Photo by Arthur Ogleznev

By Sharon Schweitzer

As wedding season blooms, here are some common wedding etiquette questions and answers.

  1. When I receive a wedding invitation, am I obligated to attend? It depends on the relationship. When you first receive an invitation, consider the sender. A close friend or family member will typically mean more involvement and investment than an acquaintance or colleague.  Express your genuine care for the couple by using their registry. By using the bridal registry, you contribute in a way that the happy couple truly wants and will appreciate.


  1. How do I make a wedding budget? Determine your financial bandwidth and avoid draining your account. Wedding gifts vary greatly depending on the relationship with the couple. On average, research reveals how much is spent on gifts, based on closeness of the relationships. Use this wedding budget calculator to assist with the financial planning process


  1. Is a wedding gift always expected? Yes, keep in mind that a gift of some kind is expected, whether it is the neighbor, colleague, or your very best friend. This is simply due to the nature of tradition. Marriage is a new adventure for the couple and a gift is a sign of well-wishing as a couple takes their next steps. Always work within your means and strive to put your best guest foot forward with a thoughtful and useful gift for the newlyweds.


  1. Is “group gifting” appropriate?  Yes, family members, bridal attendants and groomsmen often spend a considerable amount on the wedding festivities. Frequently the couple have registered for a honeymoon trip, or other large expenditure. Today, it’s appropriate to consider combining contributions for a group gift. This can lighten the financial burden while still giving the couple something they truly want and adore. Add a sentimental touch with a handwritten note, or by personalizing the item with their last name or initials.


  1. Do wedding guests still engage in traditional gift gifting?  One NerdWallet study found that guests preferred giving traditional gifts, even more than contributing to a honeymoon fund, home down payment fund or cash. A registry also allows you to select gifts in a wide range of price points. If you would like to give a more personal gift, pair it with something from their registry for a combination gift they will undoubtedly adore.


  1. Do I need to buy a gift for a destination wedding? We will be spending enough already on travel and accommodations. Is my presence enough? Destination weddings pose their own set of unique questions: Should I bring my gift to the wedding? How long am I expected to stay? What if the cost is more than I can afford? When deciding whether to attend, know that etiquette experts agree that an acceptable time for gift giving is up to six months after the wedding. This allows you to save up to attend the wedding and also share a meaningful gift with the happy couple. Rather than forgoing a gift or settling for a less special present, consider sending your gift early – before the wedding ceremony.

Couples also understand that guest planning, saving and preparation go into destination weddings.  With that greater travel expense included, they are more understanding with gifts and don’t necessarily expect anything extravagant. Be sure to ship the couple’s gift to their home, not the destination nuptials. They really don’t want to lug all those gifts on a plane and neither do you.


  1. My mother insists that I register for fine china and crystal; even though I doubt we will use it when entertaining. How do I resolve this conundrum since my parents are also paying for our wedding reception? Best wishes and congratulations to you and your fiancé! Consider this advice:
  1. Keep Communication Open. Encourage fluid communication with both sides of the family early in the engagement, especially with your mother and all parents. Set a time to explore your mother’s insistence on registering for china. Highlight the family customs you and your fiancé are honoring in your wedding.  Explain your thoughts. Showing parental respect goes a long way, especially when your family is paying for the wedding. Remember you may be sharing holiday meals for years to come.
  2. Compromise. Graciously coordinate with your family. Respectfully state that although this is your wedding, you plan to honor important customs of your mother during the wedding. Summon up your best diplomacy skills, compromise and remember you can’t please everyone, all of the time.


  1. How do you tell people that they didn’t make the cut? Due to space constraints, finances and for personal reasons, many couples limit the wedding guest headcount. Sometimes people assume they are invited or may even ask if they are invited. If this happens, be prepared to be polite and be honest. Thank them for contacting you. If they are an acquaintance or long-lost friend, add that you’re excited to get back in touch. Ask about their adventures since you last spoke and share a few of your own. If they ask you about the wedding, tell them about the budget and space constraints. If you do want to see them, suggest catching up over coffee or dinner after the wedding. Here are some ideas of how to navigate this tricky conversation.

“How fabulous to read your text. We hope you’re doing well since we last visited. We’re keeping our guest list small. However, we would enjoy catching up with you after the honeymoon.”

“Thanks for your congratulations on our engagement. Your kindness is appreciated. We’re staying with a small guest list for a variety of reasons. We both hope you understand. Let’s plan to have dinner together soon to catch up.”

“It’s fun to be in touch again. In light of our venue limits we have a small guest list; however, we appreciate your well wishes.”