Wedding Gift Etiquette: Everything You Need To Know

Just like weddings themselves, etiquette for wedding gifts isn’t as straightforward as it once was. Let’s lift the veil on modern wedding gift-giving.

Photo by alipko /

So you’ve been invited to yet another wedding. No matter how many times it happens, it’s always a momentous occasion. I mean, why wouldn’t you be thrilled for a couple in your life taking such a huge and important step in their relationship? 

Even more, the fact that you’re invited means you’re important to them. Plus, you get to bust out your most handsome wedding attire.

The upside to contemporary wedding culture is that anything goes. Each happy couple can find a way to make the tradition their own. 

The downside is that you never know what might be proper etiquette and what might be a faux pas at any given wedding. These days, it seems no two ceremonies are made alike.

Wedding etiquette for gifts can be particularly confusing. You never want to bring any awkwardness to the custom of spending money on someone. Some might argue there’s an inherent awkwardness in the custom naturally, so etiquette is of the utmost importance.

We’re going to bring some clarity regarding gift-giving on this special day.

What Is Wedding Gift Etiquette Exactly?

Gift-giving etiquette means following the customs of courteous and polite protocol around the exchange. Easy examples include wrapping your gift properly instead of putting it in a grocery bag and spending the proper amount.

Bride and groom holding bouquetBride and groom holding bouquet
Photo by hinhanni /

Don’t buy someone you barely know a Porsche, and don’t gift your lifelong best friend an airport keychain on their wedding day (unless there’s some kind of special meaning behind it that you both appreciate, of course). 

Here are some always relevant wedding etiquette rules.

The Safest Bet Is Also the Best: The Wedding Registry

If there’s a wedding registry, just stick to it and don’t look back. Curating a registry of potential gifts they want is truly a gift to you as a wedding guest.

The registry often reflects their needs as a new couple, whether they’re moving into a new house, newly moving in together, or simply planning for the future.

And often, there’s a wide range to choose from, allowing you to accommodate your financial situation. Trust me. They wouldn’t have put those salt and pepper shakers on the list if they didn’t really want them.

And just because they chose the items themselves doesn’t mean your gift has to be complete without your personality either.

My friends know me as the whiskey and martini connoisseur in their lives. I’ve converted many anti-whiskey and anti-martini friends with my ability to shake up a good drink. So, if there are martini glasses, whiskey glasses, or a cocktail shaker on the registry, I’ll often go for that as my gift.

I’m also the local watch enthusiast in my friend group. If there’s a wall clock on the registry, I’m all over it.

Think about your special relationship with the couple! Perhaps there’s something there that can represent that. Otherwise, whatever you choose from the registry will be absolutely perfect!

Off Registry Gifts Should Be Highly Specific

Let me start by saying that going off the registry is a huge risk. They might already have what you’re considering or perhaps not even have room for it in their home.

Only do this if you’re especially close to the couple. Perhaps the groom is your lifelong best friend or even your brother. In some cases like this, buying them a big-ticket item too lavish for the registry wouldn’t be inappropriate.

Perhaps they’ve expressed the desire for a particular gift on more than one occasion, and you know for a fact they aren’t receiving it from anyone else. When my best friend got married, I was in a situation in which I felt fully confident to go off the registry.

Photo by alipko /

I’ve known him all my life. I’ve worked in the art industry for over a decade, and I knew for a fact I was the only person in his life with the connections I had when it came to art. So I got him and his new wife a painting I knew they always wanted.

An important thing I considered when doing this is that I wasn’t stepping on anyone’s toes. It was something only I was able to provide. Don’t go for some high-end present when it’s something, say, their parents wish they could give but can’t.

Just as your suit shouldn’t outshine the groom’s, your present should be likewise respectful.

Something you definitely shouldn’t do is go for random wedding gift ideas, like glassware with no meaning. Basics like that will often be on the registry anyway, so just get them what they want.

No Registry or a Request for No Gifts

If the invitation explicitly requests no gifts, then it’s truly best to respect that. There might be a reason behind it that’s really meaningful to them. Perhaps it’s a family or cultural tradition. You just never know.

If there’s no registry, this usually means they simply don’t want any form of a physical gift. Many etiquette experts say that this is often a sign that a gift card or even a cash gift is completely appropriate.

Even if they don’t necessarily expect or want a present from everyone, a convenient, non-imposing gift is always a nice gesture.

Of course, it isn’t rude to simply ask the couple. In these cases, my go-to question is to politely inquire if I might have missed a registry link.

Cash Wedding Gift Etiquette

And speaking of cash, these days, there are many instances in which they make a perfectly fine wedding gift. Just make sure you know this for certain, though.

Many couples will even set up a honeymoon fund, which allows you to donate as much money as you want. Every newly married couple deserves a honeymoon, but sometimes they’re too busy putting their own funds aside for a house or even a family.

Destination Wedding Gift Etiquette

The main thing to consider when it comes to gifts at a destination wedding is to not inconvenience the couple. Don’t give them something huge that they’ll have to lug back home. Even a coffee table book is just added weight for them to stress over when they’re packing.

Make sure your registry gifts are going to their proper home address. Anything you give physically at the destination shouldn’t exceed the size of an envelope. This means gift cards, or better yet, a recyclable greeting card with information on their digital gift card.

Groom’s Parents Wedding Gift Etiquette

Every couple is different. However, traditionally, the physical contributions that the groom’s family is responsible for are the rings (including the bride’s), the groomsmen’s suits, and gifts for the groomsmen. Sometimes, they’ll also contribute to the florist fees.

When it comes to event-related gifts, the groom’s parents can fund the rehearsal dinner, the marriage license fee, and often the honeymoon.

Mens wedding bandsMens wedding bands

Again, this is strictly traditional. These days, the groom may pay for a lot of these himself with help from his parents. Sometimes, the bride and groom split the costs of these, while both parents help a bit.

Many people find comfort in the traditions, as it gives everyone a set place. I certainly did when I got married!


Here are some quick answers to commonly asked questions about wedding gift etiquette!

Is It Okay To Give Money as a Wedding Gift?

There are some instances in which cash gifts are appropriate, for example, when there’s no registry. If there’s a fund set up, perhaps for a honeymoon, then cash is fully welcome.

What Not To Give as a Wedding Gift?

Don’t go off the registry unless you’re close to the couple and confident in the specificity of your gift. And don’t step on people’s toes. If the bride’s parents want to get them something specific, don’t try to beat them to the punch.

How Much Should You Spend on a Wedding Gift?

Spend within your means! Most couples understand that everyone has a different budget. 

How Late Is Too Late To Send a Wedding Gift?

Traditionally, sending a gift within a year of the wedding date is appropriate.

Conclusion: The Perfect Present

As many invitations might say, your presence is the present, right? Technically, in the strictest sense, a wedding gift isn’t required. 

But in modern times, when registries and sensibilities allow for a wide range of gifting options at every budget, why not provide a gift? It’s a special day!

Do you have a strategy when picking out a wedding gift from a registry? Let me know in the comments!

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