They’re Engaged! To Gift or Not to Gift?

March 31, 2014    |    By +
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You’ve just heard the good news: your friend/cousin/neighbor/insert relationship here is engaged. It’s time to say congratulations! But how? Is a simple “I’m so happy for you!” enough or is a gift a mainstay of today’s engagement etiquette? I was confused—and so were those around me. To get to the bottom of the engagement gift rulebook, I turned to Melissa Barrad, owner of San Diego-based I Do…Weddings, a full-service wedding and event planning company that has been featured in media outlets like Modern Bride magazine and The Knot.

“Engagement gifts are a gray area that should be considered on an individual basis,” says Barrad. “My advice to engaged couples, as well as their family and friends, is not to peak at the engagement. The wedding should be the special event!”

With bridal showers, bachelor and bachelorette parties and rehearsal dinners looming ahead of the big day, she also notes that engagement gifts can be cost prohibitive. Friends and family of engaged couples need to pace themselves to avoid wedding burn-out. Read: engagement gifts shouldn’t break the bank. So what are appropriate ways to celebrate the newly engaged?

When You Attend an Engagement Party

“Never show up to a party empty-handed,” advises Barrad. However, she notes that a newly engaged couple probably hasn’t registered yet, so it is better to stay away from personal items like candles, vases and picture frames, that may or may not fit their style. Plus, engagement parties are increasingly becoming more casual with the focus on the fun—think backyard barbecues and even bowling parties—so more formal gifts are not required. Instead, she recommends presenting the couple with a nice bottle of champagne or a plant that will continue to bloom long after they begin their new life together.

When You Want to Say “Congratulations” in Person

One of the best ways to celebrate a newly engaged couple’s big news is to invite them to brunch or dinner. Choose their favorite restaurant or host an intimate dinner party in your home. The important thing is to spend time together and share in their excitement. If you do want to surprise the couple with a little extra something, opt for a gift that focuses on experiences they can share together—like a couple’s massage, wine-of-the-month club or even movie tickets.

When Words Are Worth a Thousand Gifts

“Handwritten notes are a lost art,” says Barrad. “A beautiful card with a personal, handwritten note of congratulations means the world to any couple—and it is something they can touch and treasure forever.” Say something from the heart, share a special story or simply reiterate how happy you are for them. Letters are an emotional and permanent way to show the beauty of human connection.

Make It Personal

If you do feel inspired to present a newly engaged couple with a gift, get creative. Think personalized holiday ornament engraved with the date of their engagement (or wedding date if that has been determined), a custom-labeled bottle of wine, or his and her coffee mugs. Many companies will also deliver complete meals-in-a-box or gourmet dessert so that the lovebirds can enjoy a quiet night in to raise a toast and begin planning the big day.

As the wedding day draws near, gift-buying opportunities will abound. Check out for the latest in bridal shower, bachelor, bachelorette, bridesmaid, groomsman and wedding gifts for every taste and budget.




Jennifer Benson is a freelance writer based in San Diego, where she lives with her husband of nearly 15 years and her three children. She jumps at the chance to give or receive a heartfelt gift whenever possible.




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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!"

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