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What’s the etiquette at a ‘no gifts please’ wedding?

by | 12 March 2016 | Gift Lists

Traditionally, wedding gifts were meant to help the happy couple get started in their first home together. Household items like crockery, cutlery, and pots and pans were all any newlywed couple wanted. However, nowadays we inherit or buy all of that stuff before we’re married (whether that’s when we head to Uni, or move in with our friends or partners). So it’s no surprise that more and more couples are stating ‘no gifts please’ on their wedding invitations. But how do you read this situation?

It’s hard to pin down an etiquette for a ‘no gifts please’ wedding. Is it the couple’s way of getting the gifts they want? Or a request you should take on face value, despite the universal understanding that your wedding gift pays for your dinner at the reception? In my mind, there are three routes you could go down.

Ignore their wishes; get them a gift anyway

If you don’t know the couple that well, or you do and want to get them something anyway, you could get them a neutral, non-offensive, (dare I say) generic gift, like a mid-range bottle of bubbly or some local currency for the honeymoon. These are solid, safe bets. But they’re also ‘easy’ gifts that don’t require much thought. That’s not to say the happy couple won’t be appreciative (especially if it’s a bottle of Dom Perignon!). But a gift that requires a bit more thought will go a bit further.

So dabble in the off piste by getting them a conventional gift with a twist, like vouchers, air miles or a day out. You might have to do some digging to find out what they like doing. But at least you’ll be giving them something that will help make memories, rather than yet another percolator/hot pot/cheese grater.

For my sister’s wedding, our family clumped together and gave them air miles for when they visit the UK (they live in Australia). While their Aussie friends got them tools and other DIY bits and bobs to do up their new house.

There are also some cracking gift ideas on this Money Saving Expert forum: brunch vouchers for the couples’ favourite café; a bunch of flowers for when they return from their honeymoon; a night out at the theatre… And don’t underestimate how far a handmade card with a thoughtful note can go.

Respect their wishes; only bring yourselves

Nowadays, it’s not uncommon for people to get married more than once in their life. And so, because they’re already established, some ‘no gifts please’ couples aren’t looking to get a 64-in-1 food processor or an all-singing, all-dancing Teflon pan out of their wedding. They just want to have a right old knees up with the people they love. So if they request ‘no gifts’, take their word for it. Respect their wishes and bring nothing but your dancing feet (and maybe a nice card with a nice note in it).

Semi-respect their wishes; gift them ahead of the big day

If you want to get the happy couple a present anyway (even though you know they’ll frown at you if you turn up with a present), why not send them a gift ahead of the big day? You could arrange to have champagne/flowers/shots (for dutch courage) put in the groom’s and bride’s suite before they walk down the aisle. Or shout them any of the gifts mentioned in section one of this blog. And if you’re really great friends, why not donate some of your time to them, to help them with their post-marriage to-do list? Think DIY odd jobs, gardening or pet/baby sitting?

When it comes to knowing how to respond to a ‘no gifts please’ wedding invitation, there is no blanket rule that’ll solve all that head scratching. Unfortunately. Why? Because the moment anyone mention gifts, it puts an emphasis on gifts, which is the opposite of anyone’s intention. So, as a guest, the best way around it is to take a ‘no gifts please’ request on face value. Then, if you want to show the couple in question how happy you are for them (or appreciative for the invite), get them a gift ahead of time. But remember: a little bit of thought goes a long way. And so do heartfelt, handwritten words.

Have you been to a ‘no gifts please’ wedding recently, or thrown one? If so, we want to know about your experience. Leave us a comment in the box below.

About the author

Jo Wigley

From her word-nerd studio (way) down under in New Zealand, the copywriter in Jo crafts websites, advertising campaigns, scripts, blogs and brochures for businesses across the world. While the creative consultant in her helps brands, big and small, find their voice in one heck of a noisy world.


Gift Lists What’s the etiquette at a ‘no gifts please’ wedding?