Groomsmen Gift Etiquette: The Definitive Guide

by Chris Bajda October 11, 2018

You've done the hard part. You managed to get her to say, 'Yes.' And while you may have agonized over the details of the proposal — what to say, where to do it, how to make it unforgettable—you still have some details to sort out. 

Groomsmen Gifts - The Ultimate Guide

Over the next few months, you'll be looking at wedding venues, choosing a photographer, and picking out your reception menu. It can be difficult to know where to start but checking out a few wedding registry ideas and making use of apps can help you get a headstart. The rule of thumb, though, is that after the proposal and the engagement announcement comes the picking of the groomsmen. The following is a comprehensive guide that covers the ins and outs of drafting your groomsmen team

Keep scrolling through the article to read everything you need to know about groomsmen, or use the summary below to click through the section you want to learn about:


Step 1: How Many Groomsmen Should You Have?

To let you in on a little secret, there really aren't rules around weddings anymore. They can happen anywhere, at any time, and in whatever way the engaged couple wishes. So, although you will need a witness to sign the marriage license, you don't even need to have groomsmen if you don't want. And on the opposite end of the spectrum, everyone attending the wedding can be a groomsman.

Now, with that being said, most people do prefer to follow a little closer to tradition. Most experts in the etiquette and wedding industries believe that seven or more groomsmen are often too many. When it comes down to it, being a groomsman should be an honor. There are some who say that if a wedding is formal and has 200 or more guests, it is appropriate to have up to 12 groomsmen. And the numbers decrease from there. Semi-formal weddings should have between one and six groomsman and informal weddings will have a best man and one or two groomsmen. 

Step 2: Who Should You Pick as Your Groomsmen

While some grooms have a few close friends, making it easy to name the groomsmen, there are others who have built up a large group of close friends from childhood, adolescence, college, and professional life. And then there are siblings, of course. So the big question is, how do you choose who makes the cut?

The best place to start is with the best man. If you have a brother, they will often get the nod here. It's just tradition. If the brother is estranged, much older or younger, or extremely unreliable, it is appropriate to make him one of the groomsmen instead. 

For those with multiple brothers, it can be helpful to work out a system where one brother is chosen as the best man for each wedding—this cuts out any confusion or hurt feelings. 

If you don't have a brother, you should choose your oldest and closest friend. For the guys who have several close friends, the seniority aspect helps to create understanding among the other guys. For those who don't want to be put in a tough spot, you can always tap your dad to be best man. 

As for the other groomsmen, you should go with your fiance's brothers first. And then two or three of your closest friends. And while it is great to choose the guys who have been through the trenches with you, you should also consider reliability, who is good at public speaking, who can afford the costs associated with the wedding events, and people who will all get along. 

Step 3: How Should You Propose To Your Groomsmen

Once you've laid out who you want to be your groomsmen, you have to ask them. And you shouldn't take this question lightly. While it is fun and an honor to be a groomsman, anyone who has been one before knows that it is also a responsibility—both as a friend and in terms of financial obligations. 

When and how to ask is just as crucial as who to ask. Starting with when—if you plan to have your wedding in less than eight months from your proposal, you should ask as soon as possible. If it is going to be a long engagement, though, there really is no rush, especially because relationships can shift and may make you change your mind about who you want your groomsmen to be. 

Moving on to how to ask your groomsmen —you want them to be honored to be asked and you also want them to take the role seriously. Because of this, you shouldn't take too informal of an approach in asking them (i.e. text or email). Instead, at least give them a call. Ideally, though, you would take them out to dinner or make the invitation thoughtful in some form or fashion. 

To help get your creative juices flowing, here are some options for the groomsman invite:

  1. Send them a custom bottle of their favorite alcohol (or non-alcoholic beverage). There are plenty of companies that will specially label bottles and attach a nice note.
  2. Plan a dinner or an outing. This can be one-on-one to make it a more personal and memorable experience or it can be a group activity—think of it as a pre-bachelor's party. 
  3. Mail them a starter pack. Pack a box with everything they'll need leading up to the wedding, including dates and times, some alcohol, cufflinks, the wedding bowtie, and a cigar. Add a note and tell them to give you a call when they get the package. 


Step 4: Why Do I Need To Get Groomsmen Gifts

The expenses surrounding a wedding seem endless. So when it gets down to the nuts and bolts, it can be tempting to snip and cut items wherever possible. There are some items, though, that you just need to spend money on. One of these is the groomsmen's gifts. 

Before we get into the logistics of giving groomsmen gifts, it's important to understand why you give these gifts. Understanding the meaning and significance of the gifts will help you choose the most appropriate items to give. 

Beyond the fact that etiquette gurus say that groomsmen gifts are a must, these gifts are a tradition. It's one of those small tokens that serves as a pillar to the occasion as a whole. 

Another, more basic reason for giving these gifts is that they are a simple thank you. The process of planning and hosting a wedding, as well as the entire season of being engaged, is overwhelming and stressful. It takes support and help from each and every single groomsman. They will all play a role, no matter how big or small. And you need to thank them for taking on the additional responsibility. Even if they didn't actively participate in planning the wedding, they did spend the money on their suit, the bachelor party, their accommodation, their flights, their engagement and wedding gifts—not to mention the time and energy they invested. The groomsmen gift helps to let them know that you appreciate that.

A final reason for these gifts is to mark the occasion. This should be the best day of your life and you have chosen a small group of people to stand right beside you while you make the most important vow you will ever take. A personalized gift will help to preserve the memory for everyone involved and it will continually remind them of your friendship over the coming years. 

Step 5: Who Do You Need To Buy a Wedding Gift For?

Every male who is in the wedding party should get a gift from the groom. This means the groomsmen, the best man, the ushers, the ring bearer, the officiant, and the father of the groom and father of the bride. But not everyone gets the same thing. 

The best man should not just be given the same items that every other groomsman gets. He plays a special role and more is expected of him, therefore his gift should be more unique

The groomsmen should all get the same gifts, but ideally they should be personalized with their name or monogram. 

The gifts to ushers and the officiant will be more modest unless your officiant or clergyman/woman plays an important and present role in your life. The ushers might just receive a nice bottle of liquor and the clergy could just get 10 to 15% gratuity on top of their fee. 

The ring bearer, if you have one, will likely be young, which needs to be taken into consideration. Think about their hobbies and interests and maybe ask their parents what they would most appreciate—it's unlikely that they'll truly value a sentimental gift.

Gifts for the father of the groom and father of the bride may take the longest to pick out. These gifts should be the most sentimental and as much should be spent on them as is spent on the gift for the best man—they likely contributed to the wedding expenses and they will play the biggest role in strengthening the marriage as you and your bride move into this next chapter of your lives together. 

As a side note, the gifts for the fathers, the ushers, the ring bearer, and the officiant will be joint gifts from the bride and groom. The gifts to the best man and the groomsman, on the other hand, will come just from the groom. 

Step 6: How Much Should You Spend on Groomsmen Gifts

You've just sent the wedding venue a $5,000 check and next month you'll be dipping further into your savings to pay the caterer. And then there's the chair and table rental, the photographer, and the flowers—who knew flowers could be so damn expensive? 

We get it. And so do your groomsmen. Weddings are expensive. Fortunately, the groomsmen's presents can be one of your lower costs. And the convenient aspect about the cost of these gifts is that there is no set dollar amount. It completely depends on how much you are asking the groomsmen to spend. 

The general rule of thumb is to give presents that cost between 10 and 25% of how much the groomsmen had to pay. This includes their suit or tux, accommodation, and flights—not their wedding and engagement gifts, though. Thinking about this ahead of time can go a long way in helping you stay within budget. In other words, the more groomsmen you have, the more gifts you will need to buy. If you have a formal wedding, tuxes will cost more to rent. Destination weddings, especially when all the guests are staying at the same resort, will make these expenses skyrocket. 

Step 7: When Should You Give the Groomsmen Gifts

You wouldn't think that weddings would have so many rules tied to them, but they do. And one of those rules has to do with when you should give your groomsmen—and your ushers, ring bearer, officiant, and father and future father-in-law—their gifts. This rule, though, is one of the few that is a little looser. There are several different occasions that are viewed as appropriate timing for gift giving. The only hard and fast rule is that you should give them the gift in person, rather than mailing it. 

One of the less common times to give the gifts is when you send out the wedding invitations. The important aspect with this is that for the groomsmen's invitations if you are giving them their gift at this time, you will need to hand deliver the invitation so that you can stick to the 'in-person' stipulation mentioned above. The biggest downside to doing this is that because the potential groomsman is only just then seeing the date and location of the wedding, they haven't had a chance to let you know if they will even be able to make it. If they can't attend the wedding, you've just given a groomsmen gift to a guy who won't even be one of your groomsmen.

Another option is to give your groomsmen their gifts at the bachelor party. Ideally, though, they should be able to enjoy at least part of the gift at the bachelor party—whether that be a bottle of liquor or a round of golf at the beginning of the weekend. 

Alternatively, you can wait until the day before—at the rehearsal dinner—or the day of. When you give the gifts at this time they should typically include something that the groomsmen will use at the wedding—think cufflinks, socks, etc. There are two additional key advantages to giving the gifts the day of the wedding. The first is that, if the gift contains something they need for the wedding, you won't need to worry about them leaving it at home. The second is that it can be a good distraction from the traditional pre-wedding anxiety and stress.

The final option is at the wedding reception. If this is the case, the gift should be something that they will use in their daily lives or be able to enjoy in their own home. The downside of gift giving during this time is that the reception can be a little crazy. You and your new wife will be running around, chatting with friends and family, taking pictures, and attempting to keep up with the evening's schedule. The groomsmen will likely be scattered around and may be difficult to track down. 

Step 8: What Should You Give as Groomsmen Gifts

You now know the whens, hows, whos, and whys of groomsmen gift giving. It's time to move on to the whats. There is no right or wrong answer, honestly. Every group of friends and family is different. Some types of groomsmen gifts will be much more meaningful than others. Gag gifts could be the most special. Sentimental gifts might be more valued. This is something only you can decide. However, to help you get an idea of the possibilities, here is a comprehensive list of potential groomsmen gifts that you could use.

1. For The Beer Lovers

If your group of guys usually gathers to enjoy a few cold ones, making your groomsmen gift revolve around drinking could hit the spot. You could sign them up for a short-term craft beer subscription. You could include a personalized beer mug. There are all sorts of quality, beer-related items - just type 'beer gifts' into the Google search bar and you will find the perfect item. 

2. For The Creatives

Maybe you and several of your groomsmen went to music school together. Maybe you have an artistic family. Maybe you and all of your groomsmen are just big bookworms. There are myriad gift directions that you could go. One option is a personalized, moleskin journal. Or you could get them each a framed print from your favorite artist. Whatever your preferred outlet of creativity is, mold your groomsmen gift around that. 

3. For The Handymen

The groomsmen who fit into this category don't need any frills. They will most enjoy a groomsmen gift that they will get some use out of. A personalized credit card-sized tool is a great option. It's a screwdriver, a ruler, a bottle opener, and much more. It's basically the Swiss Army knife of the twenty-first century. There are also some other options depending on their particular interests. If they really do build things, you could opt for personalized tools or toolbox. If they're just a little rough around the edges, you could opt for an experience rather than a physical groomsmen gift—think a camping trip or tickets to see their favorite sports team

4. For The Techies

Groomsmen that fit into this category can be harder to buy for—everyone has unique preferences when it comes to the devices that they use. But this doesn't mean you can't find something that will work for everyone. You can get them nice, leather bands for storing cables. You could get them personalized wood phone stands, allowing them to transform their phone into a bedside clock.

5. For The Wedding

The groomsmen gifts can also be bits and pieces that revolve around the wedding day, yet can also be used after. This could mean a box of smaller items, such as cufflinks, a tie, socks, and a bottle of liquor to be enjoyed pre and post-nuptials. Or you could go a different direction and give them a single item that they could use every day, including the wedding day, such as a traditional razor and shaving cream brush. Just think of what your groomsmen will need in order to get ready and go from there. 


6. For The Next Morning

There's no better way to let your groomsmen know you expect them to fully enjoy the reception than to help prepare them for the next morning. You can pop a few cheap items in a box, such as some Advil and sunglasses. You can also include a few more personalized items, such as a specially made 'hangover' glass that lists the ingredients for the perfect hangover cure. Just think about what you're craving the morning after a big night and you're off to a good start.

7. For The Trip

If your groomsmen will be traveling to your wedding, some good traveling gear can make the perfect groomsmen gift. This means a nice leather carry-on, a personalized toiletry bag, or a box of carry-on goodies (i.e. snacks, breath mints, carry-on sized toiletries, an airline gift certificate for a few drinks on the flight, etc.). It can also be smart to include a checklist for everything that they should bring with them—or include some of the items as groomsmen gifts (i.e. tie, socks, belt, and more). And obviously, with this type of gift, you'll need to give it to them either when you ask them to be a groomsman or at the bachelor weekend.

When it comes down to it, the options are endless. You can choose wallets, money clips, bottle openers, coolers, a grilling set, metal koozies, leather croakies, a voucher for a special event or experience—it's up to you, your budget size, and your creativity. But as a last piece of advice, the best groomsmen gifts will probably be those items that the groomsmen would never splurge on themselves. It will just be something useful, yet special. 

Finally, don't let this be a stressful part of planning the wedding. Have fun with it and explore your options. With a little time and effort, you will find a great groomsmen gift that says 'thank you' in just the right way. 

Chris Bajda


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