spending

Your Wedding-Gift Etiquette Questions Answered

As distance (and cost) to the destination goes up, gift expectations go down.

Question: My niece is getting married in her hometown, and the costs of traveling (and staying) there are adding up. Can my presence be the present?

Answer: Even though wedding gifts are never required, it can certainly feel as if they're expected–and forgoing one may make you uncomfortable, especially in the case of a close friend or relative. If you're feeling pinched from travel costs, there is no shame in picking out a small item from the registry. Or consider a fail-safe token of congratulations, such as a picture frame to hold a wedding photo, a gift card to a store on the registry or even a home-cooked meal at your place.

"It's not about how much you spend, but wishing the couple well in their new life together," says Jennifer Spector, director of brand at wedding-planning and registry site Zola.com. A thoughtfully written card with your best wishes can also be meaningful.

"I still have my cards from friends who traveled a long way to attend my wedding and didn't give a gift," says Meg Keene, author of A Practical Wedding.

The same principles apply to a destination wedding for which everyone must travel to a far-flung location, but in that case the expectation for gifts is generally lower.

My friend's registry includes both gift suggestions and links to favorite charities. Can a charitable donation replace a gift? If the couple presents both options, a donation can always be made in lieu of a gift, says Keene. (In fact, donating to charity in the couple's name is a tasteful alternative to a present if your travel costs to their wedding are adding up.) The couple's situation may help you make your choice. For example, a younger couple might need housewares more than older newlyweds who have already accumulated belongings.

I can't attend the wedding of my good friend's son because of a prior commitment. Should I still send a gift? Tradition says yes, but these days it depends more on your relationship with the couple, says Spector. For a close friend, sending a gift to his or her son is a lovely gesture and helps ease the family's disappointment that you can't celebrate in person. "A gift says, 'In any other circumstance, I would be there,'" says Keene.

Send a gift if the family attended your own wedding. But mailing a card or jotting down some kind wishes on the RSVP note suffices if you have gradually lost touch with this friend over time.

Most Popular

Dying Careers You May Want to Steer Clear Of
careers

Dying Careers You May Want to Steer Clear Of

It’s tough to change, but your job could depend on it. Be flexible in your career goals – and talk with your kids about their own aspirations, because…
September 13, 2021
5 Top Dividend Aristocrats to Beef Up Your Portfolio
dividend stocks

5 Top Dividend Aristocrats to Beef Up Your Portfolio

The 65-member Dividend Aristocrats are among the market's best sources of reliable, predictable income. But these five stand out as truly elite.
September 14, 2021
7 Best Commodity Stocks to Play the Coming Boom
commodities

7 Best Commodity Stocks to Play the Coming Boom

These seven commodity stocks are poised to take advantage of a unique confluence of events. Just mind the volatility.
September 8, 2021

Recommended

15 Things Retirees Should Buy at Costco
Making Your Money Last

15 Things Retirees Should Buy at Costco

From its house brand Kirkland Signature lineup to name brands and hidden gems, the warehouse club offers bargains aimed at mature shoppers.
September 8, 2021
17 Free or Cheap Things to Do With Your Kids During the COVID-19 Pandemic
Raising Money-Smart Kids

17 Free or Cheap Things to Do With Your Kids During the COVID-19 Pandemic

We’ve got lots of kid-friendly activities to do at home that will keep your family safe and your finances sound.
September 8, 2021
Complain and Be Heard
Smart Buying

Complain and Be Heard

Getting our money back for the extended warranty and gap insurance we didn't want took patience and persistence.
August 31, 2021
19 Things You Can't Return to Amazon
Amazon Prime

19 Things You Can't Return to Amazon

Before tossing these items into your virtual shopping cart, be sure to read Amazon's return policy first.
August 16, 2021