Wedding Gift Etiquette When Invited to the Reception Only

a gift of love image by Pix by Marti from

Many couples today opt for smaller, more intimate marriage ceremonies or destination weddings, but they still want to celebrate with their friends and loved ones. If you receive an invitation to the wedding reception but not the wedding, don’t assume you just got the invitation so the couple could receive another gift. Nevertheless, some guests wonder about gift-giving etiquette in this situation.

When to Send a Wedding Gift

Traditional etiquette says that a guest has up to one year after the marriage to give a gift to the bride and groom, though nothing says you can't send one as soon as you receive the invitation--even if you're invited to the reception only. If you would like to send the gift before the wedding, send it to the bride. After the wedding, send it to the couple's home.

How Much to Spend

Wedding guest etiquette stipulates that the normal wedding gift should cost between $50 to $1,000, depending on your budget. One rule of thumb is to spend as much on the gift as the couple spends on each person's dinner at the reception (if you know that information). Consider spending more for a gift if you are close friends with the couple and can afford it. Try to stick to the minimum $50 rule.

What to Give

More than 95 percent of brides have some sort of gift registry. Some people might feel it's impersonal to pick a gift from a list, but the couple went to the trouble of putting together a list for a reason. Most newlyweds would prefer something from their registry. If there is nothing on the registry that seems right for you, consider pooling your money with others for a big ticket item or give the classic standby, cash.

Practices to Avoid

Bringing a gift to the reception can be a hassle for everyone involved. You have to carry it around with you until you arrive at the reception, and the wedding party has to clear it out of the reception venue and take it home. It's less stressful to send your gift before or after the wedding day. If your gift is money, writing a check is better than handing the couple cash.

Making Your Decision

Although there are a number of rules to keep in mind when giving wedding gifts, it shouldn't matter in any way that you might not be invited to all of the festivities. Go to the reception, wish the happy couple well and give as generously as you would have if invited to the wedding as well. On the other hand, it's considered bad manners for the bride and groom to expect gifts from any of their guests.