3 Rules for Wedding Gifts

When it comes to wedding gifts, guests often make big mistakes trying to make a big impression. But what's the etiquette on gifts for ultra-lavish weddings, destination weddings, or when you can't attend? Modern Manners Guy has the 3 rules for wedding gifts.

Richie Frieman
5-minute read
Episode #331

If seeing new messages every morning from Modern Manners Guy readers and listeners makes me feel like a million bucks, then seeing a rant-filled email calling a newlywed couple “egotistical a—holes with no respect for others” makes me feel like I just won the Powerball.

Now, you may think that as a manners expert, I’d turn my nose up at someone shouting expletives at me via email, but you’d be wrong. When I see that kind of passion in an email, it makes me happy because it means someone has had enough rude behavior and they want to do something about it. And newlywed couples are not exempt from rudeness (in fact, they are often guilty of it)..


So grab a glass of bubbly and let's toast to the 3 rules for wedding gifts:

Tip #1: Fancy Wedding = Expensive Gift?

Of all the rude demands that couples make on their wedding day, putting a price tag requirement on wedding gifts is by the worst. 

Take John who was invited to his twin sister’s wedding in Los Angeles. It was at a swanky hotel and the guest list was filled with posh attendees wearing couture. The wedding – paid for by John's future brother-in-law’s family - had a six-figure price tag and the bride's dress cost more than what John paid for his new SUV.  But hey, it wasn't his wedding and if this is what his sister wanted (and her future husband could afford it), then John was happy to go along with whatever the night brought.

However, when his sister told him about the presents she had already received from their friends and his family, John realized that the average amount each guest spent was more than the down payment on his new car. He became very uncomfortable. Was he expected to follow suit - and go broke - just to buy a comparable gift?

This is a very common question and one that really frustrates me. I mean, if Sir Richard Branson invited me to his wedding (let’s pretend he’s getting married again), am I expected to pony up a gift of the same caliber as his rich business partners? Heck no!

Let’s go one step further and say he asked me to be his best man at the wedding (Sidebar: How unbelievably cool would that be?), do you think he’d expect me to cough up a present that cost more than my wife’s engagement ring? I hope not. (Eh, who am I kidding, Sir Richard is awesome and would never do that…but I digress)

Here’s the deal, you do not have to match the price tag of your gift to the grandiosity of the wedding (family member or not). One has nothing to do with the other. Moreover, you should never feel insecure or guilty about your budget because others at your table spent more. Always go with what is reasonable for your finances and if they don’t like you because of your bank account, I’d find new friends.

Tip #2: Destination Wedding Gifts

Travis was invited to Joe’s wedding and he was thrilled to see his friend walk down the aisle. Problem was, Travis lives in Portland and the wedding was in Barbados. So a round trip ticket for him and his wife plus a hotel for 3 nights in Barbados was going to run him well over $4,000 (Barbados is pricey!!) 

Suddenly seeing Joe get hitched lost it’s wow factor. Well, there was still a wow factor, but that was mainly after seeing his credit card bill. Joe is one of Travis' closest friends, so of course he felt obliged to go big on a gift, however, he’s already $4,000 in the hole and he hasn’t even paid for his tux yet. So what do you do when a destination wedding taps into your wedding gift account? For starters, don’t ask for an increase on your credit card limit.

When it comes to destination weddings, I’m torn. On the one hand, I understand the allure of adding a spectacular destination to an already romantic day. On the other hand, it’s asking a lot from your guests. And given that, you can't be upset when someone can’t make it because of the hefty expenses involved. On top of that, it’s wrong for the couple to be upset with any guest about the quality of their gift when the guests are already shelling out a lot just to attend the celebration.