Here's a typical conversation that occurs in some homes whenever a wedding invitation is received in the mail:

     We got a wedding invitation today.

     Oh, yeah? From whom?

     Your cousin’s granddaughter.

     Good Lord, I thought she was about 10 years old!

     Apparently not, she’s marrying a doctor.

     What’s the date? Can we go?

     Saturday, October 25th, College Church, reception is at The Chase.

     Let me check my calendar at work before you send it back. Are the kids invited?

     No, it’s addressed to Mr. & Mrs.—probably a good thing.

     I’ll call your sister—she'll know if they’re registered anywhere.

The Next Day:

     I’m free on that Saturday, if you want to go to that wedding.

      I’ll put the response card in the mail right now.

     Black tie?

     It doesn’t say, but I'll check to see what your sister’s husband is going to do.

All this is great behavior, and a classic example of how a wedding invitation should be handled. You decide how much you want to spend on a gift, and maybe go online to look at the registry or get yourself to the store. Whatever you are comfortable spending is what you should spend. This sounds like a very nice affair, I would think about $100 a person, maybe $150 to $200 for the couple. 

You’ll want the item gift-wrapped, with a nice card, addressed to the bride at her parents' home. Your message should read something like this: Wishing you a lifetime of happiness, John and Mary Smith. Try using your own stationery with your return address. It will make it easier for them to thank you. Include your first and last name.

I’ve found a gift I think they’ll like very much, but it’s $165. Do you think that’s enough? Of course, a nice gift of any price is OK (that tit-for-tat thinking that you must pay for your dinner totally is inappropriate). Never go into debt for a gift. Buteven if you cannot attend the wedding--you must send a gift. If you’re not close to the bride and groomor you’re on a fixed incomea card of congratulations is completely appropriate.

You do not have a year to send a wedding giftthat's an ill-conceived lie. If you are unable to purchase a gift before the wedding you may want to write a check to the couple, giving it to the groom, the best man, or one of the fathers. That is the only time you may bring your gift with you.

A wedding is not a birthday party. Bringing a gift to the ceremony venue is ridiculous. (They need a blender at the wedding? I think not.) And bringing it to the reception is inconvenient. I think a gift table and those boxes for checks (while sometimes being necessary) really shouldn't be there. If you’re at a fine club, or a nice hotel, you would give your gift to the manager or maître d' to put into the locked office.

Attending a wedding requires you to be on timeas much as a half-hour to 10 minutes ahead of time is the appropriate time to arrive. Never try to be seated during a wedding processional.

Dress appropriately, don’t drink and drive, get out on the dance floor and have a great time. Weddings are celebrations, so do celebrate the newly married couple, congratulate him and wish her a happy life.

Don’t forget to thank your hosts as you leave. A phone call or note telling your hosts, What a lovely evening it was! is always very special, but not an absolute necessity.

The rules of etiquette really are quite simple. They exist to show respect and affection, and to make life easier for all. Best wishes and have a great time!

Wedding expert John Sullivan has worked with partner Ken Miesner for 40 years at Ken Miesner's Flowers, where they have collaborated for some 1,200 weddings! 'Like' him on Facebook under 'Wedding Wisdom,' where guests are welcome to post pictures, and leave comments and opinions.

More Weddings & Engagements articles.