According to Amy Vanderbilt, “Only a great fool or a great genius is likely to flout all social grace with impunity, and neither one, doing so, makes the most comfortable companion.” Following the rules of etiquette is a way of ensuring that others are always comfortable in your presence. If you are knowledgeable about appropriate gift-giving and wedding etiquette, it is much easier to avoid misunderstandings, stress and offense.
Etiquette dictates that wedding presents are optional expressions of affection. The scale and cost of the happy couple’s nuptials have no bearing on whether a gift should be given or on the amount a gift should cost. Assuming that the bride and groom follow the conventions of etiquette, you will never be asked why you did not give a present or whether your present is late, as that is the ultimate in rudeness.
The traditionally held belief is that a wedding gift can be given up to a year after the event. While this may be a rule that many follow, it is considered bad form to wait so long.
According to the Emily Post Institute, “Guests do not have a year in which to send a gift. The gift should be sent within three months of the wedding, at the outside.”
If you know in advance that your present will be late for a valid reason, such as financial hardship, it never hurts to explain the situation to the bride or groom. That way the couple will know you are thinking of them and will be even more appreciative of your gift when it does arrive.
How to Give Late
Although it is preferable to give in a timely manner, “It's never too late to send a gift,” according to GiftStasher.com. Indeed, a belated present is usually a pleasant surprise for the recipient. However, as Miss Manners reminds us, “People do not like to hear that someone was too busy or too forgetful to think of them.” Skip the lengthy apology and focus on finding the couple a memorable gift.
Many registries remain open for a year after the wedding, providing guidance to the belated giver. Remember to ask the couple if their registry is up-to-date prior to purchasing, to avoid buying a duplicate item.
If more than a year has passed since the wedding and you still wish to give a gift, consider sending the not-so-newlyweds with an anniversary present instead.
Juliet White has been writing articles since 1997. Her work has appeared in "Period House Magazine," the London edition of "The Times," "USA Today" and on various websites. White received her B.A. in English from the University of Nottingham. Since moving to the United States, she has continued her education through classes at University of California, Los Angeles and Mediabistro.