The Luxist Guide to Wedding Gifts
Luxist: If you can't make the wedding, do you still have to send a gift?
Lora Chio: If you get an invitation, you have to send a gift. Yup. This means that if you don't know the bride, but she invites you to her shower, you need to send a gift (regardless of whether or not you attend; regardless of whether or not she knows your name).
L: Is sending money ever okay? How much should you send?
LC: The unspoken rule of thumb for giving cash is to basically pay for your plates. For example, if you are at a wedding where you believe the reception rings in at $100 per head, and you were allowed to bring a date, you should give $200. That's just a starting point -- many other considerations should be made before you decide on a dollar amount:
- How close are you with the couple? Very? Give a little more.
- Did they give you money at your wedding? If yes, you should give the same amount (or $1 more, just to be clever).
- Did you have to travel for the wedding (and therefore pay for a hotel, a rental car, plane tickets, etc.)? Feel free to knock the dollar amount back a little -- you've already done a lot to be there for the special day.
LC: Buying off-registry is totally acceptable if you feel like you know the bride or groom well enough to give them something they will love. Registries were designed to give a newly married couple a little boost -- a starter kit, if you will. While registering for gifts is very exciting (you get to point a gun at stuff!), many trigger-happy couples regret having to keep half of Bloomingdale's in their storage units because their 700 sq ft apartment doesn't have room for soft-boiled egg cups.
L: What's a good example of an appropriate off-registry gift?
LC: The key to success with a rogue gift (i.e. not on the registry) is having an alternative that you are sure the couple will love. I like to do personalized gift baskets with lots of little things that will make the recipient happy. Ten years ago, before sushi was in corner delis, I sent a friend a home sushi set because she loved sushi -- I wrapped each individual piece as a gift and put them all in a big glass floor vase. She loved being able to open 35 little gifts.
L: Since you often shop for other people, you don't always know the bride and groom. Are there any safe bets for good wedding gifts -- even for people you don't know?
LC: Safe bets for good wedding gifts are often consumable -- something that can be used up and help create a experience for the couple long after the circus has left town. Everyone loves getting nice wine, tickets to a great show, gift certificates for fancy dinners, but if you want to give a tangible present, here are some of my favorite things to give and get:
Gallery: Recommended Wedding Gifts
LC: Actually, I have two more.
LC: In addition to those, I once went to Emma Bridgewater in London and bought my weight in fun kitchen stuff. You can purchase from her website -- you have to pay a pretty steep shipping fee from London, but it's worth it for a stack of Daniel Craig tea towels. Also, have you done anything on Joan Hornig jewelry? [Yes, we have.] I used to nanny for Joan when i first moved to New York. She donates 100% of her profits to charity. I am wild about her new Kyanite Dogwood Petal Necklace. It's extraordinary.
L: What about timing - should you send the gift ahead; is it a faux pas to show up to the wedding with the gift in hand?
LC: There are lots of funny little rules about sending a wedding gift. After your invitation comes in the mail, you are free to send the gift. I know many people who live by the 1-year rule (you have a year after the wedding to send a gift), but I've also heard it said that if you are sending a physical gift, you should try to do it within 3 months of the wedding. Bringing a gift to the reception is perfectly acceptable, but is it practical? Do you want to carry the present around with you until the reception? If you are bringing the gift with you, be sure it's tastefully presented. It shouldn't be in the gift-wrap from the store, and it shouldn't be thrown in a gift bag. You've carefully selected the perfect gift -- so wrap it appropriately! People are judging your book by its cover!
L: If a person is sending the gift, where should they send it?
LC: Some traditionalists recommend sending all wedding gifts to the bride's parents' home, but with more and more couples paying for their own weddings, I recommend sending the gift to the address on the RSVP card.
L: How long after the wedding can you send it if, heaven forbid, you're late?
LC: If you miss the one year deadline, you have to do more. Call the married couple, apologize for your oversight, and invite them to dinner. It may sound petty, but people remember when you don't send a gift. Nip that situation in the bud, acknowledge your mistake, and retain the friendship.
L: When buying from the registry, what are ways to make the gift seem a little more personal (we often find that personalization is the essence of luxury)?
LC: There plenty of ways to make the gift more special for your friends. Plan well in advance so you can have things monogrammed if appropriate. Great bedding and linens usually wind up on the registry list, and you can amp up your gift with monograms on the pillowcases, throw blankets, towels, bathrobes, etc. Monogramming doesn't have to be boring either. The classic wedding monogram is to place the couple's last initial in the middle with the bride's first initial to the left and the groom's first initial to the right -- though I'm personally not a fan because I've grown accustomed to the way my own monogram looks. Not everyone changes their last name these days, so be careful about making assumptions.
L: Is there a safe way to monogram without asking?
LC: When I monogram things for my home, I make "his and hers" sets. We have monogrammed pillows, but we each have our own monogram on our own pillow (the incidence of middle-of-the-night-pillow-
LC: Have the gift sent to your home so you can repackage it with some other smaller items and a handwritten note. This way, your sorority sister doesn't just get the blender she wanted; she gets the blender with a couple of margarita glasses, handcuffs, and a note that says "Remember when we had to bribe the Federalis so you wouldn't have to spend the rest of spring break in a holding cell in Cancun? Yay -- that was fun! Can't wait for your wedding!"
L: If you're the one getting married, what's the rule as far as returning gifts that you don't need or got doubles of?
LC: If you're the one getting married, you can return anything and everything you don't want or need. Many stores have policies where items can be returned for store credit, and lots of stores will let you buy the remainder of your registry at a discounted price. Awareness is the real key to registering, though -- do you need that hand-blown glass seahorse right now? What good will it do you in your parents' basement in Maryland?
L: Any tips on registering?
LC: Well, I have some friends who registered for a bunch of knick-knacky-type items under $100 because they wanted to have reasonable options for people buying off the registry -- don't do that. Register only for things you want or need-- this wedding is about you and no one else! Wouldn't you rather have four friends each pay $100 to get you a new set of kitchen knives than get a hodgepodge of picture frames and salt and pepper shakers?
L: How long do you have to write thank yous?
L: What if a gift is particularly generous, and a thank you note doesn't seem like enough?
If you have any further questions for our expert, please leave them below!