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Attendant-Gift Etiquette

Expert advice on how much to spend on your party and when to pass out the presents

When the friendships you have with your wedding party are priceless, how do you decide what’s appropriate to spend on their thank-you gifts?

There’s actually no clear-cut answer, says Elise Mac Adam, author of “Something New: Wedding Etiquette for Rule Breakers, Traditionalists, and Everyone In Between” (Simon Spotlight Entertainment, 2008). “The key is to come up with a total amount that’s comfortable for you to spend and then go from there.” So, if your event is a mostly DIY affair for 40 people, no one is expecting you to dole out $2,000 Givenchy totes.

In addition to budget, the number of attendants and how much they are shelling out on you (i.e. if your ’maids are spending $500 on attire, getting their hair and makeup done, and traveling across country, a $15 plastic bangle may be a little unbalanced) can play a part in the items you select. But wedding planners Susan Cordogan and Darcey Lohman of Chicago-based Big City Bride say they typically see couples spend around $50 to $200 per person. Also keep in mind that the maid of honor and best man often receive an extra special gift, and no matter what you give, don’t forget a sincere note of thanks Mac Adam adds.

Aim to have gifts purchased at least a month in advance, but feel free to pass them out at any time. If you want a more intimate setting to say thank you to your ladies, the Big City Bride team suggests doing it during a bridesmaid luncheon (or a hot towel shave outing for the guys). It’s also quite common to do it combined with a toast during the rehearsal dinner, when all your closest friends and family are assembled, says Mac Adam, especially if it’s a gift that could be used during the wedding itself.

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