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Etiquette and Advice from the Emily Post Institute

Wedding Gifts Etiquette

Your best friend from high school just called: she’s getting married. Your joy for her knows no bounds. You call on your history together, her personality and love of the color fuchsia to come up with the perfect gift: a 100% pashmina wool "ring shawl" – just the right shade. You spend a little more than you intend, but she is so worth it. Then you get the invitation to the wedding. And the invitation to the shower that a friend is throwing. And the invitation to the shower that her mother is hosting. Are you going to have to buy gifts for all of these events? Read on.
  • Engagement gifts have never been obligatory and are not expected from casual friends and acquaintances. But they are becoming customary in some parts of the country, usually given to the couple by family members and close friends. An invitation to an engagement party implies that gifts are welcome -- unless the host or hostess state otherwise. A guest who is unsure about whether or not to bring a gift to an engagement party may simply ask the hosts for guidance. Whether the host is a family member, friend or the bride-to-be, consider sending a beautiful bouquet of flowers to after the party with your thank you.
  • A guest invited to a shower should bring a gift. After all, gifts are the purpose of a shower. If an invited guest can't attend, it is not obligatory to send a gift; however, a close friend or family member sometimes chooses to send a gift regardless. If a guest is invited to two – or more – showers, she is not expected to bring gifts to both.
  • Guests invited to the wedding have an obligation to send a gift, whether they are attending or not. There are few exceptions. If you live far away from where the wedding will take place and have been out of touch with the couple for several years, and are not planning to attend the wedding, there's no need to send a gift. Also, the receipt of a wedding announcement after the wedding carries no gift obligation, although it's thoughtful to send the couple a note or card expressing your "best wishes."
  • Is there a formula for figuring out how much to spend on a wedding gift? Yes – the amount spent on the gift should be based on your affection for and relationship with the couple – or their families – as well as your budget. People sometimes say that a wedding gift should cost at least as much as the bride and groom are spending on entertaining each person at the reception, but that is a myth.
  • Appropriate wedding gifts run the gamut from fine china and small household appliances, to gardening tools and camping equipment, to money and gift certificates. Selecting a gift should be an enjoyable process. But for the "shopping-challenged" among us, bridal registries simplify the process of finding the right gift. Today, couples often register for gifts with two or more stores, web sites, or even travel agents and brokerage houses. (See Alternative Gift Registries.) Registry information is discreetly spread by word of mouth or can be included as an insert in a shower invitation -- but should never grace the folds of a wedding invitation. To mention gifts in the wedding invitation puts too much emphasis on the gift, and less on hoping the invited can come to the wedding – a turnoff for most friends and relatives.
  • Generally, wedding gifts should be delivered to the bride's home or to the home of her parents before the wedding, addressed to the bride. When gifts are sent after the wedding, they are sent to the couple at their new address. When a couple is living together before the wedding, gifts are either sent to them at their home address or to the bride's parents if they are hosting the wedding. In some areas and cultures, it is customary to bring the gift to the wedding reception rather than deliver it ahead of time.
  • Gifts may be sent as soon as a guest receives an invitation. The advantage of sending gifts ahead of time is that the bride and groom do not need to worry about keeping gifts safe at the reception site and transporting them after the reception. Another myth: guests have up to a year after the wedding to send a gift. Not so. Gifts should be sent before the wedding.
  • Each and every wedding gift should be acknowledged by a hand written thank-you note from the bride and groom – ASAP. Couples should aim to write notes on the day the gift arrives, whenever possible. There is no excuse for not having all thank-you notes written within three months of the wedding. If it has been six months, one year, and the thank you notes have still not been sent, send them.

About the
Emily Post Institute
The Emily Post Institute, created by Emily in 1946 and run today by third generation family members, serves as a "civility barometer" for American society and continues Emily's work. That work has grown to address the societal concerns of the 21st century including business etiquette, raising polite children and civility in America.
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