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Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

Your Turn: “How Many Gifts Do I Have to Give as a Bridesmaid?”

It’s been a long time since we had a Your Turn column, where I let you take the reigns of giving the advice, so here you go:

I will be a bridesmaid in a wedding this year for a relatively new friend. This is my first time serving as a bridesmaid, and I’m a little unclear about the etiquette. I gave her and her fiancé an engagement gift. I have already purchased my dress and shoes to wear in her wedding later this year. I have been invited to:

-her theme park bachelorette party (which I will probably be canceling due to the rise in COVID)
-her bridal shower coming up in the next couple of months (which I may not be able to attend, depending on a few factors)
-her rehearsal dinner
-her wedding

… all before the end of the calendar year.

I am wondering for what events I should give her a gift, and, if I’m not able to attend, should I still give a gift?

Additionally, she has become a good friend in the fewer than three years we’ve known each other, and I do not want to hinder the growth of our relationship. That is why I am hesitating on canceling the trip to the theme park. She will lose out on the resort points that will be paying for the hotel. She gave me a chance to cancel a few weeks ago before she’d lose the points, but, at that point, the virus was not as bad as it is now. How do you recommend I approach my conversation with her about canceling? — First-time Bridesmaid

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11 comments… add one
  • Megan August 25, 2021, 8:24 am

    Wedding etiquette can be so regional, so I bet you’ll get lots of variety in these responses. Here’s just my take:

    I’d approach both the gift question and the bachelorette question separately. For the latter, I’d have a really honest conversation, sharing your regret about not knowing what would happen with COVID rates sooner (and how that has influenced your comfort level) and asking her what if anything you can do to compensate her for the lost points. And yes, I’d probably send a gift to the bachelorette so that she knows you’re thinking of her even though you can’t be there due to the realities of the pandemic. I’d likely adjust the value of this gift depending on whether or not she’s asked you to reimburse her for the unused hotel, etc.

    In terms of the gift opportunities more generally, I don’t think there is a hard and fast rule, but I also don’t think you need to give a big gift for each of these occasions. You could certainly touch base with other bridesmaids before deciding how to allocate your wedding-related budget, to anticipate any “let’s all chip in” scenarios, which can be helpful but might limit your flexibility and would therefore be good to know ahead of time. I’d probably choose one or two of these occasions for a nice gift, and then just give something small and thoughtful (a note with a gift certificate for a pedicure or a coffee, etc) for some of the others.

    Ultimately, everyone’s expectations and resources vary- but you’re not obligated to bankrupt yourself to be in a friend’s wedding. And frankly, if it feels like that’s what it would take to maintain the friendship, that might say something about how much it’s a friendship worth investing in. Hopefully you know one enough well enough, even after just a few years, to be able to communicate about what matters to you as well as your limitations!

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  • ktfran August 25, 2021, 8:29 am

    This has been my general rule of thumb:

    Engagement party – i’ve only been to a few and I don’t bring a gift if I know there will also be a bridal shower. i hate engagement parties. However, if I’m out with my friend separately, I will buy her a drink to toast the engagement.
    Bridal shower – i bring a gift. However, if I’m a bridesmaid and hosting/shelling out money for it, i do a small token gift.
    Bachelorette – see bridal shower response.
    Rehearsal dinner – no gift. The bride is supposed to get her bridal party a gift.
    Wedding – gift.

    I may be doing things wrong, but weddings should not cost guests or participants hundreds or thousands of dollars.

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    • lp August 25, 2021, 8:52 am

      Second this. Usually I give something small at an engagement gift, like a cute cooking for two cookbook, tea towel, some fancy snacks or a bottle of champagne as a small token. If I am in the bridal party, I still get a gift for the bridal shower but will scale it depending on how much money I am contributing to the shower itself. I’ve been to showers where I just make some food, and then buy a nicer gift, and others where all the bridesmaids pay for the other guests (so smaller gift). With the wedding, I generally get a gift unless it was very expensive to be/travel to the wedding, and then I do a nice card and a token item. (ive had weddings where hotels are 300 a night and require a flight, and some where we all bunk with the brides’ parents!). I think for the bachelorette, if you are not reimbursing the bride for backing out, I would venmo money to the MOH for the brides’ meal or a round of drinks as a “Sorry I couldn’t be there!” which would probably be less than you’d be spending to even be there, and then the bride knows you still care/support her. You could also send her a sash or tiara or whatever she might want to wear too as a way to be involved while not there.

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      • ktfran August 25, 2021, 9:49 am

        Great idea for the bachelorette if you’re unable to attend.

        My friend and I got married a couple of months apart. I was in her wedding, a couple of states away. I didn’t have anyone in my untraditional wedding. I also didn’t have a bridal shower, but I did do a fun night out with friends, so bachelorette. Said friend couldn’t make it in town for my one party, but she did send a really nice bottle of champagne. That was very much appreciated.

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  • Elizabeth August 25, 2021, 9:40 am

    Responding to the gifting part.

    -her theme park bachelorette party
    This one’s tricky – if I was attending a bach party I would be chipping in with the other girls for whatever, but I wouldn’t expect to send a gift if not attending. Since you already RSVP’ed yes, it never hurts to send a small bouquet or something like “sorry I couldn’t make it, have fun!” just as an acknowledgment.

    -her bridal shower coming up in the next couple of months (which I may not be able to attend, depending on a few factors)
    For context, I’m thinking back to my own experience. There were 3 friends I heard that couldn’t attend mine, 1 sent flowers and other 2 didn’t send gifts. I think personally you can send something small if not attending but I don’t think it’s required. If attending, I’d spend up to $100 personally.

    -her rehearsal dinner
    No gift.

    -her wedding
    I usually give about $150 per person, so $300 for my husband and me, assuming attending. If not attending, I’d probably mail $150-200.

    I am in NYC by the way, I know this stuff is regional.

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  • Karebear1813 August 25, 2021, 9:40 am

    Regarding the cancellation of the bachelorette trip: I would say something along the line of, “Hey Covid numbers are increasing (give a real-time number) by the day. I am starting to become uncomfortable with this and wonder if we should take a step back or if you would be so kindly to understand that for my health and safety I don’t feel comfortable going.”

    See if going at a later date wouldn’t cause her to lose points etc. I’m sure with the numbers going up again the hotel would understand and rebook you guys for a later date next year when the theme park reopens again. It could be a POST wedding celebration.

    As far as gifting a gift: the whole purpose of giving a wedding gift is suppose to help the newly wed couple on their start in life.

    You only need to give A GIFT and that can be given at anytime but usually at the bridal shower and/or at the Wedding. You pick your budget and comfort level.

    If you are in the bridal party, you agree based on a budget YOU ARE comfortable with. A bridesmaid usually forks out the cost for a dress, hair, makeup, hotel split cost, and sometimes split cost of party supplies.

    I’m surprised Ktfran didnt include “Lingerie Shower” but I guess that’s out of style/date now but, again, you need to only do A GIFT for both bride and groom.

    I am curious to know what type of gift you gave them at the engagement party and why. Is this a new trend for gift grabbing? So odd.

    Next you will be invited to gender reveal parties, co-ed baby showers, baby showers, and their birthdays. My husbands and I have been dealing with this for about 2yrs now getting invites. We are childless so it makes it more awkward around their family when the childless couple shows up to a kids party. I have a hard time keeping up with my own nieces and nephews, let alone friends children’s events.

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    • ktfran August 25, 2021, 10:06 am

      Why would have I included lingerie shower? I didn’t call out a theme for any type of shower. There all all types of themes and I’ve hosted several and been to several.

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      • Karebear1813 August 25, 2021, 11:09 am

        you listed the events for a traditionally wedding and a lingerie party/shower use to be common with the bride but it appears to no longer be a thing and now people do engagement parties and/or co-ed showers but still do the other events. That’s all I was meaning.

        All these events/parties/showers can rack up in cost esp for women.

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      • ktfran August 25, 2021, 11:17 am

        I listed the same parties the LW listed and had questions about. I’ve never been to a lingerie party unless it was specifically part of the shower and/or bachelorette.

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  • LisforLeslie August 25, 2021, 9:58 am

    Definitely agree with advice on setting a budget for the whole shebang and letting your friend know – this is your budget. It does not change unless you need to save money due to unforeseen circumstances (e.g. your car needs repairs or you lose your job or something). Basically, the only change is that you scale back, not go up.

    As for the resort points – what you’ve just said is that if you don’t spend money, then she has to spend money. If you spend money, she gets something free or at a reduced rate. That isn’t justification to spend money. That’s just giving her another gift. So if you can’t/don’t want to go – tell her now so she can either get someone else to join and pay that fee or deal with it. And if she gives you a hard time, you have insight into who she is.

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  • ele4phant August 25, 2021, 12:52 pm

    So – I live in a region that is very “relaxed” when it comes to wedding etiquette, but here’s what I’d do:

    Bachelorette Party – Honestly, wouldn’t get anything, would just chip in costs to cover the bride. If you know that’s the expectation in your social circle, get something cheap of her registry. I did have a friend whose sister (organizer of bachelorette party) asked that we all bring lingere, which I guess is a tradition in some circles? My friend is not that kind of a gal at all (she and her sister are veeeerrrrryyyyy different), so I got her the trashiest (and cheap) lingerie I could find because I knew she’d find it funny. But, if that’s not what the whole group is doing, I wouldn’t get lingerie because that would be weird, for you to be the only one doing it.

    Bridal Shower – Again, something cheap off the registry, or even a small gift card for where she’s registered so she can put it towards whatever holes she has.

    Rehearsal dinner – Nada. This is their gift to you for being in the wedding party and giving up extra time to rehearse.

    Actual wedding – So, I’m married to a man of Asian descent, and I’ve fully embraced the cash tradition. So, I generally get a lovely card and then just write a check for whatever amount I feel like giving, but it will be my biggest gift for the whole shebang. Totally pick what you feel comfortable budget wise, and if it’s small, it’s small, just write a heartfelt note. If she’s a good, reasonable bride, your friend won’t be put out.

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