Valentine’s Day is the second biggest gift giving holiday of the year. (Yep, right after Christmas!) So I wanted to take the opportunity to talk a little bit about gift giving traditions. Most specifically gifting for your wedding day. What are some traditions, etiquette and rules when it comes to different cultures?
You can find so many individual traditions in different countries. There are some rules, etiquette, and rituals when it comes to giving a gift at a wedding. And it may become a little bit uncomfortable, or awkward, if you don’t really know the norms or expectations. So do your research and talk to your family and fiance. They will appreciate your interest!
When I moved to America I’ve noticed that people love to give gifts, special notes or gift cards. They would put a special little touch on it, even if it’s just a chocolate. Beautiful wrapping papers and cute notes are part of the experience. It’s different than in Europe. We don’t put that much focus and effort toward presents. In the USA gift giving has a much deeper meaning and value to it. Which also comes with a lot of worry and doubt about what should I get, how much should I spend, what’s appropriate or accepted. Will they like it? Or if I receive something, how do I show that I’m happy and thankful?
When I moved here I remember getting lots of greeting/celebration cards and gifts. Most of them where from my husband’s relatives, family and grandparents, whom I’ve never met. It felt really good that they thought about me, and that they took the effort to send me those little cards. Wedding, birthday, baby shower, Christmas cards… And of course I kept them all! Christmas cards are even more personalized, because they usually have family pictures on it.
Your wedding is one of the biggest events of your life! (If you’re comparing to birthdays or any other parties that you’ve organized.) Sooo many people are coming! Parents, friends, people who are helping you, the bridal party, distant family members, co-workers, old friends, relatives from your fiance’s side that you never met… So there are many different dynamics and relationships with your guests. Kinda gets confusing with what you should request, and where should you stand with all of this gifting process. Even couples with same cultural background or nationality can run into variations in gifting etiquette.
This is when you announce your engagement, or when you throw an engagement party. Presents are not necessary, (at least here in America) but some guests may bring you something. In the same time, there may be some countries where engagement gifts are part of the celebration!
2, bridal/groom shower or wedding shower:
Shower means that guests will “shower” you with presents. So the whole purpose of this party is about gift giving. They are more personalized to the individual bride or groom, rather than something they would enjoy together.
3, rehearsal dinner or lunch:
Usually happens a day (or couple of days) before the wedding. It’s a great opportunity to gift your bridal party something special as thanking them for all the effort and hard work they put into the wedding planning. It’s a great occasion to give something to your parents, or to each other with your fiance. (If you are planning to. No pressure!)
4, wedding day gifts:
Guests can typically buy something from your registry (online or at a specific store). But do your research before setting the website up. There may be some cultures that guests would feel offended that you want them to purchase something so specific, spend a certain amount of money, or to use a particular store. Having variety of options is always a good idea, so they can bring you a personalized present if they wish. And spend as much money as they feel comfortable with.
A really good service I would recommend is Zola. You can set up a free registry and website for your wedding. If you’re interested, check out this video tutorial I’ve put together. You can register for gifts, experiences, cash funds, or set up a group gifting option for the guests. It’s so easy and convenient!
I believe everybody should give as much as they feel comfortable with, or as much as they want to give to you. Don’t let anybody or any survey tell you what the norms are. There are no rules, you are not tied to any amount. However statistics say that typically close family members would spend between 100-150$/gift, and co-worker are looking to purchase something for around 50$. Regardless, the general etiquette says you should at least spend the amount that will cover your plate. (So all the food you’ll be eating at the wedding.) But like I said, you do you!
In a lot of countries and cultures just giving money is accepted and even required. Couples may not even want to receive any other gifts, or have a registry. These traditions will have specific rituals or representations to gift the money. Like handmade decorative bags, pouches, envelopes, or big greeting-card boxes at the wedding reception, to drop in cash or check. Many cultures have ‘money dances’, where guests can dance with the bride for money.
If you have guests who are new to this tradition, make sure to explain the meaning and reason behind everything, so they don’t feel awkward or weird about it. Especially because giving money in many cultures carry a deeper meaning. It’s not just about giving cash to the couple so they can spend it on whatever they feel like. It’s more for bringing good luck, health and wealth, so your new relationship can be successful.
But, if you feel a little bit weirded out already, don’t forget that these traditions (just like many other wedding traditions) come from old times. They may seem somewhat offensive as well, so don’t feel like you HAVE TO do anything. However, I do think that some of these traditions are just part of the fun celebrations and we shouldn’t take them too seriously.
5, wedding favors:
This was definitely a new tradition to me. So if you’re also wondering what are “wedding favors”, well they’re small gifts that the couple would give to the guests as a thank you for coming.
Although, not everybody likes these anymore. Often people won’t take them, because they don’t want or need it, so you would have a lot extra left. So try to do something that your guest would appreciate and enjoy. Like small desserts, or meaningful gifts that shows your multicultural story and personalities as a couple. Or how about leftovers?! I love leftovers from weddings! Makes me remember the amazing time we had. 🙂
// If your wedding gets canceled (and lets just assume that it’s not because you two aren’t getting married), make sure to send the gifts back to the guests.
// To avoid making guests who didn’t bring anything uncomfortable, try not to do gift opening at the party. (This may not happen at your wedding, but maybe at the bridal shower.)
// As a guest, if you can’t attend the wedding, still consider sending the couple a gift.
1, Just grab something from the registry list. (You can check out the Zola tutorial here.)
2, Get a group gift with other guests.
3, Personal gift. (This is especially good for grandparents, long time friends.)
3, Experience gift. (Memberships, tickets, classes, travel, date…etc.)
Your guests have already spent so much money on the airplane tickets and hotel, so you may be expecting a smaller gift from them (or nothing?).
Think about setting up a ship-to-my-house gifting option. So your guests don’t have to carry all of those presents to the wedding location, and you won’t need to rent a separate airplane just to bring all of your gifts home.
OK, I’m closing this post with my big announcement: I have a gift shop!!! Woohoo!
The Getting Married Multiculturally online shop specializes for multicultural couples who want something different and personalized to celebrate their culture and multicultural/intercultural relationship, marriage and family. So far we are offering matching couples t-shirts with different flags, engagement tank tops, decorative pillows and miniature bottles that celebrates your cultural diversity. To visit my shop go to shop.editdenning.com
Do you want to listen more of the Getting Married Multiculturally Podcast?