Even though buying a wedding gift should be a simple act, some of the specifics can leave you befuddled. When you're trying to decide what to buy, how much to spend, and when to send it, you may suspect that there are unwritten rules on the subject. All that truly matters is that you give with a generous spirit and include a kind note with your gift, but try to heed a few modern etiquette rules. Read on for the dos and don'ts of wedding gift giving.
You might think that it's boring to buy the bride and groom something from their registry. You might think they would like it more if you got creative and gave them, say, a vase purchased on your recent trip to Turkey or a cool quilt you found at a country flea market. But you probably would be wrong. Couples really want everything on their registries more than anything else, or else they wouldn't have put those things on the list. Plus, it's the easiest way to go since most registries are online, and with just a few clicks, you can have a gift wrapped and on its way to the couple without even having to look up their address.
Not sure where a couple is registered? Search for their names at giftregistrylocator.com, a site that provides direct access to the online registries of most of the major stores, or ask a member of the wedding party or one of the couple's family members. If, for some reason, you do veer from the registry (maybe everything in your price range has been purchased by the time you get there), buy them something from a major retailer with a branch in their area and include a receipt so they can return it.
Cash is the one exception to the registry rule. If you don't purchase a gift from the registry, you're still guaranteed to please if you slip a check into a heartfelt card. Many couples prefer money to flatware and fluffy towels, but feel greedy asking for it. That's especially likely if the couple is young and doesn't own their home yet, or if they're students or recent grads facing huge loans. You might want to ask around (talk to the bride's or groom's parents, or members of the wedding party) to find out whether the couple would appreciate a gift of cold, hard currency.
Although it might seem boring or unglamorous to give everyday stuff like citrus zesters, barbecue tools, and ice cream bowls, many modern couples prefer those items to the traditional china and silver. Everyone's a foodie these days, so high-end kitchen gear is among the most coveted gifts. And with the current trend moving toward casual entertaining, the unpretentious serving items on their registry will see way more use than the sterling silver or Limoges.
The amount that you're expected to shell out on a wedding gift varies depending on how close you are to the couple and what's customary in your part of the country, but between $50 and $200 is considered standard. You can spend something on the lower end of that range for a coworker throwing a 300-guest bash, but you should give more to a family member who is including you in an intimate affair of 50. It's also acceptable to spend a little less when you've had to splurge on traveling to a destination wedding, or when you've already bought pricey shower and engagement gifts (see below). But if you're attending the wedding as a couple, you should buy something bigger than you would if you were going solo.
Of course, the wedding is far from the only social affair celebrating a new marriage, and you're expected to bring gifts to some of the others too. The whole point of a shower is, of course, to "shower" the bride (or the couple, in the case of a coed shower) with gifts. So bringing a gift to a shower is a given. If you don't attend the shower, you're not obligated to send along a gift, though you might choose to if the bride or groom is a close friend. Etiquette is less strict with engagement gifts: If you attend an engagement party for the couple, it's standard procedure to bring a gift to the party, but it can be something small (a pretty bud vase, a nice bottle of wine) and needn't be off the registry (the couple may not even have one yet). If you attend multiple engagement events for the same couple, you don't need to buy a new present for each one. One engagement gift is plenty.
If some of the couple's registry items cost three or four times what you were planning to spend, don't dismiss them right away. See if you can get a few of the couple's other friends to chip in with you and buy the pricey item as a group gift. It might take a little more effort to organize, but the newlyweds will be truly grateful that you were able to give them a big-ticket item they had their hearts set on.
You might like to give your gift to the bride and groom personally, but it's a safe bet that they would rather get it from the UPS man. If you bring it to the reception, then somebody (probably a member of the wedding party) will have to lug it home and get it to the bride and groom after the honeymoon. Plus, it could get damaged, lost, or even stolen over the course of the night. Having it shipped directly to the couple at the address they specify on their registry is easier for everybody.
There's a long-standing idea that you can get away with buying a gift up to a year after the wedding day and still be within the bounds of acceptable manners. But with the convenience of online buying and shipping, there's no longer any excuse for such a delay --try to send your gift no later than two months after the wedding.
Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service