Wedding gift etiquette. It's a tough one and can sometimes be super awkward when you're not sure what's an old custom and what's the current requirement. So we're gonna give a little breakdown for you, though keep in mind, some of these you have to use your best judgement. There is not always a "right" answer for everything.
1. How much do I spend?
This totally varies. Are they a really close friend or family member? Are they someone you work with and don't know exceptionally well? Is there one or two of you attending? Are you doing well financially or are you 22 and just starting off on your own. All of these are factors. In general, you spend a little more on close friends and family than you may have to on a casual friend. But a range of $75-$150 for a single person to a couple is acceptable, and a gift from $100-$200 is acceptable for an older couple who is more well off and of close familial relationship. To give a gift determined by how much your dinner costs per person is just an old and silly rule. No need to spend $400 because you go to a fancy $200pp wedding!
2. I can't make the wedding - do I have to send a gift?
This one is your call, believe it or not. I think the common misconception is that you have to send a gift if you're invited to the ceremony. But the truth is, if you're not close with them, you can make the call if you'd like to send a gift. It is not mandatory. Sometimes sending a congratulatory card is nice. Really, the couple should consider who they're inviting before they send invites, because it does put pressure on a person to feel they need to send a gift.
3. It's a destination wedding and I am already spending so much.
Sorry, this does not automatically mean you don't have to give a gift. I know the costs add up - travel, hotel, bridesmaid dress, eating out, but it doesn't mean that you don't also give a gift. It 100% allows you to scale down immensely on the price of your item. Sending something small but thoughtful is the best way to go. And if you really can't find the extra money, send a card thanking them and congratulating them. They will at least know that you thought of them and it will be understood that you couldn't afford a gift as well.
4. Should I give off their registry?
I am married to someone who likes to go strictly from the registry. I personally hate to give gifts off it! I want to shop and seek something out that feels like "them", but my husband wants to make sure they get something they want (and then reminds me of gifts we didn't particularly love). My advice: go with your gut. But if you buy something off registry, include a receipt so they can always exchange it. As for cash, perfectly acceptable to give inside of a card. It's 2013. Everyone gladly accepts (and appreciates) cash!
5. Do I bring the gift to the wedding?
This depends on the location of the wedding. If it's a local wedding (to them!) and in their hometown, then yes, you can bring the gift. But if you are going to a wedding in your town and the guests are not from there, think of what a pain it will be to have to drive or send their gifts home. Bring a card or ship their present ahead of it. Same goes for showers. Feel free to ship the present if you know they are visiting from out of town.
6. I forgot to buy a gift, do I get a year after the wedding to send one?
Nope. Sorry to bare the bad news, but this is pretty unacceptable. I have yet to meet one bride who actually received a gift one year after their wedding from a friend who forgot. It is rude and inappropriate when you have known for so long about the wedding. The maximum time you get is 3 months to send a gift, or it's just not polite.
7. I'm a plus one - do I have to bring a gift.
Technically, no. But it is appropriate to talk to your date and offer to contribute to the gift. Chances are they will say no, but you should certainly make the gesture in case they were feeling like you should contribute since they asked you along. If you are the date of a sibling, then you should definitely give a gift! Especially if you are just a friend and invited to keep them company. The sibling won't be giving a typical gift, so make sure you contribute or give a gift of your own. At least give a card to the couple to say congratulations.
8. My whole family is on the invite, do I have to give my own gift?
If you're 20 or younger, probably not. But if you are 22 and living on your own (and especially if you're bringing a date!), then you absolutely need to bring a gift. You are an adult now and should show appreciation for an invitation in an appropriate manner. Feel free to spend closer to your budget, even if that means you spend $30 at Crate & Barrel.
9. It's the second marriage, do they need a gift?
Not necessarily. If it is a second wedding for both newlyweds, then you do not need to send a gift. You can and it is always appreciated, but it is not frowned upon if you do not. If it is the second marriage for one of them and you are friends with the first-timer, then yes, you should give a gift. If you are friends of the other spouse, it is polite since they are still starting a life with someone new, but it is not mandatory. You be the judge, as it should really be a judgement call on the couple, their needs and your relationship.
10. I'm the bride, how do I tell them where I'm registered?
This is one of those thank God for the internet moments, because you can put where you're registered on your wedding website. Where not to list it? Your invitation. It is definitely looked at as inappropriate to put where you're registered on your invite. If you would like to give your guests a reminder, you can include an insert that reminds them ti visit your website for complete details. Otherwise, it's up to your mom and family to spread the word. Don't worry, people will find out.
While you have to use a lot of circumstantial judgement on these tips, they are good rules of thumb to go by. When in doubt, send a small gift and a card. Everyone loves acknowledgment!