Do It Yourself Gifts Guide to
Wedding Gift Etiquette

What is the proper wedding gift etiquette for engagement, showers, and wedding day gifts? For the answers, we look to none other than the etiquette authority...Emily Post.

I've taken the following etiquette rules from Emily Post's Weddings by Peggy Post (her daughter-in-law), Third Edition (New York, HarperCollins Publishers, Inc., 1999):

Wedding Gift Etiquette : Engagement Gifts

"Traditionally, engagement presents are given only by close relatives and intimate friends upon the announcement of your engagement and are almost always intended especially for the bride. When the engagement party is a small dinner, cocktail party, or luncheon and a guest wants to give a gift, he or she takes it to the party. If everyone brings a gift, the bride-to-be may open them as part of the festivities. When the party is a large reception or cocktail party, gifts are not generally taken; if they are, they should not be opened during the party, to avoid embarrassing those guests who (correctly) did not bring any. The bride-to-be may decide to give her fiance a small engagement present, such as a pair of cuff links, a watch, or a key chain. These items may be engraved with the date of the engagement."

Wedding Gift Etiquette : Wedding Shower Gifts

"Unless culture and custom dictate that shower gifts should be the equivalent of wedding presents, gifts given to the bride or engaged couple at a shower should not be elaborate. Traditionally, shower gifts were handmade for the occasion, and such gifts are still treasured. If the shower has a theme, gifts should be appropriate to the shower. At a bath or kitchen shower, for example, guests comply by bringing towels or small appliances. Sometimes, guests contribute to a joint gift for the bride or the couple.

Shower gifts are to be presented to the bride, or the bride and groom, at the shower. If an invited guest can't attend, it is not obligatory that she send a gift. (Often, close friends or relatives with to, however, which is fine). If a non-attending invitee does send a gift, she should send it directly to the shower hostess--not from the store directly to the bride. The gift should be accompanied by a card to let the guest of honor know the name of the donor. Shower gifts are opened at the party, and each donor is thanked personally then and there. The bride may write thank-you notes later if she wishes: It is much appreciated if she does, but it is not absolutely mandatory--unless the donor was not there or did not receive thanks from the bride in person.

Sometimes the invitation asks each guest to bring a gift for a Wishing Well, in addition to the shower gift. The Wishing Well gift is a small, inexpensive item, such as a measuring spoon or cup, and herb or spice, or a bar of scented soap. These presents may be wrapped or not, accompanied be a card or not, and put into a small model or replica of a well. Under no circumstances should these be large items, since the shower guest has invested in a shower gift and most likely a wedding gift, too."

Wedding Gift Etiquette : Gifts for Second-Marriage Showers

"It is perfectly acceptable to have a shower for a second marriage or for an older couple who have been independent for a number of years. For couples who may already have all of the basic necessities, food showers, garden showers, and ticket (to some entertainment) showers may be more appropriate that the traditional kitchen or linen showers. In general, the guest list is made up of new friends of the bride or couple or very close friends and relatives. It is better to not invite friends who attended a shower for a first marriage."

Wedding Gift Etiquette : Wedding Gifts

"It used to be considered obligatory for anyone invited to a wedding to send a gift, whether they attended the wedding or not.

This is still true when the recipients are friends whom you see from time to time or who live nearby. In the days when that held sway, people did not move around as much as they do today, and invitations were sent only to those within a reasonable distance. Because invitations still carry a gift-in-return obligation, it is more proper to send a wedding announcement, which carries no gift obligation, to mere acquaintances or distant friends you haven't seen for years. If you do send an invitation to people who are not close to you and they do not attend the festivities, you should not expect a gift in return.

Any formula wherein a wedding gift should cost at least as much as the bride and groom are spending on entertaining each person at the reception is a myth. Such extravagance is impractical, uncalled-for, and ostentatious--and therefore in poor taste. Fortunately, guests are learning that they have no such obligation. It is not the cost of the gift but the thought, the sentiment, and the practicality that count. The cost of a gift is based on the guest's affection for and relationship with the bride, the groom, or their families. No one should be made to feel that he must spend more than can be afforded. That doesn't mean, however, that guests have the green light to be stingy in purchasing a gift. Each guest should simply give what he or she can afford, along with love and best wishes."

Wedding Gift Etiquette: For Second Marriages

"Although family members usually give a gift to a bride being married for the second time, friends who gave gifts the first time around need not do so. If it is the first marriage of the groom, it is fine for his family and friends to give the couple gifts. If youa re being married againe and prefer that guests forgo the gifts, it is considered incorrect to incluce that information on the invitation; the word that gifts are not expected should be spread by family and close friends."

Wedding Gift Etiquette : Gift Delivery

"Wedding gifts are generally delivered to the bride's home or the home of her parents before the wedding, and are addressed to the bride in her name. Gifts may be sent out as soon as a guest receives an invitation, mailed by the donor or sent directly from the store where they were purchased. Sometimes gifts are delivered in person. When gifts are sent after the wedding, they are sent to the couple's new address, if known, or to their parents' home. When a couple is living together before their wedding, gifts are either sent to them at their home address or to the wedding. The circumstances are the guide.

In some localities and among certain ethnic groups it is customary for guests to bring a gift to the wedding reception rather than deliver it ahead of time. Gift packages should be put on a table set up for them. The newlyweds are not expected to open these gifts during the reception, but they should delegate the tasks of making sure they're safe at the reception and of packing them up and transporting them from the reception to a safe place. In other cases, checks are handed to either the bride or groom in the receiving line or sometime before the end of the reception." You have up to one year to send a gift after the wedding has occured. Though the sooner to the wedding date, the better.

*Note: "Customs regarding wedding gift etiquette vary by culture and ethnic groups. The above gift suggestions are based on traditional American customs. Use them as a base from which to begin. If you are uncertain of custom when invited to the wedding of friends of different cultural background, simply inquire of other guests-to be or of any acquaintances who belong to that culture or ethnic group" (or search the web).

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