You’ve figured out the perfect favor for your guests, but what about a sweet token to commemorate the occasion for your spouse-to-be?
The history of the gift exchange between bride and groom dates back to the Middle Ages, when many marriages in Europe were arranged by families, says Elena Brouwer, director of the International Etiquette Centre in Hollywood, Fla. In Italy, for example, after the future happy couple was assigned their destiny and papers were drawn by the two families, there would be a celebration – the betrothal. “It was at this point that the couple would exchange gifts, such as a ring, a necklace or food,” Brouwer says. “The actual marriage would take place years later.”
Nowadays an exchange of presents between bride and groom is a nice tradition but certainly not required, says Elise Mac Adam, author of “Something New: Wedding Etiquette for Rule Breakers, Traditionalists, and Everyone In Between” (Simon Spotlight Entertainment, 2008). “It could even be argued that there is so much to do and so much pressure before the wedding that deciding to give each other a break by not adding present-shopping to the to-do list is in itself a gift.”
However, if you and your fiancé would enjoy this thoughtful ritual, Mac Adam advises getting as personal as possible, tailoring your gift to your sweetie’s interests and passions – think art, a guitar, even something beautiful to plant in the garden at your new home. It’s also nice to give things that can be used frequently (such as a bike), so that using them is a consistent and romantic reminder of the relationship, Mac Adam says.
The more traditional route includes jewelry like a pearl necklace or earrings, an engraved bracelet or watch, or a journal for her, and an engraved money clip, leather desk set, or fancy monogrammed pen for him, says Brouwer. But, she notes, gifts need not be common or costly to be meaningful. She has also seen couples exchange iPods filled with favorite songs, a book signed by his or her favorite author, tickets to a special concert or performance, and poems written just for her or him. And if funds are really tight, consider writing each other a letter to be read on your first, 10th or 25th anniversary, or upon the birth of your first baby if you plan to have children.
As for the timing of the gift exchange, feel free to do it whenever makes the most sense for you, says Mac Adam. Small items or ones that are meant to be used or worn on the big day itself could be exchanged in a special moment before any pre-ceremony photos or on the day of the rehearsal. But if the presents are larger or complicated, it’s fine to time them weeks prior to the wedding, before you leave for your honeymoon, or when you’re settled back in your home. You also are welcome to exchange gifts in front of others or privately, says Brouwer. Just make sure your selection is well thought out and purchased with plenty of time to spare.