A wedding means the union of two people in love, and if that describes you and your partner, then the two of you are probably over the moon to start building your life together.
As you start planning the wedding, you’ve probably talked about whether or not you should make a gift list. As two people new to wedding planning, you might have heard that gift lists are tacky or that some guests find them to be rude.
Hitchd is here to set the record straight when it comes to whether a gift list is considered tacky. Here’s everything you need to know about wedding etiquette and how to make a gift list that honors your guests while still helping you and your partner plan a wonderful future together.
Why wedding etiquette matters
When we talk about wedding etiquette, we mean the (largely unspoken) rules of politeness that go along with throwing a wedding. Many of these practices vary depending on where and how the wedding will take place, and some cultures have their own rules and customs when it comes to weddings.
Wedding etiquette matters because the rules help you avoid offending guests who can’t wait to celebrate with you. Every guest wants to feel acknowledged by the happy couple, but when rules of etiquette aren’t followed, guests can feel slighted and overlooked.
Think of it this way: Your guests are putting in a lot of effort to support you on your big day, and because they love you, they’re happy and excited to do it. But going to a wedding can be expensive for some guests. Some might need to travel and book a hotel room to stay overnight. Others might need to hire a babysitter for young children.
You want your guests to feel appreciated for coming to your wedding, showing their support and bringing a gift. That’s why wedding etiquette — and really any etiquette and manners — matter.
What are some common rules of wedding etiquette?
While cultures and traditions may vary, here are a few common rules of wedding etiquette that can be found in just about any corner of the world.
- Always send out invitations at least six weeks in advance of the wedding: Any earlier will be thought of as rude and inconsiderate. Your guests have other obligations, and they need to know in advance if they need to ask for time off from work or book a plane ticket.
- Be conscientious of allergies and diets when planning the reception: You and your partner may not have food allergies or any dietary restrictions, but that doesn’t mean your family members and friends don’t. You are likely aware of some of these allergies and restrictions anyway, but to avoid anyone going hungry, plan for meat and vegetarian options and add space on the RSVP cards for guests to add any allergies. Then talk over these allergies with your caterer.
- Give guests something to do: It’s not uncommon to have a break, sometimes for an hour or more, between the ceremony and the reception. This is usually when the wedding party and families pose for photos. If you do have a break, ensure guests have something to do, like enjoy a cocktail hour.
- Speak with everyone at the ceremony and reception: You and your partner should speak with every guest from the ceremony and reception at least once. After the ceremony, most couples have a receiving line, in which guests get to hug the couple and congratulate them, but even at the reception, you and your partner should make the rounds to each table and say hello to everyone. You might need to take a break from the dance floor now and again, but it’ll go along way towards making everyone feel welcome.
- Send out thank-you cards within the first three months after the wedding: Gratitude should always be at the center of every wedding, and guests will be on the lookout for a thank-you card. Send them out in a timely manner so guests feel appreciated and respected. At Hitchd, you can send out thank-you emails right away.
- Never ask directly for cash: When it comes to weddings, the true gift is having your guests attend. They aren’t required to bring a gift — but it’s certainly appreciated if they do. Asking for cash as a wedding gift can feel like a shake-down for some guests, especially when they don’t know how the money will be used. Guests want to help you and your partner start your life together — not help you pay your utilities or buy clothes for yourself.
These are just a few common rules, but there are plenty of others. If your wedding will be more traditional, ask your parents about any other wedding etiquette rules you should consider. The last thing you want to start is bad blood in your family, so be conscientious about how you treat wedding guests, and you should be fine.
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What is a gift list?
So how do gift lists fit into good wedding etiquette?
First off, a gift list is a list of home goods or other items that the couple would like to receive as a wedding present. Most guests attending a wedding want to celebrate the couple and help them get started on their new life together, so they bring a gift, usually home-related, to help the couple set up a house.
Even 10 years ago, it was somewhat less common for couples to live together before getting married. When they decided to marry, they started from scratch with no sheets, towels or kitchen equipment. Therefore, home goods became the popular gift to give to couples.
That’s all changed since more and more couples decide to live together first before getting married. This gives couples more time to buy the home basics for themselves. Even couples who move in together after finishing school have started replacing their second-hand home goods with better quality items since they’ve been living together for some time.
But that doesn’t mean the gift list has become obsolete. In fact, it has evolved to fit more of what today’s couples need. Today’s gift lists can be:
- Department store gift list/registry: Many department or home goods stores will help couples build gift lists, allowing them to add anything at the store. This is a more traditional option, but still useful to those who don’t live together before tying the knot.
- Honeymoon gift list: Instead of asking for blenders and toasters, why not ask for city tours and dinners on your honeymoon? The honeymoon gift list has become popular as more couples pay for their own weddings and need help affording the honeymoon. Like a department store gift list, guests can choose which activities or expenses they’d like to buy or contribute to. It’s a nicer way to ask for money without actually asking for money.
- Cash fund: Many couples today face big financial hurdles when it comes to buying or furnishing a home. It takes a big lump sum of money for a down payment, and it can take a long time to raise that cash. That’s why some couples start a cash fund, which allow guests to contribute however much they want to be used towards a specific goal. You’re still asking for money, but you’re reassuring your guests that you’re not going to go out and spend the money on something personal.
- Charity fund: For couples that have it all and want to give back, a charity fund is a cool way to redirect unneeded gifts towards helping others. Some couples choose to raise money for a certain cause that affects them personally or has impacted their families.
All of these options can be built with sites like Hitchd, but only Hitchd can offer the customisation to help you build the perfect gift list for you and your partner. Our gift templates provide text for all sorts of registry items, so if you don’t know quite what to say, we can help you get started.
So why is a gift list not considered tacky? Gift giving at weddings is about as common as gift giving at birthdays and holidays such as Christmas. Guests will want to give gifts, so a gift list just helps them know what to pick out for you and your spouse.
Best practices for gift lists
Of course, you still need to adhere to proper wedding etiquette when designing a gift list for your wedding. While most guests expect the couple to have one, there are some things to keep in mind when you’re building your list.
As you start building the idea gift list for you and your partner, here’s what you should always keep in mind:
- Add a thank-you to the introduction: When you’re using a site like Hitchd, you can write your own introduction on the homepage of your registry. This should be the first place where you thank guests and remind them that their presence on your special day is a gift unto itself.
- Include photos and links to hotels and activities for honeymoon gift lists: As you go about adding activities and expenses to your honeymoon gift list, including links and photos to the hotel where you’ll be staying or the tour group that will be taking you around the city. This helps guests get a feel for what you’ll be doing and where you’ll be staying. It helps reassure them that their gift money will be spent on the honeymoon and not your monthly bills.
- Share your enthusiasm: In your introduction and each gift description on your gift list, tell your guests why you’re so excited to raise money for this particular cause or visit this particular city. That personal touch helps guests understand that this honeymoon or cash fund means a lot to you, and they’ll feel more invested in making it a success by contributing.
- Give a timeline: With cash and charity funds, you should let guests know when you plan to make your purchase or donate the money. For charity donations, choose a specific day after the wedding when you will donate the money. Then send out thank-you emails that day with a copy of the receipt from the donation. This holds you accountable to your guests to make the donation and then lets them know that you followed through.
- Send out thank-yous: Hitchd keeps track of who contributed to your gift list, so when you’re ready to send out thank-you cards, you’ll know who gave what. You can also send email thank-yous through Hitchd to reach guests before your mailed cards arrive.
What matters more than anything with gift lists is showing gratitude to your guests at every step of the wedding process. Guests are never expected to give gifts, but they should be appreciated just for coming.
If you center your wedding planning and gift-list building around your guests, then you won’t need to worry about missing certain rules of wedding etiquette. After all, the rules are simply about making guests feel welcome. If you’re always thinking about that through the planning process, then you’ll feel confident knowing your guests will have a great time celebrating your happy occasion.
Ready to get started building a gift list with Hitchd? Sign up here and see how we can make your gift list a success.
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