A wedding gift is the tangible evidence of your well wishes for the bride and groom. Certainly, a family member would have a closer connection than, say, a neighbor, and the gift will reflect this. Whether your gift is a social nicety or a gift of love, there are guidelines to the art of giving a wedding gift. Below are the questions most frequently asked of me during my 25 years in the business.
WHAT IS AN APPROPRIATE GIFT?
Reach into your heart and realize your feelings toward this couple. Then let your emotions and your good taste be your guide. A niece might get a set of china; a friend of your daughter’s from college, a picture frame. If the couple is registered at a department or specialty store you might peruse their list and try to find something you’d like to send. But never feel limited by a registry. The couple registers for the convenience of their guests.
HOW MUCH SHOULD I SPEND?
The first figure that pops into my head is $100, and for a couple $150. These amounts are arbitrary and affected by a number of factors. The most pressing one is your budget; no one would want you to go into debt for a wedding gift, so you’ll have to be creative—a certificate to help the couple move, or paint their new home, for example. Other factors are your age, your relationship to the couple, and your local or community customs. If you’re stumped, it’s great to check with others who are going to the wedding. It’s also fine to pool resources to give a couple a more significant gift.
IS MONEY AN ACCEPTABLE GIFT?
In some communities, money is the gift of choice. In other groups, it wouldn’t enter the mind to send a gift of money. If you’re uncomfortable with cash, you could always do a gift card or certificate. In some communities, it’s customary to have a ‘money dance’ where the bride collects money in a small drawstring purse on her wrist from any male who dances with her. Sometimes the groom is involved with the ladies in his own money dance. There may be a birdcage for checks and cash, or even a money tree. This is only in some ethnic communities. It could seem crass, but in reality it’s quite a lovely sentiment. It gives the couple a leg-up in the first days of their wedded life.
WE GAVE A SHOWER GIFT / HOSTED A PARTY / HAD A LUNCHEON, ETC. DO WE STILL HAVE TO GIVE A WEDDING GIFT?
Yes. Our generosity has already been known to the couple, but a small gift of some sort is the correct thing to do. (Suggestion: a framed picture of the couple at the party you hosted.)
I’M UNABLE TO ATTEND THE WEDDING. DO I HAVE TO SEND A GIFT?
Yes. If a couple thought enough of you to want you there on one of the most important days of their lives, you must always send a gift.
IF THE WEDDING IS VERY ELABORATE, WITH A SEATED DINNER, DOES MY GIFT HAVE TO MATCH THE AMOUNT THEY SPENT?
Absolutely not. You wouldn’t be expected to pay for your dinner if you were invited to a dinner party, so matching your gift to the amount spent to entertain you is absolutely not necessary.
WHEN SHOULD I SEND the GIFT?
As soon as you receive your invitation until the day of the wedding is the accepted ‘correct’ time, but as late as a week or two after is still good. The urban legend of a year to send a wedding gift is 100 percent untrue!
CAN I JUST BRING MY GIFT TO THE WEDDING?
Carrying gifts is better left to the Three Wise Men—or children going to a birthday party. Gifts should be sent to the bride before the wedding. (Only the inside enclosure card should list both the bride’s and groom’s name.) But, as in all things, there are exceptions. Some communities have gift tables at wedding receptions as a rule. If you bring a gift and there is no ‘gift table,’ give the gift to a service person and ask that it be locked in the manager’s office. It’s a good idea to tell a family member that your gift has been left there.
HOW ABOUT GIFTS AT THE CEREMONY?
I remember a wedding where I was assembling the bridesmaids and parents, children, etc. for the processional, when in comes this wrapped box the size of a coffee table with a stick-on bow the size of a donut. The gentleman carrying it was rather put out when I told him he would have to take his gift to the reception. “Well, I guess we will have to just keep it,” was his response, thus depriving the newlyweds of the turkey fryer, double crockpot or some other such monstrosity perfect for enhancing a trailer!
John Sullivan has a fine arts degree from Kansas City Art Institute. He has partnered with Ken Miesner for the past 25 years at Ken Miesner’s Flowers at Plaza Frontenac, where they recently did flowers for their 1,000th wedding!