Etiquette: Gifts VS Donations

The Little Candy Cake featured in Town & Country

The Little Candy Cake featured in Town & Country

This conversation comes up with almost all couples.  The same questions are always asked - What is popular perception? Who am I really pleasing? Is it stupid to spend $5 to $20 to $50 dollars or more on a favor others may not want just so I have another little thing to decorate?

Most couples choose a gift that speaks to their relationship. A Jar of oatmeal cookie mix because that is their favorite, a special ordered Jenga set because that is their favorite game, a jar of jam from their favorite farm, so on and so forth. Years ago in CA I had a couple whose wedding was a lobster bake and they gave coolers with their date on them. These two lived for their beach parties.

The bill for gifts can seem steep when you weigh the costs against some of the other things that can be done with that money.  One hundred and forty jars of local organic jam at $15 with wrapping can equal upwards of $2,300. You could have stayed another night in that beautiful suite, saved for a spa day on your honeymoon, paid for all your bridesmaid’s hair and make-up, etc. Spa day or Jam, Spa day or Jam. Hmm?

One exception to some of the rules ideas above are sweet edible gifts! Everyone loves going home with something sweet that will not spoil. Cookie mix needs to be cooked, so unfortunately it does not count. Chocolate, cookies, candy – go to town. I’ll make some suggestions in a later blog.

Another idea is to purchase an assortment of edible gifts that most would love: infused olive oil, jam, chocolate, etc. and wrap them all similarly. Guests take a surprise gift!

Another popular idea I happen to love is sharing one of your mutual favorite books. Sometimes this selection ties into a theme. This can be given at any event; engagement party, corporate picnic, etc.

If favors will feel like something you have forgotten, then by all means DO NOT leave them out. If you are someone that is deliberating about this detail for days on end……

Now the conversation about donations…..

To be blunt – most often people do not appreciate being told a (small) donation was made in their name to a charity they didn’t select. Furthermore, the donation wasn’t really made in their name but in your name, which in our society can be taken as a sign of social status. If the charity was randomly selected, all the worse.

The conversation only really changes when there is a charity you want to donate to in memory of a loved one. Then yes, go ahead and donate! Tell people all about that charity! Spread the word! This does not even need to be done in lieu of favors. And you CAN choose to not have favors and not explain why. People shouldn’t be expecting favors every time they attend a nice shindig.

Another sentiment is that if you are donating to a charity that everyone already knows you support. For instance, if you are an animal lover. I have been known to be called a cat lady and I am proud. If I were to donate to the local paws organizations, people wouldn’t flinch.

These are just a few of my thoughts. It’s your special day so do whatever YOU think is best.


Ashley Douglass Events is a boutique events company, planning weddings, mitzvahs, social and corporate events throughout Connecticut and New York.  Years of experience in both design & coordination, ADE is the right wedding planner for detailed oriented couples. We are your project managers with a heaping dose of creativity thrown in the mix. Learn more by contacting us today at 917.748.6281 or click here for our short form.