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Gift Giving for Destination Weddings: A Quick Guide for Brides, Grooms, and Guests

Written by Dave Odegard

This blog post was updated on December 23, 2019.

Ah, the destination wedding. It’s a classic celebration of love and commitment with the charming twist of a far-off setting. And whether it’s at an all-inclusive resort in the Caribbean or a surprisingly affordable round trip flights to a European city, the exotic appeal of a foreign vacation mixed with matrimony seems to turn regular wedding etiquette right on its head. (Even if you’re a veteran bridesmaid or groomsman!) Do you still have to wear a suit for a ceremony on the beach or atop a glacier? But, by far, the most questions about destination weddings are in regards to gift giving.

So whether you’re planning a destination wedding or just attending one, let’s get some things straight about the wedding gifts.

Do Destination Weddings Require Gifts?

This is actually a tricky answer. As pointed out on the Emily Post website, every wedding invitation, carries with it “the obligation to give a gift.” And most etiquette experts, including Anna Post (great-great-granddaughter of the legendary Emily Post) say it’s best practice for the bride and groom of a destination wedding, especially one with high travel costs, to tell guests their attendance is all that’s expected. BUT, as Martha Stewart Weddings explains, it’s considerate for a couple having a destination wedding to register for gifts so that family members and friends who can’t attend can send something to express their support and affection. That being said, most etiquette gurus agree that guests who pay to travel all the way to a destination wedding are not presumed to shell out for the pricier registry items.

So if you’re throwing a destination wedding and don’t care about gifts, you can put “Your presence is your present” (or something to that effect) on the invitation. And if you’re a guest who’s attending a destination wedding and there’s a registry, don’t feel awkward about choosing to give the spatula as your wedding present. It’s there for you to give.  

Do Guests Have to Bring Their Gifts to a Destination Wedding?

While plenty of people still bring presents to give to the happy couple at the wedding reception (or even just leave on the gift table), the advent of online registries has really cut into the custom. Seriously, the ease of simply ordering and having a wedding gift delivered directly has made things so much less of a hassle for not only guests (who don’t have to deal with lugging heavy or delicate gifts to the event) but also brides and grooms (who no longer have to deal with lugging said heavy or delicate gifts from the event). So it’s not only perfectly acceptable to order from the registry, it’s probably also a good idea since a destination wedding just makes traveling with gifts much more of a burden for guests and those getting married.

Heading off to a destination wedding? You’re going to need a deal on round trip flights!

What Is the Best Gift to Bring to a Destination Wedding?

Of course, ordering off a wedding registry isn’t for everyone. Just like a non-destination wedding, a guest can bring a gift if they want. But if they do, it’s best if he or she packs something that’s not too bulky or delicate, for both their sanity and that of the couple getting married (who are going to have to bring the gift home). Just try to pack an elegant glass vase in your checked baggage if you don’t believe us.     

And the best gift to bring? Etiquette guides are pretty universal in the agreement that money or gift certificates, tucked into a nice card in a classy envelope, is not only more than a suitable option but it’s the easiest to transport.

Have some thoughts on or experiences with destination wedding gift giving that you want to share? Leave them in the comments below!

About the author

Dave Odegard

Dave Odegard is an ex-army brat turned internet word person, whose work has been published on Maxim Online, USAToday, Buzzfeed, and more. He is currently the Senior Content Writer at Fareportal (CheapOair's parent company) and spends his free time exploring the wilds of Brooklyn, New Jersey, and Sweden.

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1 Comment

  • Brody Nienow says:

    If you want to surprise the newly married couple then there is nothing better and more meaningful than a bouquet of white roses.