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The New Rules of Virtual Wedding Gifting

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There may be no Champagne, no breaking of the glass and no first dance. So do virtual wedding guests still need to give the happy couple an expensive wedding gift? After all, you didn’t even get treated to a meal, let alone a single glass of wine.

If you can afford it, you should still give a wedding gift, said Keith Willard, who owns an event planning business based in South Florida. But he cautions couples to keep their expectations low. “I’ve warned couples that they might not get a gift at all, and if they do, expect it to be about 25 percent of the original amount,” he said, referring to pre-Covid times when weddings were in person.

Michael Apuada, 43, a physical therapist, and Brian Tremont, 46, who works in finance, kept their gift expectations low when they married this past June in their Chicago condo, with 200 people watching via Zoom.

“Originally, we felt people would have given less because it was a Zoom wedding, and there was not a dinner and celebration party,” Mr. Apuada said. But he was surprised when most people gave a generous gift, averaging $150 per couple.

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Not everyone will be so lucky.

Mr. Willard attributes the change in gift giving in part to coronavirus-related financial issues, which also give wedding guests an excuse not to abide by what was normal and customary before the pandemic, where he saw gifts ranging in price from $150 to $500 per person. In addition, while checks were common for in-person weddings, today’s Zoom couples are receiving monetary contributions for their online registries, which tend to include options to contribute to the honeymoon, plane tickets or dinners, Mr. Willard said.

Elaine Swann, a lifestyle and etiquette consultant based in the San Diego area, suggested that guests continue to choose their gifts depending on how close they are to a couple.

“Despite the fact that it’s virtual rather than in-person, the gift should be the same,” Ms. Swann said.

The adage that you should gift the couple the same amount that they’re spending on you as a guest hasn’t applied in decades, and it shouldn’t apply to Zoom weddings, said Jacqueline Whitmore, the founder of the Protocol School of Palm Beach in Florida. The wedding cost and style, she said, should have nothing to do with your gift. Whitmore likes to gift from the registry; if the couple isn’t registered, she sends a gift card.

But how about the virtual bridal shower? While etiquette experts agreed that it should remain the same cost-wise, the type of gifts have changed, said Kurt Perschke, the chief executive of Web Baby Shower, an online baby and bridal shower service based in Asheville, N.C.

“Virtual shower gifts tend to be more on the practical side of the gift spectrum,” Mr. Perschke said. “Sentimental and keepsake gifts are more common at in-person events, where seeing a gift received is part of the experience.”

Popular in-person bridal shower gifts tend to include framed photos, scrapbooks and even gag gifts like massive wine glasses and adult games, Mr. Perschke said. Today, he’s seeing many more linens, China and flatware, in addition to digital gifts such as universal spa e-gift cards and adventure weekend experience gifts.

The costs of these shower gifts have stayed the same, he said, ranging, on average, from $25 to $75.

But don’t expect to spend as much — or even anything at all — on engagement gifts. Melissa Imberman, the owner of the New York-based event planning company the Event of A Lifetime, said engagement parties — and the gifts to accompany the parties — were becoming less popular even before the pandemic.

What if someone happens to have a virtual engagement party?

“Skip engagement gifts altogether and just send a heartfelt congratulations via video chat,” said Marie Kubin, the chief executive of Rent My Wedding, a rental company based in Miami.

So the engagement gift may be one to mark off your list, but you still need to be cognizant of the timeline for sending the other presents.

Etiquette says you have two months post events to send your gift, though if the event is postponed, it’s still encouraged to give a gift based on the original date, said Brittny Drye, editor in chief of Love Inc. magazine, which is based in New York. With postal delays, it’s best to send earlier rather than later.

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