Wedding season is upon us, which means it’s time for a crash course in gift-giving do’s and don’ts. Whether you’re going with a plus-one or as a member of the wedding party, the stress of buying the right present for the newlyweds remains the same. To put our minds (and yours, of course) at ease, we tapped Lizzie Post, great-granddaughter of etiquette expert Emily Post, for her pro suggestions. “Being invited to a wedding is an honor,” says Post. “You’re taking part in one of the biggest days of someone’s life, and your present should reflect that sincerity.” From going off the registry to physically mailing your present, here’s everything you need to know about wedding gift-giving etiquette, straight from the etiquette pro of all pros.
1. When is it okay to go off the registry?
"Whenever you want," Post says. "If you have something in mind that you really think they would enjoy and it’s not on their registry, it’s perfectly fine. But it can't be something random that’s of no significance to the couple."
2. Is there an acceptable minimum or maximum spending limit?
"Always stick within your budget. There are always wonderful smaller kitchenware items or serving items you can buy," she says. "For years, I would give engraved silver picture frames that only cost $25 total. Timeless gifts like picture frames, vases, and candlesticks are never a bad idea.”
3. What should you give if you're not close with the couple?
“Consider the registry your best friend," Post says. "But if you go off-registry, take note of what colors and materials they’re purchasing and pick out something that would compliment the other items in their registry."
4. If someone got you a lavish gift for your wedding, are you obligated to reciprocate?
Not at all, Post says. "Your budget trumps reciprocation for sure. We don’t give gifts to receive gifts, we give gifts because we want to and because of the occasion."
5. What’s the gift-giving protocol if you’re bringing a plus-one?
"If the plus one doesn’t know the couple, then you, as the person inviting the plus one, should pay for the gift," Post says. "Whether you decide to sign both names to the present is your choice, although your date has the option to bring a small token on their own."
6. Is there a time frame in which the gift should be sent?
"While the rule of thumb used to be within one year, try to stay within three months after the wedding."
7. Is it appropriate to bring the gift to the wedding reception?
"You can do either, but double-check the couple’s website before you pack it in your suitcase," Post says. "The wedding is a destination for the couple, not to mention, many couples move after the wedding, so logistically it’s nice to not have to ship all those gifts.”