Your Guide to the Wedding Day Gift Exchange

Here's what to know about this preceremony tradition.
Emily Platt - The Knot Senior Manager, Commerce Content Strategy
Emily Platt
Emily Platt - The Knot Senior Manager, Commerce Content Strategy
Emily Platt
Senior Manager, Commerce Content Strategy
  • Emily is a strategist and editor who specializes in shopping content
  • Before joining The Knot Worldwide, Emily wrote for Martha Stewart Weddings
  • Emily has a bachelor's degree from Vassar College
Updated Jun 19, 2020

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There are lots and lots of wedding customs out there, so it's all about incorporating what speaks to your relationship and your one-of-a-kind celebration. Interested in a present exchange with your future spouse? We're here to walk you through this special bride and groom gift tradition. Get answers to all your questions below, like "Do I have to buy my partner something?" and "What am I supposed to get?" (Sneak peak: There are no real rules, so don't stress—we'll help you make the ritual your own!)

What is the wedding day gift exchange?

A gift exchange is simply one more opportunity to celebrate the big day together. The tradition gives partners an extra chance to honor and bond with one another. Some swear it also does wonders for combatting wedding-related stress. Long story short: The couple's gift exchange is meant to be fun, festive and heartwarming. It's a way to get each other even more excited about this new chapter in your lives. Not to mention, you go home with yet another great keepsake from the celebration.

When does it typically take place?

The gift exchange usually happens sometime right before the ceremony. This lets you squeeze in some bonus time to pump each other up. You can combine it with the first look and open your presents together, but that's just one option. Waiting to see each other at the aisle? Have someone from your entourage deliver your gifts to your respective getting-ready rooms. Either way, consider asking your photographer to capture your reactions.

If your morning is packed, you're also free to exchange presents the day before the wedding (think: at night after the rehearsal dinner). What matters is agreeing on a time that you both can dedicate to cherishing the moment.

Should you honor this wedding tradition?

Exchanging gifts is completely optional, so our best tip is to talk the idea out with your future spouse. Is the ritual important to you? What about your partner? It's nice to be on the same page to level expectations and avoid an unintentionally awkward situation. Don't worry, there can still be an element of surprise: You aren't required to tell them what they're getting! (That said, you may choose to pick out presents together—for example, if you're buying each other something to wear on the wedding day.)

Are there any alternatives?

There are plenty of ways to connect with your partner ahead of the ceremony—with or without wedding day gifts. Besides, "gift" can really mean a whole bunch of different things. If you love the idea of writing personalized vows but don't love the idea of sharing them in public, you can take this time to exchange private vows. Your words of commitment are a gift all on their own. Similarly, lots of couples exchange love letters to read before the "I do"s. These can be given alongside gifts or serve as the gifts. Of course, you're also more than welcome to have a first look sans presents, just like you're welcome to combine (or skip) any of these traditions.

What are some good gifts for your future spouse?

Wondering, "What do I buy for my partner?" As we've said, "gift" is open to interpretation. To you, that might mean a sweet wedding card or vows scribbled in a keepsake journal. Or, it could mean a luxury item you want to splurge on just for the occasion.

Some of the most traditional bride and groom gifts are dress watches and fine jewelry—essentially, pieces that are built to last, in honor of your lasting love. But really, accessories are popular in general, especially ones that can be worn on the wedding day. We're talking earrings, cuff links, novelty socks, matching couple's jackets—whatever strikes a chord.

Other common wedding day gifts include honeymoon essentials, such as luggage, passport covers and even sunglasses. Anything that somehow ties into the moment and feels thematic is a pretty safe bet. That's also why we're big fans of sentimental and personalized presents...the ones that get couples to reflect, reminisce and shed a happy tear or two. A framed photo or a cherished book of poetry might capture your sentiments perfectly.

All in all, ask yourself, "What will show them how well I know them and how much I appreciate them?" Think about what best represents this unique stage in your relationship. Need more inspiration? You can get tons of ideas on Etsy and—not to brag—by visiting our very own The Knot Shop. For jewelry and accessories? Blue Nile and BHLDN are two of many great places to start your search. As for classic photo gifts and other custom presents? Check out Shutterfly and Artifact Uprising.

How much should a wedding day gift cost?

It should go without saying, but bride and groom gifts don't have to be big or expensive to be meaningful. Establish a budget with your fiancé and respectfully stick to it. You aren't beholden to a certain price point, other than the one that feels comfortable to you both. Don't forget: Some of the best things in life are free! So handmade gifts are also on the table for your soon-to-be spouse.

An exceptional day calls for an exceptional gift. Toast to your forever with the timeless taste of Johnnie Walker. Drink responsibly at

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