Our monthly advice column tackles all the dilemmas (and confusions) of your destination wedding with insights straight from industry experts.
The last time I went to a destination weddingI sent $50 to the bride and groom via Venmo and a message saying “Happy wedding !!!” I belatedly wondered if I was cheap – or even worse, a bad friend – but the couple insisted that we, their friends, didn’t have to spend extra money on them. The register was only a formality, required by their parents, and the trip to the place was a sufficient cost. Our presence was the gift, they said, as we swayed with Beyoncé on the dance floor, and I believed them.
That said, there are couples who see the need for gifts, seeing them as an inextricable part of the wedding tradition. Others even rate the value of their friendships by the quality of the gifts they receive. (If they do that, they’re not your friends!) But at the same time, buying something off a registry could also be a way for guests to send their love, especially when they can’t attend.
Things are complicated when it comes to a destination wedding. As a guest, you must be away from work; get to the meeting place; pay for accommodation; and find daycare, if you need it. You’re already spending so much before you can even celebrate with the happy couple, which begs the question: Are gifts really necessary when it comes to a destination wedding? And if so, how much should guests spend? I spoke to married people, wedding guests, event planners and etiquette experts to find out.
Gifts are not necessary, but they are the icing on the cake
Historically, guests send newlyweds into married life with gifts of household items (hence the wedding registry). But nowadays, this is not always necessary. “At a time when many couples have already established a home together before getting married, the need to register for each new appliance or addition to the home has disappeared,” says Lindsey Shaktman, destination event planner at Mavinhouse Events.
Still, giving gifts can often be a way for guests to participate in the special occasion or express their love for the couple, says Cristina Verger, wedding and event planner in New York. There’s something special about seeing an item in your home, years after your special day, and remembering the donor who gave you a keepsake of their affection. After all, some people’s love language is gift giving.
Be honest about the type of gifts you can give
For a destination wedding in California that Jenna Amatulli, editor of The US Guardian, attended as guests, the couple opted to have a gift registry. It was “lightweight register,” she says, emphasizing experiential gifts rather than material possessions. Still, Amatulli gave the couple a formal wedding gift because “I’m good friends with them and wanted to give them something substantial.”