Continuing on the theme of weddings, I have recently received a number of questions regarding gift etiquette. After ensuring the classic experts agree - from The Emily Post Institute to theknot.com - I have shortlisted the guidelines that will dispel the confusing etiquette around gift giving when attending, or not attending, this beautiful life event.
Time & Place
Wedding gifts may certainly be given prior to the wedding date. In fact, it is customary to send your gift just after you receive the invitation! You may bring it with you to the wedding itself, but remember that the bride and groom might be jetting off right away, and that delivering the gifts safely home could be an issue. Best to have the gift directed to their home instead of the reception if possible. Gifts are welcome even up to one year after the wedding itself, if necessary.
A popular myth is that a wedding gift should echo the amount the host has spend on your meal at the affair. This simply is not the case. It is appropriate to spend anywhere from $50 and up, depending on your financial ability and your relationship with the couple. At a hosted event, the host will entertain her guests according to her ability and desired manner, and the guest shall show appreciation according to her ability and desired manner. 'Paying' for one's meal at an event to which you have been invited as an honored guest is not required.
*Think of it this way: if you host a dinner party do you expect your guests to bring host(ess) gifts according to the cost of the meal you are creating? Natch. Didn't think so.
Registry vs Monetary
Often times a couple will register for gifts at a store or two at a variety of price-points to remain sensitive to the needs of their guests. If they choose this route, purchasing from the registry shows you are being attentive to their desires and needs. Only if you know the couple particularly well should you consider deviating far from the registry (particularly when it comes to artwork as this is intensely personal) - try to ensure you know their tastes and that your gift is returnable to avoid potentially uncomfortable situations for the couple.
A monetary gift is actually considered very appropriate by many cultures, do not shy away if the couple have not registered and you are unsure of their tastes!
Another very lovely gift, is to make a contribution in the honor of the couple to one of their preferred charities. If they are heavily involved with particular endeavors, you will know which to choose. If they are not, but are a patron of the arts/culture/shelters etc, a donation in their honor will touch them in a surprising and thoughtful way.
Regardless of whether or not you attend the wedding, it is appropriate to send a congratulatory gift. According to the experts, not attending and additionally failing to send a gift indicates that you are terminating your relationship with the couple. Wow!