If you’ve been invited to or are planning a destination wedding, the subject of gifts will come up sooner or later.
Traditionally, as a guest, you definitely don’t rock up to a wedding empty-handed, and it’s customary for couples to create a wedding gift registry to ensure they get the gifts they actually want.
But destination weddings are a little different.
A non-destination wedding doesn’t typically require the guests to lay down huge sums of cash to attend. In contrast, a guest’s cost of attending a wedding in a far-flung location can quickly reach a few thousand dollars.
So, given the outlay to even get to the wedding in the first place, should guests really be forking out for a gift on top of all that? And, as a happy couple, should you even expect a gift from your guests?
To help you decide, here’s our definitive guide on destination wedding gift etiquette.
The short answer to this question is “yes.” As a guest, you should give a gift when attending any wedding, including destination weddings.
It’s considered bad form to attend a wedding without a gift. After all, the bride and groom have chosen to share their special wedding day with you; gift-giving is a way to acknowledge that privilege.
But here’s the thing. The expectations for destination wedding gifts should differ from those for a non-destination wedding. A wedding present for destination nuptials should be more of a token of appreciation than a big-ticket item that costs a fortune.
Destination wedding guests have a lot on their shoulders. Organizing and paying your way for a destination wedding is no small feat. You must book time off work, pay for flights, arrange accommodations, etc. You may also be expected to pay for outfits, hair, and makeup if you’re part of the wedding party.
It’s a lot. And after all that, you can be forgiven for thinking a gift is not expected.
That said, you should give something.
It doesn’t need to be expensive or extravagant, but a gift is customary at weddings, so you should factor it into the total cost of attending the event.
Also, think about how you intend to give the gift to the couple. It’s not super-practical to bring presents to a destination wedding, as the newlyweds will end up with too much stuff to bring home. Instead, purchase your gift in advance and ship gifts so they arrive at the couple’s home before or after their wedding date.
It’s also acceptable, in these instances, to pool a gift. In other words, a group of you band together and equally contribute toward a more costly or extravagant gift. This ensures the bride and groom get something really special without any of you breaking the bank.
As the soon-to-be-married couple, it’s your responsibility to recognize and appreciate that your guests are taking a lot of their valuable time and money and choosing to spend it in your chosen wedding location.
And since they’re investing so much, don’t demand guests pick a gift from an expensive wedding registry. In fact, don’t even build a registry at all, or, if you do, make sure items are affordable (like under-$100 affordable).
Secondly, mention on the wedding invitations your expectations regarding gifts. State that your guest’s presence is more important than a costly gift. You can even go so far as to say that you don’t want or expect guests to bring a gift at all.
It’s not hard to find a wonderful gift on a budget. Here are some ideas to help you find the best gift for a destination wedding.
Personalized travel and toiletry items are small-ticket but sentimental items that also serve practical use. Think monogrammed luggage tags, passport holders, toiletry bags, couple’s robes, towels, and other personal items.
This type of gift can be presented before the wedding for the couple to use during and after their vacation.
Personalized prints of the wedding destination serve as a nice reminder of the big day. If you’re particularly good at photography, get some scenic shots printed and framed, or purchase some professional ones.
A stylized map print showing the coordinates of the wedding location can also make a great gift and serve as a wedding memento.
Everyone likes to be pampered while on vacation, and spas at destination wedding locations tend to cost less than they do at home. Why not treat the newlyweds to a couples massage or spa experience?
This is the type of gift that can be purchased upon arrival and presented on the actual wedding day. We’re sure the couple will appreciate some relaxation after such a busy few days.
Since most destination weddings double as a honeymoon, why not see what there is to do in the area and purchase an experience that the newlyweds might enjoy?
Think jet skiing, wine tours, jungle trekking, whale watching, paragliding, booze cruises, scuba diving, and more. Whatever they’re into, you’ll likely be able to find something that fits the bill.
Why not make the couple’s experience a little more special than it already is? Pay for an upgraded room or flight, or treat them to a poolside cabana. Another option is to prepay for a romantic meal, a night of cocktails, or have Champagne and desserts sent to their hotel room.
Whatever you think will level up the experience is fair game!
Thankfully, giving cash at a wedding is no longer taboo, and it’s a definite gift option for a destination wedding. It’s portable, small, and can be given to the couple on the wedding day rather than shipping it to their home.
To make it more meaningful, get the cash exchanged into the local currency of the wedding location, so they have some extra spending money while there. Tuck it into a handwritten card, and you’re done!
It is customary to give a gift if you go to a destination wedding. However, the gift does not need to be large or expensive.
Ultimately, give whatever you can afford. However, something in the range of $50–$100 is ideal.
It is considered rude not to give a gift for a destination wedding. While you should give something, you are not expected to spend a lot of money. A small token of appreciation is fine.
Couples hosting destination weddings are not expected to pay for guests’ travel, accommodation, and other expenses. However, couples should organize and pay for a welcome party, the rehearsal dinner, the wedding reception, and a morning-after brunch.
If you prefer guests not to bring gifts to a destination wedding, you must say so in the wedding invitation. Additionally, if you have set up a wedding website, add the information there so guests can easily read it.
If you’ve been invited to a destination wedding, bring a gift. And if you plan to say “I do” in an exotic location, don’t pressure your guests by demanding extravagant items.
At The Groom Club, we know only too well the minefield that wedding etiquette presents. That’s why we’re here to make it easier, whether you’re the groom or the guest. We’ll help you decode every type of wedding custom and demystify the do’s and don’ts so you’re not caught short or left red-faced.