Though wedding invitations are exciting to receive, they do come with a few expectations like buying a gift for the couple. What's more, if you've been invited to an engagement party, bridal shower, or any wedding-related affair, you may need to come up with more than one gift idea for the guests of honor. This can usually be solved by checking the couple's registry, but if your invite doesn't list one (or you'd like to purchase something a little more personal), it's imperative that you pay attention to the items you buy in order to avoid any uncomfortable or inappropriate situations.
While Jodi RR Smith, a professional etiquette consultant, shares that "the inappropriateness of any gift is highly subjective" and "gifting is dependent on the giver, the recipient, and their relationship," there are few gifts that guests should keep on their "do not buy" list. Read on to learn more.
Meet the Expert
Jodi RR Smith is a professional etiquette consultant, and the president and owner of Mannersmith. She has been offering etiquette courses since 1986.
Re-gifting is generally considered to be a huge "no," but Smith says that it sometimes can be acceptable, depending on the situation. However, it should go without saying that you never want to gift a couple something that isn't brand new for their wedding. Not only does this feel awkward and unplanned, but it can be seen as offensive.
"The item you are giving should be brand new and never used; never worn, never washed, never played with—even for five minutes," Smith shares. "It should have the original packaging and tags. It should be a recent acquisition so that, should the recipient return it to the store, the recipient will not be told the particular style of the item has not been carried for at least three years."
A Gift for Only One Person
Found a nice golf set that you think the soon-to-be husband would love? Or a piece of jewelry that you could see the bride-to-be wearing? Gifting only one of these items may not be the best idea. Smith notes that while the present might feel appropriate to give to your friend, it's important to think about the couple when buying something for a wedding. "The one-person gift may be better saved for a birthday or holiday gift exchange," she says. Remember, this gift is meant to symbolize their lives together, not just your relationship with one person.
A Baby Gift
Even if the couple is expecting, this isn't the time to gift a baby-related item; and this is especially true if there's no baby on the way. "It's inappropriate to purchase baby gifts before someone announced they are expecting to have or adopt a child," Smith says. "First, in many cultures, this is really bad luck. Second, you may think they want to have children and you could be incorrect. Third, they could really want children and are having a difficult time, so your gift could be painful and hurtful."
Focus on buying something for the couple, not their potential future child that may never even exist. If you happen to find a baby item you really love, Smith notes that "you can purchase it in the hope of being able to gift it soon. But you are not allowed to mention or even allude to it in advance."
A Re-Gift That Misses the Mark
Again, re-gifting an item can be perfectly acceptable, but it has to be done right. It shouldn't be done with the sole purpose of getting rid of something you don't want, but should be a gift that you would have genuinely purchased for the couple if you had gone out shopping for them. "To merely pass along an item you cannot stand is inappropriate," Smith says. "However, if you are allergic to perfume, but know your neighbor loves this fragrance, or if you are on a diet, but your co-worker adores gourmet chocolate, then these types of re-gifting are perfectly acceptable."
For those who may feel awkward about a re-gift, even if it's a perfect fit, pair it with something you've purchased to balance it out.
Off-Registry Items (If the Couple Has a Registry)
In general, if the couple has a registry, it's best to stick to the items on that list. They likely spent hours, or even days, coming up with everything they want and need, so regardless of what you choose, these gifts are guaranteed to be loved and appreciated by the recipient. That said, if you really want to buy an "off-list" item, be mindful of what you purchase.
For instance, don't buy off-registry items that are similar to what the couple has already requested. So, if they've registered for specific wine glasses, avoid purchasing another set made by a different brand. Similarly, if they've asked for a specific blender, but you think they should have a better brand, resist the urge to purchase your option and just buy the item they want.
A Gag Gift
Gag gifts, or prank gifts, can be funny and a way to get a conversation going, but they're not the best idea for a wedding or a bridal shower. These gifts are meant to be a joke, and might leave everyone feeling a little awkward if the joke isn't well received.
If there's a funny gift you think a couple would appreciate, buy it alongside an item they've asked for on the registry. Also, really think about who you're shopping for, and ask yourself if it's something they would enjoy.