Service of Wedding Gift Etiquette: Experts from Bridal Guide, Huffington Post & liliandloo Chime In

August 5th, 2013

Categories: Etiquette, Gifts, Wedding

We’re invited—and looking forward to attending–a September wedding. I checked in with a friend who goes to many such events only to confirm that some issues never change. Take RSVPs. Do people not reply because of fear of commitment of their time in hopes that something better will crop up? As long as I can remember, in both personal and business situations, too many remain silent leaving it up to the hosts to follow up.

What about gifts? Like holiday tips, opinions differ. So after sharing hers—send a gift if you’re invited–my pal forwarded two points of view she read on line.

An invitation is not an invoice wrote Robert B. Dimmick of, who technically was covering Bar and Bat Mitzvahs but who noted the same goes for weddings.

Katherine Bindley disagreed in her Huffington Post piece. She’d interviewed Emily Post’s great great granddaughter, Anna Post, and Sharon Naylor, author of 35 books about weddings. In “Wedding Etiquette: The Do’s and Don’ts of Being a Guest,” Bindley wrote: “Etiquette dictates that if you were invited, you owe the couple a gift, even if you can’t make it to the wedding.” She quotes Post: “‘one invitation to a wedding ceremony equals a wedding gift.’”

Diane Forden, Bridal Guide editor in chief

Diane Forden, Bridal Guide editor in chief

I then turned to Diane Forden, editor in chief of Bridal Guide magazine who wrote in an email: “Technically you are not obligated to give a wedding gift. However, most people today do send a gift even if they’re not attending the wedding.

“Personally, I think it depends upon your relationship to the bride or groom,” the Bridal Guide chief editor continued. “For example, a former assistant sent me an invitation to her wedding and even though I couldn’t attend, I did give her a gift. But if someone I hadn’t seen in years sent me a wedding invitation then I would send a card with a personal greeting but no gift.”

[I still remember a person who came to my wedding and sent neither a gift nor a card so if you want to be memorable, that’s a route to consider.]

The bridal registry for the September celebration included a great looking dinner service so I had no trouble selecting a gift I’d be pleased about but I’ve run into snags in the past where the registry store is a place I won’t support.

Bindley warned that you must shop from the registry. “If you don’t, ‘It comes off as I knew what you wanted but I didn’t care,’ Naylor explained. ‘Or it comes off as I had this laying around and I’m re-gifting, even if you actually purchased a new gift specifically for this couple.’”

Forden wrote: “As far as sending only a gift from the registry, I disagree. Yes, we all know that the items the couple would like to receive have been registered for and if you’re going to the bridal shower you would most likely get a gift from the registry. But you’re not obligated to do so for the wedding gift.

“Many people give money while others choose a more unique, creative gift. A friend’s mother once told me that her favorite wedding gift was to give the couple a private dinner in their home prepared by a chef from one of their favorite restaurants. After the wedding and honeymoon and now settled back into their every day routine, what could be nicer than a romantic dinner prepared exclusively for them in their own home? Needless to say, the couples were all thrilled with this special gift.”

We asked Melinda Slover, founder and inspiration for one of the east coast’s best gift emporiums, liliandloo in Hudson, N.Y. Along with countless creative, smile-inducing well-priced gifts for all occasions the store also sells furniture and fashion. According to Slover some customers groan to her about a bride’s bland registry choices and tell her that they want to send something stunning. Ducking the registry isn’t isn’t always a good idea Slover tells them and reminds them that the registry represents what the bride would like.

“Before I became a bride,” said LG, [not the bride at the wedding we’re going to] “I thought it didn’t matter but now that I’m getting married, I prefer when friends and family buy gifts from my registry or better yet, give a check. With so many bills to pay associated with the wedding and honeymoon, it’s the one gift that all brides want to receive! If they don’t choose a registry item though, I’ll end up with several of something I already own or worse, something I simply do not want and know I will not use.  Registry or money will also help me not to have to fill in with my own money to complete a set of glasses, dinnerware or cutlery.”

Do you think you’re obligated to send a gift if you’re invited to any formal event, whether or not you can attend? Has what Diane Forden, Melinda Slover, Katherine Bindley or the bride LG expressed changed your mind about using a bride’s gift registry?

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17 Responses to “Service of Wedding Gift Etiquette: Experts from Bridal Guide, Huffington Post & liliandloo Chime In”

  1. Hank Goldman Said:

    We have found that there just is NO PERFECT way to ask for, or to GIVE, Special Event Gifts! SOME people FOLLOW the bride’s requests… SOME DON’T!
    SOME brides don’t even like the gifts from their OWN Registries!
    (Then Why DO it?)

    SOME brides do not believe in “Thank you notes”! (“Un-F—–ing Believable”!!)!! Even I, who isn’t all that keen on the formalities, think that is just PLAIN RUDE— and un-caring. Just send a note with TWO WORDS: Thank You! You DID write the invite? DIDN’T YOU? or did u use the most impersonal method of all—- “E-Vites”?! UGH! !

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Thanks Hank…

    I suppose some brides use the registry to gather money which may be why they don’t much care for what they’ve selected. I don’t know if stores give cash should the bride return everything.

    And I didn’t go into thank you notes! The bride we look forward to meeting at the September wedding must have written us the day she heard from the registry! We got a lovely note immediately. I’ve been told that a bride has up to one year to thank.

  3. ASK Said:

    If I can’t make the wedding, whether I give a gift depends on my relationship to the bride or groom. I agree in the main with Forden’s ideas…

  4. Martha Takayama Said:

    Of all the rites of passage that involve gift-giving weddings seem to have become Technicolor, multi-dimensional, seemingly endless and often inconvenient productions with all sorts of anti-climactic pre-events.

    The “destination” wedding is most often extremely inconsiderate.

    Given those sentiments, I still fell obligated by the arrival of a wedding or shower invitation to acknowledge the occasion with a present. In the past registries were more narrow in focus and families as well as brides and grooms did not anticipate having all their material needs covered by gifts. Today registries may include snow-blowers, lawn mowers or even blatant requests for money.

    As for choosing a gift, it is undoubtedly best to adhere to items on a registry, hoping that the list will be considerate enough so that more distant relationships do not require inordinate or even painful expenditure. It is important to embark on married life knowing that you can live together on your own without being supported by booty from wedding festivities which are actually quite a personal matter.

  5. Peggy Said:

    If the invitation is from someone you barely know and you are not attending, I believe, acknowledgement should be made however it can be just a card. I don’t believe a wedding invite is an invoice!

    Technically, if you don’t attend, you shouldn’t have to give a gift, but if you do, a gift is mandatory. Many traditions have stayed (which I like) but many have thankfully, gone away! Explanation of both would take many blogs.

    The only tradition that should remain MANDATORY is the “hand written thank you note”. I believe this should be non-negotiable. AND it may be written by the bride or the groom. Technically, tradition dictates that you have one year to respond, but I wouldn’t be happy if the couple waited that long!

  6. JPM Said:

    I don’t think that if you send President and Mrs. Obama a wedding invitation because you shook hands with them once, that they are obligated to give a gift, anymore than someone in financial straights should be obligated to buy something from a bridal registry. (On the other hand, they should decline the invitation promptly.) No bride ought to be either stupid or unkind.

    We attended a wedding years ago in a cathedral at which there were 2,000 guests. The overflow was seated in various chapels and in an enormous hall in the complex. The invitations were coded to make sure you got to where you belonged. We sat in the hall and saw the performance on a TV monitor. Afterwards, we joined the multitude for a delicious wedding buffet supper with good Champagne in a vast garden. The stars ate indoors. Everybody milled, and we tried to talk, more or less, with other lost souls. Then we left.

    Fortunately, my employer picked up the tab on the expensive wedding gift, but I had to pay for my wife’s “appropriate” gown – arms, back and chest covered. It was a white tie affair. Sad that the bride and groom, who were nice kids we liked, had to be put through all of that. Conspicuous consumption run amok.

    Sounds to me like weddings are going the way of Christmas. Merchandising takes precedence over spirituality.

  7. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Your comment made me smile but you are right about lawn mowers and these are not inexpensive! In a few years, when the lawn mower no longer works, the bride has nothing with which to remember you although I suppose if you pay for one a few crystal champagne coups and a double boiler she won’t either.

    If you attend a destination wedding do you give a smaller gift because you’ve spent so much on the flight and hotel–not to speak of the time away from work?

  8. Jeanne Byington Said:


    You are right about being impatient waiting a year to hear from the bride. Most people will have sent a tracer or ask for some confirmation from the registry if all you get is silence.

    As I responded to your comment I thought of another question I should have asked: If money is not an issue, do people attending a wedding still spend on a gift at least as much as the estimate of the per person cost of the wedding reception?

  9. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I guess people do have egos big enough to invite the President of the US or the chairman of the company they work for when they are middle management…point well taken. Maybe they get a pair of tee shirts with the company logo.

    As for the wedding for 2,000…that bride is probably still writing the thank you notes unless her father had a bunch of his employees do it for her.

    I went to a wedding with over 700 guests at the Pierre in NYC and the bride and groom knew three to five table’s worth of guests–the rest were her father’s business contacts. Impersonal was the headline for that event.

    As for stupid, unkind brides, there was and still may be a TV program called “Bridezillas.” These angry, spoiled people made viewers’ skin crawl. How anyone would marry such a person after some of those performances, much less attend the wedding if a mistreated parent, sibling, or friend, is beyond me. Weddings cause stress but these brats were over-the-top horrendous.

  10. Lucrezia Said:

    A basic knowledge of good manners, consideration of others and common sense should solve all etiquette matters. It’s silly to be intimidated by the merchandising aspect of a wedding, or any related event. A wise person sends a gift according to his means. This attempt to squeeze people to financial death is far from new, and is best ignored. It’s effective only with those poor souls whose main aim in life is to keep up with the Joneses.

    Since I dislike shopping, I love registries. They make life easy, especially since now one need not leave the computer, and a few clicks later a gift that will be appreciated is on its way, and the thanks received is just as warm as if you had spent hours in a store, while wishing yourself miles away.

  11. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I love to shop, but I also love saving time so this aspect of shoping for a wedding gift, which wasn’t as simple before computers, is a benefit I forgot to mention.

    A registry should reflect a range of prices which a few people mentioned so that it can accommodate most any budget.

    I know a woman who designed and made her nephew and his bride a striking needlepoint and framed it. It had the date of their wedding. Poor nephew, who has a chronic condition, ended up in the hospital so the wedding was cancelled and moved up three months. She needs to remove the frame and change the date! But the point is that this should be one of their most prized gifts.

  12. Mervyn Kaufman Said:

    When Nancy and I married, all those many years ago, we kept our plans quiet until practically the last minute. Her mother plus a few close friends stood up for us. I think there were 9 us at a festive lunch immediately after—which was exactly what we’d wanted. One of our friends ran into a former boss of mine a few hours later.
    “What do you hear from Merv?” Scott asked. My friend Richard, responded: “Well, as it happens, my wife and I just came from his wedding!” My former boss sighed and shook his head: “Gee, if we’d known, we would have sent a gift.”

    Yes, I should say, if a family member or close friend, or the child of close friends or family, is being married, sending a gift would be de rigueur, whether you attend the wedding or not. If you think you know the bride/groom pretty well—and have a handle on their taste—forget bridal registry. But for most of the rest of us, I think registries are a godsend—and not to be ignored.

  13. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Yours sounds like a wedding from a favorite movie: Lovely, intimate and perfect!

    In the day–don’t know if people do it anymore–folks sent wedding announcements. [In France they still send announcements of death that I don’t think we ever did.] In any case, on receiving an announcement, always mailed after the wedding day, my mother often sent a gift.

  14. JBS Said:

    If you don’t attend an event like this, I think a gift is only required if you are a close friend or relative Personally, I at least send a card with a small check.

    As for thank you notes, they are always required, although I have a niece who got a place setting of sterling from us when she got married and never wrote me a note! (Guess who didn’t get a baby gift!) Not only are they required, they should be sent within six weeks at the most. (I had all of my thank you notes done before I was home from my honeymoon! But that was nearly 50 years ago and the gifts came before the wedding, not at the reception. In my mind, that is an awful new custom. I’ve heard of several brides whose gifts, espeically money, were stolen from the reception!)

  15. Jeanne Byington Said:


    WOW! Friends and family and gifts stolen from the reception? Wonder if staff at a wedding mill or hotel are bonded. Leaving checks around is nuts….but then I just thought of a scam of another sort: A guest who didn’t plan on giving a gift tells the bride, “You didn’t get my card with $300 cash inside?” Were my gift this size there’d be a check which I could cancel, but then mine is not a cash business which some are and I wouldn’t pull such a thing.

    Good for you for not sending a niece a gift for the baby if she couldn’t be bothered to thank you for a wedding gift. Yours was a particularly generous gift but even if it had been a pair of glass candlesticks from a favorite haunt, TJ Maxx…a thank you is in order.

    One of the people who commented earlier told me separately that he learned that a certain bride didn’t believe in thank you notes, which is why he and his wife and all others who sent gifts received none. Imagine this young woman and her husband in jobs that required pesky activity reports. She doesn’t believe in them so she doesn’t do them? Writing up patient information and other administrative tasks that seem tiresome–Don’t bother because you don’t believe in them? Geesh.

    As for bringing gifts to a reception I suppose it saves what could be a hefty shipping charge for the giver, yet for the recipients, who may be off to their honeymoon immediately afterwards, quelle pain! Using a registry saves that step which is a help in this regard.

  16. JBS Said:

    Around here, I would estimate that brides get more than 90 percent of their gifts at the reception …. and there is always a beautifully decorated box with a slot in it for those who give a card with or without money. I do give that for brides who aren’t registered, but most are. If they are registered, I buy a gift, unless they are out of town and we aren’t going to be there. Then they get a card and check.

  17. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Given the box designed and decorated to hold envelopes, with or without checks/cash inside, the fact that some go missing is spooky or, as I noted earlier, could sleazoids take advantage and slip out of their gift? We’ll never know.

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