the-mill museum trips, it could be a trip to the theatre, or watching a film in 4D cinema (highly recommended).
Or you could get them a Dine Out card for their favorite expensive restaurant.
4. Oil Portrait of their Favorite Wedding Photo
If the couple manages to find a great photographer for their wedding, there’s bound to be some amazing pictures in their wedding photo collection.
And rather than merely place their favorite photo in a frame, why not consider having it made into a beautiful oil painting. It’s a lovely idea.
You think it sounds expensive? Well, it doesn’t have to be…
You can approach amateur artists in the surrounding area, and provided you’re satisfied with the quality of their work, you can ask them for a quote for their services.
If you don’t mind the portrait not being a surprise, you can have the couple view the artists’ previous work beforehand and let them choose who they want to paint them.
5. Digital Photo Frame
But if that doesn’t appeal to you, what about a digital photo frame instead?
That way, the happy couple can enjoy all of their wedding photos time and again!
With a digital photo frame, you select what photos you want to be displayed, and if you like, you can view them in a slide show format.
A slide show you can watch and have on in the background at all times.
What a great way to look back and reminisce about the wedding and forever capture all the funny moments from the day and night itself.
And it doesn’t all have to be about the wedding. The photo frame can remind them of key moments in their courtship, and also their honeymoon ventures too!
6. Personalised Plant Pot with Plant
A popular means of commemorating significant events within various objects, including wedding gifts, is to get them personalized.
You could perhaps add the couple’s names or initials and add something like “married since MM/DD/YYYY”.
The reason we like the sound of personalizing a plant pot, in particular, is because the health and growth of the plant is designed to be a reflection of the love and care that grows over time.
The plant can be an actual plant, and not just a seed, because their love developed before their wedding day. They can enjoy the plant’s progress together as they love and care for it.
Depending on what type of plant you decide you want to go for, you could choose one with a beautiful blossom or even one that bears actual fruit.
Useful Gifts to Use Everyday
Presenting the happy couple with a luxury hamper is one of the nicest ways to actively welcome a newcomer to your family.
There are different types of hampers you could give. Popular items include luxury health and beauty products, or an indulgent selection of gorgeous foods to eat.
But, there are two key features to think about if you decide to go down the route of gifting the couple a hamper.
The first is that it should only contain luxury items that the couple may not necessarily ordinarily buy. Don’t try to get away with a stockpile of whatever happens to be on sale in Walmart.
The second thing to remember is that it must also have an aesthetic appeal, and look pleasing to the eye. But, if you don’t think that you can pull this off – there’s no need to worry.
You can buy luxury hampers that have been lovingly put together for you.
All you have to do is pick out which one you think they’ll like the best.
8. Date Night In Recipe Book
These days most couples have more date nights in than date nights out.
And why not? It means they’re not needlessly throwing away their cash, but saving for the future. AND there’s that much more intimacy with a night in compared to a night out.
And sharing a meal together at the end of the day is a great way for couples to unwind, check-in, touch base, go over the events of their day, talk about their future plans, and so on.
And moreover, cooking a recipe together is a very rewarding activity for couples.
It’s a chance for them to shine as a couple, with the teamwork that’s going to get them through every stage of their life together.
If you know what TV chefs the couple are already into, then picking the book is relatively easy.
However, if you’re not entirely sure you’d know where to start, there are actually cookbooks that have “Date Night” in the title, ready to echo the exact sentiment you want to convey, and how you’d like them to enjoy your gift.
9. Mini Projector
Who doesn’t love going to the cinema, eh?
And with this gift, the happy couple can watch great movies together in the comfort of their own – while on a big cinema-like screen.
And it doesn’t matter a bit what genre they’re into, so long as they enjoy watching movies together.
It’s a particularly good gift for film buffs and film fans who love to watch their favorite movies over and over.
It can really add something special to a night in, and make it feel like a real date night.
Whether they enjoy the movie with a bowl of popcorn or a couple of glasses of wine, it’s the gift that keeps on giving.
10. Coffee Machine
Some of us simply NEED a coffee first thing in the morning, or to get us through a hangover or a long day.
But having to trek out early in the morning before you’ve had a chance to wake up before your morning latte? Not so great.
That’s why having a really good coffee machine in your kitchen can really help the couple get each day off to the best possible start.
There are lots of different types of coffee machines on the market. You can get ones that filter the coffee, ones that make that gorgeous froth for your cappuccino, or you can even ones that will grind coffee beans.
Don’t buy the couple a coffee machine unless you’re sure that both of them enjoy a coffee. It would be a mistake to buy it if only one of them was keen.
Be sure to learn how they like their coffee, to determine what might be the best type to go for.
11. Wine or Gin Subscription
Many of us like to take a glass of wine or two with our meal, especially at the weekend, when you’ve got time to relax.
A wine subscription is a sophisticated gift that can be enjoyed regularly time and again. It really helps to set the tone for a romantic evening in.
It doesn’t have to be wine, of course, there are plenty of variants of gin the couple could explore together. Or you might even find a craft beer subscription if that’s more them.
Please be careful about buying an alcohol subscription as a gift, however. Do your homework first to know whether the couple would appreciate the gift together.
12. Toaster Oven
Toaster ovens have proved a big hit since their inception many years ago.
It’s the perfect addition to any kitchen, but particularly for those that don’t have a conventional oven.
It just sits on the countertop – there’s no need to have it built-in. And it can cook up all sorts of tasty treats. Sure, they tend to be considered mainly for toast and grilled cheese.
But once the couple learns they can also be used for pizza, they will be salivating in anticipation.
You can even get toaster ovens with rotisserie function too – how cool is that!
Top tip: Be sure to buy from a reputable brand
13. Induction Cooktop
If you’re buying a gift for a couple hoping to soon start a family, or perhaps if they already have the beginnings of a family, then an induction cooktop is one of the best and safest cooking devices out on the market today.
The beauty of an induction cooktop is that at whatever temperature the cooktop happens to be set at, the corresponding heat will only pass through when there’s a pan in place atop the cooktop.
A child could touch it and not feel a thing.
But it’s not just the safety features that make an induction cooktop such a great gift to give, no.
There’s next to no preheat time, and you can set the precise temperature you want, without having to worry about water or ingredients boiling over. Certainly worth thinking about.
If you don’t know if the couple has the right cookware for an induction cooktop, you can either check their wedding gift registry to see if there’s any on there, or you can often buy an induction cooktop together with compatible cookware.
A blender is quite a versatile piece of cooking equipment, able to make glorious creations at the press of a button.
Many health enthusiasts rave about all the different concoctions they come up with for their diets. And you don’t always have to use fresh fruit – frozen works too.
AND you can incorporate lots of healthy vegs.
But blenders are not just for health freaks and fitness devotees. You can also make some mean milkshakes with a blender.
You just combine your favorite fruit with your favorite ice cream or frozen yogurt. And the couple’s taste buds will simply love you for it!
Gifts with a Difference
15. Charity Donation
And we just wanted to add this option here too. It’s not so much a traditional wedding gift, but it’s certainly one that’s become increasingly popular in recent years.
It can be quite a thoughtful gift for a couple if they have a particular charity that they are passionate about, or if they have a cause that has been pertinent to them in their life.
Again, this is the sort of gift where you need to get the feelers out first beforehand, to ascertain how well this gift will go down.
Unfortunately, or perhaps, fortunately, this gift should be as substantive an amount as your budget allows, as this is what makes it really valuable to the charity and its endeavors.
Conclusion: You May Now Give The Gift
The important thing to remember here is that all the guidance we’ve provided here is just that – guidance.
There are no real hard and fast rules about wedding gift-giving (at least not so much in Western society).
Hopefully, though, we’ve given you some great ideas, and some useful tips regarding matters such as how much to spend, and when to send your gift etcetera.
Just talk things over with your Plus 1, and remember, it really is the thought that counts.