I want to talk about a dirty word. The dirty word? Gift cards. Specifically, a wedding gift card. As a young woman growing up in the south I've generally never had to ask What is the etiquette for wedding gifts?-because I already know. They are as follows:
- You ALWAYS send a gift, it doesn't matter if you attend the wedding or not. Although this rule is changing of late.
- You have up to one year to send the newlyweds a present.
- Generally, you should get something off the registry to ensure the happy couple gets what they most desire.
My friend however, had a very different idea….
I went out to lunch with a group of girlfriends last week. My good friend, Alexa* thanked our other friend Bonquiqui* (names have been changed, the more ridiculous I think you are ….the more ridiculous of a fake name you get…) for her sweet thank you note. Bonquiqui had recently gotten married in June. Our third friend who was at the lunch chimed in her thanks and I’m left sitting there thinking “where is my thank you note?”
I sent her a wedding present and managed to get it in before the wedding, although I had not budgeted to attend.
I casually made a joke about mine getting lost in the mail. As Alexa swiftly changed the subject I noticed Bonquiqui’s disapproving frown.
Because apparently….Some People Think a Wedding Gift Card Is Rude
Bonquiqui ended up facebooking me later. It started out sweetly enough:
“L Bee, I wanted to write and tell you how much I appreciated your monetary gift,” She wrote, “I didn't want to tell you this at lunch, but I didn't write you a thank you note because I was a little disappointed in your choice of gift. I would be embarrassed to give someone a gift card as a wedding present and did not think the time necessary to write the thank you note was worth the very little “thought” put into the giving.”
I’m not going to pretend reading that note didn’t sting. It did. A lot.
Why a Wedding Gift Card is 100% Awesome and Totally Okay
After reading her note, I felt like I was in middle school all over again and wanted to cry. I even got the gift card from the place where she is registered! For the first time in my life, someone had made me feel bad about giving them a present. Even if you didn’t like my gift, why would you tell me that? As far as I was concerned the conversation was over once we had left lunch, and now Bonquiqui was going out of her way to be hurtful.
Fast forward to a few days later when my indignation kicks in. (Hence, this post.)
What exactly is so wrong with a gift card anyway? I give gift cards to everyone for every occasion, because I think they are amazing and they're one of my favorite things to get.
Here are just a handful of reasons why.
- I like to imagine the gift cards I give being used towards a bigger item the recipient may not have been able to afford on their own, or used to get the last thing missing from their registry.
- They never expire, so that awesome “I have a present in my pocket” feeling can last for a long time.
- Sometimes I'm mailing gifts after the wedding, in which case I think a gift card plays well because they add more gift cards they may have received and put the money toward a bigger gift.
- They pack amazingly well for destination weddings.
- You can avoid being the lame person who gets stuck with the lame gifts, like having to pull together four separate items into some creative whatnot.
- With a gift card, I think the fun is in letting the bride and groom choose. They have them at virtually every store, and even Amazon can ship the gift cards for you.
Wedding Gift Cards: To Give? Or Not to Give?
Bonquiqui's gripe is that the gift card came across as lazy and that she was hurt I didn’t take the time to pick out something personally for her. You know, since we are fairly close. In doing so, she felt I was communicating that I didn’t know what to get her, which offended her further since we’ve been friends for so long.
I told her I understood where she was coming from, but that I wasn’t going to apologize for giving her a gift.
Did she tell her Aunt she hated the set of bath towels she gifted her? No, she did not.
Even if someone handed me an apple from the refrigerator and thought enough to wrap it and give me a card, I'd say thank you! I'd be mortified for them to think I wasn't grateful for their efforts. Sure, some may view gift cards as a cop out, but the premise of the gift is still the same.
In my opinion, a gift card says “I care enough about you to want to part with my hard-earned money to give you a present.” I mean, since when did the actual gift become more important than the thought behind it? I gooogled it – feel free to give as many wedding gift cards as you like. Even Emily Post says it's okay.
Have more wedding related gift questions? Keep reading for a brief overview of more financially-centered advice when it comes to wedding gifts.
Wedding Gift Etiquette: Common FAQ's for the Budget Conscious
Weddings involve a lot of emotion and surprisingly, financial etiquette. I struggle to think of an event more laced with emotional land mines than a wedding. Not only is wedding gift etiquette in today's increasingly digital and cash-less world a challenge, there are new rules for the day of and what should happen afterward.
What Is the Minimum Amount to Gift?
Apparently the old hard-and-fast guideline the old rule of “Gift what it cost for your plate at dinner” is outdated.
An unofficial poll of 10 of my closest girlfriends revealed they typically spend $50-100 dollars on a wedding gift if there is no travel involved and they are only a guest and not participating in the wedding ceremony at all. A recent Vogue.com article backs this up, stating that most gifts are between $50-$99, depending on how close you are to the couple.
Can I Give More?
Absolutely. Wedding gifts are a discretionary expense and you should only gift something that you can comfortably fit into your budget. With that being said, I know plenty of couple friends who received thousands in cash from all of their middle-aged family members. (Which usually gets used for a home downpayment!)
As a young person getting your start, (unless you just make piles of cash and are feeling generous) you shouldn't feel obligated to spend like the Joneses.
Feel free to pass it forward in thirty years when your niece, nephew, whoever gets married. Make being generous one of your core money beliefs.
What about If I have to travel?
This one is tricky, as traveling for weddings (especially multiple ones in a season) can get damn expensive.
If it is in your budget then I say, sure, gift a little something, but I know many couples who are simply happy with “the gift of someone's presence.”
With that being said, I generally do gift more in dollar amount to those friends whose weddings are local but still gift something smaller even when travel is involved.
Are Gift Cards Ok?
Heck yes! I like gift cards because they are easy to both give and receive. And if you're traveling, they obviously pack very easily. I think this is a perfectly acceptable practice (although I've had someone disagree with me...) so I'm going to say feel free to give all the gift cards, cash, and checks you like.
Just put them in a nice card and write a sweet note and bring to the wedding. Poof!
Can I go “Off Registry?”
Sure. I would recommend this if you have a super thoughtful gift you'd like to get the couple and you know them fairly well. Sometimes the most thoughtful gifts come from off-registry purchases.
With that said…most couples took time and energy to create their registries.
And it's the easiest way to assure you have a no-fail gift.
I almost always do an AmEx (Or Amazon) gift card, or a gift card to one of the stores on their registry. They're always well received!
What About if I am In the Bridal Party?
Yes, always get them at least a small something. You know you'd feel slighted if the shoe were on the other foot. I know it can get expensive being a part of someone's big day, but the thought here is really what matters.
Do I have to Bring a Gift to Both the Shower and the Wedding?
I have brought my gift to the shower instead of the wedding, although some consider this tacky, but I was just informed this is wrong by my friend Jackie (and then I later confirmed it via The Huffington Post.)
So for those of you who hate showing up anywhere empty-handed, I'd suggest splitting your gift budget in two for both the wedding and the shower.
If I receive a gift, how long do I have to write a thank you note?
Three months, according to Real Simple. Typically though, I've received thank you notes as early as TWO DAYS after the wedding, and as late as about four weeks. But please, always do send a thank you note.
- I'd like to end all of this by saying that you are under no obligation to gift a couple anything, at any time, although many consider this the right thing to do.
- Do it to show happiness and acceptance of a couple's decision to marry.
- Whatever you choose, do what is right and best for you and YOUR budget.
Wedding Event Etiquette: Rules to Follow Pre, During, and Post Party!
There's more to wedding etiquette than just gift-giving. There's also proper way to act and behave.
- Please RSVP as soon as possible. It shows that you’re excited to join in on the festivities! Make sure to note the date in your planner, telephone, and day planner.
- If you have food allergies! Most weddings have at least one option for people with special dietary needs. If you have extreme allergies let the bride know. If she can’t accommodate your needs then eat before you arrive and go with the vegetarian option. My friend had a guest with special dietary needs (vegetarian/gluten allergy/only drinks soy milk). My friend accommodated that guest and the guest had the nerve to complain to other guests that the option was o.k. WTF?! The option she was served was actually pretty amazing and she got some free food. She should have graciously thanked my friend and kept it simple.
- Your friend will talk about the wedding-A LOT. If you aren’t married and don’t get it, don’t worry you will do the same when it’s your turn. Just listen attentively while she talks, then practice your ability to tune out once you hit your limit. Smile and nod, ask pointed questions and make sure to share photos, ideas with the bride. I enjoyed doing this but did get a little overwhelmed when my friend was getting married. I’m going to be honest I needed to take breaks from time to time from all of the wedding talk. My bff and I were talking almost every week, several times a week. Luckily, my bff lives in London so it was easy to take breaks from time to time.
- Be genuinely excited for the couple!! If you can’t manage to be genuine about being happy for the couple, then you should not be going to that wedding. Period.
Wedding Day Etiquette:
- Arrive on time!
- Don’t drink too much. You don’t want to be the guest who throws up, starts crying, passes out, hits on everyone, falls into the water, or pulls down the decorations accidently.
- DO NOT complain about the food! Even if it’s bad. Just fuss about it after the wedding (in your house). The bride and groom have gone through considerable expense and time to feed you-for FREE. Eat it and keep your mouth shut.
- Dress Comfortably-You may even need a shawl or cardigan in case the venue gets cold. Wear shoes that you can dance in comfortably. If you don’t, no one wants to hear about your hurting toes. That’s your fault for wearing the wrong shoes.
- Bring a gift-Do what is comfortable for you. Every couple that I’ve spoken with mentioned that they received gifts that weren’t on their gift registry. If you’re that person (I was) be savvy about what you give. Only do this if you really know the couple well.
- Dance your butt off! Even if you don’t like the music. Do the Robot, the Running Man, the Electric Slide. Just have fun!
- Take pictures!!
After the wedding:
- Send a “Thank You” card: not an email.
- Conveniently forget everything that annoyed you during the planning process.