Engagement Gift Etiquette: Everything You Need to Know

A couple’s engagement calls for plenty of celebration in the months ahead. Before bridal showers, bachelor and bachelorette parties, and the wedding take place, you might want to kick off the celebration by giving an engagement gift. Whether you’re a seasoned pro at attending weddings or learning to navigate the wedding world for the first time, it’s important to understand proper engagement gift etiquette. So, before you go shopping, read this guide to understand all the details about engagement gift giving.

Engagement Gift Etiquette: The Basics

Engagement gifts are a thoughtful way to celebrate a newly engaged couple. However, these gifts typically are not expected. While wedding gifts are certainly customary, engagement gifts are not. As the gift giver, the engagement gift decision is left up to you. Since, unlike wedding gifts, engagement gifts aren’t expected, you have total control over whether or not you give a gift. Consider these factors when determining whether you should give an engagement gift.

Relationship With the Couple

How well you know the couple is an important factor to consider when determining whether you should give an engagement gift. The closer you are to the couple, the more strongly you may feel about giving a gift. 

If, for example, your coworker gets engaged, you probably won’t immediately start thinking about engagement gifts. On the other hand, if your sibling, college roommate, or best friend gets engaged, you might want to send a congratulatory gift to celebrate such a meaningful occasion for a loved one. 

Your relationship with the couple certainly doesn’t dictate that you must give a gift, but you might be more inclined to do so if you’re especially close with the soon-to-be newlyweds.

Budget

Weddings can be expensive—even for the guests. So, consider your budget when deciding whether you should give an engagement gift. Keep in mind that expenses for wedding guests can add up, especially if you expect to be included in the bridal party. In addition to giving a wedding gift, you might have to foot the bill for a tuxedo rental or bridesmaid dress, contribute toward a bachelor or bachelorette party, and perhaps even pay for travel expenses depending on the wedding location. If those expenses seem overwhelming, then you might consider skipping an engagement gift to set more money aside for the wedding itself.

Your Social Circle

If many friends in your social circle are getting married, you’re probably pretty used to celebrating engagements and weddings by now. Think about previous engagement celebrations and whether most guests brought gifts. Or, if you’re married, think about the engagement gifts that you may have received.

If gifts are the norm in your social circle—even if they aren’t required—you might feel more comfortable following tradition and giving a small gift to celebrate the engagement.

Engagement Parties: Are Gifts Required?

You’ve evaluated the above factors and decided to forego an engagement gift. Then, an engagement party invitation lands in your mailbox, and you’re rethinking your decision. Gifts are not required—and not even expected—at engagement parties, unlike bridal showers and weddings. Considering the above factors again comes into play as you decide whether you show up with a gift in hand at the engagement party. 

If you weren’t planning on giving a gift for this occasion, then a card or even a thoughtful handwritten note can be a nice—and inexpensive or even free—alternative to a traditional gift. A card allows you to express your happiness for the couple, and you won’t show up empty handed to the engagement party. 

Appropriate Engagement Gifts

If you’ve decided that you want to give an engagement gift, you have a variety of ways to celebrate the happy couple without breaking the bank. Keep in mind that engagement gifts are usually smaller, more modest gifts than wedding gifts, which typically cost more. These gifts are merely a thoughtful gesture—not an extravagant purchase. Focus on giving a gift that’s celebratory, sentimental, or both, and keep the home goods or cash gifts on the back burner until the wedding. 

Check out these gift ideas for a newly engaged couple.

Festive Spirits

If you’re buying an engagement gift, chances are you know the happy couple quite well. A festive spirit is always an easy way to celebrate an engagement. Pick up a bottle of the couple’s favorite wine, or give them a bottle of champagne that they can enjoy together.

Photos and Memories

Select a favorite photo of the couple and frame it for them to display in their home together. Or, if you have a long history with the couple, you can even make a photo book that details their relationship and captures the memories they’ve made together so far.

Wedding-Themed Items

Celebrate their upcoming nuptials with some wedding-themed gear. Find coordinating stemless wine glasses personalized with “Mr.” or “Mrs.”—a gift that they can use for their engagement season and beyond. Or, pick up a pair of coffee mugs featuring the couple’s new last initial (if you know they plan to share a last name, of course).

Celebratory Experiences

Engagement gifts don’t always have to be tangible. Offer to take the couple out for celebratory drinks or dinner at their favorite restaurant. This gift also allows you to catch up, hear about their engagement, and enjoy the celebration right along with them. This gift works best if the couple isn’t hosting a formal engagement party—instead, you can have an intimate celebration of your own.

Engagement Gift Giving: Timing

Once you’ve selected the perfect gift, you want to make sure you give it at the right time. An engagement party, of course, is the ideal opportunity to give the couple their gift. However, not all couples have formal engagement parties, so you might have to find another opportunity to give the couple a gift.

Ideally, you want to give this gift within the first several weeks of the engagement. While many couples wait months or even years to get married, some do not, and you don’t want to show up with an engagement gift at the bridal shower. So, err on the side of giving the gift soon after the engagement to ensure its purpose is clear.

If you see the couple regularly, you can give them the engagement gift at any time—no party required. However, if you don’t live nearby, you might opt to ship them their gift to ensure they receive it in the weeks following their engagement. That way, they can enjoy your gift while they’re still celebrating their newly engaged status.

What if the Engagement Party Invitation Requests No Gifts?

If you receive an engagement party invitation that clearly states “no gifts, please,” then honor the couple’s wishes. Often, these “no gift” requests get overlooked, with party guests assuming the couple just included the request to be polite. However, that’s not typically the case. The couple either doesn’t want tangible gifts to celebrate their engagement, or they don’t want to burden their guests with the expense of purchasing an engagement gift. So, “no gifts, please” really means that you shouldn’t bring a gift.

These situations are ideal for bringing a card with a congratulatory note included in it. Or, if the engagement party is hosted at someone’s home and you simply aren’t comfortable showing up empty handed, you can bring a small host or hostess gift like a bottle of wine or a scented candle. But, understanding that “no gifts” requests are genuine ensures that you comply with the couple’s wishes and do not spend money unnecessarily on a gift that isn’t truly wanted.

Engagement Gift Etiquette Tips for the Couple

If you’re the one being celebrated with gifts, then follow these tips to ensure you handle the wedding gift-giving season with grace and gratitude:

  • If you do not want to receive engagement gifts and are hosting a party, ask that your wishes be clearly stated on the invitation. Here is a post on how to say “no gifts” on an invitation in case you’re interested.
  • Always express gratitude upon receiving a gift, even if it’s something you don’t want or don’t see yourself using.
  • Always follow up that verbal gratitude with a handwritten thank you note delivered soon after you receive the gift.
  • Understand that wedding guests have different budgets, so not everyone can afford extravagant gifts for every celebratory occasion. In fact, keep in mind that engagement gifts are not considered a must, so don’t judge any guests who may not give a gift.

Final Thoughts

There’s good news if you’re the type of person who feels overwhelmed by gift giving: Engagement gifts aren’t required. While these gifts are certainly appreciated by couples, they aren’t expected, so skip them if you’re not up to the task. Tuck the money you save away for a wedding gift—because there’s no getting out of that one.