Choosing Wedding Gifts
How to choose the ideal wedding gift
Wedding gifts can be a slightly confusing dilemma - there is a certain etiquette that should be followed during this exciting, yet stressful time. Depending on how "close" you are personally to the couple in question, your options range from giving cash, to helping tick things off the bridal registry.
A registry is a tradition that has lasted for through the ages and through many different cultures. It is simply giving a token or gift to help the newlywed couple establish their new relationship. A bride or groom will list things that they would like, and people will buy them. They will then be taken off the registry. Most of the time, these are gifts that would be beneficial for the couple, such as household items or furnishings. Of course, it's not required, but preferred.
Cash is also an option. However, it can get a little bit tricky to manage. A couple with more or less affluence may feel that you gave too much or too little. Unless you know the couple well, and feel comfortable with giving a cash gift, then this option will cause the least amount of anxiety around the event.
A common myth is that attendees have up to a year after the wedding to send a gift (which makes sense if you're a celebrity, and tend to have volatile relationships)... but unfortunately, this won't buy us mere mortals a free pass for the year. It is standard practice to have the gifts ready beforehand, or at least very soon after the wedding.
If you opt for choosing a gift, then it lands you in a situation where you do not want to be offensive, and also provide something meaningful towards the ceremony.
This is where carefully considering your relationship with the couple comes in. Of course, brides and grooms don't expect to get the very best of the best, especially from people they see only occasionally. Distant friends and family members have different types of obligation to each person.
For a wedding you will be attending, if you are close to the wedding, it should be reasonably simple to choose something meaningful, as well as not overly cheap as to not offend (not that most couples will be offended anyway, but it's best to be polite and offer something with monetary value as well).
In the past, a friend of mine was attending a wedding for a couple that he recently met, and was put on the invite list. Because it was a particularly lavish wedding, he opted to choose for a reasonably cheap, quirky gift. Although the couple was not aware of them, they were packaged in a "his and hers" kind of way, and it was still meaningful to the couple. It was weird, yet totally appropriate for the couple in question, as well as in regards to their relationship.
Having recently attended a wedding for close friends, I was also delighted to find that I had already owned an item that was gifted. It was a vase set and some synthetic flowers. It also included a small set that diffuse natural oils, in order to create a subtle fragrance around the house. Unfortunately, it was not useful to me due to allergies, and it was re-gifted. It was actually quite an expensive item. However, in the case that the bride or groom is aware of a gift, it is highly recommended to not re-gift.
In short, if you are going to choose a reasonably "cheap" gift, it's best to add your own personal touch. Nice wrapping, a thoughtful card, adding chocolates, or adding rare food items can increase the perceived value of the gift.
And lastly - do not fret. Often times, we are really just worried about how the couple might perceive us as a person - cheap, unthoughtful, or maybe you don't know the couple as well as they thought. The thing is, most of these thoughts are totally unfounded, and any kind of gift or goodwill towards the couple will be highly appreciated.