Throughout the world, the age-old tradition of expressing support and affection for a newlywed couple by selecting the perfect wedding gift remains deeply ingrained.
Whether it’s giving gold coins in India and fragrances in Sudan or more unique presents like cuckoo clocks in Germany and intricately carved wooden ducks in South Korea, the custom of gifting something to the bride and groom to wish them good fortune and abundance in their new journey together has been observed for centuries across different cultures.
However, even in today’s world, in countries like the US, deciding how much to spend on wedding gifts can still be a headache. Without clear guidelines on budgets and no specific traditional items to offer at the ceremony, many guests at Western weddings find themselves stressed about finding considerate and fitting gifts for couples that also fall within the right price range.
It’s no wonder, then, that when it comes to understanding wedding gift etiquette, many of us are searching for clear guidance and a healthy dose of inspiration.
1. A Gift That’s Right for Everyone
When determining the appropriate expenditure on wedding presents, the budget is distinctly “relative”. Close family members and dear friends of the bride and groom are likely to allocate more for a wedding gift than distant cousins or colleagues from work.
So far, this seems clear-cut, but there are additional aspects to factor in. For instance, where exactly is the couple tying the knot? If you’ve received an invitation to an elaborate destination wedding set on a remote tropical island or within the historic grounds of a European mansion, or if you’ve had to travel a considerable distance to return to the couple’s hometown, you might already be incurring substantial expenses simply by arranging travel and lodging.
Similarly, suppose you’re part of the wedding party and have already spent money on a bridal shower gift or participated in an extravagant bachelor party. In that case, it’s entirely reasonable to modify your wedding gift budget to account for these expenses.
A strategy frequently favoured by close friends and relatives who have already been part of pre-wedding celebrations is collaborating and purchasing a joint gift for the newlyweds. This approach intelligently allows for acquiring a high-value item that the couple may genuinely desire, all while ensuring that each contributor can make a meaningful contribution without straining their finances.
Remember that if circumstances prevent you from getting the ideal present for the couple before their big day, it’s valuable to know that wedding etiquette permits you to send them a wedding gift up to a year after their wedding day.
Today, many couples empathise with and understand the potential expenses of attending their special day. Often, invitations convey the sentiment that “your presence is the only gift they seek”. However, this often spurs the desire to present them with something more substantial.
2. “Rules” to Ignore
Adding to the complexity of understanding wedding gift etiquette, there are outdated customs that modern guests would be wise to disregard. One prime example, as affirmed by numerous seasoned wedding planners, is the “cover your plate rule”. This archaic notion suggests that the value of a wedding gift should correspond to the cost per person for the wedding meal. This notion conjures the somewhat uncomfortable idea that the newlyweds are attempting to recover their expenses for the event while expecting guests to somehow predict the costs of wedding catering in advance.
Conversely, while gifting money was once seen as lazy and tactless (according to a 2018 survey by Nerdwallet, slightly more than half of respondents still viewed cash gifts unfavourably), it has become an increasingly embraced choice. This shift is largely due to many couples marrying later in life, often already possessing fully furnished homes and all necessary household items. In such cases, a monetary gift intended for a honeymoon or an extraordinary journey is swiftly gaining popularity.
Need some cosmic inspiration? Check out our 10 ideas for a celestial wedding.
3. Getting Your Gift from the Registry
For a helpful guide through the wedding gift selection process (not to mention ensuring that the newlyweds receive items they genuinely need for their upcoming life together), most couples about to tie the knot establish a gift registry. This registry allows them to share their list of preferred gifts with their guests before the wedding day.
A gift registry isn’t just a rundown of desired items; it typically encompasses various price ranges to cater to all budgets. This approach alleviates any pressure on guests before the significant event. It’s interesting to note that renowned Chicago department store Marshall Field & Co. first introduced the idea in 1924. With almost a century behind it, you could consider the gift registry itself an established American wedding tradition!
A gift registry typically presents a collection of items the couple would find valuable or enjoyable and a list of preferred retailers and brands. This means that if you’re unable to locate a particular item or if it doesn’t fit within your budget, contributing by purchasing a gift card from a specified store is always a viable and acceptable choice.
However, it’s essential to remember that relying solely on the gift registry list might result in duplicate gifts from other guests. We’ve probably all encountered a couple somewhere who embarked on their journey with an excess of bottle openers and way more toasters than needed.
4. There’s Nothing More Precious than a Thoughtful Gift
After considering all the factors mentioned above, it’s unsurprising that when the question of how much to spend on wedding gifts arises, many of us contemplate presents that go beyond the ordinary. We ponder over gifts that showcase the depth of our care by putting in that extra effort — finding and crafting a profoundly personal keepsake for the couple — rather than simply increasing the monetary value.
There’s a noticeable trend in the wedding industry toward individuals moving away from the conventional gift registry. They’re disregarding the convenient choices of store vouchers or cash contributions and instead aiming for gifts that resonate from the heart. These are the kind of gifts that tell the unique love story of the couple in an exceptional manner.
As it happens, we have some gorgeous gifts that can do just that. For instance, the Where We Met Map is a visually captivating cartographic creation that portrays the exact spot in the town, city, or even state where the couple had their initial encounter. Alternatively, if their first date holds deeper sentimental value, how about a First Date Map? This map would highlight the venue or commemorate the places where the couple truly began their journey of getting to know one another. For incurable romantics, either option is bound to become a centrepiece on the wall of their shared home. It will spark conversations among visiting friends and also stand as a beautiful, enduring token of their affection.
If you believe a couple’s love really is written in the stars, then why not go all out and present them with a One-of-a-Kind Star Map depicting how the stars were aligned when they first met, when they got engaged and when they married? Or maybe a We Met, We Married, We Live Print displaying the locations where a couple got together, tied the knot, and built a home? For those who cherish both sentimentality and style, the beauty of gifts such as these is that they are visually pleasing artworks that hold so much meaning for just a special few.
For guests keen to add personal touches through a little of their creative input, a bespoke-made Wedding Day Photo Collage is another wonderful way to give something special to those you care about on their wedding day. Designing an exclusive, customisable wall print with a personalised message doesn’t cost a fortune, but it’s likely to become one of a happily married couple’s most treasured possessions.
5. The Gift of Inspiration
Regardless of how a couple opts to commemorate their wedding day, whether it’s an opulent and extravagant affair or a simple and private gathering, the essence of marriage remains rooted in the celebration of love and steadfast commitment.
Rather than allowing concerns about the appropriate amount to spend on wedding gifts to overwhelm you, it might be best to reflect on the fact that, beyond extravagant crystal decanters or luxurious bed linens, what most individuals truly desire from their loved ones is a gesture that genuinely conveys their deep affection. A gift that overflows with consideration and warmth, an item to hold dear as the years pass, and one that springs forth authentically and earnestly, directly from the heart.
Need more inspiration? Check out our list of Unique and Thoughtful Mr and Mrs Gift Ideas they will adore.