Most people don't give engagement gifts -- and etiquette mavens say you don't have to do so. Some close family members may give a gift; in some regions of the country, it's becoming more of a custom to take gifts to a formal engagement party. One frequently offered bit of advice to those invited to an engagement party and don't know what's expected: Discreetly ask the host in advance or check in with a local wedding planner.
Thoughtful hosts can avoid the problem by throwing a party at which the couple formally announces the engagement. When guests know in advance that they'll be attending an engagement party, some probably will bring gifts. The couple should wait until after the party to open them. That way, those who -- quite properly -- didn't bring gifts won't feel awkward.
Showers are different. The whole purpose of those events is to "shower" the bride or couple with presents. In fact, opening gifts is the highlight of the party.
Everyone who is invited to a shower should also be invited to the wedding, with the possible exception of workplace showers. And yes, guests are expected to give a shower gift as well as a wedding present. The key is to remember that the shower gift is supposed to be less expensive. One way to tackle the problem is to figure out how much you can afford to put into a gift, total. Then spend 15 to 20 percent of that amount on a shower gift, and the rest on the wedding gift.
Some showers have themes such as kitchen or lingerie, which can help narrow the choices. Others keep costs down by asking guests to bring something inexpensive or homemade such as a favorite recipe.
Brides should avoid putting the same people on the guest list for more than one shower. Close relatives and wedding attendants who are invited to multiple showers don't have to bring gifts every time, although they may choose to bring some small token.
Read on for tips on how to deal with the big item: the wedding gift.