An etiquette expert sets the record straight. 

By Blake Bakkila
Updated August 01, 2017
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If your mailbox is being flooded with wedding invitations, it’s nearly inevitable that you’ll have to decline at least one this summer. And while a regret does free up your calendar, it doesn't necessarily mean you’re off the hook. Depending on the circumstances and your relationship with the soon-to-be-betrothed, etiquette expert Diane Gottsman tells Real Simple how to approach sending a gift when you can’t make it to the nuptials.

“While you never have to send a gift, it’s always a very kind gesture to send a gift if you have a close relationship with the person or couple,” Gottsman, the author of Modern Etiquette for a Better Life and founder of The Protocol School of Texas, says. “Even if you can’t attend the wedding, I suggest you go to the registry and find something that fits your budget and represents the level of your friendship.”

Gottsman adds that you should spend what you can afford, but the range is typically $30 to “the sky is the limit.” She also suggests teaming up with friends or family members to purchase a larger gift, like surfboards for the water sport-loving couple.

“Gifts can get costly, so pooling resources may be the key to a great gift that they will use and cherish,” she says.

The registry should be your go-to for matching your price range with something the couple will actually use and appreciate. But it’s also important to assess your relationship with the couple.

“If you aren’t attending the wedding because you don’t know the person or don’t share any kind of friendly relationship, you can send a card wishing them ‘congratulations,’” she says. “Think twice before skipping a gift if it is a very good client’s offspring or someone you want to build a relationship with in the future.”

Gottsman adds you can send money instead of a gift, but “a beautifully wrapped gift is always welcome." She shares a few examples of budget-friendly buys to consider.

“Entertaining gifts are useful because they seldom buy them for themselves,” Gottman says. She suggests a cutting or cheese board, salad bowl, cocktail napkins or serving trays.

And for the more adventurous duo, she recommends a few out-of-the-ordinary gifts, like Yeti cups, custom campfire mugs, a tent, or matching backpacks.

Still stumped? Just go to the source!

“When in doubt, ask them!” says Gottsman. “They will tell you or give you some strong hints."