Should I Send a Wedding Gift If I'm Not Attending the Wedding?

Should you send a gift if you missed the wedding? And how much should you spend?
Heather Bien - The Knot Contributor.
Heather Bien
Heather Bien - The Knot Contributor.
Heather Bien
The Knot Contributor
  • Heather contributes wedding, honeymoon, travel and relationship content for The Knot and WeddingWire.
  • Heather also writes for publications including Apartment Therapy, StyleBlueprint, MyDomaine, HelloGiggles and The Everygirl.
  • She holds a degree in Art History and Architectural History from the University of Virginia.
Updated Aug 27, 2021

A wedding invitation shows up in the mail—and you can't go. As you fill out the RSVP card with regrets you may be wondering: "Do I still need to send a wedding gift if I'm not attending the wedding?"

When it comes to wedding you can attend, you know the drill: Choose an item off the gift registry or perhaps select a thoughtful gift that reminds you of the happy couple. It's not only an acknowledgment of this momentous occasion, but a thank you for including you in their special day. But, those occasions where you can't make it to the actual wedding are often up for debate.

Should You Send a Gift if You Won't Be There on the Big Day?

Most etiquette experts––and Emily Post––agree, even if you can't attend the nuptials, wedding gift etiquette indicates you should still send a wedding gift. A couple's decision to invite you to their wedding speaks volumes to how much they value you in their lives and, of course, you want to acknowledge that recognition with a gift that celebrates their big day!

Plus, this year has thrown a new wrench in not attending weddings as many couples have been forced to cancel their larger celebrations in lieu of more intimate gatherings. But, if you would have been a guest at a larger gathering, then it's a thoughtful gesture to still send the gift. Mary Guido of Mary Guido Atelier, a luxury wedding planning studio based in Washington, DC says, "If COVID-19 restrictions force a couple to cancel or postpone their wedding, I would still recommend sending a gift close to the original date. Not only does it show you are invested in the couple, but it also helps ease the heartache of having to change the wedding date."

The Best Wedding Gifts to Send From Afar

When it comes to the best wedding gift to send if you're not attending, it all depends on your relationship to the couple. If it's a family member or casual friend, you can make it easy on yourself and choose honeymoon funds or a registry item that you know they've carefully selected and will use.

Kara Ghassabeh, a wedding coach who helps couples navigate the nuanced relationships that come with wedding planning and starting a life together, suggests a clever play on words to make a registry gift more memorable. She says, "I recently declined a wedding invitation, then went to their registry and picked the SMEG toaster. I wrote a sweet note that I was sad not to be toasting them on their big day, but I am excited to be part of all their toasts as a married couple. Adding a note about how sad you are to miss it is what will be remembered."

However, if it's a best friend or a cousin you've grown up with by your side, you probably want to make it a bit more personal. Make plans to celebrate together in person when you can and go beyond the registry to add on something meaningful, like a gift card to the restaurant where they had their first date.

How Much to Spend on a Wedding Gift if You're Not Going

When it comes to weddings you're attending, the cost of being a wedding guest, if you're a bridesmaid or a groomsman, and whether or not you have a wedding date, all play into the calculation of how much to spend on a wedding gift. It's a bit murkier, however, when you don't have to open your wallet for a flight or hotel –– you'll just be at home scrolling through Instagram for the wedding hashtag.

The average wedding guest spends approximately $120 on a wedding gift and you can certainly use that as a guide, however, etiquette experts swing in both directions here. On one hand, you're not spending money on going to the wedding, so you can possibly afford to spend more on the gift. On the other, the couple isn't paying for your seat at the table, so perhaps you can spend a bit less on the newlyweds.

If it's a destination wedding that you're skipping due to costs, opt for a small gift off the couple's registry, send a meaningful note along with it, and a promise (that you'll keep!) to get together to toast to their nuptials once the wedding planning season is over. Or, go in with other friends who can't make it to purchase one of the bigger ticket items on the registry. A mixer split five ways is a wonderful gift –– and much easier on the wallet!

You may want to get splurge a bit more if it's a close friend or family member and you wish you could be there to celebrate in person. Ghassabeh adds, "The price point is absolutely up to you and what feels comfortable to you. For some, spending a little more might make sense because they aren't spending to attend the wedding. But the key is to spend what feels comfortable and generous for you. "

What About if You Miss a Bridal Shower or Engagement Party?

The general rule is you don't need to send a wedding shower gift or an engagement party gift if you miss this pre-wedding celebratory occasion. Particularly when the couple's wedding season will include multiple gift-giving opportunities, it's not expected that you'll send a gift for every event.

However, if it's a close friend or you're in the wedding party and you feel strongly about sending along a bottle of champagne, an engagement gift or gifting something sentimental for the party that you've missed, the thought will be welcomed!

The One Time You Don't Need to Send a Wedding Gift If Not Attending

The etiquette experts will give you one pass for an occasion where you were invited as a wedding guest and you do not have to send a gift.

If it's the wedding of a distant relative or an acquaintance you haven't spoken to in years and you can't make it (or don't want to make it), simply send back the RSVP card with your genuine regrets and then send a nice card along with your well wishes. Your sentiment in writing will mean more to them than a gift you choose off Amazon and, perhaps, it will even lead to reconnecting someday once the rush of wedding planning has died down.

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