Everything Wedding Guests Need to Know About Gift-Giving Right Now

COVID-19 has changed the way modern weddings look, which creates a lot of questions around proper gift-giving etiquette. Here are all the answers to wedding guest questions about gift-giving, RSVPs, and more.

By Rachel Varina

gift-giving etiquette for guests COVID
Photo by Zola

The First Look ✨

  • You can wait to send a gift for a postponed ceremony until their actual wedding date but consider sending something small on their original date to keep their spirits high.
  • You only need to send one gift if the couple is having a ceremony now and a reception later.
  • If you already purchased a gift for the couple, you don’t need to get another gift for their new date. Send a note of congratulations, though.
  • It’s still customary to send a gift if you’re attending a wedding or wedding shower virtually, just like you would in-person.
  • If you have to change your RSVP to a wedding, let the couple know ASAP so they can adjust accordingly.

Planning A Wedding During A Pandemic: Every wedding planning journey has its twists and turns. To make sure your path is as smooth as possible and to help you keep an eye out for tiny potholes and giant roadblocks, always follow the advice of your local health guidelines and the recommendations set forth by the CDC. The state of the pandemic can change quickly, but by staying informed, you can make it to your destination—wedded bliss—without a hitch.

It’s no secret that COVID-19 has essentially upended how we traditionally plan and celebrate weddings. While there are a lot of questions surrounding postponed weddings, virtual weddings, minimonies, elopements, and micro weddings, one of the most confusing aspects to navigate has to do with guests. And that’s gift-giving etiquette. Here’s everything you need to know about how, when, and what to gift to couples who are planning and replanning their weddings.

When should I send a gift if the wedding was postponed?

If a couple’s wedding was postponed, there’s a good chance they’re feeling pretty bummed right about now. Not only do they have to make tons of (potentially expensive) changes, but the day—not to mention the date—they dreamed of has to be completely different.

If the couple’s wedding was postponed (and they’re not having a small ceremony or elopement), sending a gift on their new date is considered customary. Still, it will go a long way to send a little something special on their original wedding date, since it may be a difficult day. Consider shipping a bottle of champagne, a gift card so they can order a romantic dinner in, or something small on their registry that they can use at home, like a cocktail kit or small kitchen appliance.

Do I need to send two gifts if the couple is hosting a small ceremony now and a reception later on?

The short answer is no. Only one gift is required if the couple is having a small ceremony now and partying big time later. That said, consider sending their wedding present at the time of their actual ceremony and then bringing something thoughtful, such as a handwritten card to their later reception.

The couple is downsizing their guest list and I was uninvited, do I still need to send a gift?

It happens. Since COVID-19 came through, many couples are cutting their guest lists (in some cases pretty dramatically) in order to be able to celebrate in some capacity. As strange as it might seem, don’t take it personally if you’re no longer invited to a wedding due to downsizing.

If you have the means, you may still considering sending something small and celebratory to the couple on their day (or shortly before or after). Again, this is the time where something small and thoughtful like a handwritten note, flowers, or nice bottle of wine would go a long way to make the couple feel appreciated despite the changes they had to make.

Should I still give to the couple’s honeymoon fund if their honeymoon was postponed?

After everything COVID couples have been through, you can bet they’re itching to get away and celebrate on their honeymoons once travel is permitted. Contributing to a couple’s cash fund is an easy way to essentially gift something to look forward to for them.

The wonderful thing about Zola cash funds is that, in the event that the couple can’t, for example, go on that safari they had planned, they can withdraw the money and use it toward something else—like a downpayment on a house or new furniture. If you feel a little funny about donating to a trip they might not get to take for a while (or might forsake all together), opt for an item on their registry they can use at home, like board games, bar equipment, or a fluffy down comforter.

I bought a gift for the couple before they postponed, do I need to purchase another gift for their new date?

You only need to gift once for a wedding—whether it was postponed or not. If you already sent your gift along at the time of their original date, there’s no need to send another, and the couple will likely be thrilled to open something on their original date.

I’m attending a virtual wedding or wedding shower, should I send a gift?

In today’s age, virtual weddings and celebrations are becoming much more popular, which means guests should consider them the way they consider a traditional ceremony.

If you’re attending a virtual wedding or wedding shower, you should still send a gift just as you would if you were attending in-person. Opt for an item on their registry they can use at home so they don’t have to wait to enjoy their gift.

I haven't heard from a couple about their wedding, what should I do?

Chances are, the couple is majorly struggling with deciding how to move forward with their celebration. There’s a lot to consider from guest lists to state restrictions to at-risk family members and everything in between.

Try not to bug the couple with too many texts or emails wondering about what’s going on. They may not have an answer just yet. If you’re eight weeks out from the wedding date, consider reaching out first to a parent of the couple or a member of the wedding party for some answers.

How do I politely decline a wedding invitation?

During these unprecedented times, safety is first priority. If you’re invited to an in-person celebration, but don’t feel comfortable attending (even with precautions the couple may put in place), you’re certainly not the first guest to feel that way. Don’t feel obligated to say yes.

Simply respond to the RSVP with “regrets” and include a nice note about how excited you are for them and that you can’t wait to celebrate their marriage in the future. Finally, make sure to send a gift and remember to follow up once you feel comfortable to toast to the newly married couple over dinner or drinks.

How do I change my RSVP for an upcoming wedding?

If you accepted an invitation to an in-person wedding and you no longer feel comfortable attending, make sure to let the couple know ASAP. Not only is this important for things like food and venue capacity requirements, but freeing up a spot might also allow the couple to invite someone else they’d love to see in-person.

Contact the couple as soon as you make the decision, especially if the RSVP deadline has already passed.

What is the best way to support my loved ones during this time?

Wedding planning can be stressful—with or without COVID’s arrival. Many brides and grooms who dreamed of large, traditional weddings have had to downsize and change the visions. If you’re looking for ways to support them, the best thing you can do is make them feel special and offer to help in any way possible.

Send a gift as you usually would and keep any unsolicited advice or judgment to yourself—trust us, they’re doing the best they can. Offer to assist them in things like calling guests with changes and updates, coordinating virtual feeds, or just being there for them to vent.

With a little extra grace (and maybe an additional bottle of champagne, just because), you can help add positivity and support to a confusing and busy time.

Whether you’re attending a wedding in-person, virtually, or just celebrating in spirit, finding ways to make couples impacted by COVID feel special is more important than ever. By following proper gift-giving etiquette, you can ensure your loved ones saying “I do” during the pandemic feel honored and cherished.

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