Do You Have to Give an Engagement Gift?

January 11, 2013    |    By +
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December is the most popular month for proposals, 16% of engagements happen during that month full of the holiday spirit. But, January and February are close behind. I got engaged in January, and a handful of my best friends were proposed to during that 3 month window as well. It must be the chilly, snuggly weather and all of the holiday gift giving and celebrating that gives otherwise nervous guys the confidence to pop the question. Not to mention the easy access to the father of the bride for asking permission to wed. But, whether you, a friend, or a family member ends up engaged during the next 2 months or 2 years, the rules around engagement gifts bring up a whole slew of questions that need answering. Engagements don’t follow the stiff structure that they used to so I’m going to help lay down the new rules of engagement gift giving here, by answering the most common questions.

Have more questions about engagement gift giving? Ask them below!

When do you send a congratulatory engagement card?
Always send a card as soon as you hear word of the engagement. But, don’t put anything in your inscription that assumes you will be invited to the main event.

When do you send a gift?
If you are very close friends or immediate family, sending an engagement gift after hearing of the engagement is a great idea. But, engagement gifts are never expected. And, know that early on in the engagement there is still a chance that the wedding may not go through. So, save your receipt in case the gift has to go back. I know it’s sad to think about, but it is a safe guard worth noting. Gifts are always returned if the wedding is called off.

Do you have to bring a gift to an engagement party?
Actually, traditional engagement parties are meant to be a surprise for the guests. Antendees assume they are all there for a cocktail or dinner party, or luncheon. The bride and groom announce their exciting new status while everyone is in attendance. Historically, the engagement party was held just before the engagement announcement went out in the newspaper. So, guests would never bring gifts aside from a hostess gift if the party was hosted at someone’s home. Times have definitely changed! Engagement parties are no secret and gifts are appropriate unless you hear otherwise. But, gifts are still never to be expected. Unless the invitation says, “No gifts, please,” you should consider bringing a little something to wish them well like a bottle of champagne, or a gift with a “knot” theme like the Knot Doorstop to symbolize tying the knot.

What are traditional engagement gifts?
Because engagement gifts are a fairly new phenomenon, the rules are just being shaped. But, the best way to go is with a gift that will help them get through the wedding planning process and get to know each other better along the way. Gifts like cooking classes, or a nice bottle of wine to start their collection, a wedding planning book that you found helpful during your own recent planning, or a couple’s spa certificate are great ideas. If they have already registered, you can get something small from there as well. We have a very useful Wedding Registry Finder tool that will show you everywhere your happy couple is registered.

How much should you spend on an engagement gift?
These gifts are not supposed to be expensive. Engagement gifts are a token of your happiness for the bride and groom’s future together, but the wedding gift is where you should put the lion’s share of your wedding related gift budget. I recommend spending 25% the amount that you plan to spend on their wedding gift as a starting point. For example, if you plan to spend $100 on the wedding gift, you should spend $25 on an engagement gift if you’re buying one. But, if you plan on spending $1000 or more on their wedding gift, I would not spend more than 10% of that on the engagement gift. And, if you are spending $500 – $1000, you can give a gift worth up to 15% of that.

Do I really have to buy an engagement gift, shower gift, and wedding gift?
Gifts are never required for these events. If the bride and groom know that you are in a tight spot and cannot afford to buy them gifts, they will completely understand. It is more important that you are there to celebrate with them, than to provide gifts. If you openly do not agree with the union, you are absolutely not expected to purchase gifts either. But, if you are truly happy for the couple then small tokens should be given at each event. These do not have to be expensive. In fact, you can hand-make them if you’d like. A collection of your favorite recipes to make for you and your significant other is a great gift to get them started that only costs you the printing and the binding. A thoughtful card with sage advice and support inscribed can be worth its weight in gold as well.

Did you receive engagement gifts? If so, what was your favorite one? Share your stories in the comments below!

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Meet the Gurus

Kathryn D.W.
Kathryn Drury Wagner is the senior manager of content at She was formerly the executive editor at Honolulu Magazine, and is the author of The Ultimate Guide to Shopping on Oahu. Her career has included staff positions at Country Living Gardener and Power & Motoryacht. Her latest book is "Hawaii's Strangest, Ickiest, Wildest Book Ever!"

Gwen P.
Gwen is the Editorial Curator at In addition to writing blogs, she creates gift guides, curates the site, and produces content for our social media channels. As a freelance writer, she created blogs on fashion, art, travel, health and lifestyle. A talented jewelry designer, she's also a yogi and a hospital volunteer with her therapy dog, Lilo, a Pomeranian.