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!

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!

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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.

  11. I never realized that a gift was supposed to be linked to financial contribution. When I was married before, my parents were not able to contribute anything money wise, but I still got them a gift just like we gifted the wedding party. I didn’t break the bank (my mom got a necklace similar to the ones the bridesmaids got and my dad got a personalized accessory that relates to his favorite hobby) but I wanted to give them something because I love them and they are awesome. If you want to get them something, do it. If you don’t, I don’t think it is a requirement.

  12. We got them embroidered personalized handkerchiefs from etsy shop EmbroideredStitches. The $100 for 4 may have been the best money I spent on our wedding. Those of us who look at wedding blogs may think this idea is “overdone”, but the tears in all of their eyes and their utter gratitude said otherwise!

    For the record, our parents did help contribute. But I would have gotten these even if they didn’t. As a previous poster said, your parents are the ones who have (hopefully) supported you in many ways through your entire life. I think that deserves a little recognition during one of the biggest milestones of your life. My personal opinion – not knocking anyone who thinks differently.

  13. You NEVER- in any situation-HAVE to give a gift. That being said, you also don’t HAVE to visit your crazy aunt when you are in town, but if you don’t , you’ll get a phone call.
    My hubby and I had a very small, private, cheap wedding that we paid for ourselves. At the rehearsal dinner (re: drinks at the bar after setting up for the day) we gave each set of parents a basket. In each was: a thoughtful, hand written letter; a bottle of champagne (of the type they had at their wedding); some champagne flutes; a frame with our invitation and an empty slot for a wedding photo. None of that broke the bank- most of it was from clearance racks and craft closet stuff. Less than $100 for the whole shabang. And in return? We got weepy, grateful parents instead of parents who were resentful that we didn’t “let” them help.

  14. I don’t like the idea of buying someone a gift because I’m required to. I did get our parents gifts, but because we wanted to.
    Our parents helped in small ways financially, but in big ways emotionally. We gave both sets of parents a picture frame with an engagement photo in it with a custom mat that a calligrapher on Etsy had written the lyrics to our first dance on. Then for the following Christmas we gave them custom printed photo albums. Neither was prohibitively expensive AT ALL but since we have maybe a handful of nice photos of us together as a couple from our ten year relationship (I really can’t explain why we just never take pictures of ourselves) it was nice for them to have that.

  15. Financially we could not afford to buy presents for our parents/helpers. However post wedding we do intend to send family members gifts in the form of wedding pictures and then non family member helpers will received a gift certificate in their Thank You card from the wedding.

  16. We paid for our wedding ourselves, but we gifted everyone who helped out in other ways a gift. They were things we purchased, but we put a lot of thought in to them. We had a custom made necklace for one of my sister’s in law, the other sister in law got some hand made earrings that look like fairy wings, my mother in law got a necklace we found at the Swarovski store (that just luckily happened to be on sale), we got our dad’s drinking horns that they loved and wore with pride the day of, and my mom I got a silver jewelry box from Things Remembered. I didn’t want to get my mom’s gift from there, but she is so hard to buy for. Her tears and thanks were more than worth it though.

    As has been mentioned above, our mom’s brought us into this world and raised us. Our dad’s have helped both of us through lots of things growing up. They all supported us one way or another growing up and in our relationship together. We personally felt that should be recognized.

    More than anything though it was so much fun giving the gifts to everyone. Not only did they not expect to get anything, but were thrilled we put so much thought into the gifts. My sister-in-law squealing like her 6 year old daughter at the fairy wings, and both of our moms crying over theirs. More than anything else, that made it worth it.

    That being said, do what YOU want and where your heart leads you. A heartfelt thank you and a big hug goes a long way too. This was what we wanted and it was worth it.

  17. I had no idea that was even something that was done…hmmm now in wondering what else I may be missing. My in-laws are supposedly hosting the rehearsal so we bought them an expensive frame and placed one of professionally printed images from our engagement shoot in them. Collectively that was a $120 gift. We have them it before the rehearsal because we plan on gifting them wedding pics for Christmas so wanted to buffer that with time.
    Now that I think of it I did do parent gifts for my first wedding, I bought the FIL a barometer clock thing that was really cool (around $75) and some jewellery to match the bridal party for the MIL. But they contributed financially.

    So what do you do when in my current I stance the MIL and FIL are divorced and the FIL has gifted money to help the wedding but the MIL and her spouse haven’t? Do we buy something for FIL?

  18. My mum helped a lot with the wedding practically and financially. My dad was unable to because he was ill. My in laws couldn’t afford to help financially but also didn’t seem very interested in being involved in planning but then again my husband has a difficult relationship with them and didn’t ask them for their opinion like I did with my mum. We didn’t do parent wedding gifts but we got married in November and for Christmas that year we gave each of our parents a canvas made from our wedding photos. It felt wrong to pick and choose who to give a present to based on how much money they had given us and it also felt wrong to buy my mum a big expensive gift, since if we had that kind of money we would have spent it on the wedding so she didn’t have to! Focus on sentimental gifts rather than expensive ones.

  19. We got married in a local woodland that is very sentimental to my husband and I. For our wedding gifts, we got a local craftsman who makes handcrafted mushrooms to make gifts for our family and close friends out of wood from the woodland. He crafted mushrooms in twos entwined in each other with our initials and 2012 on the bottom. They were not expensive but very beautiful and highly sentimental. Our family loved them. (We also got a bigger one made for ourselves which is pride of place on our mantle-piece 🙂

  20. Honestly, I think that even if they didn’t contribute or you can’t afford to get them a physical present, a written letter or thank-you card is the best gift you could give them. Gets ’em all sappy.

  21. Uh… while they didn’t contribute to your wedding, they made sure you didn’t die on the streets or end up in an orphanage. I think it’s a gift of appreciation for raising you to begin a new life.

  22. Wait a second…you’re supposed to give your parents gifts? This wedding thing is going to be harder than I thought. 🙁

  23. If you’d like to thank your parents (or anyone else for that matter) with a gift, what about a charitable contribution in honor of them? If you don’t have money to donate, pick some place you can donate a few volunteer hours.

  24. Neither of our parents (all divorced) were at all involved in the wedding planning or financially and we did not have a special gift for anyone. That being said we also did not do traditional bride/groom gifts, a wedding party, rehearsal dinner, limo, etc. all of which we did not have the budget for. Everyone did get really nice favors of homemade honey from our bees as a thank you for coming!

  25. Both sides of our family are dirt poor. My mom lives in a trailer without a flush toilet and my father in law is unemployed while he cares for his dying mother. So, needless to say, no, they didn’t financially contribute. We paid for their attire as gifts and gave everyone a place to stay and food to eat for the weekend. We were happy that they could make the trip to attend the wedding at all, being that they all live 1000-2000 miles away. Traveling to a wedding can be super expensive and not to be huffed at because everyone else is doing it.
    Withholding gifts to the people that gave you life because they didn’t give you wedding money is like saying their only contribution to your life is monetarily based. Every family does what they can and I think if you can afford it yourself then it’s a kind gesture.

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