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How Much to Spend on a Wedding Gift

You have been asked to be a guest at someone’s wedding. Your gracious host has told you that they don’t expect you to spend much on the gift, but how do you know what is too little? How can you find out if it’s rude for them not to tell guests what their budget is?

Every couple has different needs for their wedding, especially with regards to how much they’re looking for in a gift. While no one answer can be given as a general rule of thumb, there are some helpful guidelines you might want to consider.

If the couple is registered at stores or online, you need to look at what items they have listed and what price ranges are offered. This will give you an idea of the level of resources they may need or want for their new home together.

A thoughtful way to go about this is by checking out what people who’ve been married before them have done and asking close friends or family members if they know anything about how much money the gift was.

Weddings are expensive. So much so that many guests feel like they can’t afford to give a gift, let alone one nice enough for the happy couple.

But there is no need to worry! We have some tips on what you should be spending and how to buy a beautiful wedding gift without breaking the bank. You deserve to give something special – so don’t skimp out!

When you’re invited to a wedding, costs can really add up, especially if you are a wedding party member. With multiple events, travel and gift expenses, the cost to attend can be daunting. Here’s what you should expect to spend on and where you can save.

This blog post will answer questions like: “How much should I spend?”, “What about cash gifts?” and more. The goal of this article is for everyone involved in the celebration (groom, bride, parents) to feel thankful for your generosity without feeling awkward.

This blog post will help walk through the etiquette of figuring out how much to spend on a wedding gift so that everyone feels comfortable and happy with your contribution!

1. What’s The “Cover Your Plate” Rule?

Once upon a time, it was considered good etiquette to purchase a wedding gift with a price tag comparable to the cost per plate (i.e. your meal) at the reception. Although it’s outdated, this sneaky piece of advice still gets passed around by wedding attendees like a piece of wedding gospel.

Here’s why you should leave it behind:

  • Following this guideline means having to ask around (or ask the couple directly) how much they’re spending per plate at their wedding, which is a pretty uncomfortable question to circulate.
  • It implies that you as a guest have to spend a certain amount on a wedding gift regardless of your budget (which isn’t true).
  • Attending someone’s wedding isn’t a food-for-gift exchange—it’s about celebration and coming together.
  • This practice indicates to the couple that you’re only interested in giving them a gift that matches their wedding catering budget.

2. How Much Should I Spend on a Wedding Gift?

There’s no hard-and-fast wedding gift etiquette when it comes to dollar amounts. Instead, give a gift based on your personal budget and how close you are to the couple. However, it would help if you planned to spend at least $50.

As a guest, weddings can be a lot of fun, but they can also get a little pricey. From the engagement gift and the bridal shower to the bachelor or bachelorette party — all the way to the wedding day, your bank account could get depleted pretty quickly.

Although what you give is a very personal choice — and depends on various factors — financial insiders do have some suggestions and tips on overall gift etiquette.

These days, where cost-per-plate does not factor into your choice of a wedding gift, exactly how much you should spend on a wedding gift depends on various factors. However, here are some general guidelines to follow:

  • The average wedding gift amount ranges from $50 to $100, depending on how close you are to the couple. But more importantly, choosing a wedding gift isn’t about the price tag—it’s about giving the couple a special acknowledgment, from you to them, of this happy moment that they will use throughout their new life together.
  • Try to find a gift that has both special significance to you and fits within what you can comfortably spend.
  • Most couples register for gifts at a range of prices, so while big-ticket items might be exciting, couples also want those smaller gifts that hold just as much meaning, purpose, or joy in their daily use.

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If you’re still itching for dollar amount suggestions, follow these very loose guidelines for how much to spend on wedding gifts:

  • If you’re a coworker, acquaintance, or distant relative: $50-$75
  • If you’re a friend or relative of: $75-$100
  • If you’re a close friend, immediate family, or part of the wedding party: $100-$150+
  • If you received a +1’s on your invitation: 1.5-2x more on the gift

Most Australians think that $51 and $125 per person is an appropriate amount to give for a wedding gift or wish well. The most common response of the 1,049 Australians recently surveyed by Canstar was giving $76 to $100 (29%), followed by $51 to $75 (13%) and then $151 to $200 (12%).

The majority of people (66%) agreed that their relationship with the couple would influence how much they spend. Family expectations (11%), how much they’d already spent on attending the wedding (7%), the type of venue (5%) and whether it was a destination wedding (5%) were some other factors people said they would consider when deciding on an amount.

As well as factors like these, the amount you give could come down to whether the gift is cash put in a wishing well (in which case some guests may feel pressure to spend more money) or something bought off a registry.

If you’re at the wedding party and have already spent a lot on the wedding, it’s okay to spend less — make it meaningful. For example, a framed picture of the couple or a romantic poem book are thoughtful gifts that won’t bust your budget.

3. Do I Have To Give a Gift If It’s a Destination Wedding?

You might not want to hear this, but… yes. However, the couple should understand that you’ve already spent a lot of money to be at the wedding, so if you can only afford to give a small gift, that’s completely acceptable.

4. Is it okay to Give a Group Wedding Gift?

Yes! If you want to give the couple a big-ticket item that you can’t afford on your own, it’s a great idea to go in on a group gift with other guests. Two pieces of advice here:

  • Make sure that everyone contributes the same amount they would have spent on smaller gifts purchased independently.
  • If you are attending a wedding as a large family, it’s a good rule of thumb that all adults (or each household) give their own gift.

5. Am I Expected To Bring a Gift to the Bridal Shower?

As the name suggests, the bridal shower is a time for guests to “shower” the bride with gifts — so yes, you should bring one. You can buy something off the registry or give something more personal if you wish.

6. Am I Expected To Bring a Gift to an Engagement Party?

Not every couple has an engagement party, and those who do shouldn’t expect to receive a gift. If you want to bring something small and celebratory, like a nice bottle of champagne or a pair of champagne flutes, go right ahead. But if you expect to spend a lot on future wedding festivities, it’s okay to pass on buying a gift for this one.

7. Is it okay to give a Cash Wedding Gift?

Yes. New couples can almost always use cash, whether they’re saving up to buy a home, furnishing a new home, planning a honeymoon or saving for another big life event. You can give money through a honey fund or other registry if you have one or a check.

Cash gifts are not only totally okay; they’re becoming more and more requested by modern couples who are getting married later in life and have already outfitted their homes.

If the couple uses a site, they may have even registered for cash funds to help them save for the honeymoon, a new home, a puppy, or even a lifetime supply of avocados (yes, it happened). First, however, there are a few best practices you should follow when contributing to a cash fund:

  • Make sure that you contribute cash through the couple’s registry if their registry provides that option.
  • If writing a check, mail it before the wedding day. Giving cash or check on the big day isn’t necessarily wrong, but it does run the risk of being lost in the chaos of the day.
  • If writing a check as a wedding gift, make sure to write it out to one person and to use pre-married names. Couples don’t always share joint accounts or change their names after the nuptials, leading to the bank refusing to accept the funds.

8. If I’m Giving a Check as a Gift, Whom Should I Write It Out To?

Unless you know for sure that the couple has a joint bank account, write the check to either the bride or the groom to make it easier for them to deposit or cash it. There’s no strict rule for which person should get the check, so do whatever you feel comfortable with.

9. Is it okay to Buy Wedding Gifts That Aren’t on The Wedding Registry?

As a rule of thumb, it’s always best to purchase a gift on the couple’s wedding registry. That way, you can ensure that they like (and need) the item. However, if all of their registry items have been purchased by the time to get around to buying a gift, you have a few options:

  • Ask the couple if there’s anything else their hearts desire.
  • Contribute to a cash fund (or give them cash or a check directly).
  • Opt for an off-registry gift you’re 100% confident they’ll love. If you go with this option, make sure to get a gift receipt so that the couple can easily return duplicate or damaged items without hassle.

10. Should I Buy a Gift if I Can’t Attend The Wedding?

In short, yes. But there is some flexibility here depending on how well you know the couple and your personal financial situation. For example, if you’re close friends, it’s best to send a gift and a personalized note with warm wishes. Your mom’s boss’s daughter that you’ve never met? While it’s always polite to send a gift if you can, in less personal circumstances, you’re less on the hook.

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11. Should I Buy a Wedding Gift if it’s a Destination Wedding?

Yes again. However, the travel and lodging costs that come with a destination wedding can put a big strain on your budget.

The happy couple likely views your presence as a gift in itself, but if you want to get technical about it, purchasing a wedding gift is proper form, even in the case of a destination wedding.

If you’re shelling out quite a bit to make it to the wedding, then feel free to spend less than you typically would for a local celebration.

12. Do I Need to Buy a Gift for Every Wedding Event That I’m Invited to?

Not to sound like a broken record, but yes, you should purchase a gift for each event. We know—buying this many gifts can be tough. If you’ve been invited to the engagement party, the shower, and the wedding, we suggest planning and setting a budget for gifts in advance.

To make things easier on your wallet, follow the 20-20-60 rule, which dictates that you spread out your spending like so:

  • 20% on the engagement gift
  • 20% on the bridal shower
  • 60% on the wedding

13. Should I Carry a Gift to The Wedding, Shower, or Engagement Party?

Follow these rules to determine if you should physically bring a gift with you to any wedding-related festivities:

  • If you attend a shower, engagement party, or purchase a gift that isn’t on the registry, take the wrapped gift along with you to the event.
  • If you bought a gift on a registry or are giving cash/check, gifts should be mailed to the couple before the big day.

14. How Late Can I Give a Wedding Gift?

Some will say that you have up to a year to purchase a wedding gift, but the best practice is always to buy and send gifts before the wedding day or within three months of the nuptials. Any longer, and you’re likely to forget. Plus, it’s more convenient for the couple to receive gifts (and write thank you notes) sooner rather than later.

15. Can I Say No To Being a Bridesmaid If I Think I Won’t Be Able To Afford It?

Different brides expect different levels of financial commitments from their bridesmaids. Typically, all brides will expect you to cover the cost of your dress — plus alterations — though some brides might cover or offset some of this cost.

The same goes for hair and makeup for the big day — some brides will cover this, while others will expect you to pay for your own. And different brides will expect different levels of contributions for other events, such as the bridal shower and bachelorette party.

Before deciding whether or not to accept the responsibility of being a bridesmaid — financial and otherwise — have a frank conversation about how much the bride expects her bridal party to pay for. If it sounds like it will be too much, it’s okay, to be honest, and tell her you can’t afford it. However, once you accept, it’s too late to have this conversation — it’s impolite to back out once you’ve committed.

16. Frequently asked questions with answers for the couple

What To Know If You’re Getting Married

If you’re planning a wedding, you want to ensure it’s one guest who is looking forward to attending — and not one that will drain their wallets. So we answered some of the trickiest financial wedding etiquette questions so you know exactly what you can — and can’t — expect of your guests.

How Should I Divide the Guest List If Only One Family Is Paying?

No matter who’s paying — whether it’s one family, both families, the couple or some combination of those parties — it’s traditional that the guest list is divided evenly into thirds: One third is guests of one of the spouse’s parents, one third is guests of the other spouse’s parents, and one third is guests of the couple.

If the parents who aren’t paying want to invite more than their allotted third, they should chip in for the payment. Alternatively, the couple could cut down their own guest list to make up for the extra guests.

Do I Have To Pay For All My Guests To Have a Plus-One?

Typically, all guests in a committed relationship — whether they are married, engaged or seriously dating — should be able to bring a date to the wedding.

This rule applies even if you have yet to meet the guest’s partner. Don’t feel obligated to give single guests a plus-one, but do be consistent — if you let one friend bring their fling of the month, you should extend that courtesy to other guests as well.

What If It’s a Destination Wedding?

This is the exception to the rule. Single guests might not want to travel alone, and they might be wary of attending an entire extended event if they’re not close with any of the other guests.

The polite thing to do is to keep the guest list small enough that you can provide all guests with the option to bring a plus-one. Of course, not everyone will opt to do so, but the choice should be theirs.

Should I Give a Gift to the Bridal Shower Hostess(es)?

In this case, a thank you note will suffice, but you can also choose to give the hostess or hostesses a small gift, like tickets to an upcoming event or a thoughtful gift set.

Who Usually Pays For the Bridal Shower?

The bridal shower is typically paid for by the hostess(es). This can be the bride’s mother, mother-in-law, the bridesmaids or other friends or family members.

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Who Usually Pays For the Rehearsal Dinner?

Traditionally, the groom’s family hosts and pays for the rehearsal dinner. However, some families choose to split the cost. In other cases, the bride and groom host the event themselves.

Can I Register For Gifts Even If It’s Not My First Marriage?

Whether it’s your second, third or 10th wedding, you can still have a gift registry. Your friends and family will likely want to celebrate your happy occasion with a gift, and having a registry will guide them on what to buy.

If you don’t feel right about asking for gifts, you could register for a honeymoon registry or other fund. Or, you can request that guests not bring gifts if you truly don’t feel comfortable receiving any.

Is It Tacky To Put My Registry Info on My Invitation?

Yes — this can make it look like you’re soliciting gifts. Instead, include a link to your wedding website and a link to your registries there.

Should I Pay For Postage on the RSVP Notes?

Yes, it’s common courtesy to include a stamped envelope or postcard for your guests to submit their RSVPs.

If the Venue Is a Hotel, Am I Expected To Pay For Guests’ Accommodations?

Whether your venue has accommodations on-site or not, you’re not expected to pay for your guests’ stays during your wedding weekend. If the venue is a hotel, guests can book directly through the staff.

Although it’s not necessary, you can choose to cover accommodation costs for close friends and family or subsidize room costs for guests, but you’re in no way obligated to do so.

How Much Should I Spend on Gifts for the Wedding Party?

Your bridesmaids and groomsmen have likely spent a pretty penny on your big day, from paying to attend all the festivities leading up to it to dropping money on dresses and tux rentals to make your wedding picture-perfect. As a result, a good price point for gifts for your wedding party is $75 to $150 per person.

Is It Okay To Have a Cash Bar?

Although alcohol can be a major expense, it’s best to avoid having a cash bar if at all possible within your budget. Instead, cut down on alcohol costs in other ways, such as having only signature cocktails made from a couple of select liquors, plus wine and beer.

You can also serve liquor during cocktail hour and then serve wine and beer only during the reception, or stick to just wine and beer the whole time. You might also be able to bring in your own alcohol, depending on the venue.

How Much Should I Tip the Wedding Vendors?

If you have a contract with a vendor, you’re not expected to tip them, though you can give them cash or another small token of appreciation if you wish. However, the staff you don’t have a contract with, such as musicians or servers, should get a tip. It would help if you also planned to pay for any vendors’ meals during the event.

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