Wedding Registry Etiquette for Guests

Story Amour
Written by Story Amour · Posted in Registry Last Updated March 18, 2023 · minute read

We get it, there are so many traditions (rules!) that need to be followed when it comes to weddings. But what about wedding registry etiquette for guests? Are there rules you need to follow? Do’s and don’ts of gift giving? Well the short answer is yes, but don’t worry, below is everything you need to follow to stick within the rules and keep your couple happy.

Just remember, this is a wedding, provided you give with your heart, you can’t go too far wrong. If you’re confused, don’t be afraid to ask the couple. They are usually perfectly happy to answer any questions you may have.

sketch image showing a pile of wedding gifts with the title wedding registry etiquette for guests

Wedding Registry Etiquette for Guests

How do wedding registries work for guests?

So how do wedding registries actually work from a guest’s POV? Well, usually information is provided by the couple, on how to access the registry. The registry may be able to be accessed online or you may have to visit a physical store location.

If for some reason you haven’t been given access to a registry, the couple may have decided on donations to a charity, or simply forgot to provide the information. Just reach out to the couple to get a better understanding of the situation.

Once you have been given access to the registry, you will likely find a range of gifts that the couple would like to receive for their wedding day. You can usually order by price allowing you to choose a gift that fits within your budget.

After browsing the registry, whether online or in person, you can then either purchase the gift or simply mark as purchased. This will allow other guests to see that the specific gift is no longer available. Reducing the possibility of duplicate gifts. Most couples will have direct access to the registry and will be notified when a gift has been marked as purchased.

While it is not a requirement to purchase directly from the registry, many registries will have offers built in. Whether that’s combo gift discounts, free delivery or free returns. That being said, it’s important to shop around and, provided you mark the gift as purchased on the original registry, all should be fine.

That’s pretty much it, login, visit the store, shop away, keep your soon-to-be-wed friends or family happy.

How do I find a couple’s wedding registry?

What if the couple hasn’t provided a registry? Don’t worry, it’s quite common to miss a couples announcement, or maybe they just haven’t shared publicly. There are several steps you can take before reaching out to the couple directly.

Generally speaking there are several major players when it comes to registry. Providing the couple hasn’t chosen a more independent retailer, it’s likely they have chosen one of Zola or The Knot. If a more traditional physical retailer, it’s likely to be one of Bed, Bath & Beyond or Target. Some couples may have chosen a honeymoon registry, if so, it’s likely to be Honeyfund. Taking this into consideration, these websites are always a good place to start. Simply visit their websites and search for the couple’s full name. If they have an account, it’s likely to show up. You can then browse their registry without the need to reach out directly.

Look on the invites or wedding website

Before visiting the above sites you can also look at the information provided by the couple. If you have received your wedding invite, the couple is likely to have provided the information on how to access their registry. If not, they may have given a link to their wedding website. It’s common for couples to use their wedding website as a hub to all wedding related news. Updates to the schedule, accommodation information and perhaps, a link to their wedding registry.

Reach out to the couple

Finally, if all else fails, you can reach out directly to the couple or a close family member. It could be that you’ve missed the announcement, or the couple may have just forgotten. Don’t be afraid to ask, it’s highly likely that if the couple is requesting gifts, they will be using a registry as it simplifies the entire process. They are also usually free to use as the registries will make their money based on commissions rather than registry fees. Most couples will be more than happy to give you the information, after all, everyone loves gifts!

What if there is no registry?

Over the last few years, there has definitely been a shift in weddings including a couples use of registries. With so many more options on the table, it’s quite common for couples to go down another route. Whether that’s a donation to a charity or money towards the honeymoon, it’s not uncommon for a couple to skip the registry altogether.

If the couple has decided to forgo the registry, you should seek further information to see if the couple has an alternative. If there is simply no alternative, it’s still important to show your love and give a gift. This will make the couple feel special and happy to open something as part of their wedding celebration.

But if there is no registry, how will you know what to give? This can be quite tricky, the first step is to ask a close family member to see if there is anything they think would be good to give. If not, below there are a few alternative options that will be highly appreciated.

  • Gift Cards – if you know the couple regularly frequents a particular shop, it’s always a good idea to purchase a gift card. They can then use the gift card whenever they want.
  • Donations – A donation to a charity is fastly becoming a popular choice amongst couples. If you know the couple has been personally impacted, it might be considerate to give to an appropriate charity.
  • Activities (Experiences) – Something a little bit more fun, but a great way to show appreciation is by giving an experience. There are many to choose from and it’s something that’s just a little bit out of the box.
  • Go with your heart – If none of the above appeal, then give from the heart. Try to give a gift you feel best suits the couple.

Etiquette rules for guests to follow

By now, you’ve probably discovered that the couple has a wedding registry, but what wedding registry etiquette do you need to follow? What rules need to be adhered to when buying gifts for the happy couple?

Below are some of the most commonly asked questions on the etiquette involved in wedding gift giving. Hopefully it will lead you to gift giving excellence!

When do I need to give the wedding gift?

Technically there is no hard and fast answer to this question. In times gone by, it’s traditionally given on the wedding day itself and it’s common to find a gift table at the wedding venue. However, in more recent times, and the growth of online shopping, most couples are happy to receive wedding gifts in the build up to the day. Chances are they will hold the gifts back until after the wedding, and open them all at once. A beautiful wedding day Christmas!

All that being said, some gifts may be time dependent. For example, if the gift is to be used on the couples honeymoon, make sure they are made aware of it. That being said, if you’ve purchased via a wedding registry, it’s likely they already know.

A Story Amour tip would be to not stress, providing you give the gift before the big day, the couple will be happy and be able to open the gift when and how they please.

How much should I budget for a wedding gift?

A question with no clear answer. The amount you should spend on a wedding gift is the amount you feel comfortable spending. A very diplomatic answer we know!

According to a survey produced by The Knot [1], the average guest spend on a wedding gift was $120. That being said, the amount spent neglects various factors including relationship to the couple. Quite a big one really.

Consider your relationship with the couple

Obviously, if you are an immediate family member, or a really close best friend, it’s likely that you will spend more than a guest that hasn’t seen the couple in 10 years. That’s why we go back to the original point. You should spend an amount you feel comfortable with. That involves making a decision based on your relationship with the couple.

If you are particularly struggling to come to a figure, maybe speak to a member of the family you know better or ask advice from other family members. Generally speaking, it’s quite easy to make a decision based on your hierarchy. If you’re going to be sat on the top table, go all out! Hidden in the back on the childrens table? Maybe look towards the cheaper option on the wedding registry.

Final thoughts are that providing you gift something meaningful, the couple will love it. Whether that’s a state of the art microwave, or a thoughtful homemade gift. Stick within your means and most couples will just be happy that you are attending their big day!

What if I cannot afford a gift?

Don’t panic. Times are hard and if you are currently struggling, and genuinely worried about not being able to show your appreciation for your invite, there are plenty of cost free alternatives. If the couple truly are friends, they genuinely won’t be upset that you can’t afford to spend on a wedding gift.

Alternatives to an expensive gift

We spoke to the Story Amour editorial team to come up with a list of cost free alternatives to splashing out on a gift from a couples wedding registry:

  • Any specialist skills? Maybe you are a wicked graphic designer? Or a wiz at baking? Maybe reach out to the couple and ask if you can provide your services for the day. This may be able to reduce the costs that the couple is spending on their wedding. Something they will definitely appreciate. That being said, don’t be offended if they reject your proposal. You have to remember that this is a day they have dreamt about since they were children, maybe they already have a supplier in mind.
  • Get creative – A poem, sincere note, or maybe just a really personal card. Thoughtful little memoirs like this can go a long way to expressing your care for the couple. Chances are that in 30 years time, they will remember the note much more than a brand new toaster oven.
  • Become a laborer – DIY weddings have become huge over the last few years. A great way for couples to have an amazing celebration, without blowing the budget. As a result, they will probably be busy taking care of all the jobs that would usually be outsourced. If this is the case for your couple, why not offer a helping hand. Whether it’s moving chairs around, or hanging bunting. This cost free alternative is sure to be appreciated.
  • Gift something small, but thoughtful – Think homeware such as a candle or plant. Something the couple can see everyday and think of you.

No matter what you decide, don’t put pressure on yourself about how much you spend. The majority of couples will be happier knowing you have put time and effort into supporting them, rather than spending beyond your means on a wedding gift.

Do guests bring registry gifts to the wedding?

The unhelpful answer to this is yes and no. In times gone by it was almost a tradition to bring your gift to the wedding day itself. Most couples would have even set up a particular area within their wedding venue to store all those gifts. However, in recent times, this is becoming less and less popular. If ordering directly from a registry, you may be able to deliver directly to the couple. If not, information is usually provided on how to give the gift post wedding.

Do I have to stick to the wedding registry?

This the ultimate wedding registry etiquette question. Probably the reason we are writing this article. Is it rude to give something off the registry? Absolutely not. Is it rude to choose an item on the registry, they buy an alternative but similar gift from somewhere else? Hmm, it’s generally frowned upon. The chances are that the couple has chosen that particular item for a reason. We wouldn’t recommend buying an alternative to it.

There are many reasons to choose a gift off the registry, such as you not having the financial means to be able to afford anything on the registry. However we would generally recommend you stay clear of similar items, or give something more heartfelt.

What if there are no gifts left on the registry?

Most wedding registries will have the option to purchase a gift card. If not, a gift card from an alternative store, or a simple cash gift is perfectly acceptable.

If you are determined to buy a gift, maybe reach out to the couple and ask if there is anything specific they would like. Maybe they forgot to add something to the wedding registry.

Can I just give them money?

Money gifting is becoming more and more popular. There are now websites set up specifically with gifting money in mind. Reach out to the couple to see if they have a Hitchd, or Venmo account for their big day.

How about gift cards?

Gift cards are a great way to show appreciation. In our opinion, there are two ways to ensure the couple loves the store you are buying the gift card for. The first being, simply ask the couple. The second is to browse their wedding registry and look for products from the same store. It’s likely that if they have several items coming from a particular store, they have a bit of an affinity to this store.

There are also other forms of gift cards that are a great way to show appreciation. Think restaurants, experiences, local coffee stores. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box.

What if I am not attending the wedding?

Well there are two ways to look at this. There is a big difference between not being able to attend the wedding, and not being invited to the wedding. Chances are that if you are reading this, you are part of the former group. However, if for some reason you haven’t been invited, we wouldn’t recommend spending a large amount on a wedding gift. Unless you are particularly close with the couple and have extenuating circumstances.

If you were invited to the wedding, but unfortunately unable to attend, don’t worry. Many wedding registries give an option to deliver straight to the couple. If not, you can always order the gift and deliver it yourself.

I’ve already bought a bridal/wedding shower gift, do I need a gift for the wedding itself?

Once again it’s dependent on your own personal circumstances and closeness to the couple.

From our POV, if you are getting invited to both the bridal shower and the wedding day, you are likely to be quite close. As a result, you should consider gifts for both occasions.

Unlike the wedding day gift, you will have more flexibility in what you can purchase. While some couples will also have a bridal shower registry, they are much less common than wedding registries. As a result, you can give smaller things of an alternative nature. You don’t need to spend the same amount as you do on your wedding gift.

If you haven’t been invited to the bridal shower, you shouldn’t really feel the pressure to provide a gift. If you want to go a little further, you can always drop something small off with the couple in the build up to the day. Showing this level of appreciation may get you invited to the bride’s next bridal shower. Joking! Joking!

To summarize, if you feel comfortable gifting for both occasions, you should. Sometimes, putting in that little bit of extra thought goes a long way. If not, don’t worry. Most couples will completely understand.

Is group gifting acceptable?

Buying a group gift is a great idea. Sometimes, many of the gifts on the wedding registry are a little out of budget for even the most affluent of wedding guests. Teaming up with other wedding guests to club together is a common practice and usually highly appreciated by the couple.

One benefit of the group gift is that it should reduce the costs at your end. You may be able to join up with several guests and afford one of the bigger items on the registry. Make sure you are regularly in contact with the other guests in order to make a swift decision on any purchases. This will reduce the possibility of missing out if you’ve got your eye on something in particular.

Story Amour tip: Get yourself a group gift boss! Nominate one of the members of the gifting party to arrange and sort everything. They can be responsible for everything from purchasing the gift to chasing other guests for payment. Highly tuned organizational skills are a must!

Can I buy from a different registry?

Yes, but always mark on their chosen registry that you have purchased it, or notify the couple that you have purchased the item.

Shopping around for the best offer on a particular gift is a prudent way to give to the couple. If you know you can get a much better deal somewhere else, the couple won’t mind. The primary benefit of a wedding registry is to coordinate amongst guests. It allows a couple to present a gift list while allowing the guests to choose what specifically they want to give. It avoids any possibility of duplicate gifts.

While shopping outside of the chosen registry is allowed, make sure that the exact gift listed is purchased. You shouldn’t purchase products that are similar but different. Think ordering a bright pink La Creuset pan when the couple has specifically requested black. It wont go down well!


So there you have it, a complete guide to wedding registry etiquette for guests. As long as you follow the advice given above, the chances are that the result will be a happy couple, receiving the gifts that they want, or gifts that mean something to them.

While it’s important not to put yourself into a situation you are not comfortable with, provided you stick to the registry list, you shouldn’t go far wrong.


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