gifts they might actually want

What Even Is an Engagement Gift?

Photo: H. Armstrong Roberts/Retrofile/Getty Images

Whether you’ve attended 1, 2, 5, or 15 weddings this summer, you’ve probably gifted a few sets of registry wine glasses or plates, or maybe contributed to that honeymoon excursion to Sorrento. But what about engagement gifts? A relatively new tradition — etiquette expert Elaine Swann estimates that they’ve only become a thing in the past ten years — engagement gifts are typically smaller than wedding gifts, and given to those with whom you have a close relationship. “An engagement gift is something thoughtful, however typically not as significant as a wedding gift in size or cost,” says Myka Meier, founder of Beaumont Etiquette and an etiquette instructor the Plaza Hotel Finishing Program.

“Engagement gifts are not required or expected,” says etiquette expert Patricia Napier-Fitzpatrick, founder and president of The Etiquette School of New York. “But they’re very common practice. I mean, who wants to go empty-handed to any kind of party celebrating someone?” If you do want to give an engagement gift, the resounding advice from the etiquette experts we spoke to was that you should choose something that both people in the couple can enjoy. “A gift could be anything thoughtful to commemorate the occasion, from a keepsake frame with the date on it to a gorgeous floral arrangement if they already live together,” says Meier. If it’s a couple that you don’t know very well and still want to congratulate, the experts agreed that a card would be a sweet and inexpensive gesture. And of course, there’s the old standby: “When in doubt, nothing says celebration like a nice bottle of Champagne,” says Meier. Here are some Strategist-approved engagement gifts, inspired by the etiquette experts’ recommendations.

Frames

Framebridge The Stella Frame

“A lot of times we post pictures, but we don’t print them anymore, so a really great gift idea is a printed photo in a beautiful frame that they can place inside their home,” says etiquette expert Elaine Swann. “If you can download a photo from their social media site that has a pretty good resolution, you can give them a photo of the two of them together.” Several of the other etiquette experts we spoke to seconded Swann’s recommendation to gift a frame. Meier suggests “a keepsake frame with the date on it,” and we think this sleek frame from Framebridge, which has a customizable matte, is an attractive option.

Framebridge Providence Frame
Framebridge Cairo Frame

And if the couple is not the keepsake-with-date type, these frames make handsome alternatives — and like all of Framebridge’s custom-frame offerings, you can send in a file from Instagram or Facebook, making it particularly easy to get that post from your friend’s feed to the framer.

Micca NEO 10-Inch Digital Photo Frame With 8 GB Storage

For those who would prefer something on the techier side, you could give a digital picture frame, like this one, which is under $100 and lets you add photos from a USB.

Mixbook Custom Photo Album
Photo: Retailer
Mixbook Custom Photo Album

“I think a photo album is a great gift for people getting married,” says Napier-Fitzpatrick. “They could have one just for the engagement party, and one just for their wedding.” We’ve written about Mixbook’s custom albums before, which you can put together by uploading pictures from your phone. And if you don’t have enough pictures to put together an album, you can always send the couple a gift card so they can build their own.

Throws

Eider & Ivory Brampt Herringbone Throw

Swann suggests gifting a “very beautiful” throw blanket that would be “something that they both can cuddle up in.” When we talked to designers about the best blankets to give as gifts, herringbone throws were what they suggested as a “timeless gift” that would appeal to recipients with all kinds of taste — and we think this one would make a classy engagement gift.

Three Posts Hardwick Chunky Knitted Acrylic Throw

If a chunkier knit is more the couple’s style, this one comes in a bunch of neutrals that would go with most interiors.

Wicked Plush Throw

Several of the experts we spoke to suggested giving customized gifts, with the couple’s names monogrammed on them. This “Wicked Plush Throw” from L.L.Bean is a bit more casual and definitely cozy, and can be monogrammed if you think the couple would be into some customized coziness.

Pendleton Washable Wool Blanket

A classic plaid Pendleton blanket would make a nice gift for that couple who loves having a “rustic” weekend in Hudson every fall. (This one can also be customized.)

Vases

Now House by Jonathan Adler Tall Cloud Vase

“A vase is always a nice gift,” says Napier-Fitzpatrick, who suggested crystal as a “generic” option. If you want to give something a little more punchy, we’re fans of these Jonathan Adler vases, which come in several pleasing shades of blue, green, and cream.

Bloomingville Tall White Ceramic Fluted Vase

Another ceramic option, which we think looks like it costs a lot more than $31.

IMAX 14465 Parisa Medium Vase

For the couple who wants something a little more graphic.