Incomplete Invitation: Do you bring a gift when only invited to the reception?

Q: What are the etiquette rules for buying a wedding gift when invited to a reception only? Is it only proper to get a gift, as when invited to the ceremony? Are the rules the same whether you plan to attend the reception or not?

A: When you are invited to any component of a wedding, you give a gift, according to your budget and your relationship to the bride and groom or their families. You give a gift whether you attend or not.


  1. Lilli

    You do not need to give a gift if you do not attend – this thinking has led some couples to invite people they don’t want or expect to come to their wedding just to be greedy. All that is required when you receive a wedding invitation is to respond promptly and to give your best wishes to the couple if you cannot attend.

  2. Martha Koppe

    My daughter wants to have a very small ceremony and a large reception. What is the proper way to announce the wedding and invite guests to the reception?

  3. Kimberly

    Wow – this is news to me. When I got married (30 years ago) my mother explained that I was throwing a party to celebrate my new life…and in many instances to introduce distant relatives to my husband. She insisted I should not expect gifts – that is what the showers were for. Have the rules changed?

    • Elizabeth

      It is possible that your mother was setting you up to feel delighted with any gifts you did receive. Most people do purchase gifts (or give money) for a wedding. It is true that the rule is “one gift per wedding” and that includes the shower and the wedding itself. So your mother was not wrong. However, many people have small showers and large weddings, so many of the guests would not have attended a shower.

      It is proper to give a gift to a newly wedded couple if you attend their wedding and reception, though I agree that the bride and groom should never expect gifts and should treat the wedding reception as itself a gift of hospitality to friends and family. I don’t think those ideas are incompatible. As a guest, I would always bring a gift, and as a bride I did not expect gifts.

      • Winifred Rosenburg

        I haven’t heard of the “one gift per wedding” rule. My understanding was if you attend both the shower and the wedding you should give for both although the shower gift is traditionally smaller (approximately 1/4 of your total gift budget with the rest going to the wedding gift). I thoroughly agree with everything else you said.

        • Elizabeth

          I think you’re right, actually. The rule is less of a limit and more of a minimum obligation. Some people buy a gift in parts, and will give one part during the shower and one for the wedding. I had some guests only give me a shower gift, and many guests give both a shower and a wedding gift. The shower gift was usually a physical object, while the wedding gift was monetary. Some people really like to go all out for the shower and give a nice gadget, while others prefer to write a check and be done with it. It is never rude to give more gifts, but I don’t think anyone is obliged to do so.

  4. Debra

    Is it permissible to use Ms. on a wedding invitation. I am the mother of the bride and I am no longer a Mrs. The father of the bride and I are hosting the wedding and will understandably be on different lines in the invitation. Thank you.

    • Elizabeth

      Yes, there’s nothing wrong with using Ms. However, many invitations do not utilize titles. Are you retaining your married last name? The invitation could read “Debra Smith and John Smith request the honor of your presence at the marriage of their daughter Taylor Smith to John Doe, son of Mary and Brad Doe…” Listing your first and last name separately from your ex-husband’s could subtlety communicate that you are no longer married. Using the Ms./Mr. in that scenario seems clunky. The wedding invitation of your daughter is not really the place to make a big statement, so while I understand that you do not wish to appear as if you were still married, if she would prefer to omit the Ms./Mr. you should abide by her wishes. There will be many other signals to that effect in terms of the return addresses, how you are listed in the program, etc.

  5. Christan Wallace

    We don’t have a shower planned for our wedding. And due to a really tight budget
    we decided to have a courthouse ceremony which only allows us a few guests. We
    put our money into a nice reception to celebrate our marriage. We’re not expecting anything but should we reserve space at the reception for any gifts that may come?

  6. Giuseppe

    I just received an invitation for a wedding reception which includes the account number for a grateful donation for the honeymoon. Here in the UK drinks are not included in the reception. All of this means that I have to pay my own drinks + the present/donation. Am I odd or stingy if I perceive this more like a crowfunding that a wedding?
    Honestly, I know that a wedding party costs lot of money, but including bank details is extremely extremely extremely rude, in my opinion. I always feel the same: those people are sharing a building society, not a marriage.

  7. Lori C

    I agree with you in feeling this couple is only using their family and friends as a funding source for a vacation. Plus I have an issue with inviting people to the reception only. Unless the couple is married by the local government official or truly has a small immediate family only church wedding. One should never reference registry information on any invitation. So you can RSVP no and send a nice card of congratulations, RSVP yes, drink water and send the couple a physical gift you think they would like within your budget if you don’t care to fund the honeymoon.

  8. Jess

    After the wedding, is it OK to announce to your invitees a total value of all the money, gift cards and donations your received ?

    • Alicia

      Why would you want to do that? I see no upside. You risk offending people and opening how much you received to judgement. There is no upside only negatives. I’m not sure it is rude per say just very unwise.

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