Jewish Wedding Gift Etiquette
What to gift and what not to gift.
Lag B’Omer is upon us which means Jewish wedding season is about to begin. That means gifts. Your presence at their wedding is not what’s important. They want gifts from you. That is why they’re inviting you. So, you better make sure your gift is good.
To help you decide what to get the happy couple, I’ve done some research and I can state authoritatively that this is what the Jewish newlyweds expect you should buy them.
The Expected Gifts
Different countries have different policies. Middle Eastern people work off the cost of the event and Western countries work off the idea that you have no choice; Jewish or not, they want you to buy them a washing machine.
How Much You Eat
In Israel, you are supposed to give money equal to the amount you ate. I can’t afford that. The last wedding I was at, I found myself itemizing my gift: “I didn’t eat the steak. The rice was dry. Before I came, I ate at the Falafel King. Here is three dollars. Use it for the down payment.” I walked out of that wedding very hungry.
Depending on the country, you may be able to get away with less on the how much you eat method. In India, where they serve everybody out of one huge pot, ten dollars may be enough. In the US, where you are paying for a plated dinner, the hall, the band, and whatever vacations they want to take for the next year, the investment of being a guest could run you twelve hundred dollars a person. Buffets are helpful, as you can siphon more food, with the assumption that someone else took it.
You don’t get to choose. They just tell you what to get them. This effectively means that the new couple doesn’t trust you. Face it, you don’t have the best taste in ottomans.
Some may think this is Chutzpah. On the contrary, it’s quite nice. This way, you know what you have to put down before committing and investing your time on the occasion. It’s almost as if they are sending you a bill along with the invitation in the mail. The last invitation I received came with a note of, “Only gifts of a hundred and twenty dollars or more. We have enough challah covers. We would love for you to come to our wedding. Buy us an oven.”
If you really care, you will get them a kitchen. All appliances. You don’t even have to look at the registry. It is there. Trust me. It is expensive and they want you to pay for it.
Be careful with this option because it has to be a lot.
It has to be equal to the amount of the gift for the suggested retail price. You can’t expect them to be able to find the same deal that you found of $12 for soap that is on a rope.
Jewish Gifts You Should Get
Thankfully Jews still have the option of going rogue and buying whatever they think the happy couple will enjoy. Even if it will make them unhappy. The reason? We can’t give up the thrill of finding a bargain.
The Challah Cover
I have seen this given at every Jewish wedding. Being that this is the size of a washcloth, the bride and groom will assume it is cheap. Be sure to leave the suggested retail tag on it. This way they know you also put thought into the gift when you found it on sale. If you enjoy gloating, you can leave the sale sign on there; they may be disappointed that you didn’t spend that much on them but they will get naches from your good mitziah (bargain). I found a great shirt at Marshall’s. Only five dollars. Great deal. I couldn’t not share.
They got five already. But let’s not forget Pesach. To round out the full Friday night Shabbat experience, you will want to get candle holders. Nobody buys Kiddush cups, as the silver on those is too expensive. You would even be able to leave the sale price on the Kiddush cup and still look good.
A non-electric candelabra that you can use for eight days a year. Remember, it’s a good idea to equip the newlyweds’ home with Judaica and gifts they can use in seven to eight-day spurts. A seder plate is also a great gift that they can use once a year.
Anything Jewish. We don’t buy the breakfront. We buy the siddur to put in the showcase. The breakfront was in the registry. We make the registry meaningful, and that costs less. You can buy a mezuzah for the doorpost. Don’t purchase the parchment that goes in the mezuzah though. Those are too expensive and there are no deals on those. Bed Bath and Beyond doesn’t sell those either, so they won’t be in the registry.
That’s a gift they can use in forty years. Along with that, a nice gift is a retirement package with a pension and Medicare.
Work your tzedakah obligations, get a tax exemption and give a wedding gift, killing three birds with one stone.
Do not say the donation was “in memory” of anything. Many people make the mistake of writing that the donation was “in memory of the wedding of…” Chances are it will end in divorce, but you don’t want to be blamed for that.
Gift card to Marshall’s
Now that they are living on a budget, this is where they will be shopping.
Parting Words: Don’t Invite Me, Please
I don’t have enough money to be a guest.
A disclaimer: You are not getting a gift from me. Do not invite me to your wedding. Do not invite me to your engagement party. Do not invite me to your birthday party. If you are graduating, mazel tov, do not invite me. You are getting nothing from me. You all expect too much nowadays with your paperless invites. Here is an idea. If you know what you want, why don’t you buy it yourself?! We can skip the wedding ceremony, I can enjoy myself and you can save the money you spent on the overpriced schnitzel, which I priced at five dollars.
If you are celebrating in India, I will be there.
I hope this helps you decide on what you will get the happy newlyweds this wedding season.