The 8 Worst Wedding Gifts You Can Give, Etiquette Experts Say
These common gifts send the wrong message, etiquette pros warn.
On the joyous occasion that you are invited to celebrate a couple's love at a wedding, it's important to send a thoughtful gift to mark the milestone. Yet not all wedding gifts are created equally, as some can be seen as careless, disingenuous, or even insulting. Etiquette experts say that even if your intention is to honor the happy couple, it's easy to make gifting mistakes that send the opposite message. Read on to learn which eight wedding gifts make the biggest missteps, and why you should never give them to a newlywed couple.
The 8 Worst Wedding Gifts
1. Self-help or relationship books
Newly married couples often need help navigating the first year of matrimony, and relationship books can offer a great source of guidance. However, Jules Hirst, founder of Etiquette Consulting, says that self-help or relationship books still make for an inappropriate wedding gift.
"For a couple who just tied the knot and are blissful about their love and commitment, these books can be insulting by insinuating the couple has issues that need to be fixed," she tells Best Life.
2. Gifts reflecting your personal beliefs
Any time you give a gift, it's best to think about the recipient's interests, values, needs, and wants, rather than your own. When your offering reflects your own personal beliefs without regard for their feelings, you run the risk of insult.
In particular, Hirst says you should never give a gift that pushes a religious or political belief without first knowing whether that would be welcome. "This can be really awkward for the couple who receives this gift," she tells Best Life.
This holds true even if you view it as sincere and meaningful. For instance, giving "the cherished family bible to avowed atheists" would likely be viewed as a commentary on the couple's values.
"While the bible may contain much meaning to some of the family, giving the family bible to a couple who do not believe is a strong message. At a minimum, it is a sign of disrespect for the couple's choices, at the max, it is an overt rebuke," says Jodi RR Smith, founder of Mannersmith Etiquette Consulting.
3. Personalized items with errors
If you plan to give a personalized gift, you're going to want to double-check the details before they go to print. That's because there are few worse offerings than a custom gift that includes an error.
"A personalized item is a great gift idea to remember special moments when the information is correct. Giving a personalized gift that contains an error is embarrassing for both the giver and receiver and can come off as thoughtless and insincere," says Hirst.
Perhaps the most common error on personalized wedding gifts is referring to the couple as "Mr. and Mrs. Groom's Last Name" when the bride has no intention of changing her name. By checking in with the couple ahead of time, you can avoid an awkward and useless gift later.
Wedding gifts that help make a house a home are typically welcome. However, experts warn that in the case of art, it's all too easy to overstep your bounds and impose your personal tastes, which may not be the same as the couple's.
"Art, which can rarely be exchanged or returned, is a truly tenacious gift when one does not know the couple and their tastes extremely well," warns Smith.
5. Gifts that don't align with the couple's interests or lifestyle
Another common mistake wedding guests make is giving a random gift that has nothing to do with the bride or groom's tastes and preferences. Laura Windsor, founder of Laura Windsor Etiquette Academy, says this can feel especially careless and alienating to the couple if it comes from a person who knows them well.
"A subscription to wine of the month for teetotalers or steak of the month for vegetarians—clearly these wedding guests do not know the couple well at all," Smith agrees. "Cookbooks and cookware to a dual-career couple who travel can be a mismatch, and if they're given by in-laws, can be seen as disapproval."
6. An item that would be appreciated by half of the couple
It's not uncommon to know one half of the couple better than the other. However, Windsor says that you should be careful not to give a gift that only one of them will enjoy or appreciate.
"A marriage is a union of two people and, as such, the gift should reflect this," she tells Best Life. For instance, don't buy a set of golf clubs if only one of them plays.
7. Heirlooms they have no use for
If you've been holding onto a family heirloom that has meaning for you, a wedding may seem like the perfect opportunity to pass it on as a gift. Yet experts warn that you should check in with the couple first, especially if the gift is large in size and space is limited.
"Even great-grandmother's entire set of china can be a terrible gift for a couple who, when asked if they would like the set, expressed their kind yet firm reply of 'no thank you' only to find it waiting in their home upon returning from their honeymoon," says Smith.
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8. Anything re-gifted
Finally, your wedding gift should come from the heart, reflecting your love and support for the couple. A re-gifted gift is by definition un-thoughtful, and will definitely read as such if the couple learns where it came from.
"Re-gifting can be risky business but if you do go ahead with this, no one must ever know—not the original giver nor the receiver," says Windsor. "Ensure there are at least six degrees of separation between them. Also, make sure that the items are brand new, recently received, and not used and that the gift has not been personalized in any way."