As we enter our fifth wedding season at our charming, historic farmhouse and barn, it’s time to tackle the subject of wedding gifts. There are some “traditional rules” that we need to help couples and their guests dispel forever — with the help of etiquette experts — and some common sense guidelines we know our newlywed couples would applaud their friends and family for thinking of before arriving on their big day.

  1. Spend Based on Your Connection to the Couple, Not the Price of Your Plate.

Officially, according to Emily Post’s daughter and etiquette expert in her own right Lizzie Post, the old rule about needing to give newlyweds a wedding gift that is twice the price of the meal that you enjoyed at their reception is not only bogus — it was always nothing but a myth.

“Your gift should always be within your personal budget,” Post recently told CNBC. “You decide that based on your connection to the person getting married, your own gift-giving style, desire and generosity in that moment and what’s feasible for you to do.”

The experts at modern wedding registry site agree, saying that the new (maybe even timeless) rule is to start out with a budget of $50, go up to $75 for a coworker or acquaintance, up to $100 for a relative or friend, and up to $150 for close friends and immediate family.

  1. Buying a Group Gift Is Always a Good Idea — Especially One With a Theme.

Another great idea for wedding gifts is to pick items from the couple’s registry with a theme in mind, like gathering up all their kitchen utensils into a mixing bowl — or, if you’re in the wedding party or part of a cohesive group of attendees like college friends, etc., consider pooling your resources to give them a big-ticket wedding present from their registry (like a grill) or donate as a group to cover their honeymoon fund (or part of it, like one bucket list experience for them to enjoy in their first year of adventures together as a married couple).

Some additionally clever ideas for a really large group, suggested by modern blogs and domestic doyenne Martha Stewart alike, are brainstorming and gifting the couple with a Year of Date Nights (12 smaller, fun-filled, experience-driven gifts) or contributing to the cash fund for a passion project, like a fixer upper home renovation.

  1. Do Your Best Not to Bring the Gift to the Actual Wedding.

 At Hardy Farm, we have lots of couples who travel here from out of town — even from outside the country — to celebrate with us. Nothing says love and thoughtfulness like not making your friends or family schlep more things home with them, along with all of the other things they had to pack just to make this wedding happen — and not making them stress/worry about gifts getting lost in the whirlwind of their big day. Experts suggest sending your gift to the couple prior to or just after the event so that the newlyweds can just enjoy the experience of being here and being present with their nearest and dearest. (That’s you!)

Cash is always encouraged and helpful to newlyweds, but if the thought of that makes you nervous or squirmy then consider giving a gift card to a home store the couple frequents, then gift a credit voucher for travel and experiences like Airbnb or Groupon, a membership in a monthly wine club, or a gift card to websites built for modern newlywed couples — especially those who have already lived together — like ThirstyNest, the first wedding registry for wine, spirits, and entertaining at home.

  1. Do Your Best Not to Go Off-Registry with Your Wedding Gift. 

Much more than just a catalog, wedding wishlists aka registries are something that most couples put a lot of time, energy, and thought into creating. We get it, especially at large weddings or weddings where the couple is from different areas of the country, there may have been more than one party at which gifts were given before the wedding or more people giving gifts than there were items on the registry.

If you find yourself in that position, it’s totally fine to just gift the couple a gift card to the home store or website where they created their registry — or if you just feel the need to add a creative touch, give them an item from their wedding registry but add a personal touch like a favorite cookbook with bookmarks for go-to recipes along with the roasting pan the couple actually requested.

  1. Don’t Overthink It — A Thoughtful Card is Always Copasetic

At the end of the day, the biggest thing to remember is that a nice card with a thoughtful or sentimental note will always be cherished and remembered fondly. If money is an issue, you can always include a message that says “a donation has been made in your honor” to a charity that’s close to the couple’s heart, but without disclosing an exact dollar amount. The New York Times reported that more and more couples are asking for charitable donations to their favorite causes in lieu of wedding gifts — most recently, even at the Royal Wedding!

Don’t stress about “having a year” to send a gift. There is no rule of etiquette anywhere that says a wedding gift is mandatory, especially if it’s not feasible for you financially — and especially not if you’ve already been invited to the engagement party, shower (or two), and/or the bachelor/ette party. Most modern couples know that just having you here to celebrate with them is a gift, that’s why they invited you to be here with them on their big day!