When you're a guest at a wedding, you're there to celebrate a milestone for a couple—and enjoy all of the planning that went into it. You likely weren't a part of the discussions over the guest list, the venue, or even the photography. Instead, you were simply asked to show up for the ceremony and then hit the dance floor with your best moves.
But, hey, guests have to make choices for the big day, too. And the most pressing one, after what to wear, is what to give the pair as a present. In order to make sure this choice goes as smoothly as possible, we asked Jennifer Spector to give us some pointers on wedding gift etiquette.
Meet the Expert
Learn how you can wrap up something every couple can enjoy below.
What should people always keep in mind when shopping for a wedding gift?
Shop the registry: "Almost all couples today have a registry, and they put a lot of thought into selecting the gifts that they really want in their home," Spector says. "So it's best to choose from the gifts they've already said that they want."
Personal does not mean expensive: "The thought you put into a gift is more important than what you spend. If you're on a budget, personalized items like a monogrammed cheese board or mugs are a great option," she says. "Don't give beyond your means just because you feel like you have to."
Donate to a group gift: "On Zola, couples can turn any gift into a group gift so that their guests can contribute any amount they feel comfortable with," Spector notes. "If you see a group gift on a registry, consider contributing or even organizing friends or family members to complete that item. It's probably a gift the couple really wants."
Consider practical items: "Couples need trash cans, vacuums, mops, and shoe racks," she says. "These gifts might not be the 'sexiest' of all registry options, but they are gifts the couple will actually use!"
Set a total budget: "Attending a wedding can be a lot more than just the big day if the couple also has an engagement party, a wedding shower, and bachelor and bachelorette parties," Spector says. "Don't feel like you have to break the bank by giving large gifts for every party. Set a total budget for what you're willing to spend, and then divide that up accordingly. A smaller gift for all events leading up to the wedding and a big bigger gift for the day of is totally acceptable."
Don't feel like you have to break the bank by giving large gifts for every party. Set a total budget for what you're willing to spend, and then divide that up accordingly.
What do you do if you don't choose from a gift registry or if there isn't one?
"I really do recommend people try to stick to the registry because it's a preselected shopping list of gifts the couple really wants," she says. "But, if you aren't able to shop a couple's registry, either because there are no gifts left or they don't have one, try to pick something that matches the aesthetic of their home and lifestyle (not just something that matches yours)."
"For example, if you know they love to entertain, serving platters or a simple vase makes a great gift," Spector continues. "Another great option is a gift card for an experience the couple can use together. I love options like Zeel's Massage Package, a Delta Airlines gift card, or Murray's Cheese of the Month Club. Couples will likely be receiving a lot of gifts, so don't choose anything too bulky or difficult to exchange."
Is there a date range for when to give a gift if you didn't bring one to the wedding?
"I actually encourage people not to bring gifts to the wedding, unless you're giving a check," Spector says. "It's usually best to send a gift before the big day or within three months of the wedding. You want your gift to arrive in time to help the couple get settled into their life as newlyweds."
What are a few things someone should not do regarding wedding gifts?
Don't bring a gift to the wedding: "Gift tables are a thing of the past," Spector says. "It's best to send your gift directly to the couple so they don't have to worry about bringing anything home after the party."
Don't forget to write a nice note: "A nice note to share your well wishes goes a long way, whether you're giving a check with a card or sending a gift online," she says.
Don't give something the couple can't return: "I know we all want to feel like the couple will cherish our gift for a lifetime, but they need to be able to change their mind if it's not their taste," she notes.
Don't shop too late: "The closer you get to the wedding date, the fewer gifts you'll likely have to choose from on the registry," she says. "I recommend shopping the registry before the big day, and you can even buy a gift as soon as you receive the save the date. And some advice for couples—make sure you do add enough gifts so your guests have a good selection to choose from!"
What gifts do you recommend?
"The perfect gift really depends on the couple you're giving to, but it's a gift the couple will actually use," she says. "Gone are the days of hard-and-fast rules around how much and what you're expected to give. As long as you give a gift that feels personal and is within your budget, you're on the right track!"
Shop the items below for some ideas, since Spector says that these are always popular items on Zola.