Follow these rules for the perfect wedding gift

Americans are expected to attend 2.5 million weddings in 2022, the most since 1984, according to The marriage report. Which means guests across the country are now Googling all the little rules and protocols that weddings entail.

While some dress codes may remain a mystery — and before you get excited, no, no one Grow spoke to knows what “casual cowboy cocktail” means either — there’s one area where it’s important to do things right: gifts.

Ignoring proper etiquette on this front can get you in trouble in more ways than one, says Thomas Farley, etiquette expert and author of the NBC Today column.Meal with Mister Manners.”

If you miss the mark with a gift, you run the risk of creating a rift between you and the happy couple. But during a hot wedding season, you also stand a chance of hurting yourself financially, he says. “I shouldn’t be behind on my credit card payments because I’m going to eight weddings this summer.”

Read on for the rules of wedding gift giving that ensure you’re as kind to your wallet as you are to your friends getting married.

Do I really have to cover the cost of my plate?

The idea that the value of your gift should cover the cost of your plate is a myth, says Farley. A more lavish wedding, in other words, would mean you have to give a fancier and more expensive gift.

Moreover, considering the amount of factors that go into the cost of a wedding reception, good luck figuring out what that number would actually be. “As a guest, you can’t be expected to do a research project to determine the price of your gift,” he says. “Your presence is not some kind of zero-sum game to cover the cost of the reception.”

Instead, you should ask yourself two questions when determining how much to spend on a gift. The first: “How close am I to the couple?” Farley said. “Is this a fringe work acquaintance and I can’t even believe I’m invited? Or is this my godson?”

Second: what can I afford? Getting invited to a wedding shouldn’t weigh on your budget. “Give what you can, what your heart tells you, and what you can afford,” says Farley.

Until when can I send a gift?

There is an idea that you have up to a year after a couple’s wedding to send your gift. “It’s a urban myth,” says Farley. “You don’t have a year to give a gift. What, are you waiting to see if the marriage will last a year?”

Farley says you should give your gift in a timely manner, but notes that doesn’t mean you should show up at the reception with a wrapped box — a box that some unfortunate member of the wedding party will likely have to corral. Instead, send your gift to the couple’s address ahead of time or, if you’re superstitious about it, no later than a month after the ceremony.

Should I buy something off-register?

In short, yes. And the sooner the better. “If the couple is registered, get on that registry as soon as you decide to go,” Farley says. “The longer you wait, the more likely you are to be stuck with items that are going over your budget or having to buy washcloths and pillowcases to try and bring it to $100.”

Farley would rather give a registered couple a gift than handle cash or a check. “Every time they make an espresso with the machine you gave them, they’re going to think of you,” he says. “They won’t remember the check you gave them on the 25the anniversary.”

Is it acceptable to give money?

If you can’t find anything in the registry that suits your budget, you can give a cash gift, but Farley suggests writing a check rather than putting bills in an envelope. “You can write a check and put it in a card that includes a thoughtful, heartfelt note,” he says. “It’s going to sound more sincere than it looks like you’re putting money in your wallet.”

The couple can also list their honeymoon contributions as a gift on their registry, and it’s a great way to celebrate the lovebirds, Farley says. But whatever you do, don’t stray from the couple’s script.

“I would always go along with anything the couple asked for rather than ‘go rogue,'” Farley said. “You might think they’d really like to subscribe to the cheese club of the month, but offering them something they didn’t ask for is really presumptuous.”

Should I offer a gift if I am not present?

Generally, yes. Even if you don’t attend the event because it doesn’t fit into your budget. “If it’s someone close to you, provided you can afford it, you should send something. At the very least, send a card with a really nice message,” Farley says.

And if you’ve been invited to multiple weddings this summer, sending gifts rather than shelling out cash for travel, accommodations, and a bolo hat and tie (sounds like a casual cowboy cocktail party, n right?) will likely mean you come out on top, notes Farley.

“If you can afford to send a gift and a card, especially to a loved one, it’s a very good solution,” he says. “If I skip a few weddings, I’d rather send five nice gifts than give it a shot and spend the next five years in debt. Also, if you look at the summer of 2023, there will be a lot of weddings then too.”

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