It’s that time of year again. All over the country, people are beginning to receive lovingly assembled and hand-addressed envelopes announcing this year’s crop of summer weddings. Besides the joy of seeing the bride walk down the aisle, the anticipation of waiting for the couple’s first dance, and the delight in comparing the relative merits of each couple’s chosen cake, one of the most traditional parts of wedding preparation is selecting and giving a gift. It’s also one aspect of weddings that’s traditionally fraught with potential faux pas.
It’s not just invitees who fret about gifts; a bride also worries about what’s expected of her and what she should (and shouldn’t) expect from her guests. The etiquette surrounding wedding-gift giving includes some most famously unbreakable rules—mentioning gift registries on the invitation or asking for cash outright are big no-nos—as well as some of the finer and more delicate points of good manners. With the help of Anna Post, etiquette expert at the Emily Post Institute and the author of Do I Have to Wear White?: Emily Post Answers America’s Top Wedding Questions, we’ve compiled a list of essential wedding-gift etiquette for the benefit of brides and guests alike.
1. If you’re invited to the ceremony, it’s customary to send a gift.
“This holds true whether or not you’re able to attend,” Post says. However, this guideline applies only if you’re invited to the actual marriage ceremony. If you’re invited to a belated reception, such as one that takes place after a destination wedding or an elopement, gifts are not obligatory. “You’re not on the line for a gift,” Post says, “but many people give one anyway.” Likewise, a wedding announcement does not require the recipient to send a gift, but many friends and family members still do.
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