What is the protocol for engagement gifts?

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What is the protocol for engagement gifts?
Engagement gifts are a nice gesture but are not obligatory. (gift image by Horticulture from Fotolia.com)

If the protocol for engagement gifts seems fuzzy and inconsistent, it's because they are not a traditional part of the pre-wedding celebration, unlike bridal shower and wedding gifts. Fewer engagement parties are designed to surprise guests with the news, leaving many invitees wondering if an engagement party invitation obligates them to buy a gift. The attitude toward engagement gifts has changed over the years, according to the Emily Post Institute. The basic protocol, however, has not.

Couple's Expectations

Engagement gifts are not compulsory and should not be expected. Close friends and family sometimes do choose to give a gift, usually a small token compared to the wedding gift. If an engagement party is planned, it is not appropriate to register for engagement gifts, as that implies an expectation of gifts. It is also inappropriate to specify "no gifts" on an engagement party invitation for the same reason.

When to Give

Although it's common and acceptable for gifts to be given at an engagement party, it's not an option if the engagement is announced at the party. Regardless of whether there is an engagement party, gifts may be given privately or sent by mail soon after the announcement is made.

Choosing a Gift

Since engagement gifts are usually given by those closest to the couple, there are no real rules about what should or should not be given, but popular choices are a bottle of wine or champagne, a wedding planning book or a restaurant gift token. It's also common for a family member to gift the bride-to-be a family heirloom such as a piece of jewellery to wear on her wedding day.

Thank-You Notes

A thank-you note should be given or mailed promptly after receiving an engagement gift. Notes should be personal with specific mention of the gift.

Broken Engagements

If the wedding is called off, etiquette dictates that engagement, shower and wedding gifts, including money, should be returned. For items that have been used or consumed, an offer should be made to reimburse the giver the cost of the gift.

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