Tag Archives: wedding

Wedding Gift Etiquette – Buy A Gift or Write A Check?

Wedding Gift Etiquette“So what do you want for a wedding gift?”

I remember peopled asked me this a ton right before our wedding, and I’m sure all engaged couples get this question.When people pose it, they’re looking for a simple answer. “Please buy me four Egyptian cotton towels in mushroom from Bed, Bath, and Beyond,” they’d like me to tell them. Or, “We really like the copper pots from Williams-Sonoma,” they want me to say.

But most people don’t say that.

First of all, if they really wanted to know, they shouldn’t be asking the guy in the first place. They should ask the woman instead. My wife would have the perfect answer. She’d be able to tell them exactly what we (read: she) wants, exactly where to find it, and exactly how much it costs. It was the same with our engagement gifts. I usually replied with a generic, “Oh, I’m sure we’ll love whatever you get! We’re just thrilled you’ll be there to celebrate with us.” Why? Because wedding gift etiquette makes me cringe. The gifts aren’t the reason we’re getting married, so asking what I want makes me uncomfortable.

How Much Should I Spend On A Wedding Gift?

This is my main apprehension to doling out any truly useful wedding gift advice. I don’t know how much my fiancée’s friends from college can afford to spend, and it’s downright tacky to ask. In many cases, our friends are young(ish) professionals, just finding their professional footing. I’d hate to tell them that a $60 waffle iron was what we were eyeing, only to find out later that the money spent on the gift severely stretched their budget. In other cases, I have a general idea of what someone can afford – say, family members like aunts, uncles, or cousins. I know my cousin, a lawyer, is doing well in his career, but that doesn’t mean I should take advantage of it.

The answer to the question, “How much should I spend on a wedding gift?” is inherently personal – and, inherently intangible. A 2009 article from CBS News broke down suggested wedding gift expenses this way:

Co-worker and/or distant family friend or relative: $50-$75
Relative or friend: $75-$100
Close relative or close friend: $100-$150

That’s the average, though. According to proper wedding gift etiquette, the scale of the affair is not supposed to factor into the gift-giving decision. That is to say, if one of your co-workers has a five-course, sit-down dinner at a country club while another has a buffet reception at the local VFW hall, but you’re equally close with each, it shouldn’t affect what you buy (ie, you don’t have to “pay for your plate”). However, the cost of living is far higher in Washington, DC, than it is in Roanoke, Virginia – meaning the same $75 gift may look thrifty in the Capitol and simultaneously luxurious three hours to the south.

Buy A Gift

Another question I’m getting a lot these days has to do with exactly what type of gift my fiancée and I want to receive. Namely, do we want a physical gift or just money?

The easiest answer is to simply point guests to the wedding registry. After all, that’s what it’s there for. Months ago, we spent a painful (don’t tell my fiancée I said that) afternoon using one of those barcode-scanner-things to load up our registry. Now, while I can’t say I paid all that much attention to what my fiancée actually scanned, I can tell you – with certainty – that there’s a lot on that registry. Some of the items were cheap; things like place mats and hand towels and napkin rings were less than $5 each, and some were these great gifts.. Other items, like our bedding set and cutlery, were far pricier. Some of my friends who have gotten married have even registered for furniture or their honeymoon, allowing guests to donate an amount they’re comfortable with to the newlyweds.

That’s what makes registries so ideal. They’re kind of like a matchmaker, a gift middle-man, ensuring that the bride and groom get exactly what they want while giving the guest the opportunity to select the ultimate price tag without broaching wedding gift etiquette.

Write A Check

The fact is, the decision to buy a gift isn’t for everyone. For one, guests traveling from out of town may be encumbered by a bulky gift. For others, like a cousin with a new baby, it’s just another thing to add to an already busy to-do list. And I realize that other than to me and her, this isn’t the biggest day in world.

That’s where giving money as a gift comes in to play. A friend of mine let it be known through word of mouth that she and her husband-to-be wanted cash for a wedding present. When it was all said and done, their extensive guest list of more than 200 had given them a whopping $15,000 in cold, hard cash (and slightly less-cold, less-hard personal checks). A college buddy and his wife intentionally created a small bridal registry, so their wedding guests would have no alternative but to hand over a check.

Some wedding guests don’t like giving money as a gift because it feels impersonal, sterile, antiseptic. Likewise, many engaged couples don’t like asking for money because it’s perceived as tacky, uncouth, and greedy. The bottom line, however, is that for many couples, cash is king. For a couple starting their lives together heavily in debt, it can be far more freeing than a food processor ever could be. For a couple looking to buy a house, the windfall of several thousand dollars in wedding gifts can mean the difference between a loan approval or denial – unless, of course, banks are now accepting bone china as part of an acceptable down payment.

Readers, what are your rules for giving wedding gifts? Do you follow a specific formula?

Updated August 17, 2015 and originally published May 7, 2012.

Five Wedding Gifts You Shouldn’t Buy For A Friend

How many wedding invitations have you found inside your mailbox the past few months? It’s no coincidence that summer is the most popular time of the year for weddings – after all, the beautiful weather is a big reason why Lauren and I chose June for our own wedding. We’re not the only ones, though; according to The Knot, 13 percent of couples tie the knot in June, the month during which summer kicks off. That’s second only to September; the month that marks the end of summer sees 14 percent of American weddings.

Recently, I delved into the issue of whether or not it’s appropriate to give money as a wedding gift. I also discussed some of the best wedding gifts to get friends. Now, I’m going to give you another lesson on wedding gift etiquette: five gifts that you shouldn’t get for friends. That’s not to say they’re not great gifts, but maybe they’re for relatives or people who don’t know the bride and groom all that well. When you’re a friend, you want to give something they want and use regularly.

Fine China

We love our fine china. We use it almost every Friday night. We received most of it from close relatives. But since china is crazy expensive (it took several months for me to learn that having china was important and that we couldn’t just use our regularly dishes every night. I also learned that we needed a special cabinet just to house these special dishes.),  getting china for a friend usually means just one or two plates. That’s great and all, but compared to all the other gifts, it will get lost in the shuffle. For friends, get something that stands on it’s own (unless you’re splitting a gift with others)

Extremely Specialized Kitchen Electronics

We love our popcorn machine, our blender, and our food processor. These are our kitchen staples and we use them all the time. Sometimes couples register for things they don’t want because they think others shop at price points. If you’re looking to spend $200 and you see some kitchen electronics, it’s very easy to be drawn to it. But stop before you buy that ice cream maker or that deep fryer. How many times are they really going to use that? We have no room for any more large electronics, and after a batch of ice cream, we likely would have had to return an ice cream maker anyway. Plus, how often would we have used it?


Everyone has different tastes, what’s beautiful to one person could be trash to another. Unless you’ve been given the OK from the bride or groom (let’s be honest, the bride’s opinion is all that matters), stay away from giving art. You don’t want to have your piece of artwork sitting in the attic for the next 20 years. So while art could be be a great gift, it must be vetted first!

A Faux Wedding Gift Registry Purchase

The bride and groom registered for $65 bath towels – yes, as in $65 each. You’ve found a towel at Kohl’s that looks pretty much the same, and is only $6.95. The newlyweds won’t know the difference, right? Probably not best to chance it. After all, there is a word for people like you: cheapskate. Gift registries are for items that you wouldn’t necessarily buy yourself, but since people are offering, why not treat yourself nicely? That means getting what people actually ask for. If you’re on a budget, there are always cheaper options. But don’t try to fool anyone, because if they try to return or exchange it and can’t, you will end up looking very bad.

Anyt Wedding Gift That Isn’t On The Registry

I must say that we were very fortunate with the wedding gifts that we received. We had heard horror stories about gifts that weren’t bought off the registry and just didn’t belong anywhere and couldn’t be returned. Thankfully, we got some awesome gifts off the registry that we never thought of bus use all the time: A hand-crafted backgammon set, a personalized welcome mat, and a personalized “Mrs. Packer” coat hanger for Lauren, among others.

There are some wedding gifts you can’t have enough of (vases and picture frames, for example). But going off-registry can be very dangerous. There is a reason why engaged couples create a gift registry: to educate guests on their style and taste. If an item didn’t make it on to their registry, there’s probably a reason for that. So, no matter how beautiful you think those gaudy crystal candle holders are, put them down and step away from the display. If the bride and groom had wanted you to buy them, they would have added them to their registry. If you can’t find anything on the gift registry that suits your style (which really isn’t important, considering the gift isn’t for you) or budget, simply buy them a gift card to the store they’re registered at or give them cash. Trust me, they’ll thank you for it.

Readers, what’s the worst wedding gift you ever received? Have you ever given (or re-gifted a truly horrible wedding gift?

Live in the Same Region As Your Alma Mater

There are a lot of decisions that are made for us in our lives without any real opportunity for a decision. Some examples are where we go to school (sometimes we don’t get in where we want) and where we work (especially in this job market, my first job was at the first company that offered me a job).

The choices we do control are often big ones that are made for non-financial reasons (like my decision to move across the country to be with my then-fiancée).

However, all things being equal, of you’re deciding where to live after college, I have some advice for you: stay local. Or at least in the same region.

After graduating from the university of Maryland, I lived in DC for a few years before taking the plunge and moving to the west best coast. In those few years, a couple of my friends got married. For me, it meant a few hours in the car to reach their “destination” wedding in New Jersey.

Once I moves to Los Angeles, I realized just how far I was from many of my friends. As more and more get married, the trips are far less convenient. Now, it means buying expensive airline tickets and deciding whether to bring Lauren along. Costs can quickly rise to $1,000 in travel costs, which is a lot to be spending on a wedding as a guest!

This is my own doing and each time I attend a wedding or reunion I have an amazing time so there are no complaints there, but financially it’s a burden (and sometimes means using vacation days for travel, too).

We saw this with our wedding when we made everyone fly out to Los Angeles. Most of our friends live on the east coast, so it was not a small request. We had an amazing turnout and I’m very grateful that so many people were willing and able to make the trip because I know it’s not easy.

Maybe it was rude of us to make friends in one state and then move away? I think I said the same thing last year about Lauren meeting me on the east coast and then forcing inviting me to come back with her to LA.

You don’t always have the option of deciding where you’ll live, but if you do, I highly suggest staying on the same side of the country because you’ll end up saving a ton of money in travel costs and you’ll be able to go to more of your friends’ events.

Readers, do you live in the same region as most of your friends? Is traveling to events a burden?