Did you buy your parents a gift if they didn’t help contribute to the wedding?

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Hell yeahFor those who financed their weddings themselves (AKA no parental financial help, or help from anyone other than you and your beloved), how did you go about gift-getting for your parents? Did you even give gifts to your parents? If so, was it something sentimental, bought, or otherwise?

I have no plans on buying any of our collective parents anything for the wedding. I'll probably gift them something with our portrait on it afterwards, but according to one article read, we're not required to buy our parents anything since they did not financially contribute to the wedding at all (they do have to travel there but everyone else has to also).

I'm curious to get some other input on this issue!
-Caroline

If they have been helpful in particular ways or if you want to recognize their contribution to your life (great parents are worth thanking!) then some gesture might be nice. No, you don't have to give them a gift. But it is a nice thing to do. It doesn't have to be super expensive. It could even be just a nice dinner together. We're always a fan of any opportunity to give gifts, but usually tend toward sentimental gifts that are high on emotional impact, low on cost.

But as we always say when it comes to etiquette — everyone's got an opinion, so let's hear 'em!

Comments on Did you buy your parents a gift if they didn’t help contribute to the wedding?

  1. Everyone that helped us even a small bit, including helping set up and break down or letting us borrow something got a gift from us. Most of the gifts were homemade liqueur or other homemade goods.

  2. We did everything ourselves, but in the end, it’s our parents who gave us our start in life. So we got each of them a particular little gift, just a little something personal, before the wedding. And at the table where we had our favors arranged at the high tea/reception, there was another bowl with extra gifts for our parents and our best man and maids of honour: each gift held a bisque floral trinketbox with a little square of my weddingdress’ fabric inside (It was a weird color, so it just seemed like a fun thing to add). It was silly and sentimental, but it’s been five years and we still spot those little boxes in a place of honour in their homes. It makes me blush every time. 🙂

  3. There are more ways to contribute than financially. We bought our bridesmaids and ushers presents and they didn’t contribute financially! (In the UK, the bride usually buys the bridesmaid dresses, for example, so they didn’t have that expense, but we still bought them gifts. And just using this as a point of comparison of people it’s “usual” to buy gifts for. Clearly $$ isn’t the only issue.) I think if your parents have been supportive in the run up to the wedding then a gift would be appreciated. Our parents did both give us some money but I think we would have given them gifts or cards anyway, because the stuff like my mum coming with me to dress fittings, my dad selflessly driving 2.5 hours just to pick up our honeymoon luggage so we didn’t have to worry about it, my now-father-in-law picking up my wedding dress for me when I couldn’t get to the store, were also really valuable and appreciated.

  4. I’ve been wondering about this myself. Due to both financial and geographical limitations, my parents haven’t helped with the wedding. So do we get them a gift? Making it a bit more complicated, and potentially costly, my parents aren’t together, so it would have to be two separate gifts. Also, my parents are notoriously difficult to get gifts for owing to lack of interest in alcohol or any giftable hobbies. Anyway, we won’t be giving them a gift at the wedding, but post-wedding I would like to have a wedding picture printed and framed for them. I at least know they’ll like that, probably more than anything I could think to give them pre-wedding.

    • I think it really depends on your parents. My dad actually sometimes scowls when handed a wrapped gift. There used to be a short list of “safe” things to get him, but that list has gotten smaller and smaller over the years. I’ve regretted it and felt awful the last few times I gave him something (and I’m a clever gift giver who thinks hard about gifts). I’ve also had gifts flop with my partner’s family and my partner couldn’t think of anything / see the reason for gifts. We thanked our parents at our wedding reception and sent them special thank you cards after the wedding.

      As much as I think it’s great to give gifts, I know personally that it doesn’t work for everyone. I love the idea of taking parents out to lunch sometime shortly after the wedding, even though that wouldn’t have worked with my parents either. Different families are different!

  5. I personally feel like if your parents are in any way involved, then it’s nice to get them a gift. There are lots of ways to contribute to a wedding, not just financial – there’s the emotional support, planning and logistics, and just good old fashioned grunt work to help pull the whole thing off. If your parents were distant and uninvolved, or not particularly supportive of your partnership in general, then a gift might not feel necessary. But to me, the gift is not only to say thank you for wedding-related help, but also to mark the occasion for them because it is a big moment in their life too!

    Our parents helped us finance the wedding, but we would have got them a gift regardless – more for thanking them for everything they had done for us in our lives up until this big moment for us, for generally being supportive of us in starting our new life together, and for the opportunity to give them something to mark the occasion. For each of our sets of parents we gave them a nice professionally framed portrait of us + their specific family unit taken at the wedding. Along with that, we made wedding memory books for them. These were sort of like scrapbooks that had wedding pics and all the details from the wedding in them (things like the invitation, their RSVP that they sent us, the program, copies of the readings from the ceremony, lyrics from the songs that were performed, the menu, etc). It was was a low-cost way to do something really personal, show them how much it meant for us for them to be involved and present for us.

  6. My parents financed our wedding, but we didn’t do gifts. I remember bringing it up and they independently (they’re divorced) said no gifts for them, because we didn’t have good jobs and for them me getting married was just the bee’s knees. Each family is different, and the gift doesn’t have to be a “thanks for paying for my wedding” gift. It could be a “you are an awesome parent” or “thanks for your emotional support and advice” gift. Or just give them an excellent son/daughter in law 🙂

  7. We paid for our wedding ourselves, but my side of the family was VERY involved in helping with all kinds of stuff leading up to the wedding. We gave both sets of parents and all living grandparents small photobooks of like ~25 of our favorite wedding photos. I think we used Picaboo, it wasn’t very expensive. Then we wrote them each a personal note in the front cover. Everyone seemed to really like them.

  8. I think it depends on the relationship rather than the financial contribution. I like the sentimental ideas people are sharing. I’d love to have a reason to do something like that.

    Still, it didn’t even occur to me to buy them gifts. My dad hasn’t been a part of my life. He’s the only surviving parent between the two of us.

    He told me at my step sister’s wedding (which he paid for and was very active in) that he was glad he didn’t have to do anymore “wedding stuff” for a long time. My wedding being less than a year away I got the message loud and clear (it wasn’t the first or only such comment).

  9. o.O I’ve never even heard of gifts for the parents and my wedding was nearly three months ago… Are gifts for parents common???

    • I was just about to post the same… I was supposed to do this? OOPS! They didn’t pay for the wedding at all (we were 36) but I had no idea I was supposed to gift them. Doh!

      • I’m starting to feel bad now because my parents paid for nearly the whole wedding! I’ll have to think about this now… Maybe an album?

  10. Hmm, I did not get my parents a gift and they DID help financially. We took them out for a fancy lunch when we got back from our honeymoon, though–and they got a complete wedding album that I made for them for Christmas, as well as several framed enlargements. I think it depends on the parents–I’m pretty sure our ways of thanking them were what they wanted. Other parents would want different things, I’m sure. As in all cases, know your giftee probably is the best advice possible here.

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