Wedding Gifts and Gratitude

Weddings serve as a major occasion for parties, celebrations and, of course, presents.  As a bride, you will receive many gifts, but you will also be expected to give some of your own, and to convey your gratitude for the presents you receive.  There are always problems that crop up when giving and receiving presents, and this article should teach you how to deal with them.

A bride should expect wedding gifts from family, close friends, and anyone invited to the reception.  Friends and acquaintances who are only invited to the ceremony or who are sent an announcement rather than an invitation are not expected to send gifts.  Generally, brides visit major department stores in their area to choose their china, crystal, and tableware patterns.  When making a final decision, you might want to arrange a place setting so that you can be sure your silverware, glassware, and china all go together. 

Since your friends and family probably have different income levels, it is best to choose gifts in a variety of price ranges.  Registering at multiple stores will make this task easier.  For example, you can choose your china and crystal at a major department store, and also register for everyday items at a discount store.  Many chain stores post their bridal registries online, so gift-givers can simply check the internet to see what their options are and what has already been purchased for the couple.  If someone asks you directly what you would like for your wedding, you can direct them to your registries or you may suggest a type of gift that you would like. 

If you have been married before, are already living with your fiancé, or have been living on your own for years, you may not need many gifts for your wedding.  You should never write “No gifts” on your wedding invitations, but you may request that you would like donations to a certain charity instead of gifts.  Your close family and friends will probably buy you presents anyway, but they will know what you want and need better than someone you haven’t seen in a few years. 

Thank-you Cards

You should keep a gift book that allows you to track the gifts that you have received.  This book should have columns for the sender’s name, the gift, and whether you have written a thank-you note.  You must always send a hand-written thank-you.  You should try to send these notes as presents arrive for as long as you can.  The closer you get to the date of the wedding, the more hectic things will be, and you may not have time to write notes.  It is perfectly acceptable to send thank-you notes after the honeymoon, but you won’t have as much to do if you send some before the wedding.  Also, proper etiquette requires that all notes be sent within three months of the ceremony.

Thank-you notes should be written on informal paper, but they can be engraved or monogrammed.  You may consider ordering thank-you paper when you order your wedding invitations, so that they will match your wedding theme.  This is not at all necessary, but it would be a nice touch.  Traditionally, thank-you notes sent before the wedding will have the bride’s initials, using her maiden name. For notes sent after the wedding, her married initials should be used.  Some couples choose to monogram their paper with both the bride’s and the groom’s initials.  Contemporary culture allows the couple to choose whichever type of monogram they prefer.

Thank-you notes should be short and to the point, a few lines are all that are necessary.  However, a reference to the gift and a comment about how it will be used will make the note extra-special.  Tradition deigns that notes should be written by the bride and addressed to the female sender, with a mention of the sender’s husband in the body of the letter.  In modern culture, presents may be sent to the groom instead of the bride or to the couple jointly.  Also, presents may come from an untraditional couple, which would require a joint salutation.  Luckily, modern etiquette is more flexible, and either one of you can write the thank-you notes, addressing them as you see fit. 


Some gifts may arrive broken or damaged.  If the package was shipped directly from a store, you can simply return to the store and have the gift replaced or repaired.  However, if it was mailed by the sender, you need to check to see if the package was insured.  If it was, then you should notify the sender and they will be able to replace the gift.  Otherwise, pretend the gift arrived intact and write a thank-you to the sender.  Packages sent by a close friend or relative are slightly more difficult to deal with.  If you think the gift-giver will notice that you don’t have the present, you should notify him or her of the condition of the present.  Hopefully, no one will be too upset. 

Although registries should make things easier, it is always possible that you will receive duplicate gifts.  This is fine if it’s a place setting, but you don’t need 4 coffee pots.  In this case, you do not need to tell the sender that you have received duplicate presents, simply exchange things as necessary.  Close friends and relatives may give you something that wasn’t in your registry, and you may be obligated to keep it even if you don’t like it.  In this case, the best advice is to hide the gift and display it only when the sender is coming to visit. 

Like engagement rings, there is a certain protocol for wedding gifts if there are problems with the wedding.  If you and your groom decide to postpone the wedding, you should keep the gifts that were sent.  However, if you cancel your wedding your gifts must be returned to those who sent them.  It is in extremely poor taste to keep wedding gifts if you cancel the wedding. 

Displaying Gifts

Wedding presents are generally sent to the bride’s home before the wedding.  Often, the bride or the couple together will decide to display the gifts on a table in their home.  Most couples will wish to open the presents right away, and displaying them will give them a chance to view all the presents together.  Also, visitors to the home will get a chance to see their presents displayed.  You may even want to hold a small get-together before the ceremony so that everyone will be able to see their presents displayed.

Usually, the display table is decorated with a white tablecloth, but use whatever color best suits you, your home, and the presents you receive.  If the tablecloth reaches the floor, you can store empty boxes and packaging underneath the table. You can use flowers, ribbons and other decorations you may already have to best display your presents.

The best way to arrange the gifts is to group them so they complement each other.  If it is obvious that a gift is inexpensive, do not place it next to a gift that clearly cost quite a bit.  Doing that could embarrass the sender.  Also, only one place setting of each type should be displayed.  The same rule applies to duplicate gifts.  The general rule is to only display one of each type of present, but use your common sense to make the display table look as beautiful as possible. 

When displaying monetary gifts, you can either stack the checks, or make a card.  For the first option, you should stack the checks on top of one another so that all the signatures are showing, but the amount of the check is not.  A covering of some sort, such as a pitcher or plate should be placed on the top check to discourage prying.  In the second case, a card with the giver’s name and the word “check” is written.  The amount should not be shown on the card. 

It is up to the couple whether to display gift cards with the presents.  If cards are displayed, your guests won’t have to ask each other who sent what.  On the other hand, uncomfortable comparisons between the gifts and their cost may be made.  Since you know your guests, choose the option that best fits your friends and family.  However, if you receive several duplicate presents, it will be best not to display cards because the guests will realize what happened.

Gifts for Attendants, Hosts, and Hostesses

Now that you’ve thought about all the presents you’ll be getting, it’s time to spend some time on the present’s you will be giving.  You and your groom need to select presents for your bridesmaids and groomsmen as well as your maid or matron of honor and the best man.  Traditionally, these gifts are jewelry, wallets, leather belts, picture frames, charms, etc. that are engraved with couple’s initials, the date, and the position such as “best man”.  However, more modern gifts are anything from robes to tote bags or poker sets to stock in playboy.  Many of these gifts can be monogrammed or engraved with the couple’s initials, but most of them would be better if engraved with the receiver’s initials.  For example, bridesmaids could be given tote bags with their own initials or their first names monogrammed on them. 

Depending on the formality of your wedding and the relationship you have with your attendants, you may choose either of these options.  The maid or matron of honor and the best man should be given slightly different, more expensive presents than the other attendants.  There are many websites online that will help you select presents for your attendants.

Additionally, a friend who throws a party, shower, luncheon, or dinner should be given a present along with a card to thank them for their generosity.  Putting a bridal shower or a bachelor party together is hard work, and you should show you’re appreciation for it.  These gifts can be small, token favors, or more elaborate and expensive presents.  The decision is up to you and your wallet.  A close family member who throws a party for you may not expect a gift, in which case you don’t have to send one.  However, you should think about the expectations of the host or hostess when deciding whether or not to send a present. 

Giving and receiving gifts is always great fun, and now that you know how to smooth over any potential faux pas, you should be able to enjoy it.  If you choose to do the unexpected, that’s great, but for those of you who would rather follow tradition, stick to these rules.