Wedding Gifts – It’s a Brave New World

Wedding Gift Etiquette

This couple is smiling, but what they really wanted was
a contribution to their honeymoon in Bora Bora.


Remember the firestorm created earlier this summer when a rude and ungrateful bride let a guest know that her gift was unacceptable? (And, yes, that is the understatement of the year.)

The nasty debacle went viral (heck, even the CBC did a segment on it!) and generated a lot of discussion on just what constitutes a suitable wedding gift these days.

Back in 1924 Chicago department store Marshall Fields introduced the first bridal registry. William Ashley Fine China borrowed the idea and opened Canada’s first bridal registry in the 1950s. The idea of a bridal registry was considered presumptuous at the time yet the concept took off. In Canada the bridal gift registry business is worth a whopping $1.4 billion annually.


The gift needs of the 21st century couple are not the same as the blushing bride of the 1950’s. Today’s average bride and groom are older (29 and 31 respectively), employed and often already living together. Grooms are involved as never before, not just with the wedding planning, but also with the gift registry selections. To satisfy the modern couple major retailers such as Canadian Tire and Home Depot have jumped onto the gift registry bandwagon.

And registries are no longer limited to household items. Today guests can help fund a honeymoon, support a couple’s favourite charity or contribute to a house purchase savings plan. It truly is a brave new world.

While it is never acceptable for a couple to ask for gifts the gift registry is a useful tool to helps guests make thoughtful and appropriate choices. At best, the items listed in a registry are merely suggestions. Ultimately the choice and value of the gift is at the gift giver’s discretion.

One thing that has not changed over the decades is that couples should never, ever include their registry information on the wedding invitation. The invitation serves a very specific purpose: to provide essential information about the wedding ceremony, reception and dress code. It also gives your guests an idea of your wedding style (e.g. vintage, formal, rustic, modern). Providing gift-giving suggestions is tantamount to asking for gifts – a major etiquette faux pas.

But what about cash? Can’t a couple ask for cash?

No, but it is certainly acceptable to give the gift of cash, or a gift card if the thought of giving cash seems distasteful.

It’s a delicate balance:  The bride and groom should never expect gifts, and yet most wedding guests will want to provide a gift to mark the couple’s happy day. The gift registry is a useful tool to help well-meaning guests select the most appropriate gift. And when in doubt giving cash is perfectly acceptable.

When all is said and done, it truly is the thought that counts. Every gift should be given with love, and received with gratitude.

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