Whether you’re planning a wedding or attending one, gift-giving plays an important role in the “big day.” Here are some guidelines to help answer some questions on this part of the wedding process.

For the wedding guest

So you’ve been invited to a wedding? Are you wondering what to do about the somewhat obligatory gift? Most brides and grooms have registered their gift wish list with a local department or specialty store. Does this mean you must select from this list? Not necessarily. While it is nice to help the couple complete their flatware selection or informal place settings, remember that a unique gift can be just as welcomed. With the convenience of shopping online, you can now purchase, gift wrap, enclose a personalized gift card, and ship a gift to the couple without leaving your home or office.

Some things to keep in mind:

Do not take a gift to the reception. You cannot be guaranteed that the bride and groom will ever see the gift, as there is generally no security at the reception (with the possible exception being if the reception is at the home of the couple or a family member). Gifts can easily be damaged or misplaced. Remember, the last thing on the couple’s mind that night will be gathering up gifts. It could easily be left behind.

Send the gift to the address on the registry or the RSVP address on the wedding invitation. Etiquette says that it is a nice gesture to send a gift whether or not you plan on attending.

For the couple

Planning a wedding can be a very time-consuming process. If you’re like most couples today, you both work full-time, leaving little time during the week to complete the many details. Fortunately, with the explosion of the Web, many excellent resources are now available online to help you to plan your big day. You can gather ideas for your ceremony and reception, locate local vendors, read tips from those who have been there, register your gift wish list, and purchase gifts for your wedding party. Giving a token of appreciation to bridesmaids, ushers, groomsmen, and others who have taken a role in the wedding planning process has long been a custom.

After all, these individuals are generally close friends or family members who have given their time to help make your day special. And taking part in a wedding comes typically with financial responsibilities with purchasing or renting wedding attire, throwing bridal showers and bachelor/bachelorette parties, and travel expenses.

Giving gifts to members of the wedding party is left to the discretion of each couple. There are no set standards on the cost of the gift, nor do all gifts have to be the same. Below are some guidelines to help you decide what is most appropriate for your situation.

Who should receive a gift?

The Bride and Groom – One of the oldest wedding-gift traditions is the exchange of gifts between the bride and the groom. While many couples follow this custom, it is not mandatory. But why not give each other something that reflects your commitment? It’s best to find something that is lasting, and if appropriate, engrave it with each of your initials and your wedding date. Ideas: A picture frame, a poem, an elegant desk clock, a collectible, or jewelry.

Parents – One of the more recent customs is giving your parents a gift as a token of your appreciation for all they have done for you, which also symbolizes your continued ties even though you are now starting your own family. Gift ideas for parents: a nicely framed photo from the wedding, a letter expressing your gratitude, or an engravable bowl.

Maid of honor/bridesmaids – These are the women who will be helping you with the wedding planning and the actual day. They’ll throw showers/parties for you, take you out to lunch to relax, pick up your dress from the seamstress, etc. They’ll also most likely be the ones to buy those dresses and dyed shoes that they’ll wear only once. So it is nice to thank them with a small memento. The Maid of Honor generally receives a gift of greater value, but this is not mandatory. Gift ideas for bridesmaids: bud vases, photo frames or albums, bath oils, crystal bowls, gift baskets, Limoges boxes or other collectibles, key chains, clocks, some part of their wedding attire (hair clips, jewelry).

Best man/groomsmen/ushers – These are the guys who will throw the bachelor party, help you with your tuxedo, help with honeymoon arrangements, walk family and friends to their seats during the ceremony, etc. They may travel a long distance to make the wedding and will most likely rent their tuxedo to match the wedding party's rest. It is, therefore, a nice gesture to thank them with a small gift. The Best Man generally receives a gift of greater value, but this is not mandatory. Gift ideas for groomsmen: desk clocks, business card holders, photo frames, key chains, pocket watches, Swiss Army products, high-quality pens/pen sets.

Flower girl(s)/ ring bearer(s) – These children add a sweet touch to your wedding ceremony, and they are thrilled to be a part of such a grand event. While they generally do not play a large part in the planning aspects of the wedding, they do often spend a lot of time practicing for their "big and important role" in your wedding. It is generally customary to give them a small token of appreciation to commemorate their role on your wedding day. Gift ideas for flower girls and ring bearers: a framed photo of him/her with you on your wedding day, a small collectible (figurine, box, bowl, etc.), a small item of jewelry, a stuffed animal, a hair clip.

Anyone who plays a special part in your wedding – Do you have a special uncle who walked you down the aisle or a friend who sang a solo during your ceremony? Anyone who does something that you find especially touching should receive a token of appreciation. Gift ideas for people who played a special role: a note expressing your appreciation or a framed photo from the wedding.

Size of the wedding party

If you will be having a large wedding party, it is oftentimes a better idea to choose two gifts – one for the males and one for the females – and buy them in bulk. This helps keep costs down (large weddings can be expensive!) and helps save time. Clocks, pens, keyrings, and photo frames all make elegant statements and can be easily personalized with engraving.

For smaller wedding parties, you may opt to select more personalized gifts for each wedding member. Tickets to a local sporting event are great for the sports fan, while a bottle of a good vintage wine would be more appropriate for the wine connoisseur. Generally, these people will have played very active roles in your wedding planning, since they number fewer than in a larger wedding party. Why not recognize their roles with individualized gifts?

Cost of gifts

Couples on a budget need not worry about breaking the bank when purchasing gifts for their wedding party. The cost of the gifts is dictated by what the couple can afford. The adage “It’s the thought that counts” holds true here. A little creativity and thoughtfulness can go a long way. Write a poem that expresses how you feel about the individual. Do they like outdoor events? Offer to take them camping – drive and bring the food. Other ideas include creative gift baskets, small vases, clocks, and spa items (bath oils, soaps, etc.) Whatever you chose to do, all gifts for bridesmaids should be of equal value, and all gifts for groomsmen should also be of equal value, etc., whenever possible.

Presentation of the gifts

The presentation of a gift is almost as important as the gift itself. First, be sure to enclose a short, personalized note thanking the individual for the important role he or she played in your wedding and mention any details that you especially appreciated. Second, be sure to wrap the gift elegantly – nice paper, bows, and tissue paper help to make a thoughtful gift even more charming. Some couples opt to incorporate the wedding colors into the gift wrap, tissues, and bows.

When should you give your wedding party their gifts? Generally, couples prefer to present the gifts at the rehearsal dinner because of the intimate setting with your family and closest friends. Other appropriate times include a small gathering or party for your wedding party the week before the wedding or in a private setting where you can express your gratitude to each participant individually.

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This article was written by: Susan Clot de Broissia

Photo Credit: Sweet Ice Cream Photography