Engagement Gift Guidelines and Etiquette
Engagement gifts are generally not required unless specifically asked for by the couple. The typical cost of an engagement gift is around 20% of the total wedding gift price. Sentimental gifts as well as cash and alcohol are appropriate engagement gifts.
Below you will find a deep dive of my findings.
While the formula for gift spend depends on many factors including your finances, family traditions and relationship with the couple, wedding news authority The Knot recommends coming up with a total gift expenditure that feels fair to both the giver and the recipients. Travel expenses, lodging and other costs should be taken into consideration. Once an amount for gift spend has been determined, The Knot recommends breaking it down by nuptial event:
• Engagement present - 20%
• Shower gift - 20%
• Wedding gift - 60%
People who are closest to the couple are generally expected to gift more. However, other factors can be taken into consideration such as travel distances, lodging expenses, etc. Finally, The Knot recommends adding a personal touch to the gift such as a handwritten note or a card.
Wedding gift service Tendr published an analysis of the 2016 wedding season to determine the appropriate amount of wedding gifts. It turns out that wedding gift spend depends on the season as well as state where the wedding event takes place. The average amount of a wedding gift in winter season is $147 while the summer average is $174. The national average spend on a wedding gift is $160. Vermont has the highest average wedding gift amount at $245 while Arkansas is at the bottom of the list at $73. These benchmarks may be used to determine total gift expenditure and consequently the amount for an engagement present.
Regarding etiquette for engagement gift giving, home website The Spruce identifies two schools of thought. One is that gifts may be bought for any occasion, while another argues that the shower/wedding gifts already suffice. The bottom line is that giving an engagement gift is entirely up to you.
However, The Spruce recommends honoring the couple's wishes. If they asked that you simply attend and not bother about gifts, it's best to reserve your gifts for the wedding event itself. If the couple did not mention anything about gifts and you want to give one anyway, The Spruce suggests the following appropriate engagement party gifts:
Decorative photo frames
Stemware with the couple's names
Vase - for all the wedding event flowers
Book - poetry, wedding plans or engagement guides
The Spruce also states that the couple are expected to send thank-you notes to all who brought a gift to the engagement party.
The Engagement Experts recommends a concise approach to writing card messages. Poetry and quotes may also be used sparingly to enhance the message. Some sample quotes include:
"Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope." ~ Maya Angelou
"The greatest thing you’ll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return."
~ Eden Ahbez
"There is no more lovely, friendly and charming relationship, communion or company than a good marriage…"
~ Martin Luther
Some sample messages containing wishes and sentiments:
"Wishing the both of you a world of happiness and joy on this wonderful day. Congratulations on your engagement, we are so delighted for you!"
"May your life together be filled with all the right ingredients: a heap of love, a dash of humor, a touch of romance, and a spoonful of understanding. Congratulations to you both!"
Shutterfly provides some good tips for writing your own message. First, congratulate the couple. Then, in your own words, write a sincere message unique to your relationship with the couple. Finally, send your well wishes.
Used appropriately, a funny quote may also enliven a message. Shutterfly highlights a few examples:
"Advice for almost married men: Never laugh at your wife’s choices, you are one of them."
"It’s so great to find that one special person you want to annoy for the rest of your life."
As mentioned earlier, an engagement gift is generally not required or expected. It's usually close relatives and friends who bring engagement gifts. However, Brides report that guests who bring an engagement gift usually bring something small and sentimental for the couple. At the very least, a guest may bring a card congratulating the couple on their engagement.
The Nest, a sister website of The Knot, states that an engagement party is hardly a fundraising event for the wedding. Cash may be given as an engagement gift in proportion to the total cost of the wedding gift - around 25%-30% of the total.
Alcohol may also be given as a gift for the engagement party. The usual choice is champagne, according to Martha Stewart.
• Etched champagne glasses
• Gold leaf and leather valet
• Tripod camping stool
• Gold dipped glassware
• Homemade beeswax candles
• Paint dipped brass candlesticks
• Embroidered napkins
• DIY copper pour-over coffee maker
• Metallic print glassware
• Hand painted dishes
• Photo candles
• Personalized coffee stencils
• Herbed sugars
• Light bulb vases
• Ombre teacup candles
CNBC reported in 2017 that couples are increasingly choosing experiences over traditional gifts, such as:
• Cooking classes
• Diving lessons
• AirBnB stays
CNBC reported that memories of shared experiences sometimes end up as more meaningful to couples than material things.
To wrap it up, engagement gifts are not usually expected unless specifically mentioned by the couple. The typical engagement gift costs around 20% of the total wedding gift price. Sentimental gifts as well as cash and alcohol are acceptable engagement gifts.