Do You Still Need To Send A Gift If You Can't Attend A Wedding? We're Diving Into The Etiquette

If you've received an invitation to a wedding and cannot attend for whatever reason, while you won't have to worry about what the wedding dress code is, or what to wear, you're not off the hook yet, as the issue of whether or not to give a gift is still ever-present. If you do decide to get the couple a gift for their big day, what to buy and how much to spend can also cause a bit of stress. Over the decades, some of the stricter wedding etiquette rules have softened in this regard. For example, it used to be considered vulgar for the couple to request cash as a gift, but no longer — new couples can and do use it for travel or other experiences. 


Ultimately, there are no hard and fast rules as far as whether or not to get a gift if you can't attend. But whether or not you choose to send a gift for a wedding you do not attend, there is one rule you shouldn't break. If you can't make the wedding, you absolutely must send in your RSVP to let the couple know you can't make it.

What's the gift etiquette if you can't attend?

While scheduling conflicts are often the cause for not attending a wedding, there are other reasons not to attend — cost being a big one, especially if it's a destination event that includes travel expenses. If you definitely can't go to the wedding, the modern answer about whether to send a gift depends on the closeness of your relationship with the bride or the couple. There is some disagreement here, however, as renowned etiquette expert Emily Post says that if you were invited, then it's always encouraged to send a gift, although you don't have to spend as much as you would have had you attended the wedding. However, the more distant the relationship, the less obligated you are to send a gift. But to honor the celebration, you can always send a beautiful card or handwritten note.


If you do decide to get a gift for the happy couple, there are no hard and fast rules about how much you should spend. Per The Knot, the average falls somewhere between $100 and $200, but that's if you're attending the wedding. While you can certainly buy something in that price range, if that average is too high, know that it's perfectly acceptable to buy something for $30 off the registry and send it along with your heartfelt congratulations. Another great option is to collaborate with other guests on a big group gift, which can lower individual costs.

What to do when buying off the registry is not an option

Let's say you adore the couple, can't make the wedding and you're on a budget. You've budgeted between $50 and $100, but whatever's left on the registry is at a higher price point. If you don't know their taste well enough to go rogue, take a look at the brands they like. Consider a gift card in the amount you're comfortable with for one of the brands listed on their registry. You can also take a look at what the couple registered for and buy them something within your price point that complements their style.


Wedding registries also often have options to contribute to a house fund, baby fund, or honeymoon fund. If this isn't an option though, you can always send a check to the couple with a nice card congratulating their union. This may save you the hassle of worrying about how to get a physical gift to the couple if you are going off-registry and not attending the wedding.