Wedding Gift Etiquette: What to do if ‘No Gifts’ are requested.

20/12/2023

You’ve received an invitation to the wedding – but there’s a sticky point causing you some concern. The invitation says ‘no gifts’, but we all know that etiquette dictates you send a toaster or a set of silver cake forks. So, what do you do?

Gift etiquette for wedding guests

The tradition of gifting takes its origins from the dowry that would be paid to a bride’s family.  If for any reason the bride should be widowed, her dowry provided some land or goods to fall back on for her income. By the early 20th century this tradition had evolved into gift giving by guests that would help young couples set up their new home together.

As marriage has evolved, so has gift etiquette. A couple may decide on a ‘no gift’ wedding for various reasons. Many couples have lived together pre-marriage, or are combining two households together, and already have everything they need in their home. They may be moving and not want more to carry. We often see couples entering in to their second marriages, and feel that asking for gifts from guests who came to their previous weddings would be uncomfortable.

And as the cost of weddings increases, so does the price for guests to attend. Once you’ve purchased a new outfit, booked your overnight accommodation, and potentially travelled some distance, attending a wedding may set you back a few hundred pounds. Couples today often ask guests not to provide a gift, because they recognise that the cost for your presence is all the gift they need.

Although an invitation to a wedding or reception comes without any expectation, in reality we would feel awkward turning up without a gift. But, if the invitation clearly requests that you don’t provide one, the proper thing is to do as you have been asked. 

‘No gift’ etiquette for the wedding couple

If it’s your wedding, then you have every right to organise your day as you want it, including stipulating ‘no gifts’. But always recognise that some guests, particularly family or those from an older generation, may feel uncomfortable with this.

A simple way to manage this is to provide some alternative options, depending on the reason for your request. If it’s a matter of space, you might always ask guests to donate cash to either your honeymoon fund, or make a charitable donation in your name instead. Or, if you are not comfortable with that, perhaps suggest a simple bottle of wine would be the perfect compromise.

Whatever you choose to do, it really comes down to clear communication. Make sure that the people involved in the planning of your wedding understand what you want. That way any questions directed at close family, your maid of honour or best man can be answered appropriately to avoid any embarrassment.

In addition, make sure your request is worded carefully on the information you provide with your invitations and on your wedding website, if you have one. There are some lovely little poems and sayings to be found online, but a simple sentence is all you need, along the lines of:

Your presence is all we need at our wedding so please do not feel obliged to bring a gift.

Our home is all set up, so please don’t bring a gift. But if you would like to contribute towards our honeymoon, it would make our day.

We are having a gift free wedding, but if you would like to mark the occasion, please make a donation to our favourite charity.

Whatever you decide to do, it’s always better to give a clear message so that your guests know what they need to do. It’s not rude; it’s helpful to remove any doubt or confusion and saves you a lot of awkward conversations.

For more wedding etiquette help, make sure you read our blog posts. At Coton House Farm, we’ve been hosting exclusive contemporary weddings for over 20 years, so we’ve got plenty of tips and ideas to help you navigate your way to your perfect wedding.

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