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Photo: Allison Jeffers Wedding Photography

Wedding gift giving isn’t like showing up to a birthday party — there are proper etiquette guidelines you should follow when it comes to buying gifts for newlyweds.

If you’re unsure of what the protocol is, there’s no need to worry, just keep these golden rules in mind and you’ll be a gift giving expert.


Buy the gift off of their registry
Most couples today usually make some kind of registry, so guests know exactly what to get the couple. If you’re not used to the idea of getting a gift that’s picked out by the receiver(s) ahead of time, it’s totally understandable. Think of it this way: you’re helping them start their life together, and these are items that will help them do that. We highly encourage you to stick to the registry. The newlyweds are expecting to get these gifts, so if you purchase something totally different, that’s one less thing off their registry that they’ll receive. If you want to get them something more personal as well, that’s totally fine, but make sure your main gift is from that list.
PS—you should get it from the store where they’re registered. If you see a gift on the list and you buy it for a lower price somewhere else, they’ll likely end up with two of the same thing unless you mark it as “purchased” on the original list. It makes everyone’s life easier if you just stick to the registry.

If the couple uses an alternative registry, get your gift from that
Gift registries are pretty common among couples today. Think big department stores with lots of kitchen supplies and home goods. This is what comes to mind for most people when they hear the word registry, but there are a few other types, and 27% of couples opt for those instead. Honeymoon registries, for example, are a way for guests to donate money to the first trip they’ll take as spouses. Cash registries are a way for guests to give the couple money online versus bringing an envelope with a cash or check inside to the reception. Experience registries are another common option, which allow people to register for cooking classes, sporting events, concerts, and other activities.

Don’t bring the gift with you to the wedding (unless it’s a check)
This may seem like a pretty weird rule if you don’t regularly attend weddings, but it’s an important one. It may feel unnatural to show up to such an important celebration empty-handed, but we promise it’s the norm. Registries have the couple’s address on file so when you buy the gift online, it ships right to their house. Couples actually prefer that rather than you showing up with an oversized present to the reception. This way, the gift is stored at their home, and they don’t have to deal with it after the reception. If you plan on giving a cash gift, stick it in an envelope. There will likely be a designated spot for cards at the reception.

It’s totally acceptable to give a group gift
If you want to team up with other guests and go in on a gift together, that’s totally fine. The more people that pitch in, the more expensive the gift should be. This is a great way to get the couple one of the higher-priced items on their registry.

Your relationship with the couple should dictate how much you spend
The average guest spends $181 on a wedding gift, but that’s just an average. If you’re a co-worker or distant relative, you’ll probably be in the spending range of $75 -$100. Whereas if you’re a close friend or relative, you might get something closer to the price listed above. The bottom line is, the closer you are to the couple getting married, the more money you should plan to spend on a gift.

If you’re invited to the wedding shower, you need to bring a gift
Registries are also the norm for bridal and wedding showers, so be prepared to bring a present to that as well. Plan to spend around $50 for that gift. This is most likely the same registry the couple is using for their wedding, so save the more expensive items for the big day.

If you can’t attend the wedding, you should still send a gift
It’s proper gift etiquette to send a gift even if you can’t attend the wedding. It’s a nice way of saying, “thanks for inviting me”.

If you’re in the wedding party, you still need to get a gift
Yes, you’ve spent a lot on attire, travel, hotel, and other events, but you’re still required to get the couple a gift. No exceptions.