Gift Etiquette For A Punjabi Wedding
Updated: Sep 28
Travelling to India to attend a friend or family's Punjabi Wedding and don't know what to give as a gift? As a foreigner it can be difficult to know what is appropriate when it comes to gift etiquette. Especially with so many different religions across the regions of India, each will vary with traditions and expectations of gift giving. Even in Punjab traditions will vary depending on the family, region, faith and whether they are traditional or non traditional. However you can expect a Punjabi Wedding will have hundreds, usually thousands of guests that come and go during the reception. It is considered an auspicious occasion where the community can come and bless the newly wedded couple for their life together as husband and wife.
The bride and groom will arrive at their wedding reception and then make their way to an ornate lounge that has been established as a photo stage. This is where they are typically seated for hours whilst accepting blessings from guests, followed by a photograph for their wedding album. This tradition is known as shugun and guests are expected to bestow either cash or a gift. However cash in the form of rupees is more commonly given than a wrapped gift at traditional receptions. The bride and groom will have a net sitting on each of their laps where you are to place the rupees. Some couples may even use make shift nets such as a napkin or handkerchief. If you have attended the wedding as a family or group, then usually a lump sum or joint gift is given rather than individually. However that is a personal choice.
So how much is acceptable to gift? Depending on how close to the family you are and how lavish the wedding reception is, usually determines how much you gift. Many guests have received extended invitations from say their cousin who is a friend of the bride, therefore typically gift smaller amounts between 100 and 500 rupees. The most common amount gifted at an average wedding is 500 to 1000 rupees which is only equivalent to $10- $20 AUD which can seem like a small amount to us. For those who are close to the couple it is usually at your discretion and amounts of 1000 rupees or more would be acceptable. Elaborately decorated envelopes are sold specifically for shugun ceremonies. These are to gift the rupees in, which adds some privacy for those who prefer not having others know how much you are gifting.
Should you choose to opt for a wrapped gift than you need to be careful with what you select given there are many gifts that would be considered inappropriate. Anything such as alcohol, lingerie or certain foods go against their faith and you should steer clear of such gifts. Alcohol is only acceptable for men therefore not an appropriate gift for a bride and groom but that depends on how well you know the couple. Household items are the way to go should you decide to give a wrapped gift. If you are travelling overseas then this can be purchased locally. Be sure to keep in mind what a Punjabi family would use in their household. For instance most won't find a need for a toaster as they eat roti.
Wrapped gifts are usually best gifted to the bride and groom before or after the reception given a traditional reception won’t have a gift table established like at a western wedding. Furthermore the reception will be full of dancing and thousands of guests so you will most likely not want to be carrying around a large wrapped gift.
Also keep in mind there are typically many pre-wedding traditions that close family and friends are invited to where shugun is also performed. So if you are lucky to be invited to these ceremonies in addition to the wedding reception, then the same rules generally apply. Therefore overall many couples can receive up to 2000 rupees from each family or guest. And there are generally thousands of guests so they will be sure to receive a generous amount by the end of their wedding.
Our wedding in Punjab wasn’t overly lavish however it was more extravagant than a common reception. Thousands of guests were in attendance and each gifted rupees for shugun followed by a photo with each group of friends or family. Only one guest gifted us a wrapped gift at our reception which was a boxed set of wine glasses. Gift giving however might be more commonly given at non traditional ceremonies. Though for the traditional wedding in Punjab you can expect most to gift cash at shugun ceremonies.
Whether you opt for cash or a wrapped gift, it is a personal decision and either form will be appreciated by the couple. The most important aspect is that you attended and participated in their big day. Though if you’re still uncomfortable with what to gift the couple then the easiest way to go is to use a shagun envelope and enclose some rupees.
Have you attended a Punjabi Wedding. What was the gift etiquette you observed at the wedding?
Be sure to read: 10 Reasons Why A Punjabi Wedding Is The Best