Is Sending a Wedding Gift Mandatory—Even If We Can't Attend the Wedding?

Well, it all depends on your relationship with the happy couple...

Updated 12/06/19

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Wedding invitations might be the best mail to get: Pretty calligraphy, heavy card stock, and a peek into your friends’ upcoming celebration—what could be better? After all that, it can be a bummer to find out you can’t actually make it. Once you’ve RSVP’d “no” and put your card in the mail, do you still have to send a wedding gift? Our experts weigh in.

Traditional wedding etiquette states that if you can’t attend the wedding, you are not obligated to send a wedding gift. However, what you decide to do may depend much more on your relationship with the happy couple than on etiquette.

If you’re not that close with the to-be-weds, sending back your RSVP card is enough. You may want to send a congratulatory card, either during their engagement or shortly after the wedding, but RSVP'ing is the only thing you really must do.

For a family member, it’s nice to send a small wedding gift if you can. Check out the couple's registry and pick something that’s relatively affordable, then include a note congratulating them on their marriage and saying that you’re looking forward to celebrating next time you’re all together.

Missing a close friend’s wedding is tough, and you may feel inclined to celebrate as though you were going to be there. Choose a gift that fits your budget and that you feel reflects your friendship, and make a point to get together before the wedding so you can celebrate their engagement, even if you can’t be there on the big day.

No matter what you decide to do, don’t forget to RSVP. It’s just as important to let the couple know not to expect you as it would be to tell them you’re coming, so as soon as you know whether or not you can attend, fill out your RSVP card and stick it in the mail. No exceptions.

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