What you won’t find on the invitation is information about gifts. A wedding, as you may know from the movie Bridesmaids, is not a single-day event; there are oftentimes several gatherings before the actual big day, though most of these are reserved for relatives and members of the wedding party. If you're a friend of the groom's, it’s very possible you’ll just be asked to attend the wedding ceremony and reception – meaning you’ll only be expected to purchase a single gift. If you’re one of the bride’s friends, however, it’s likely you’ll be invited to the bridal shower and thus responsible for two gifts: one for the shower and one for the actual wedding.
A bridal shower is an event in which the female guests come together to celebrate the bride’s impending union and to pillage the couple’s Gift Registry site. Information about the registry is often included on the shower invitation, and as Jodi R. R. Smith of Mannersmith Etiquette Consulting explains, shower gifts “tend to be more of the everyday (toasters, sheets, towels, mixing bowls) and gifts given for the wedding tend to be special-occasion-oriented (china or crystal). Some showers are specifically for the kitchen (or the bedroom!).” If the shower does have a particular gift-theme, it will be noted on the invitation. Just remember that the bride’s mother and older, female relatives will likely be present, so don’t give anything so risqué that you’ll die from embarrassment should it be opened in public.
Gift giving on the actual wedding day is slightly more tricky. If you attended the bridal shower and have already given the couple an item from their Registry, then giving the couple money as the second gift is perfectly acceptable. There will likely be some sort of box at the reception for envelopes. Another option for bridal shower attendees is to give two gifts that function together within a theme, like candles for the shower and candlesticks for the wedding reception.
Physical gifts should be mailed 1-2 weeks prior to the wedding date. When brought to the actual wedding reception, gifts have a tendency to get lost or damaged. They’re also an added strain on the couple and their families who have to try to transport them all out of the venue. Attach a note with your first and last name and a message along the lines of:
“[Bride’s Name], I am just so thrilled for you and John. I look forward to celebrating with you next week. Best, [Your Name]”
If the prospect of purchasing 100 sets of crystal makes your wallet quake in fear, keep in mind that nobody is expecting you to shop out of your means. If there are no affordable items on the registry that speak to you, consider purchasing a Tiffany picture frame or making a donation to your shared alma mater in the couple’s honor. Advises Ms. Smith, “Follow the lead from the shower invitation or the wedding registry, but remember these are a guide. Invitations are not invoices.”