8 Do’s and Don’ts for Wedding Gifting This Season

When my partner and I got married, the toughest question to tackle didn’t involve cake, flowers, venue, outfits, or guest list. The guest list was the simplest: Only four people were physically invited and six more joined on Zoom. We eloped in Iceland in 2022 after starting to plan a larger celebration in 2019, an effort that was put to bed after COVID came into the picture. For us—two people whose worst nightmare was standing up in front of a crowd and sharing words of love—the pivot was welcomed. But the question that still haunts me is: Do you have a registry?

The wedding world has only grown over the past five years; elopements, micro weddings, and destination celebrations have been inching toward the norm. Sure, massive bashes are still happening with guest lists as long as your latest Walgreens receipt, but straying from the most-trodden path is becoming more popular. One thing that hasn’t shifted all that much? The rules of wedding gifting.

Wedding gifts have been presented in all kinds of forms since the dawn of legally attaching yourself to another person, most traditionally as kitchen and home essentials for a couple moving into their first place together. But in a world where people in love have often already checked that box by the time they get to the wedding day (rent isn’t getting any lower, you know), there’s room to get a bit more creative.

I spoke with a few experts on the subject (married people and frequent wedding guests!) and also peppered in a few of my own thoughts to narrow down the most important do’s and don’ts of wedding gifting, from how much to spend to the most creative gifts they’ve given. The biggest (and best) takeaway? “Weddings are a bit like the Wild West—there are no hard-and-fast rules,” say Grey and Grayson Prnce, the couple behind the TikTok account @officiallyverygay, whose intimate elopement was recently featured on them. (Please peep Grey’s blue grill and Grayson’s high-gloss wedding top—swoon!) Read on and get ready to become the best wedding guest.

Don’t: Feel locked in by a registry

Registries can be incredibly helpful when you’re trying to get inside the head of the couple you’re celebrating. For Lily Sullivan, a Brooklyn-based brand strategist and the brains behind Love & Other Rugs, it’s a jumping-off point. “I am a bit of a traditionalist in that I mostly stay on the registry—what I look for, though, is things that I would enjoy with the couple or things that I’d want to receive,” she says. “For example, I bought a Luke Edward Hall plate off of someone’s registry or a set of chic wine glasses. I always like to throw in something personal, a framed photograph or piece of art from my mother’s collection.”

Do: Consider donating to money funds

You’ve likely seen a honeymoon fund or at least heard of one. The idea is that guests can help the newlyweds pay off a big post-wedding trip. “The stereotype of extravagant wedding registries perpetuated by the media can deter people from embracing the tradition, but it’s not the reality for most,” Grey and Grayson say. “We created a land registry, responding to requests from friends and family for a way to contribute to our future as a young couple.”

Do: Skip the bridesmaid boxes and other wedding party trends

Lily says it best: “Bridesmaid/bachelorette culture is out of control and we don’t really need more customized stuff—less is more in this case.” Wedding celebrations are expensive as it is and if you’re looking for a way to thank your closest friends for supporting you, there are better ways to do it. Write a letter, gift a framed snapshot from the archive, give the biggest hug. Weddings are stressful and wedding parties often suffer the brunt of the more anxious moments—there are some things a personalized sunglass case just won’t fix.

Don’t: Make it about you

We all know how easy it is to fall into the habit of shopping for ourselves when we’re trying to find the perfect gift for a loved one. And it only gets trickier when you’re buying for someone you don’t know as well. When I find myself in this position, I reach out to friends who know the couple a bit better to ask questions about the activities they love to do. Sometimes gifting an experience is a little more low-stakes than a household item. “Focus on what the couple would love,” Grey and Grayson say. “And if you find something really great, why not get two and become lifelong twins and best friends?”

Do: Have a signature wedding gift

Absolutely, 100%, keep it cute. My personal move is to check the registry and if nothing speaks to me (or is out of my budget), I opt for a gift card to a bougie day spa (perfect for relaxing post-wedding planning and pre-honeymoon) and a long handwritten note. That latter is the most important element of the gift—hopefully, it’s something they’ll keep for a long time, so make it count. Grey and Grayson also recommend focusing on calm vibes: “We’re like the three wise men, often bringing gifts like frankincense and myrrh—usually something for relaxation, like candles,” they say. “Interpretations may vary, but the sentiment remains the same!”

Don’t: Be afraid to get personal

Okay, we’re not talking “Mr. and Mrs.” or “Mrs. and Mrs.” or “Mr. and Mr.” or “Mx. and Mx.”—though that last one would be pretty cute. The world of personalized gifts is wide and it is weird, but do think about who you’re gifting for before you dive in. “Embroidered items hold a special charm for us—there’s something uniquely heartfelt about personalized gifts,” Grey and Grayson share. Feel free to ask the couple directly if there’s anything that speaks to their heart; there’s no harm in getting a bit of guidance.

Do: Memorialize important places in the couple’s lives

If you know the betrotheds well, chances are you know where they met, got engaged, or their favorite date spot. Use that knowledge! “My best friends got engaged at the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco, and I found an image that my mom had taken in the ’80s when she lived in Northern California,” Lily says. “I had the image blown up really big—they didn’t have a lot of art in their apartment and they were touched.”

Don’t: Feel weird about asking for gifts

This one is for all the people getting married. My partner ultimately decided not to create a registry or accept gifts when we eloped, and looking back I may have approached it differently. There are always going to be people who want to celebrate your love and if you’re opting for a private event, they can’t show up in person. It was so nice to arrive home from our Iceland elopement to a couple of well-wishing cards in the mail (which is always a good gifting route, FWIW). It’s also an opportunity to feel more connected to your community. “Despite some initial discomfort with the idea of receiving gifts, the overwhelming support we received was truly touching,” Grey and Grayson say. “Our experience taught us that there’s no right or wrong way to approach gifting—do what feels authentic to you.”

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