Exchanging and Returning Gifts

The Do’s and Don’ts for Unwanted Wedding Presents

As much fun as it is to receive gifts, there’s a very good chance they all won’t be exactly what you wanted. No one wants to exchange or return presents, let alone go through the agony of having to tell a loved one you didn’t care for their gift. Online registries help to avoid these issues, since guests can immediately see when a gift has already been purchased, but there are no 100% guarantees. Here, the rules on gift returning and exchanging, and what you should write in thank-you notes.

If you’re exchanging or returning a gift because it’s a duplicate, no problem. Simply write a thank-you to each person and tell them how much you love the gift, and what you plan to do with it. (The same way you should write all thank-you notes.) There’s no reason anyone needs to know that two identical gifts were received. Unless you are certain both parties are going to come over for dinner on the same night and comment on the crystal vase, you’re fairly safe in keeping this exchange mum.

Of course, if it’s a close friend who’s not going to care about a duplicate, especially if the problem is because of the gift registry, go ahead and tell her. She might want to know that the registry she depended on was unreliable.

If the gift in question is something you don’t want, the situation is a little trickier. “I usually tell clients to keep the item tucked away somewhere, and bring it out when the person comes over,” says Danielle Bobish of Curtain Up Events in New York City. “If it’s a large gift and you have no place to keep it, you’re probably better off returning it and not telling them.”

In the unlikely event that you receive an item, such as a stereo, that you can’t keep, but you know the giver is going to enquire about, bite the bullet and let him know, either in person or in the thank-you note. Make sure you tell him how much you appreciated the present, but you simply can’t keep it because of the entertainment center you have already set up.

As for returning gifts, if there’s a gift card, check to see how long you have until it expires. If not, return the present as soon as possible, but no later than 30 days after you’ve received it.

-David Toussaint

Check Out the Rules of Office Bridal Showers
Check Out Early Wedding Gifts Etiquette
Check Out the Modern Wedding Registry Guide