The idea of gifts for the wedding party is almost a universal one. If you’re having a wedding party of any kind (best man, groomsmen, maid/matron of honor, bridesmaids, etc.), make a gift guide and buy them individual gifts!
Depending on the manner of gift being given, different names get used: “groomsman gifts” and “bridesmaid gifts” for more gender-themed ones, “wedding party gifts” if it’s the same theme for both sides of the aisle, and sometimes even misleading terms like “bridal gifts” and “groom’s gifts,” which are easy to confuse with gifts being given to the bride and groom. Whatever they may be called in your case, here are the essential types of wedding party gifts you should consider:
- Why give wedding gifts?
- Types of groomsman gifts
- Wedding attire-related gifts
- Functional gifts
- Decorative items
Why Give Wedding Gifts?
As if it needed to be said, why give wedding gifts? There are a few basic purposes behind all the various flavors of wedding party gifts:
#1 Gratitude – At the most basic level, you give a gift to show your thanks. Because being in the wedding party usually entails extra effort and expense, tradition dictates that it be a fairly nice gift.
#2 Memorabilia – A good gift is something to remind people of your wedding in years to come. Something that gets use on a regular basis is a more active celebration of your union than a simple photograph.
#3 Theme – Many times, the gift is part of the theme. Groomsmen at a Western-styled wedding might get Stetson hats or rodeo-style belt buckles, while groomsmen at an old-fashioned formal dress wedding might get canes or even sabers. It’s not required, of course, and lots of gifts work for any sort of wedding, but it is an opportunity to re-emphasize your theme.
Three basic strategies for selecting gifts
In this method, every member of the wedding party is given a specific, separate gift catered to their individual tastes. One groomsman might get a bottle of old Scotch whiskey for his collection, while another with an interest in cooking might receive a high-end frying pan. It’s ideal for small wedding parties where you know each member well, but harder to make meaningful when you’re working with relatives or friends-of-friends that you don’t know intimately.
#2 Bride/Groom Divided
Here you’re doing one set of gifts for everyone on the bride’s side and one set for everyone on the groom’s sides. The best man and maid of honor sometimes receive an extra, personalized gift as well in this system. This is the most common arrangement, though how much input the bride and groom have on one another’s gift selections can vary. You may be called upon to dovetail with hers, or left completely on your own.
#3 Wedding Party Gifts
Sometimes the gifts are gender-neutral and given to both sides of the wedding party, in which case they’re usually called “wedding party gifts” (or less commonly “wedding party favors,” which sounds a bit cheap and tacky) rather than “groomsman” or “bridesmaid” gifts. This can be the best solution for very large wedding
parties, but runs the risk of duplication if you have couples involved with one member on the bride’s side and one on the groom’s.
You’re usually balancing cost against meaning here. It’s cheaper to buy a set of identical gifts, but more flattering to provide personalized ones. Make the call that suits your side of the wedding party. If it’s two or three of your best friends, you can probably do a good job hand-selecting. If you’ve got some people you don’t know that well in there, and the party is getting kind of large, it might be time to start looking at the personalized hip flasks.
Types of Groomsman Gifts
It’s not required to give personalized or monogrammed groomsman gifts, but it is quite common. (That’s in part because it’s a cheap way to make each gift “individual,” even if the only difference is the monogram).
As a result, a lot of gift ideas that you’ll see online and in wedding supply catalogues are easily etched items like glasses and knives, or cloth items like handkerchiefs and duffel bags.
Loosely speaking, you can break the gifts down into three families: wedding attire or supplies, usable gifts, and decorative souvenirs. Consumables, usually in the form of high-end wine or liquor, are also occasionally given.
Wedding Attire-Related Gifts
These are gifts that are given with the assumption that they’ll be used in the wedding itself, or in the ceremonies surrounding it. Some of the more common examples include:
- Cufflinks – Probably the most common groomsman gift of all time! Cufflinks don’t have much going for them in the way of originality, but if your wedding party is going to be wearing French cuffs, they’re undeniably practical, and they keep everyone matching.
- Handkerchiefs/Pocket Squares – Make sure you know the difference between handkerchiefs and pocket squares! A pocket square is visible, worn in the outer pocket, and doesn’t get used for blowing your nose or wiping up spills. A handkerchief is hidden in an inner pocket and used for practical purposes. Either or both make good gifts, and are easy to customize. If you give pocket squares as gifts, they should be real and high-quality, not the little pre-folded squares with cardboard stiffeners.
- Neckties – Another good way to have everyone matching but give something they’ll use in their own lives as well. Of course, that only works if you give them good ties, and in a relatively sedate color/pattern combination.
- Watches – It can be expensive to provide several of these, but regardless which of the classic men's watch styles you opt for, they make good gifts. It’s worth keeping in mind that watches are not technically meant to be worn with formal attire. Lots of people break that rule these days so use your own judgment on that one.
- Tie Clips – Or tie chains, tie tacks, tie bards, etc. — some kind of small metal fastener is another easily-monogrammed gift that can be worn both in the wedding party and in day-to-day life.
Formalwear You Can Gift For A Wedding
- Men's Dress Shirts – A monogrammed white shirt is an excellent way to make sure everyone’s whites match (harder to achieve than you’d think), and it gives everyone a very useful take-home gift. Don’t stint on the material here. Get good, 100% cotton in a high-quality weave, and your groomsmen will be thanking you for years.
- Wedding Suits – For the truly high-ticket groom, you can give your party matching suits. This is obviously expensive (and shouldn’t be attempted if you’re just going to do the suits on the cheap). If you’re looking to give a gift that’ll last though, you can’t do much better than a plain, dark-colored suit.
These are the kinds of gift that aren’t used at the wedding. But, they will be practical for groomsmen in their day-to-day life. There are companies that exist solely to provide monogrammed groomsmen gifts. The base products usually aren’t very good quality though. In many cases, you’re better off finding a company that specializes in the actual product (eg. knives, glassware). Then, have them etched or stitched with monograms by a separate company.
- Luggage – It seems a little backwards to gift quality men's luggage after they’ve traveled to your wedding, but it does get done — and if you’re buying the good stuff, hey, they’ll probably use it. It’s sturdy, practical, and easy to monogram.
- Beer, Wine, and Shot Glasses – It’s a toss-up as to whether these or cufflinks are the most stereotypical wedding party gift out there. There’s nothing wrong with giving glassware, but it’s fairly generic.
- Beer Cozies – These little foam tubes you slip around beers. They’re so cheap it almost becomes funny, rather than just tasteless. Try not to have these be your only wedding party present though.
- Hip Flasks – Another common one, and another one that’s not super tasteful even if you get the expensive kind. Do you really want your wedding associated with “getting hammered on the sly” years down the road?
- Pocketknives or Multitools – The “manly” appeal here is obvious. A very thin knife with an elegant black handle makes a good gift. It’s something men can carry with their dressiest clothes when a thicker, more utilitarian blade would be out of place.
- Card Case-style Men's Wallet – Flat rectangular cases can carry tickets, loose change and more, making them a little more versatile than you might think.
- Electronics – A modern interpretationthat can be anything from Apple AirPods to an e-book reader or tablet computer.
These gifts don’t get much use, at the wedding or afterward. They’re meant to be looked at, rather than used.
It can be an optimistic endeavor. Is the gift really something your groomsmen are going to give a place of honor on their shelves? It’s not impossible to pull off, but it can be a challenge.
As with the other categories, quality goes a long way here. No one likes a cheap tchotchke, and one that doesn’t do anything is worst of all.
How To Gift Wedding Photos
- Photo Frames – Usually with a wedding picture in them, or given with the assumption that a wedding picture will be put in it once they’re developed and mailed. Good for older guests, but risky with 20- and 30-somethings, who may not display physical photos as much.
- Digital Photo Frames – The popular solution to the above problem: a small, framed screen that shows a slideshow of digital photographs. They’re nice gifts, but you probably shouldn’t assume that the recipients will reserve them entirely for your wedding photographs. Over time they’ll probably add their own. And, like all electronics, the gift will probably break down eventually.
- Commemorative Plates – A very old-fashioned sort of souvenir that’s creeping back into vogue, partly because new screening and 3D-printing technology is making on-demand production easier (and cheaper). Not all of your guests are going to know what to do with them. Consider throwing in some purpose-designed plate hangers/mounts if this is your gift. It still doesn’t guarantee that it’ll end up on everyone’s walls, but it’ll make it more likely.
- Trophies/Urns/Plaques – You can get these made at trophy shops, but it’s just going to be the same thing bowling leagues and elementary schools give out. Does anyone really want one of those with “Groomsman” and your wedding date etched on it? Probably not. This is a desperation gift.
Wedding Party Gift Guide – Conclusion
So out of that giant list of possibilities, what’s the ideal groomsman gift?
It all depends on you and on your groomsmen.
You’ll need to figure out how personalized you want to go. Ask yourself what sort of item you want to give.
Aside from that, it’s just a matter of matching the gifts to the theme of the wedding. That can mean anything from tasteful clothing items to sturdy, practical tools to novelty items.
Just remember to keep in mind what your groomsmen are doing for you. The more demanding your wedding, the better the gift should be!
Now gifts are important but they're not the only thing that will make a wedding a day to remember. Click here to discover my ultimate guide to wedding attire for men.