Wedding guest etiquette dictates that if an invitation is received, a gift to the bride and groom should be presented. This applies whether the guest can attend the nuptials or not. However, manners do not limit themselves to the giver; they also apply to the recipients. The gracious bride and groom must acknowledge the generosity of their guests with delight and exercise tact and sensitivity when ripping through the wrapping paper.
Opening Gifts Privately
The couple may open gifts as soon as they arrive if packages and cards arrive prior to the wedding. Opening them early allows the couple to take advantage of shipping guarantees if a gift arrives damaged. It is better to inform the giver than for them to notice the omission of their candlesticks on your mantle during a visit. If the guest presents the gift at the wedding or mails it shortly after, the couple may open it upon return from their honeymoon.
Opening Gifts Publicly
While it may be regional tradition to open gifts as part of the reception, Linda Kevich, professional wedding consultant and columnist, suggests that “when it occurs it is an exception, not an emerging trend.” Guests face potential embarrassment when another guest duplicates their gift, or when a wedding attendant reads a very personal heartfelt message aloud. Avoid starting a new tradition. If company is desired, invite a small group on a different day instead of holding a captive audience at a late-night reception. TheKnot.com editor-in-chief Carley Roney suggests a post-wedding brunch.
When opening gifts, write down the name of each giver and the nature of each gift. This information helps reinforce the connection between giver and the gift, and assists with the personalization of thank-you notes. For example, write “Aunt Polly and Uncle Sam--blue porcelain platter” on the list. Later, the information will help you warmly thank them. For example: "We look forward to using the lovely platter for our next party. The shade of blue matches our kitchen so well." Include the date received. If you do not write them a note the same day, it reminds you what gifts came first, and therefore, should be acknowledged first.
Do not discard card envelopes until the address of the sender is recorded. If money or gift certificates came inside the card, in addition to marking it on the list, write “gift card” or the denomination on the envelope. This helps you remember whether you removed the gift from the card or not. Discard the envelope once cash is safely deposited and you add the gift to the list. Acknowledge the card even if no gift was included.
According to Peggy Post, author of "Emily Post’s Wedding Etiquette," “Your thank-you notes should be written and sent within three months of receipt of each gift.” Do not wait until the last minute, but rather write several per day to prevent them from piling up. There is no need to wait until after the wedding to acknowledge gifts sent prior. Write and send thank-you notes at the very first opportunity to do so. It not only helps expedite the process, but saves the guest from awkwardly inquiring as to whether the gift arrived.