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Wedding Guest & Gift Etiquette

Lei Lydle

By , Founder and Editor
Last Updated: 8/6/2008 3:56:50 PM

Link to Referenced Article:
Please Note: Links to outside sources may not always work.

I recently had the opportunity to be a guest on Star 94ís Cindy & Ray Show as a wedding expert taking calls and questions related to wedding planning and etiquette. Several of the questions were about wedding gifts and not about wedding planning which is really my area of expertise. However, there are a few rules of etiquette related to wedding gifts that you may need to know:

  • Couples should never make mention of the gift registry or the fact that you want cash in lieu of gifts on the invitation. This information should be spread by word of mouth or indicated on your individual wedding web site.

  • Guests are not required to bring a wedding gift to the wedding which is one of the reasons you should never make mention of gifts with your wedding invitation. However, social etiquette indicates that if you are invited to a wedding you should send a gift to the couple whether or not you plan to attend.

  • If possible, send your gift to the couple before or after the wedding rather than bringing it to the ceremony or reception because it can be difficult for family members to transport all of the gifts after the event. In addition, gifts and cards can get lost or stolen at weddings.

  • The coupleís gift registry is the first place you should look when considering a gift.

  • Most couples are happy to receive cash.

  • There is no set rule as to how much a guest should spend on a wedding gift. In general, the closer you are to the couple, the more you should probably spend. If you need guidelines, $50 should be the minimum to spend on a wedding gift and $25 should be the minimum spend on the shower gift.

  • Couples that do not want a traditional gift registry can set up a honeymoon fund or a new home fund through their bank and guests can contribute to that fund rather than giving gifts.

Other Wedding Guest Etiquette Rules:
  • Donít ever invite your own guests to a wedding. If there is only one name on the invitation, that is the person that is invited and should attend.

  • If your kidsí names are not mentioned on the either the outer or inner envelope of the invitation, they are not invited and you should not bring them. Many couples do not want children at their weddings.

  • Formal weddings begin at 6:30 in the evening or at noon. Unless the invitation states otherwise, you can expect these weddings to be formal. Black tie means tuxes and floor-length formal dresses. Black tie optional means men donít have to wear tuxes and women donít have to wear floor-length gowns Ė but this wedding is still pretty dressy.

I also came across an interesting article on The Jackson Sun News Web Site (linked above) related to wedding guest etiquette. Although the entire article is related to weddings, scroll down to the middle of the page where it says By LAUREN BISHOP and to start reading about this topic.

Do you like this story?

13 Comments Submit Comments...

Guest AS from PA says...

Hi, I was invited to a semi-formal wedding, which I am unable to attend. The groom is a close friend, so i would still like to send a gift. I have heard that the gift amount should be at least the same amount the couple is spending per person for the reception, but does this rule still apply even though I'm not attending?

Posted: 6/20/2011 2:57:50 PM

Guest TMA from IL says...

We were invited to a co-workers wedding & the people I work with want to get a $100.00 gift card from 8 people which means we would all give $12.50 each. I thought that was AWFUL, AWFUL, AWFUl. Eapecially considering that at least half of the 8 people all hang out together & party. I thought that a min gift should be at least $25.00. Am I wrong?

Wedding Date: 02/19/2011

Posted: 2/14/2011 11:02:34 AM

Guest J.Lynn from wyoming says...

My husband and I were invited to the wedding of a neighbor's daughter. I was invited and did attend her bridal shower. I spent $40.00 on a gift for her. I was invited and went to her bachelorette party. We received our invite and we are excluded from the dinner but are invited to the reception. My husband and I find this odd that I was invited to the other events but now not the dinner. i have to say I am a little miffed and feel like all they want from us is $$$

Wedding Date: 10-23-2010

Posted: 10/20/2010 9:00:13 PM

Guest lou ann star from corsicana,tx says...

I have been invited to several weddings lately including wedding showers. some people have told me that it is all right to only give a gift at the shower and not the wedding. I thought you should give to both, the shower gift being the lesser gift? What is your take on this, traditions have changed so much. thanks for your help.

Wedding Date: 10/04/2008

Posted: 8/4/2008 10:43:13 AM

Guest Sue from IL says...

My husband and I were invited to an old grade school friend of mines' daughters wedding. I have never met this girl, but her parents are wonderful people and it would hurt them if we didn't go. What kind of a gift do we bring for someone who doesn't even know us?

Wedding Date: 7/26

Posted: 7/25/2008 3:49:40 PM

Guest Lei Lydle, Editor from says...


$50 is the minimum amount you should spend for a wedding gift. Good luck!


Posted: 7/18/2008 12:53:04 PM

Guest MIMI from Southampton, NY says...

I have been invited to my co-workers son's wedding reception as he eloped and wanted to know what amount would be acceptible for a cash gift?

Wedding Date: July 12, 2008

Posted: 7/9/2008 3:26:00 PM

Guest Ann from Charleston, SC says...

Hi there, I am single, 26 years old, financially independent, and have not lived in my parents' house (or even the same state) for 8 years. For my younger cousin's wedding, I have not received an invitation for any showers or the wedding, but my name was on my parents' wedding invitation as if I lived at home. According to my grandmother, they were trying to save on invitation costs, but I am pretty offended by this, especially since my younger sister who has been married for a month got her own invitation. My question though, is do I have to bring a gift? Obviously, since I am not married, I am not considered an adult and would just add my name to my parents' gift, right? I don't want to be petty or act like the child they are implying that I am, but I am offended and don't want to go beyond what is socially appropriate.

Wedding Date: July 12

Posted: 7/7/2008 10:12:56 PM

Guest Elizabeth from San Antonio, TX says...

We recently got married and did not have an official wedding party. We still gave each of our closest friends "thank you" gifts and considered them to be our bridesmaids and groomsmen, just not stand up at the alter with us. As the bride, I had a shower and a bachelorette party. My friends attended both and gave gifts at both. Does this mean that they do not have to get us a wedding present because they gave us a shower gift? We did not recieve presents from our closest friends, and we are a bit confused as to why they felt no need to get us a gift.

Wedding Date: 5-10-09

Posted: 6/18/2008 5:03:23 PM

Guest Domenica from Jackson, NJ says...

I have been invited to wedding recently. It is one of my sister's very good friends. This is going to be a pretty fancy affair. My husband has concert tickets the same night, so I responded for just myself and I am going alone. Should I give the same gift that I would have given if he were coming with me? If he were coming with me, I would have given her $300. Is it sufficient for me to give her $200 instead?

Wedding Date: June 28

Posted: 6/5/2008 7:00:15 AM

Guest Lei Lydle, Editor from Atlanta, Georgia says...

Hi Kathy! Yes, this is a nice way of saying the couple prefers money rather than a gift. In general, as my article states above, no wedding invitation should make any mention of gifts, gift registries or the preference of money. But many brides are throwing traditional etiquette rules out the door and just doing their own thing. This is fine and I am all for couples creating the wedding of their dreams BUT when you decide to go against traditional wedding etiquette, guests and others involved in the wedding may not know what to do - as in this case.

So, you could do a couple of things:
  1. just bring money to the wedding in a card/envelope and hand it directly to the bride or groom, OR
  2. if you are not attending the wedding, you can send a check or money order by mail to the return address in the invitation and made out to the couple: Mr. and Mrs. John Smith
Hope this helps! ~Lei

Posted: 8/13/2007 3:42:29 PM

Guest Kathy from Granada Hills, CA says...

I have been invited to a wedding with no mention of a gift registry except an insert in the invitation saying "Please leave the choice of the gift to the bride & groom." Is this a request for money?If so, there was no envelope included or mention of bank account to send it to. What is the appropriate guest gift etiquette? Please advise.

Wedding Date: Aug. 18th

Posted: 7/8/2007 2:07:33 AM

Guest cn from wharton, nj says...

I am invited to a wedding in Atlantic City, New Jersey. The bride and groom are paying for a 3 hour reception. As guests, there are about 50 people coming, we are paying our own expenses for the hotel rooms for the weekend. What is the proper gift to give as far as money. Is it something that has to be given seeing as how we are paying to stay for their wedding.?

Wedding Date: 5/5/07

Posted: 4/2/2007 9:12:53 AM