Wedding worries


My older brother just got engaged this year. I’m thrilled for him (really!), but I have no idea what to expect in the wedding. We’ve been super close since our parents passed away, and he’s normally the person I’d ask about what to wear and how to buy wedding presents, but I don’t want to stress him out. I’m a broke college student – what am I supposed to wear? How much do people spend on wedding gifts? Help!

First of all, congratulations to your brother – and to you, since you will be gaining a new member of the family as well. Your confusion is natural, but the good news is that weddings rules are not all set in stone, and you can expect to get some help from your brother. Let me explain.

Your first question was about attire. The tricky thing about wedding attire is that it depends on the wedding, but the good news is that you will get a big clue in the form of the invitation. While you are asking experts, your brother is dealing with them: people in the busy wedding industry, including wedding planners, venue owners, and the printers who will help him design the invitation. These pros have a lingo all their own, but it is easy enough to translate. Here are the types of attire you might see on the invitation:

  • Black tie: tuxedos, gowns
  • Formal/black tie optional: suits and ties, gowns
  • Semi-formal: suits and ties, cocktail dresses
  • Cocktail attire: suits, party dresses
  • Beach/garden party: summer suits, summer dresses
  • Casual: button-downs or polos, summer dresses or blouses and skirts

And if the invitation does not say? Well, experts say, the safest thing for you to do would be to go with a suit and tie. Wear a white dress shirt off the rack or invest in a custom-made men’s dress shirt. If you are not sure, be safe and ask your brother.

As for the gift, wedding tradition makes this fairly easy. Your brother and his fiance will most likely have a registry at a major store. Just check the gift registry and buy something (be sure to do so through the registry, so that others know you have claimed that particular gift idea). You can also simply give cash. Etiquette pros will advise you to opt for the registry instead of cash at pre-wedding events like bridal showers. Registries are not just for weddings, of course: you can set up Target gift registries for baby showers, for example.

As for how much to spend, that varies widely. The average American gives $160 as a wedding gift, but that does not have to be what you spend. It is likely that the registry will include items at various price points so that each guest can get something that they are comfortable with. And, again, you can always give cash.

If you are still nervous, remember that you are not alone. There are 2.3 million weddings in the United States every year!

“Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.” – Lao Tzu

Written by Nancy Pearson, President of Nancy Pearson Design.


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