Exchanging and returning wedding gifts

Sometimes it may so happen that you will have to exchange or return wedding gifts. When and if the occasion does arise, what does etiquette dictate you do?

Exchanging gifts…

In the case of duplicates, or even an item you don’t really foresee yourself using, suiting your d├ęcor or in line with your taste, you could discreetly exchange it for something more appropriate. As long as you keep the tag on the gift and/or the original packing from the store, most stores will exchange the item without a problem. If the item is not a duplicate but still something you’d like to exchange as you don’t need it, you should probably refrain from doing so if it is from a close friend or family member who would visit you and like to see you make use of his/her gift and whose feelings would be hurt if they found out that you had exchanged the gift. In this situation, practicality has to give way to sentiment. On the other hand, if the item is from a distant relative or someone you rarely see or interact with on a regular basis, you could go ahead and exchange it.

In the case of an item arriving in a damaged or broken condition, immediately notify the store from where it has arrived, unless it has been delivered by the guest and not directly from the store. Usually, most stores will replace an item that arrives damaged, without any hassle.

Communicating with the sender/guest

…In the case of a duplicate or an unwanted item, you don’t have to let the sender know or offer convoluted explanations of why you exchanged the gift, even if it is a duplicate. Simply write a thank-you note and let the sender know you appreciate his/her gift, even if it’s not actually according to your taste and you have to lie through your teeth!

…If the gift arrived damaged, and it has arrived from the sender and not directly from the store, you may want to check if it has been insured. If so, you could let the sender know so that he/she may take appropriate measures to collect the insurance, etc. If you are not aware which store it has arrived from and it is damaged, you might or might not want to inform the sender, based on how close you are to him/her, as they may feel obliged to replace it and you may feel you are inconveniencing them or placing them in an awkward situation. You will have to gauge the situation and act accordingly.

Returning gifts…

If the wedding is cancelled, all gifts should be returned to the guests. If you cannot return the gifts personally, you may return them by mail, with an appropriate note explaining the circumstances and graciously thanking the senders for the gifts. You must also return monetary gifts in terms of checks etc. The only exceptions could be monogrammed items, which would not be of any use to anybody else unless they had the same initials as yours, but you could still offer to return them and only keep them in case the sender insists.

In the event that you have already begun using something, it would be awkward to return it and you could consider sending an alternate gift to the sender as a measure of your thanks, as you are unable to return the original gift. It is generally the bride who takes on the job of returning gifts as gifts are ordinarily sent to the bride in the first place. If a wedding is postponed temporarily due to illness in the family or a sudden death of a parent, etc., you may keep the gifts safely until such time as the wedding is scheduled. However, if the wedding gets postponed indefinitely or there is no plan to wed in the immediate future, say for instance in the next couple of months or a little over that, then the gifts should be returned with an accompanying note.