Lol, Etiquette Snob here…
This really is a great Question overall, lets see if I can’t shed some light on the issue…
Guests are NEVER obligated to buy a Gift for the Bride & Groom when attending a Wedding… but it is a reasonable thing to do. Something to mark their new beginning as a couple, and help them out in married life. And a Wedding Gift is given from the heart… there is no such thing as too little or too big… you give what you can. (And there is no requirement that the value of the Gift Given should be more or equivalent to “covering the cost of your plate”… this is an often misguided idea). Wedding Gifts for the couple should be sent to the Bride’s Home or that of her Parent’s (usually to whoever is hosting the Wedding). Wedding Gifts can be purchased off the Bridal Registry if there is one, (ask the Bride’s Mother or one of the Bridesmaids for details) but this is not an obligation either … any gift given should be happily received (and acknowledged with a Thank You Note) by the Bride and Groom.
Shower Gifts are required… if one is invited to a Shower, the whole intention is to “Shower the Bride” with LOVE and Gifts. If one does not attend the Shower, then there is no obligation to provide a Shower Gift… but it is still a nice gesture to do so. Traditionally the value of a Shower Gift is less than a Wedding Present.
When in the Bridal Party it is not uncommon for members to combine / go in together for a larger gift for the couple be it for a Shower or Wedding present. BUT it is also perfectly ok for one to choose not to, and to give their own gifts for each occasion (such is the case, if one in the Bridal Party feels that the “chosen” group gift is outside of their own financial means… then it is ok to decline being part of the “group gift”)
The Bridal Couple should present members of their Bridal Party with Thank You Gifts for “standing up with them” on their Wedding Day. The Gifts given by the Bride to her Maids can be something they would wear at the Wedding (ie piece of jewellery) or can be a something else. Ideally, the Bride chooses something personal for each person, and doesn’t get everyone the identical thing if she is going the “not for the Wedding route”. These Thank You Gifts are typically presented during the Rehearsal Dinner, but in the case of the Bride, she may also do so at the traditional Bridal Luncheon (an event she Hosts for her Maids)
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OTHER GIFTS (Wedding Related)
The Bridal Couple MAY wish to exchange Wedding Day Gifts between themselves. This custom has become more popular in recent years. At one time, it was the Groom who more often than not did this, sending to his Bride a special piece of jewellery or a Love Note. Today often times the couple with exchange gifts, and Grooms are just as likely to receive a personal gift (watch, engraved cuff links, golf clubs) or a Love Note as the Bride is.
The Bridal Couple MAY wish to give gifts to their Parents as a Thank You for everything they’ve done. Again this is not necessary, but certainly gaining in popularity.
Family Gifts – If either of the Bridal Couple have young children, then they MAY wish to give them an extra-special gift to make them feel important in the festivities.
Favours for Guests – The couple MAY choose to thank their Guests by presenting them with Wedding Favours at the Reception. This custom finds its roots in various cultural traditions… such as boxed Groom’s Cake – Candy Almonds etc. Today favours can be quite elaborate “Gifts” many of them corresponding to the Wedding or Reception Theme. These however nice, are not a requirement.
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OTHER GIFTS (Not Wedding Related)
Gifts as Thank Yous – When someone Hosts a Pre-Wedding Event or helps out in a special way, then that effort merits a Thank You Note and a token gift. Possible gifts could include… Flowers, Wine, Gift Certificate for a Restaurant, Theatre or Show. If time is available, then a more personal thank you like taking them out to Lunch is thoughtful.
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As you are a Bridesmaid, it is worthy to note that in North America at least the custom is such that Attendants are responsible for their own Wedding related expenses, such as … Bridesmaid’s Attire including Dress, Shoes, Accessories, Hair & Make-Up (although some Brides may offset some of these costs) – Transportation to the Wedding City.
A well organized Bride will cover the following expenses for her Bridal Party… Wedding Accommodations (be that at a Hotel or elsewhere) – Flowers – Wedding Day Transportation (to the Church – to the Reception etc)
As well, you may be called upon as part of the Bridal Party to plan and organize a Shower.
I strongly suggest that anyone considering taking on a role within the Wedding Party that they familiarize themselves with all the requirements (both financial and in regards to time) BEFORE they make a full-blown commitment to the Bride or Groom
For more information on this and other Wedding Etiquette aspects it is worthwhile to consult a good Website or Book on the subject… the info I have written about above, is extensively discussed for example in a book like Peggy Post’s *Wedding Etiquette*
Hope this helps,