Fall is the new "it" wedding season — the most popular day to get married in 2018 is October 20 — so many of us are primed and ready to hit the registries hard this time of year.
But picking a present isn’t always easy. Are gifts always expected? How much do I spend for a couple I don’t know that well? What if I'm not even going to the wedding?
Here are the guidelines to get you through wedding season without a faux pas.
WHEN THE COUPLE GETTING MARRIED IS A FAMILY MEMBER OR CLOSE FRIEND
This is usually the easiest type of gift to buy, says wedding service coordinator Kevin Dennis, since you can probably guess what registry items they might really want or need. There's a little more wiggle room here, too, to be creative. "You can gift something sentimental, or even practical," he says. "One of the best gifts I’ve seen is when a family member paid for a house cleaning service for the couple leading up to, or just after, the wedding."
Wedding planner and designer Lindsey Sachs recommends spending around $100 to $125 for family and close friends.
WHEN YOU’RE A MEMBER OF THE WEDDING PARTY
If you're in the wedding, you're likely a close friend or family member of the couple — but you've probably already shelled out a good chunk of cash for pre-wedding events. Because of this, Sachs says you can get together with the other bridesmaids or groomsmen and buy a group gift. After all, Sachs says, you’ve already invested in being a member of the party, buying wedding day attire, hosting showers and giving gifts at other occasions.
Sachs recommends spending around $100 to $125 for family and close friends.
WHEN YOU DON’T KNOW THE COUPLE WELL
Sometimes, you may be invited to a wedding because your whole family is, or because your acquaintances are hosting a big shindig and decided to include just about everyone they know.
"Consider going in on a gift with your parents or friends if you're receiving an extended invite," Dennis says. "That will take the pressure off of you to come up with an individual gift."
If this isn't an option, Sachs suggests aiming for $50 to $75 on a wedding present for an acquaintance, co-worker or anyone else you aren’t super close with.
WHEN IT’S A DESTINATION WEDDING
Don't worry about how much you can afford to spend on a gift if you're traveling for the wedding, Dennis says. "You’re already spending a great deal to get there, so it’s truly OK if your 'presence is your present,'" he says. A thoughtful card is always appreciated, or even something small from the registry, say, under $50, if you feel strange about not getting a gift.
No matter how much you decide to spend (or not), Sachs advises that you don't bring the card or gift to the actual event. "Pre-ship your gift or schedule it to arrive when they return home from the wedding," Sachs says. "The same goes for cards with cash or check. It’s best for the couple not to have extra cash to be responsible for."
WHEN YOU CAN’T ATTEND THE WEDDING
Etiquette used to dictate that you have to send a gift if you're invited to a wedding, even if you can't make it. These days, however, “I’d like to think that the gift requirements really depend on how close you are to the couple," Dennis says. "For example, you could send a congratulations card to a distant friend or relative, but in the case of missing the wedding of a closer family member or friend, a gift in the mail would be a nice gesture."
If you feel surprised to have received an invite at all, do not feel obligated to purchase a gift, Sachs says.