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Experts share gift giving tips for virtual, rescheduled and pandemic weddings

TORONTO — When wedding invitations reached mailboxes and inboxes in a pre-pandemic year, they often triggered a tricky situation for invitees, who had to decide how much to give or spend on a gift.
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TORONTO — When wedding invitations reached mailboxes and inboxes in a pre-pandemic year, they often triggered a tricky situation for invitees, who had to decide how much to give or spend on a gift.

But in COVID-19 times, that decision has become even more difficult. 

Couples are paring back guest lists, postponing events, moving them online or hosting small gatherings but promising larger ones in the future, when restrictions are lifted. 

"People are wondering how much do I give? Do I give anything? What if I don't go? Do I have to offer a gift?" said Julie Blais Comeau, an etiquette expert in Gatineau, Que.

An EBates Canada survey of 1,000 Canadians found the average guest spent $146 on a wedding gift in 2016. 

Men spent an average $179 and women forked over $117. The survey also said people attending weddings alone spent 24 per cent more on average than their married counterparts.

While many take the cost of a meal and add a little extra cash, Nicole-Natassha Goulding said that method is antiquated and people should instead focus on letting their relationship to the couple, cultural and religious customs and their budget guide their gift giving. 

"With your sister, brother or someone in your immediate family, you're probably going to give a lot more than you would a co-worker or a far cousin," said the founder of Chic by Nicole, a luxury wedding planning firmbased in Montreal and Toronto.

The pandemic, she added, shouldn't change your gift giving strategy.

"The rules stay the same," she said.

"If somebody is deciding to have a virtual wedding, you should still kindly send the same gift you would, if you are attending the wedding."

If a couple decides to host a small ceremony now and another larger one in the future, when COVID-19 has subsided, Goulding recommends giving a gift at the event you are invited to.

If you make the guest list for both, she suggests splitting the gift between the events.

If a wedding you've been invited to gets rescheduled because of the pandemic and health measures, but you've already sent a gift, Blais Comeau said you don't have to give another.

"You could offer another token gift, but there is no need," she said.

Shannon Kennedy, the owner of Ottawa-based Kennedy Event Planning, agreed.

She said many wedding gift-giving traditions haven't disappeared amid COVID-19, though people may be confused about pandemic situations.

For example, many people have been uninvited to a wedding because of capacity limits or decide not to go because they're still uncomfortable with gatherings or travel.

"If they're not actually in attendance or if they're uninvited due to social restrictions, the rule of thumb is to still give some type of gift, whether it's as small as a card with well wishes or the more standard $100 per person," said Kennedy. 

Blais Comeau says anyone who is confused about how to approach gift gifting in pandemic times should reach out a member of the wedding party, the couple's family members or even the bride or groom.

She said to tell them if it's your first pandemic or virtual wedding, how grateful you are to be invited and how sorry you are that some of their plans may have changed because of the health crisis.

Then she recommends saying, "I have no idea what to offer for a gift, can you give me some information on what would make you happy?"

"Sometimes it's just helpful to name that elephant in the room, that malaise, that awkwardness," she said.

"It shows that actually someone is confident enough to admit that they don't know and that's perfectly, perfectly good."

Kennedy thinks there's also some onus on the couple, especially if they already live together, own a home or have been married before and might not need the typical linens or cookware.

"What you can do for your guests is provide them with a little bit of guidance... in polite and creative ways," she said.

"You can say 'we will gladly accept your monetary gifts' or 'we would love for you to help contribute' or something along those lines because everyone already has a toaster and a coffee maker. They don't need a third and fourth one."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 14, 2021.

Tara Deschamps, The Canadian Press

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