Giving a wedding gift is a highly personal endeavor. While couples may provide their guests with a registry, even the etiquette gurus at the Emily Post Institute say that shopping from this prescribed list isn't a must.
Ideally, whatever your wedding gift is, it should be given with careful consideration. The amount of money you spend shouldn't matter if your gift comes from the heart -- it really is the thought that counts.
That said, what you choose to give can speak volumes about you, and this message may even contradict the one you intend. Read on to learn what your wedding gift really says about you.
1. Cash: You're practical (and a godsend).
Even though etiquette used to dictate that giving money to a couple for their wedding was in poor taste, at least in American culture, now this way of thinking is sublimely outdated. In fact, cash is not only the most useful gift to a newly married couple, it's also the most preferred. Many couples now pay for their own weddings and could use some extra money for the honeymoon (and many also create registries solely as a formality since it's considered rude to ask for cash outright). When in doubt, always give cash.
2. Handmade Gift: You're thoughtful (but a bit of a risk-taker).
If you have a skill that you know the couple would appreciate (or has commented on in the past), this gift shows your generosity. You're not only giving a gift, but you're giving your talent and your time. This gift, in the practical sense, can range from a baker offering to create a friend's wedding cake for free or a carpenter building a couple a new kitchen table they desperately need. However, making a gift because you can't afford to buy one or taking on a first-time DIY project as a way to honor a couple can be a bit of a risk.
3. Personalized or Special Gift: You're attentive (but maybe a little needy, too).
Some people choose to give a specific gift because they want the couple to have something special from them. Which is a nice sentiment, but it seems to focus more on the gift-giver's needs (to feel special) than the couple's. But, in other cases, giving something personalized can be seen as caring (luggage with the couple's new monogram, for example, is practical and personal). To make sure you're giving the couple something they need, however, you may consider monogramming a gift from the registry -- but know that if the couple wanted a given item monogrammed, they likely would have indicated that. (Monogrammed gifts cannot be returned, so it's always best to double check.)
4. Random Gift Without a Receipt: You're just clueless.
Going off-registry is fine (especially if you know the couple well) but getting them a gift they didn't request -- and not including a receipt -- can be a terrible inconvenience. Yes, couples should be grateful for every gift they receive. And, of course, sometimes people don't want the couple to know how much they spent on a gift. But! It's better to give a little cash or something from the registry than something cannot be used -- or returned. It's not only a waste of your money, but it can be a headache for your newly married friends as they decide whether to find a use for the item, give it away or store it.
5. Repeat Gift: You're fair (and organized).
Some people choose give everyone the same thing. (I actually do this for parents with new babies --I always give the same book with CD, Shel Silverstein's The Giving Tree.) Giving all of your friends and family members the same gift -- or picking out something very similar from each couple's registry, say a set of wine glasses -- allows you to be consistent and fair. There will be no comparisons among your loved ones and no hassle for you as the gift-giver.
6. Just a card: You may come off as thrifty, but you're caring.
More and more, people are flying cross-country (and even around the world!) to attend their loved ones' weddings. In many cases, guests spend hundreds, or thousands, of dollars on travel. And, given this, it's just not possible for many people to also pay for a gift. However, giving a loving, heartfelt card is really all that is needed to make a bride and groom feel special. Sometimes the best gift is the gift of your loving words of support.
7. No card, no gift: You're inconsiderate.
As stated, some wedding guests simply do not have room in their budgets for gifts. This is understandable. But to attend a couple's wedding -- people who are, presumably, friends of yours or related to you -- and then not even give them a card is just plain rude. That's all there is to it.