Wedding gift etiquette: can I go off-list?
Written by Jo BryantThe English Manner, The UK’s Leading Etiquette and Protocol Training Institute 310 310
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Described by The Telegraph as ‘the empress of etiquette’, Jo joined The English Manner in 2019 from Debrett’s, where she spent over a decade as a tutor and the editor of more than fifteen acclaimed books on etiquette and modern manners.Connect with Jo Bryant on LinkedIn Follow Jo Bryant on Instagram
10 July 2023
The wedding season is upon us, and with it comes the minefield for guests of wedding gift etiquette. It’s such a hot topic in the media at this time of year, and also during our social etiquette courses in London.
Many modern couples opt for non-traditional options for their wedding lists, so here is some guidance for guests on how to correct their gifting etiquette.
Conventionally with wedding gift etiquette, couples circulate details of a wedding list hosted by a specific store or dedicated gift-list company. It is usually best to choose a gift from this list – you can then be sure that you will give them something they want.
Charity gift-lists have become popular with couples who want to do ‘something’ but do not want to receive gifts themselves. Donating is a good form, either through a central charity gift-list company or directly to the nominated charity.
In much of the Western world, most couples are now already living together before they get married, so a wedding gift list to set up the home is largely redundant. It is quite usual, therefore, for couples to say ‘no presents, please’.
It is perfectly fine for guests who do not know the couple well to uphold this wish, and attend the wedding without giving any gift.
For family and close friends, however, it is a nice gesture to give the couple a gift. Good options can be something experiential, for example, a voucher for a restaurant or spa.
Equally, it is fun to meet the newlyweds after the wedding/honeymoon, and treat them to dinner. This is a great way of reminiscing about the big day while also saying thank you.
Requesting money often splits opinions, typically with older generations being less comfortable with the idea. Regardless of age, most guests often feel a certain pressure as to how much to give.
Sensible couples will communicate with guests where the money is going – for example, towards the honeymoon or sizeable new items/improvements for their home (e.g. a new kitchen, garden, furniture) – making guests feel more comfortable with the idea of giving cash.
Guests should think about how much they would have spent if they were to have bought an actual present, and gift that amount – there is really no need to go over the top.
Sometimes, guests just really want to choose a present for the couple themselves.
This is perfectly fine, as long as it is something you know they will like. Be sensible and arrange for it to be sent later – don’t turn up lugging a great big gift that needs to be stored safely during the day and then transported somewhere else at the end.