Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Wedding Planning Guide: Gift Giving & Receiving

Q. I've received an invitation to a wedding but not to the reception. Must I send a gift?
A. No. There is no obligation attached to an invitation to the wedding only, although you may send one if you wish.

Q. Does a wedding announcement obligate me to send a gift?
A. No. As with an invitation to the wedding only, the receipt of an announcement does not demand a gift in return. Of course you may send a gift, but you do not have to.

Q. How much should be spent on a wedding gift?
A. There is no "formula" to determine the amount you should spend on a wedding gift. The size or the elaborateness of the wedding should have nothing to do with the amount you spend or give. Your decision should be based on a combination of two things— your affection for the bride, the groom or their families, and your financial capability. No one should ever feel that he must spend more than he can afford. On the other hand, you should spend what you can afford and not give a "piddling" gift to a bride whose family are old friends.

Q. How do I know when to.give money as a wedding present and when to give a gift?
A. Whether or not to give money as a wedding present is determined by tradition within your family, ethnic custom, the circumstances of the bride and groom and your own feelings. At one time some people viewed money as either crass or indicating one didn't take time to shop for a gift. Often it was neither but the ideal vehicle to allow the couple to get exactly what they wanted or to pool their gifts toward a large purchase such as furniture. Close family members may know of a large purchase the couple hopes to make and provide a token gift with a check toward the larger purchase. One woman I know gave her granddaughter a set of sheets to fit a convertible sofa bed, with a check and a note that said she hoped it was delivered by Thanksgiving because she was looking forward to using it!

If a couple is not going to be setting up their own home for some time, because of continuing education, for instance, they may find money more useful than another set of linens to save for that home. If a gift is truly meant to help a couple "get off to a good start," then student couples may elect to use the money to pay off education loans, or for whatever other use they see fit.

Q. Friends have asked how checks given as wedding presents should be made out. What do we tell them?
A. When given before the wedding they are made out to either the bride, or to both the bride and groom using her maiden name and his full name—"Mary Bigotte and Hans Whitehouse," for example. When given after the wedding, they are made out to the bride and groom—"Mary and Hans Whitehouse,'' assuming the bride is changing her name.

Q. We are planning to give a check as a gift. Do we mail it or take it to the wedding?
A. If it is customary in your area to give money as a gift, the money is usually brought with you to the reception, although checks may also be sent to the couple before the wedding. As the reception draws to a close, a line generally forms near the bridal table.

The guests sometimes receive a small favor or memento of the wedding from the bride and groom as they give them the check.

Q. Where are wedding gifts sent—to the bride's home or to her parents' home?
A. Gifts are usually sent to the bride's home before the day of the wedding, addressed to her in her maiden name. When they are sent after the wedding takes place, they go to the bride and groom at their new address or in care of the bride's family.

Q. My best buddy is getting married. May I send my gift to his home?
A. You seldom send a present to the bridegroom. Even though he is your closest friend and you may never have met his bride, your present is sent to her —unless you send.two presents, one in courtesy to her and one in affection to him. More often, friends of the bridegroom do pick out things suitable for him, such as a decanter or masculine desk accessories, which are sent to her but are obviously intended for his use.

Q. May duplicate wedding presents be exchanged?
A. Yes. Whether or not you inform the donor of your action is entirely up to you.

Q. Should wedding presents be displayed? Where should they be displayed? Should cards showing the names of the donors be displayed with them?
A. Wedding gifts certainly may be displayed, if you wish. Gifts should be displayed at home only, never in a hotel, club or catering facility. Whether or not you display cards with them is a matter of personal preference. Although many people like to know who gave the present, others feel that publicizing this information invites comparisons that may be embarrassing.

Q. How should checks which are displayed, with other wedding presents be shown?
A. They should be arranged overlapping, so that the signature but not the amount shows. Cover them with a piece of glass to keep them in place.

Q. When a wedding gift arrives broken, what should we do?
A. Take it back to the store from which it came without mentioning the fact to the donor. However, if it has arrived directly through the mail and the package is insured, the donor should be notified so that he or she can collect insurance.

Q. Have you any suggestions for keeping track of wedding gifts?
A. Yes. In order to keep your gifts Organized, to know who gave what and where it came from in case of exchanges, and whether or not a thank-you has been sent, a gift list is a necessity. Obtain sheets of numbered stickers (or plain ones on which you can write a number) and affix one sticker in the "gift number" column and one with a corresponding number oh the bottom of the gift. Do it as you open each gift so there will be no possibility of confusion. You can make your own notebook of pages, or you can purchase a book designed for this purpose that comes with sheets of numbered stickers. A sticker goes on only one item of a set—one of a dozen plates, for example.

Q. When should thank-you -notes be sent?
A. The wise bride writes her notes on the day the gift arrives for as long as she can, both as a courtesy to the sender and to keep herself from becoming inundated with notes to write after the honeymoon. In ordinary circumstances, all thank-you notes should be sent within three months of the date of the wedding.

Q. Are thank-you notes signed .by both the bride and the groom?
A. It is not incorrect to sign both of your names. It is preferable for one to sign with a reference in the text to the other, such as "John and I both thank you for ..." to make clear you both appreciate the gift. Another way for the bride or groom to include the other is to close the note "With love from both of us, Betsy Ann."

Q. Does the groom write any of the thank-you notes?
A. Since most wedding gifts are sent to the bride, she usually writes and signs the thank-you note. But there is no reason the groom should not share this task. I'm sure there are many relatives and friends of the groom who would be delighted to receive a thank-you note from him rather than from a bride who is a relative stranger to them.

Q. Are printed thank-you cards an acceptable way of acknowledging wedding presents?
A. No. Every present must be acknowledged by a personal handwritten note. Even if a printed thank-you card incorporating the bridal couple's wedding picture is used, there must always be a personal handwritten message included.

Q. Should wedding presents be opened at the reception?
A. At a small wedding where there are only a few, they may be opened, but if there are many presents, it is better to wait until later so that the bride and groom may mingle with the guests. The couple will also appreciate the gifts more if they open them at their leisure.

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