It's July, the month that recently edged out June as the most popular month of the year for weddings. Nearly a quarter of a million weddings will take place this month and the average couple will invite over 150 guests. That means lots of wedding gifts.
Wedding gifts have always been a source of confusion for shoppers. Today, things like second marriages and destination weddings have made things more complicated. Even the most experienced gift-givers are sometimes stymied by how to merge modern mores with a tradition-laden celebration.
What's New and What to Do
In 1980 the median age of a first time bride was 22.5. She was unlikely to have acquired everything she needed to establish a household and even less likely to have shared a home with her fiance. Wedding gifts were expected to be generous - they were intended to help the couple feather their first nest.
Today the median age of first marriages is 27 for men and 26 for women, and over half of couples have lived together before marriage.
Though today's couples are considerably older and more established than previous generations, this is an occasion that still demands you stretch as far as your budget allows. Depending on how close you are to the couple, the appropriate gift ranges from $75 to $250 per person attending the wedding, or per couple not attending.
Because the average couple doesn't need the basics, stick to their gift registry. Consolidated registries can be found on theknot.com and weddingchannel.com. Many couples also have wedding websites, sign up for honeymoon donations on sites like honeyfund.com or use their Facebook profiles to provide links to registries. 94% of engaged couples are registered.
Send gifts to the couple at the home of the bride before the wedding. Don't bring your gift to the wedding or reception.
Destination weddings now account for nearly 20% of all weddings. For many, the costs associated with attending are budget breakers. When attending a destination wedding it's acceptable to reduce the size of the gift if travel expenses are hefty and not offset by the couple.
While not true for all, some couples plan destination weddings with a "spend less, get more" mentality. Invitations will be sent to people the couple wouldn't have hosted at a local wedding with the assumption that they won't attend a destination wedding but will feel obligated to send a gift anyway.
If you think your invitation is a gift grab and not a sincere wish to share in the event, gift accordingly. The invitation should be viewed as an announcement rather than an invitation and requires only a card and possibly a small gift.
40% of todays weddings are for a bride or groom who's been married before. Gifts for first time brides are standard even if her fiance has been married before. They are not required for second marriages of the bride, but they're customary. Second wedding gifts are a show of support and to commemorate the occasion. Group gifts, less expensive gifts and charitable donations in the couple's name are all acceptable. Most couples marrying for the second time will still have a gift registry or if they prefer not to receive gifts there will be a subtle mention of this, or a favorite charity, included with the invitation.
Etiquette exists to avoid hurt feelings. These aren't rules, they're fail-safe options when you're not sure what to do.
Though gifts are not admission tickets to the wedding, most couples do have expectations and most guests want the bride and groom to feel their wedding has been honored.
Weddings are a 70 billion dollar a year industry. About a third of that is wedding gifts.
San Francisco weddings are the most expensive in the country coming close to an average of $45,000. That's nearly three times more than Philadelphia and twice as much as Chicago. San Franciscans also spend more on engagement rings. The average ring is $6,525 compared to New York where it's $3,851.
The largest weddings, averaging over 200 guests, are in Nebraska and Iowa.
Last year the typical wedding was financed 45% by the bride's parents, 40% by the couple and 15% by the groom's parents.
The most popular month for engagements is December.
US Census Bureau, The Knot, The Association for Wedding Professionals, Bride's Millennium Report, National Center for Health Statistics, BridePop
For more wedding talk watch Kit on Monday, July 19 on View From the Bay with Michael Finney