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One of the questions I get asked often is, when attending an engagement party, am I required to bring a gift? And if so, what should I bring?

Chances are, if you’ve been invited to the engagement party, you are most likely expecting a mailbox full of shower invites, possibly a bachelorette weekend, and of course the wedding itself. So bring a present to the engagement party too? What’s a gal to do?

When researching the topic a few years ago, I remember reading that traditionally, engagement gifts were given to the bride only, and often personal in nature (such as a piece of jewelry or a handkerchief). These gifts were from close relatives and friends.

I’ve always had my opinion of what to bring or not to bring to an engagement party, but I thought I would consult a few of my “sources” to give you some other food for thought on the topic of engagement party gifts. For my first source, I chose to consult Emily Post’s Etiquette, copyright 1950 (yes, I still have an edition that is fifty-plus years old, courtesy of my grandparents). I’m fairly certain that the engagement parties of today (generally at someone’s home, in a restaurant, or even a bar) were not the norm back then. On the topic of engagement presents, Emily Post’s Etiquette says, “it is not unusual for a bride-to-be to receive a few engagement presents sent by her very intimate friends or by members of her fiance’s family as special messages to welcome her — and as such are very charming. But any general fashion that necessitates giving engagement as well as wedding presents is rightly tabu!”  Hmmm. Sounds rather different than 2010, no?

On to my next source, Emily Post’s Wedding Etiquette, fifth edition, updated by Peggy Post. The advice here is the following: “In the past, engagement gifts were not obligatory or expected, and usually this is still the case. However, in many parts of the country, bringing a gift to an engagement party has become de rigeur… Ultimately, your decision whether to give an engagement gift depends on local custom, your relationship to the couple, and your budget… An engagement gift is really a good-hearted gesture of affection, and it need not be expensive or elaborate.”

My advice: if you feel inclined, and it is in your budget, go ahead and bring a small gift — but don’t feel that it is mandatory. You also don’t need to get something from the registry (the couple may not even be registered yet). What I often recommend (and do myself) is to bring the couple a nice bottle of champagne or wine. Another gift I sometimes give is two champagne flutes, and a thoughtful note. Of course, a beautifully written card is always a lovely gesture too.

This post was originally published on my first blog, Amy’s Guide to All Things Bride in March 2006. 

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