Weddings are elaborate occasions with numerous etiquette rules. One common etiquette question is whether the married couple-to-be is required to give a wedding gift to each set of parents. While such gifts are not mandatory, they are thoughtful and traditional. In fact, many indigenous cultures require the groom to pay respect to his bride's father with a gift such as land or livestock.
Reasons for Gift
Many parents help pay for their children's wedding or related activities; thus, gifts are thoughtful ways to express appreciation for financial or emotional support. If your parents paid for the wedding reception, the honeymoon, the rehearsal dinner or any part of the occasion, they should receive a gift. If they did not pay for the wedding but provided a happy, healthy growing-up environment, they should receive a wedding gift. Many weddings are transitions from childhood to adulthood, marking the passing from your parents' household and responsibilities to your own "grownup" life. This time period is often difficult for parents, and a small gift can help to ease the transition for them.
Timing of Gift
Presenting a gift to parents can be done at various times during the wedding process. Some appropriate times include at the rehearsal dinner or other events immediately preceding the wedding. Many couples bring both sets of parents together to give them the gifts, especially if the families are comfortable and familiar with each other. If your parents are emotional, consider presenting the token in private and not immediately before the wedding ceremony.
The wedding gift to your parents should include a handwritten note of gratitude. This could be a heartfelt thank-you letter that lists examples of all the times and events they were there for you and supported you. The note should include sentiments of appreciation, acknowledgements of their sacrifices for you, and excitement about the future.
The actual gift will depend on the personalities of your parents and in-laws. Some traditional parent gifts include an engraved picture frame with a later-added wedding photo, handkerchiefs for the mothers and flasks for the dads. Other traditional items are retouched photos of your parents' wedding day, cuff links, clocks and jewellery.
Modern gifts for parents include bed-and-breakfast gift tokens, digital photo frames, family trees and other sentimental items. Nontraditional items include gift baskets such as wine, cheese or chocolate, or more personal items that relate to a family joke or story. For example, if the bride's father has a sense of humour, the groom could give him a stuffed rooster or photo of a goat---incorporating another culture's tradition with something the family may find humorous.