Wedding planner Mindy Weiss’ advice on buying wedding gifts

I know people tend to have strong opinions about weddings nowadays. My stance is “you do you” because the wedding industry is a whole vibe and weddings can be hella expensive and cause a lot of familial tensions. At the end of the day, it’s about you and your partner and you should be able to legally bind your relationship in the manner that works best for the two of you. You don’t owe anybody anything. But between all of you and me, I *love* going to weddings. They’re so much fun! However, attending a wedding as a guest can also be financially stressful, especially after you factor in engagement gifts, bachelorette (or bachelor) party costs, travel costs if the wedding isn’t close by, clothing, a wedding gift, etc. Well, Mindy Weiss, a celebrity wedding planner whose clientele includes the Beibers, Kardashians, and Ellen & Portia, is dolling out some guidance when it comes to buying wedding gifts.

Keep it Personal
When it comes to buying a gift for a bride and groom, Weiss suggests the best place to start is their registry. “If a guest is shopping without the registry, then I always recommend buying something personalized. Anything with a new monogram, their initials or names – people love it and it always feels like you put extra thought into the gift,” she adds. “I love the personalized options for couples at Mark & Graham. A new luggage carry-on for the honeymoon with their new initials is something every new couple will love.”

Gifts as a Guest
When attending any wedding as a guest, Weiss says it’s “always appropriate” to get a gift to show appreciation and happiness for the couple. “It doesn’t have to be expensive. It can be personal or sentimental, just what feels right to you,” she says.

Track That Ish
Just because you buy a gift doesn’t mean you need to bring it with you to the actual wedding ceremony. Weiss advises that it’s more convenient to ship the present online “and have access to tracking information.” This is to avoid items being misplaced or stolen at the wedding.

When Gifting Cash
“Most people who gift cash send it to the couple before the wedding,” Weiss adds. “But just in case, we often have a personalized box that we set out at the event, and for security reasons, there should always be an attendant with that box or gift area.”

Oops, You Waited Too Long
Weiss explains that rushing to buy a gift that isn’t personalized or on the couple’s registry is the biggest mistake a wedding guest can make. “If the guest has waited too long, and there’s nothing left on the registry, that’s okay, still look at it for inspiration (often people skip this step),” she says. “Whether someone purchases from the registry or not, looking at it gives the gift giver insight into the couple’s taste to be able to buy something in that style.”

[From People]

I honestly think all of this is pretty good advice. I was always taught that the general rule is that you get something from the registry or a personalized item for an engagement present. If you’re going to attend the wedding, then you give money on the day of. I celebrated my 12th wedding anniversary at the end of April (we actually got married on the exact same day as the Waleses) and we still use 75% of the gifts we got off of our registry. As for getting a gift that isn’t on the registry, I like giving a gift card to wherever it’s from so they can pick something else out themselves. Our most memorable gift is our trash can because it came with the most amazing note that read, “This gift is in no way indicative of how I feel about your love.” I have funny friends. We also have creative friends who sent us either hand-made or personalized gifts that we still use/display because they mean so much to us.

Just one note about giving cash, though. One of my closest friends got married earlier this month and is keeping her last name. She and her new husband ran into a lot of problems when trying to cash checks written out to her first name with his last name, which the bank refused to cash. That put them in the awkward position of having to ask some people to rewrite them. Since it seems that banking rules only apply to us normies, it’s always a good idea to ask ahead of time how the check should be addressed.

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62 Responses to “Wedding planner Mindy Weiss’ advice on buying wedding gifts”

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  1. seaflower says:

    I don’t know if its different in the US/UK etc, but to me “anything with a monogram” has always screamed 80’s cheap arcade store purchase. That’s what I remember growing up in Australia in the 80’s.

    • Jenn says:

      They’re definitely chintzy here in the U.S., too — big, big Skymall vibes — but I think the joy is from the novelty of having your initials side by side. “Hand-towel official,” if you will. (That said, monogramming luggage is actually sensible! Great idea!)

    • Susie Q says:

      If you are ‘preppy’ or Southern (US), monograms have never gone out of style. But in general, monogrammed jewelry and accessories have been back for about 4-5 years. Lots of women have initial pendant necklaces, etc. To give as bridesmaids/groomsmen gifts actually makes sense because everyone gets the same thing, but you can tell whose is whose.

  2. Dandun says:

    im not American so ive never been to a wedding with a gift registry. the concept just seems mad where you are picking out your own gifts!

    Instead everybody just gives cash as a gift on the day. its only very old people who tend to still give a gift these days.

    • Tila says:

      Yeah – I am really not being rude or derogatory here but I feel like there has definitely been an ‘Amerification’ of weddings around the world in the past 15 years.

      • Dandun says:

        yes a lot of things have defintely been “Americafied” over the years but gift registries is not something that has happened here. there are still a lot of differences too, for example, here the bride and groom pay for the bridesmaids dresses etc

        it would still be rare to hear of a baby shower here too.

    • Marigold says:

      Cash on the day of the wedding is really quite normal in the US. I’ve rarely been to a wedding with physical gifts. From the 200 guests at my own wedding, I think we received maybe 2 physical gifts on the day of.

      • ama1977 says:

        I’m An Old (married 18 years) and also in a Southern-ish state, but we got almost everything we registered for and still use just about all of it. The only person I remember giving us cash was my aunt (who is from NY) but everyone else availed themselves of the registry (and most shipped to our house vs. bringing to the actual event.) I know in the Northeast in particular, cash is king for wedding gifts, but I’ve always liked giving something tangible. One of my favorites was the waffle iron we registered for; I still think fondly of the giver every time I pull it out.

        If we get invited to a wedding now, chances are the couple is trying to merge two complete households and don’t need more “stuff” so I like to either give a pricey bottle of champagne or a restaurant gift card because everyone can use one or the other!

      • Lara (The Other) says:

        Since all the couple I know have been living togehter before the wedding, it’s either cash and /or donations or an online registry where you can gift parts of the honeymoon, eg. one night in the hotel a part of the flight, etc…

    • AA says:

      I am in the UK and I have never been to wedding WITHOUT a registry!! (Millenial, in case that is relevant). My friends have all done online registries where you have many options, including money, gifts, and ideas. For example the last few weddings I went to had options such as “contribute to our honeymoon fund” or “buy us a dinner” in addition to shops, and also a number of “free” options that did not cost anything, such as “lend us your favourite book” or “make us a playlist”. I really loved that!

    • BeanieBean says:

      I love a registry, takes away all the anxiety about whether or not they’ll like the gift! Money is the only other option for that, but I’ve never seen that outside of the movies.

  3. Jillian says:

    No on monograms – out of style fashion-wise, and its assuming women are changing their names. That’s just not the standard for everybody anymore

    • North of Boston says:

      Yeah, actually most of the recommendations seemed either dated or obvious.

      Also ‘celebrity wedding planner to the stars, and by ‘the stars’ we mean the Kardashians’ is not the flex her publicist seems to think it is.

      • Moira's Rose's Garden says:

        Did a double take when I saw her name. Mindy’s been around since the 90s (although you can’t tell me the 90s were more than 10 years ago). Honestly had no idea she was still in the biz which could explain her obviously outdated advice.

  4. Moira's Rose's Garden says:

    Co-signing the no on monograms. 27 years into marriage and it’s still difficult to find stationery that will do a 4 letter monogram (kept my maiden name and took my husband’s last name.) Also, there are couples who decide to have the same last name (usually a combination of both last names.)
    Love that the kids are adding to the registry gifts for honeymoons, first houses, theater tix, etc. So much more practical.

  5. Likeyoucare says:

    Asian here. We gave money. Usually only close friends and family give presents.

  6. FancyPants says:

    I hate being invited to weddings entirely because of the gift registries. Why can’t single people register for everything they want in their home and get everyone to buy it for them? I had to buy all my own stuff, so married people can fend for themselves. Miss me with your “honeymoon fund” solicitations, too.

    • Marley says:

      Wedding gifts and showers made more sense back in the days when many couples were young and just starting out and didn’t own a lot of household necessities. Now, most couples already have much nicer stuff than I do and go on more expensive vacations, so I do get what you’re saying!

      • Coriolis says:

        I agree, most couples these days have their own stuff, either separate or combined, so I feel silly buying them home goods. My favorite registry was a friend who put house projects, like paint and landscaping upgrades, etc. on their “registry”; it was very practical and I felt like I was contributing to something they would actually use.

    • Renstewart says:

      @fancypants I can’t disagree at all. I married at 28 and had all the necessities and most of what I needed, but still registered out of pressure. Since we weren’t wealthy or set by any means, money would have helped but was thought to be in poor taste in my family.

    • Josephine says:

      We skipped the registry and gifts altogether and it was the best decision. We said that if people wanted a way to celebrate beyond their presence, to donate to their favorite charity. It was awesome because guests donated and then let us know why they choose the particular charity that they did. There were some very personal stories and we felt to grateful to kinda share in their donations in this way.

      I highly recommend it although we were on the older side, which made it easier for us to forego presents. We also had a modest wedding so didn’t feel like people somehow owed us for the food and entertainment – you see so much of that these days, people even asking for a per person donation to cover food.

      • knotkaren says:

        Great idea. We offered up three dates that, if a guest was local and available, they could meet us for a day at Habitat for Humanity. Did a pizza/beer dinner afterwards. We have so many hilarious stories from those days, 23 years later they still come up in conversation.

      • Marley says:

        Josephine, I love this idea! It was especially great that your guests got to choose their charity and then shared what made it meaningful for them.

    • Anners says:

      Bahahahaha!!! My crotchety single self thinks the same thing every time I’m invited to the wedding of someone I’m not particularly close to. Now it’s the people I used to babysit (who are in their 30s!) and children of friends. When does someone buy me a new microwave or fresh tea towels?!!!!

      The most egregious ask was an e-vite where they knew people wouldn’t be able to attend the wedding, but asked us to send money anyway, since they already had their own dishes and whatnot. Um, no.

      • Marley says:

        Didn’t Carrie from SATC create a register for some designer shoes when hers were stolen at a friend’s house? To make up for all the shower gifts she had given the friend over the years? I didn’t care for her character, but I applauded this move!

    • ThatsNotOkay says:

      Do a housewarming party or apartment-warming party and register for gifts, because, yeah. F couples, lol!

      • Elle says:

        I am not disagreeing with you, and maybe it will continue to become less of a thing, but the older generations are appalled when you don’t have a registry, at least where I live. When my brother got married, my mom was appalled that he registered for normal things for their day to day life (like an expensive tent they couldn’t afford haha).

        When my husband and I got married last year, 90% of what was purchased off of our registry was every day plates and glassware and frames. And 10% were personalized items which were really thoughtful. I think it depends on the gifter, as well. I’d rather buy something on the registry because I am not great at being creative. Others have a real knack for it!

  7. fineskylark says:

    That’s great advice about the cheques. It was a huge pain in the ass when I got married because people assumed I would change my name.

    • Christine says:

      Sincerely, Rosie, you have given all of the waiting to maybe get married readers something they won’t forget. My accountant soul applauds your completely practical, and wise, advice!

  8. Newt says:

    I always buy off their registry and since I’m practical by nature, I tend to buy things they’ll use over and over: towels and/or sheets. You can never have too many of both.

    • MsHowdy says:

      Agreed! A set of good white towels (or peek at the registry to find out what colors they are using) is always a good safe present.

    • DaveW says:

      Registry couples I work with always appreciate these, and we encourage them include linens when doing their lists.

      We hear, a lot, from either people who have been in their own or maybe even living together, esp if in their late 20’s/early 30’s and not in tech/finance (earning average salaries) is they are still using the linens they or their parents bought for their college or first apartment and cookware is hand me downs from parents or grandparents.

      Also, don’t go crazy on glass/bar ware on a registry. Or think of multiple uses (limited storage)…old fashioned glasses can double as fancy juice glasses. Most people don’t need a different glass for every varietal of wine, and how often will you really be making cosmos or martinis at home to need sets of 6 or 8 of each?

  9. Shawna says:

    Echoing the anti-monogram comments. You don’t know if “she” is taking “his” name, and there’s a lot of weddings where it isn’t a “she” and “he.”

    I was pretty shocked at all the people who started addressing me as Mrs. X. It’s like, I didn’t start a career only to lose my name recognition in the service of an outdated tradition.

  10. SarahCS says:

    Ditto with the general feeling here on monograms.

    Registry’s (or wedding lists) are pretty normal here in the UK (although it’s been a few years since I last attended a wedding) and I often find them quite entertaining. Mum and I still joke about a posh friend of hers who got married maybe 30 years ago now and there was a running joke amongst their (fairly broke) friend circle that they would club together to buy the couple one of the teaspoons on the list. Friends of mine got married and seemed to spend some time in a parallel dimension as they had things like brandy glasses on their list that I can confidently say are gathering dust to this day.

    Weddings make many people weird.

  11. Mireille says:

    Had a colleague who held her wedding in some castle-like building. Had a lot of guests and expected each one to spend at least $1000 on their wedding gifts to her. I declined attending, but sent her $300 cash for her gift. It’s the most that I could afford at the time. She complained to me afterwards how many people who attended her wedding DID NOT spend enough/give enough money for her and her new hubby — including two shared friends. She argued the cost of the wedding, the castle, the food…the guests should “reimburse” her and husband for throwing such a lavish affair. Ugh, I was so disgusted by the whole concept, turned me off from attending weddings.

    • Moira's Rose's Garden says:

      I never understood that logic (gift price=price of wedding cost). 1. How are people to know how much you spent on your weeding? 2. Your choice to overspend on your event does not mean that I need to break my budget in order to give you a gift of the same amount. 3. If the expectation is for people to give you a gift equal to the amount of the wedding, then it sounds as if you can’t afford it.

    • Lizzie Bathory says:

      Ugh. It should never be on the guests to pay for a party you chose to throw.

      One of my favorite wedding gifts was two hand towels from a couple we invited. I knew they had no money & I didn’t expect any gift, so it was touching that they checked the registry at all. I still think of them when I use those towels.

  12. Southern Fried says:

    Engagement and wedding gifts? No.

  13. LynZe says:

    There is one form of wedding gifting that is new and in many ways logical and practical. The last several weddings I attended requested donations to their wedding or honeymoon fund. At first I found it disconcerting but since so many couples now have most of their home needs this makes perfect sense. I made the gift online and it was no fuss no muss. I have found a trend of not sending thank you acknowledgment a bit lazy and inconsiderate though

    • Southern Fried says:

      Recently on a registry there was a corn hole game costing over $200:00. Yeah no. I use the registries and always send a gift/money ahead of the wedding and too often find myself in knots wondering if they got it or not. It’s so rude and I can’t help but think a bit less of them.

  14. Concern Fae says:

    One note – if you are changing your name (for any reason) then make sure you get a passport under your old name and then a new one with the new name. Expired passports are still legal identification documents, so if a situation arises where there is an issue about the changed names, you can just show the two passports, which will have the same ID number but also the individual names.

  15. Lisa says:

    I’ve never been to a wedding ive enjoyed so I stopped going. the cost is so much even as a guest and ive never had a decent meal at one for such a long day and always felt like I wasted my saturday. I never even entertained a Friday one because it’s almost impossible to get to it without using at least half a vacation day. I have see some smaller weddings since covid and I hope that trend continues.

  16. Jules says:

    I am from Germany and a lot of people keep weddings as a celebration where gifts are welcome but not necessary. Some couples don’t expect any, some love DIY-gifts and some have boxes to donate to a charity (not the honeymoon!).

    Personally, I think it’s quite the ask to want dozens, sometimes hundreds of people to take at least one vacation day, travel, maybe even get a new outfit, book a hotel and then on top invest hundreds of bucks for a couple to finance their honeymoon. Especially since for many people, weddings are not fun, they are stressful, boring (while the couple is doing photoshoots and whatnot, the guests have to entertain themselves), and worst case, introverts are forced into wedding games.

    I do prefer modern weddings, where it’s more casual, those weird American(ized) rules are not forced on anyone to basically spend a whole month’s salary, and people can chill. It’s not just about the couple, a wedding is also about everyone who took the time and money to attend and they should not feel like walking on eggshells because they got the wrong gift.

  17. Kate says:

    No to anything monogrammed and anything off registry. Id rather get nothing from a guest than something I don’t want or have room for.

    • Green girl says:

      Same here! We got a few gifts that weren’t on our registry and they just weren’t practical or to our taste. My own mother insists on buying presents that aren’t on the registry because she says “well I like it!” She doesn’t take the couples preferences and style into account and it always feels so thoughtless.

  18. Bumblebee says:

    My niece is getting married in 2 weeks. The gift registry on her website was so convenient. We’re flying in from out of town, so no room in the suitcase for a gift, plus no clue what to get her. The retailer mailed it directly to her, with the correct name (awkward if you get that wrong).

    BTW, not trying to jinx anyone, but if people get divorced all the monogrammed stuff gets thrown out.

  19. QuiteContrary says:

    For close family members and friends, I like to give art by local artists, because when you’re first starting out, you can’t afford things like that. (But never on the day of the wedding, because who wants to lug home an 11×14 canvas, or a framed photograph, or piece of pottery, after the reception?)

    If I’m choosing from the registry, I go for the items marked “most wanted” (registries often include that feature now).

  20. Shells_Bells says:

    Unpopular opinion but I hate wedding registries. It just seems rude to “request” gifts. I know it’s tradition, but I just can’t get on board.

    • Marigold says:

      I always give cash for weddings but for showers, I’m the opposite. Give me the registry. I am not a shopper and don’t feel inclined to do a personalized gift for someone who is, often, not a very close friend (and I include relatives in that category of “not a very close”). I’d rather look at the list, give them something practical from it and be done with it.

    • BW says:

      I never thought of wedding registries as a “request.” I always thought of them as “if you want to give us a gift, at least give us something we need. Here’s the list of what we need.”

      My sister and I once bought an ornate silver chafing dish to my friend who lived in a trailer. When we saw all the Tupperware and towels that everyone else brought as gifts, we felt like idiots.

  21. DaveW says:

    I work PT at Williams-Sonoma so deal with a lot of registries and gift givers. The majority of post-wedding gift returns we see are for non-registry purchases. When a couple comes in to set one up we encourage them to do a wide range of price point from basics to wish list.

    Monogramming really is outdated, it’s getting very limited, with our company, on options that even can be monogrammed, however older family members or friends often want to go that route.

    Something to keep in mind too if going through an online site that lets you register at multiple stores at once. Definitely more efficient for the couple, however the stores can’t track receipts/purchases, so returns can be a problem (WS/Pottery Barn/West Elm policy is no receipt/no return, not even a merch credit) nor can we tell who gave the gift if there wasn’t a note/card. Also, if an item is purchased in a store, it’s up to the buyer to remember to go into the app and log the purchase on the registry.

  22. VilleRose says:

    I stopped buying from people’s wedding registries a few years ago because 1) most people I know live together before getting married so they have most of the registry stuff already 2) I just find it so weird to get people a stack of plates/toaster/vacuum cleaner to commemorate their wedding (one of my friends received the same vacuum twice at her bridal shower from different people and I still LOL at that moment since they clearly didn’t look at the registry correctly).

    A few years ago, I started buying traditional French faience lug bowls with the first names of the couple hand painted separately on each bowl (stole the idea from my mom). As I come from a French family, all members of my family have one of these cute little bowls with our first name painted on it. If you are unfamiliar with what they are, you can google them. The great thing is, should a couple ever get divorced, they can each take their own bowl and neither will fight over it. They are expensive (close to $100 for a single bowl) and take up to 3 months for shipping since they are shipped from France so I always need to remember to order them ahead of time so the couple gets it by their wedding. But they’ve ALWAYS been a hit since they are so unique and stand out from the usual gifts and you can be sure they’ll always remember who gifted it to them. And people love that their first names are painted on it, it’s part of the appeal. One of my friends requested I buy one for her baby once the baby was born and I gently told her she could buy one for her own kid when it was born and gave her the website she could order it from (I’m generous but not THAT generous and not made of money lol).

    • Southern Fried says:

      I’ve looked up the bowls but have come up with only pet bowls or antiques, how should I refine my search? Thanks.

      • VilleRose says:

        The website is here! I think this is the only place you can order them in the USA. Specifically for the lug bowls (it says baby gift but I’ve always gotten them as wedding gifts so just ignore that part): They estimate up to 3 months for shipping for the lug bowls, I’ve used them 3 times for the lug bowls and it’s always taken 3 months just fyi!

    • Moira's Rose's Garden says:

      That’s an awesome idea @VilleRose. Is this what you’re referring to?

    • Jenn says:

      I *love* this idea; what a great gift! A few years ago I bought myself and my husband, each of us, one special, oversized stoneware mug — perfectly sized for lattes, tea, soup, noodles or rice, ice cream, or broth (I drink a lot of broth when I’m in a flare and can’t digest food properly). It is such a nice, cozy feeling to have ONE special do-it-all mug. I love your faience lug bowl because the shape and “lugs” are so evocative to me of a Scottish quaich which I — an American who knows very little about Scottish culture — associate with merriment during the cold winter months. They just feel so automatically familial and sentimental! The perfect shape for any food, too — but especially a stew.

  23. whatever says:

    I can’t imagine buying luggage for someone else. I’m so particular and specific about my travel needs, what works for me, and how I like to organize myself. And I’m sure everyone has their own system and does things a little differently. How would you know if they’d prefer a duffel style, a backpack, a tote, etc…? It just seems like such a personal choice thing, where you’d want to look at it yourself first and see if you thought it would work for you. If feels like such a weird thing to buy for someone else.

  24. lizbert says:

    Good note re: names on the checks. I kept my surname in my first marriage and my wasband and I never had a shared bank account. When we received a lawsuit settlement post-divorce, neither of our banks would take it either. Fortunately we were still on good terms so we opened a joint account just for the purposes of cashing the stupid thing. Both withdrew/transferred our respective halves and then closed the account :/

  25. Susie Q says:

    I’m ‘Old’, married in 1994, and we still have and use several clear lucite trays with our last name/initials on them. As I commented to someone else, if you are ‘preppy’ or Southern, monograms have never been out of style!

    Monograms have always been in for personal items, like sheets/towels/toiletry bags/luggage/jewelry. It’s been a trend for about 3-4 years to have initial necklaces, whether the initial is plain or inscribed on a disc.

    The key is to know the person. If you don’t know their personal style, don’t monogram it.

  26. Juniper says:

    This is what I did, but I have a credit union so this may be different. I kept my name but I still occasionally get stuff in my husband’s last name. I have a note in my account that says it’s an alias. I put it there under the advice of the manager when I first got married. Only once have I had issues and I had to get the manager over to point out the note. The only caveat is that I have to deposit the check in person rather than use mobile banking or an ATM.