Should I open and use these wedding gifts before my wedding?

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We received our first registry gift (yay!) and the wedding is now two months away (eep!). The gift came wrapped, so we do not know exactly what it is, and we do know that the senders will not be able to attend the wedding. Is it okay to open the gift now, so we can write a thank-you note and send it out ASAP, or do we wait until the wedding to open it and send a thank-you? If we do open the gift early, is it bad form to start using it?I have browsed the Interwebz and come up with a a few different schools of thought on this.

  • The first is that you should open gifts when you get them so a thank-you can be sent out promptly, especially if the person giving the gift is not attending, and that it is probably okay to use them (with some debate on being able to use the gift).
  • The second is that you do not open gifts, and wait until after the wedding to open the packages, use the items inside, and thank the gift-giver.
  • A third school of thought is that you can open them, and “traditionally” the opened gifts would be displayed on a table in the house, but not used until after the wedding.

From what I can tell, the “not using the item until after the wedding” issue has something to do with bad luck, the couple possibly not making it down the aisle, and having to return gifts. Now I don't know what to do!

As with most etiquette issues, it's all a matter of opinion. We say:

  • YES you can open the gifts right away!
  • YES you can use the gifts right away!
  • AND YES, you should send a thank you card a immediately. Yes, before the wedding. We're obsessed with writing Thank You cards,

Oh and PS: if you need any help writing those thank you cards, be sure to check out this post:

Open it, use it, and write a card? Or wait patiently until after the wedding?

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Comments on Should I open and use these wedding gifts before my wedding?

  1. I was told that I should should definitely open and send a thank you ASAP so the sender knows it was received undamaged. As for using, well I had one gift giver say that she expected me to use a baking dish to bring something to her pot luck before the wedding, so…

    Use your own judgement. I got a set of drink ware that is complete and replaces our 3/8 set of juice glasses, so I went with it. I’m pretty sure with less than 6 weeks to go and having lived together 4 years already that we are going to make it down the aisle with very little trouble.

    • I second this, especially for things purchased online. Items get damaged in shipping, or sometimes don’t arrive at all. We have had some things arrive in boxes that look fine but inside they are broken- it helps to start the process of re-shipping an item earlier rather than later! And a promptly sent thank you is never a bad thing.

      If a person hands you a gift prior to the wedding… Personally, I would still open it and use it! It seems like a big compliment, to love a gift so much that you want to start using it immediately. But, if your judgement says no, than by all means, wait (if you can manage!!)

    • Agreed! Besides, I was married before and waited to open and use gifts, and the marriage still didn’t last. None of my superstitions worked, so this time around when I marry my true love I’m not going to worry about any of them!

  2. Technically, if you don’t get married, all wedding gifts should be returned. So in that sense, it makes sense not to take out of boxes and use any wedding gifts you get until after the wedding. The compromise seems to be the third option: open and write thank you cards, but don’t use. That seems kind of pointless to me, though I see the logic.

    I’d want to do thank you cards right away for people who couldn’t come to the wedding, so I’d open them. Heck, I’d probably use them too. That’s just me.

  3. I am torn as well. Our wedding is 3 weeks away and we started receiving gifts over a month ago. I am holding off on sending thank you’s because I’d like to send a broader thank you to folks for attending our wedding and sharing in our day as well.

    I did send TY to the women who attended the shower though, because that was a very special event and wanted to thank them both for attending and sharing in that day and for the gift that they gave.

  4. We’ve opened them immediately, sent thank-yous promptly, and then started using the gifts (or put them away where they will be used when we need them, like camping equipment). A big part of why we’re using them right away is that we have a tiny house, with no room to store/display gifts, whether opened or unopened. It would be impractical and horribly inconvenient to stack them in a corner to trip over or for the cats to cough a hairball onto. The easiest thing was just to put the gifts into their “regular” place right away. So, for instance, when we received a new toaster, it went in the pantry and the incredibly old toaster it was replacing went to the recycle pile.

    Are we inviting bad luck by doing this? Honestly, the wedding is less than 3 weeks away, and we have so many other last-minute details to worry about that mythical gift-related bad luck isn’t even on our radar!

  5. I opened mine and sent thank you notes as they came. It really cut down on the number of cards I had to do after the wedding. If I needed to use it, I used it. It never occured to me not to. And I think I would feel the same for gifts I give. I didnt buy it for you so you could not use it before a certain date!

  6. We defo opened gifts as we received them–too exciting not to–and sent thank you notes right away, so that people would know that things got delivered safely. No point in making them wonder. As Stephanie says, we didn’t have space to display so things were put into cupboards and for the most part used as needed (for the practical things).

    The only reason not to use gifts right away is that it’s true that if you don’t make it to “I do” gifts should be returned, so I guess it would be classy for anyone experiencing doubts to leave things in their boxes. However, it may be of limited value to spend a lot of time planning for the worst-case scenario…

  7. My parents purchased our entire set of dishes including pots and pans. I opened them so fast I didn’t even wait for FH to come home! I have hated my dishes for years and was really looking forward to these! Not to mention Martha Stewart pans!!! 😀 I don’t believe in luck….My parents also gave us permission to open them. We have one other gift that I need to send a thank you for that was not on our registry. The guest is an old friend of the family who lives very far away. We plan to send her a thank you ASAP.

  8. We waited. It was SO hard. But we waited to feel the excitement and ‘newness’ of just being married. It was like everything felt so new and shiny and I know my personality that I’d be less excited about something by the wedding came if I had already been making food on it, or using it on our bed, or whatever.

  9. You should at least open the gifts to make sure nothing is damaged. Etiquette then says not to use it till after the wedding since you’ll need to return it if you call things off. I think this is silly. By the time we were getting gifts, we were pretty sure we were going to go through with it! Plus, we needed that stuff! So yeah, we opened everything and used it and sent thank-you notes right away.

  10. Okay, so what if you get gifts early from people who ARE attending? Do you send them one thank you card for the gift and another for their attendance??

    • I am of the opinion that a guest doesn’t need a thank you for attending the wedding. You thank them in person, and you may (or not) give them a favor at the wedding. Isn’t that enough?

    • I wrote that we were excited to see them at the wedding and left it at that. We also thanked our guests in our programs, made a toast to them, and tried to speak to everyone there, so I think we did okay!

  11. Perhaps you could call the gift giver to let them know it’s been received. The giver might then explicitly say, “Go ahead and open it!” (and how cool would it be for them to hear your joy?!). If they don’t, you could thank them once over the phone and maybe ask, “Is it something that might have been broken during shipping?” Regardless of how the conversation goes let them know they can expect a thank-you note in the near future. I think they’ll then understand that said note will be sent with the majority.

  12. I would:

    Unwrap and open the gifts: you want to make sure they’re not damaged.

    Send thank you notes immediately: people will probably worry that you did not receive the gift.

    If it’s a check, cash it right away: waiting to cash a check can futz with someone’s bank account, and if you wait too long, you might not be able to cash it. If you’re me, you’ll lose the check if you don’t cash it immediately.

    Wait until after the wedding to use the gifts and spend the money… at least, assuming anyone would know: since it’s a wedding gift, you should wait until you’re married. It’s not like a birthday gift where you’re going to turn a certain age like it or not. However, if you’re having smooth wedding planning and your relationship isn’t feeling strained, and it’s not the kind of thing someone would notice, go for it.

    For example: If you cash a check, no one is going to know if you spend that money. If you receive a lovely throw blanket from a relative who visits you often, wait until after the wedding to display it in your living room.

  13. I would open it immediately, and send a thank you card right away if the person is definitely not attending the wedding. If they are/may attend, I’d hold off on the thank you card and give them a call/text/email to acknowledge the gift and informally thank them, but save the card to thank them for their attendance as well.

    I think it would be weird to send someone a gift a month in advance and expect them to just look at it until after the wedding. I think presents should be able to be opened upon arrival!

  14. Our only rule we’re following for wedding gifts is to send a thank you note before we use them. Otherwise, it’s fair game! We’re totes getting married, y’all, there will be no give backs. I don’t particularly rush to use something, and I guess I sort of have them on display in our guest room, but that’s really just because I haven’t figured out where to store some of them and want them to stay nice until we actually need them.

  15. We got the keys to our new (and first) apartment. Two days later was my bridal shower. We opened and started using everything. No sense unpacking a kitchen, only to put everything back into boxes in a month.
    If you have zero doubt that your wedding will go forward without a hitch, (and I hope that you do) then go ahead. No sense having them sit around.
    Wedding fits, we’ve been a little more hesitant about. But for the most part (ie dishes) we have gone ahead and started using them.

  16. We’re planning on openings gifts and writing thank-yous right away, but I think unless it’s vital, we’ll probably save using the gifts until after the wedding — I think it will be nice to have something to look forward to after the wedding and honeymoon other than the return to life as usual!

  17. Maybe if you’re afraid to open it, send a thank you saying we’ve received your gift and will miss you. We’re bursting with anticipation to open your gift with the rest AFTER the wedding? Personally, I’d open it and gush in a thank you card ASAP. But, I am not a believer in luck.

  18. Definitely open to check the item isn’t damaged, and if it’s electrical do a test run of all its functions to make sure it runs ok/has no external damage. If the person (or anyone who knows what they bought) isn’t coming to your house before the wedding then there isn’t anything to really stop you using the item. Though if it’s easily breakable I’d save it until after the wedding in case they intend to visit soon after or expect to see the item in photos.

    We used wedding photos for our thank you card designs so we couldn’t send them in advance. That proved useful since some presents bought online were followed by congratulation cards with giftcards/cheques/cash closer to the date. I wouldn’t send a formal card if theres any chance of a second gift arriving from them before/soon after the wedding date. Maybe a thank you email for now.

  19. Unless it’s a post-dated cheque, you can use it straight away (in my opinion)

    I would however save opening any cards until the day itself

    • our biggest problem was that the majority of cheques were addressed to Mr and Mrs S. or to us jointly (with either my maiden name or my new name). Before the wedding, no bank would consider accepting those cheques for deposit into my account, and we didn’t have a joint account. Waiting until after the wedding was the only option.

  20. If you are worried about/believe in bad luck, or are looking forward to an orgy of post-wedding unwrapping (or unpacking, if you go the pre-open but don’t use route), go ahead and wait. Also if you know the gift-giver is superstitious, it might be considerate to wait, or at least not mention it. If you have legit concerns about the wedding actually happening, yeah, leave stuff in the box and maybe book some time with a couple’s therapist ASAP.

  21. While we have space for the gifts themselves, we simply have no space for all the boxes. Also, about half our registry is for items we desperately need (and would just buy ourselves except we needed to fill up the registry – so we’re just making do with inferior things, like using a wooden teaspoon instead of a ladle when cooking soup).

    We got about four boxes before the bridal shower, which wasn’t too bad. I brought the boxes with me to the shower and opened them there along with all of the other shower gifts. When we got home, we put everything to use immediately and I sent out thank you cards that same week.

    For gifts received between the shower and wedding, we will open and put to use right away. We will also be marking a spreadsheet with the gift and name so we can thank them after the wedding. I want to wait until after the wedding so I can also include thanks for any special things someone may end up doing for us.

    We’ve lived together for the last 5 years, own a house together, share one car, have a dog together…At least in our case, I don’t think anyone would be offended by us opening and using gifts as they arrive.

  22. I’m still some time away from my wedding (1yr), but here’s my opinion.
    When my mom came back from visiting relatives overseas, she brought a wedding gift form one of my uncles with her. This was even before our engagement party. This was an easy one to say, please hold until we get into the full swing of this wedding thing.

    Because my FH and I live apart and don’t plan on moving in together until after the wedding, we would probably not use anything until then. But I will definitely open the gifts and start drafting the Thank You’s right away. Gets some writing out of the way, gives you a little pick-me-up from wedding stress, and you see if there was any damage in shipping.

  23. We opened immediately, sent thank you notes so the giver knew we received it but didn’t use any wedding gifts until after the wedding. We deposited any checks right away. I don’t think we ever really thought about it, since all the physical gifts came in so close to the wedding that it was easier to put them in a pile and not think about it.

  24. The week after we sent the invites out one of my dad’s golf buddies (who has said he isn’t attending) purchased one of the gifts on our honeymoon registry. I get an email when that happens but I’m not sure if he knows that or not. Should I send him a thank you note for that now? Or wait until we “use” the gift on the honeymoon? I just have no idea what to do.

    • I would guess that whether you thank him now or later will be totally understood. Maybe if you decide to send a thank you earlier you could mention receiving the notification just so he’s not confused?

  25. I have a question actually kind of related to this. What about when to open presents at wedding showers, hen parties, or at the reception? I am REALLY nervous about opening gifts in front of people…(I actually hid UNDER the tree to open my gifts during Christmas when I was little!) Is it okay to just wait till you’re in the privacy of your home to open them and make the thankyou-card lists and such? I already had my wedding..and I seriously had such a stigma about it, my inlaws and family “ushered away” our gifts to our honeymoon cabin so we could open them together later. It was really nice of them, but I still felt I somehow “cheated” my guests of the satisfaction of seeing my reactions to the gifts. I really hope I’m not alone on this! Thanks!

    • As a guest at showers I find the hours (ok maybe it’s only one, but it feels like a lot more) of present opening to sometimes be awkward and frankly they can get a bit long and boring. I appreciate a good thank you card much more than I appreciate hearing “oh wow, thanks! Present X from Allison, how beautiful!” I think as long as you have other things planned or going on at the party, shower, reception, etc. it’s fine to open them later. From my experience and talking to my friends in our mid-twenties, it is none of our favourite parts of the shower (though I am happy to be disagreed with). It seems to be more important to older family members more used to the tradition.

    • I’m in the same boat – I do not like opening presents in front of people. We are having a bare minimum of pre-events (no shower, no hen, etc) so should be able to avoid the “expectations” of gift opening. But if we did have those events, I think I would try to greet people personally, take their gift with thanks, and stash it somewhere out of sight. If anyone says anything, just say that you don’t want to have to rush it, thank them again, and point out the food table. Some people might feel “cheated,” but that’s on them, not on you. I might try to arrange a separate time to receive and open gifts from certain special people, but they’d be the ones to understand how I feel about presents in the first place.

    • I’ve told my sister (my MOH) that I really would prefer not to open gifts at my shower. Since my sister and my mother are planning an evening dinner for my shower, it should work fine. I just find it so, so boring to sit there and watch someone open presents, and I wouldn’t want to put anyone else through that.

      A friend of mine offered an alternative suggestion, which I may implement: what I like to call “round robin” present opening. Everyone sits in some kind of circle with their gift. They pass it to the person on their right, and everyone opens that gift. Gets the present-opening done in a matter of minutes, no one is opening their own present, and it’s a lot more fun for everyone, because who doesn’t like to open presents, even if they’re not for you?? You can pass out index cards or sticky labels and pens, and ask guests to write down who the present is from and attach the label to the box.

      I don’t believe you are ever supposed to open gifts at the reception itself.

  26. We’ve received plenty of gifts, including from people definitely attending the wedding. However, we opted to not have gift wrapping from our registries. Because of this, it’s weird to bring them to the wedding to display on the table. (That would be a pain anyways!) We also live in a tiny house, and would have no room to store these gifts AND house our wedding guests. Because of this, we have opened all of our gifts. I think it’s great, as we have used almost every one of them, even the ones the boy didn’t think we would ever use. They’ve made our house classier and more guest ready. Also, as an ‘Offbeat’ bride, I don’t necessarily believe in the bad mojo associated with using gifts. I also refuse to believe I am having 10 children because I broke a few ribbons at my shower. Those ladies tie those things difficulty on purpose, and my uterus is my own.

  27. We received our first registry items a couple of days ago, and like you, our wedding is 2 months away. Granted we have a Honeyfund, so technically there is no item to use, but the money we’ve received, we’ve put straight onto a prepaid Travel Money Card to use as spending money on our Honeymoon. We thanked the gift givers in person and told them that we would like to send them a thank you card from our honeymoon destination and this went down really well!

    It completely depends on what the gift is. If it’s useable before the wedding, why not use it? You could always send them a Thank You card now AND a Thank You card after the wedding telling them how much you’ve enjoyed using it.

  28. Here’s my two cents:
    I opened gifts so that I could send thank you cards. Not only does this get them to the gift-givers sooner, but there was slightly less of a pile to deal with after the wedding.

    We didn’t, however, begin using the gifts until after the wedding. Nothing to do with superstitions. For us, we’d been living together for so long, this was our version of setting up house together in the days after our wedding. It was nice to mark the occasion at home with each other in this silly, domestic way. It felt nice to have a sort of “fresh start.” We also officially combined the cd collection. That was a biggie. 🙂

  29. We got a few gifts when we had our engagement party, which we opened & sent thank you cards and have been using. My friend couldn’t make it so she sent us a few things- so unexpected & so kind and we’ve loved using the silverware & paring knives. Every time I use one of the things we were given, I think about the person who gifted us to it and it makes me smile.

  30. We live in a very tiny 1940s 700 sq ft house with seriously barely any storage, even for new items. Most of whatever storage we have is being used by everyday stuff, business stuff, back up supplies, and all the items we’ve collected as a couple for nearly 10 years now. Plus part of the garage is the FH’s “mancave” as well. We also didn’t want to use items right away until we moved into a better place after the wedding because as much we love our little house we need a more ergonomic space. So what we did what designate a storage area for wedding gifts specifically months ago in whatever space we could find in the tiny garage (or closet or whatever was available to use) and downsized/gave away unneeded stuff/held yard sales/etc and organized months ago to make room. We also had to make space for wedding projects and items for the wedding anyway. We turned our carport out back into an informal project space and storage area as well by nailing up painters sheeting around it and voila more space. Sure its ugly as heck and we can’t have any BBQs successfully but its a creative temporary storage solution. Now, say we had the space and was planning on staying in this house forever, it would make total sense to open up packages, start using the items and start sending thank yous right away to at least those who won’t be attending and maybe those who are if you have the time and want one less thing to do after the wedding, but it is a slight etiquette no-no, makes the situation sound presumptuous. But I do think its a good idea to at least take out items of the mailing boxes, store the items in their original packaging with a label of who sent it, and send thank yous to anyone not attending (everyone else you will see you in person, so if they worry about whether or not you received a package ok, that can just be inquired about in person anyway). This way you don’t have too much extra work to do before the wedding in lieu of thank yous. And if you are like us, bad at doing thank yous in a timely fashion (here it is Feb and we just sent out thank yous for Xmas gifts, ha!), it might alleviate that homework assignment even somewhat for after the wedding.

    So I’d determine if you have storage or not, and make the best judgement call for you and your family. Maybe asking the parents what they suggest doing and doing that.

  31. You’ll have so much to do after the wedding, be grateful that this loved one followed proper etiquette and sent a gift prior to the wedding.

    Open and send a thank you note now, and make sure your registry was properly updated (as a courtesy to other loved ones who may still be shopping).
    As for using gifts prior to the wedding, it’s a bit like letting your groom see the dress…that’s a matter of superstition or caution. If you have a breakfast emergency between now and the Big Day, and there’s a perfectly good toaster sitting in the hallway, it’d be pretty silly not to use it. Good luck!

  32. Send a thank you note now, while you’re thinking about it. But don’t open it until the wedding.

    My sister cancelled her first wedding, but used all her wedding and shower gifts before the day – so it was embarrassing explaining why she wasn’t sending them back, as she should have.

  33. Yup. Open that ish up. If I sent you something I want to know you got it and it wasn’t broken. Now using it….. I don’t really care as the giver but as a recipient I wouldn’t use it yet. If your blender was shipped direct from the store and I get a second blender without a gift receipt I might have to return yours. Can’t do that if it’s used.

  34. I opened gifts as they came in so I could send thank yous. Some of the gifts we actually ended up using in our wedding (dessert stands for instance) and the gift givers noticed and were so honored to see their thoughtful contributions being such a special part in our day 🙂

  35. Obviously, as people have pointed out, open presents to check they’re undamaged and at least acknowledge their safe arrival even if you send out more formal thank you cards after the wedding. As for using them: if it’s something you desperately need or would buy for yourself anyway, if you use it and the worst happens and you have to return it you could explain and ask the giver if you can return the money instead (if it was a registry item that you know the price of). They’d probably prefer that, as it means they don’t have the hassle of returning it to the shop to get their money back. Or buy an identical item to return – after all, if you were going to buy it for yourself anyway it’s basically no different if you return the one you bought or the one they bought. Clearly this works better for certain things – like if you were going to buy that cheap new toaster anyway if no one had got it for you. Something more unique is different, but then that’s the sort of thing that’s easier to hold off using for a few months.

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