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Tips on How Much to Spend on a Wedding Gift

The wedding day is a special occasion, and the thoughtfulness of your gift will be remembered. However, whether you’re invited to a small intimate ceremony or attending an extravagant affair, it can be not easy to know how much money to spend on a wedding gift.

We all know weddings are expensive, but how much should we spend on a wedding gift?  The answer is: it depends.

How well do you know the bride and groom? Are they your best friends, or just someone you went to high school with once? If you’re close enough to them that you have their favourite drink waiting for them at the bar, then splurge!

But if this isn’t a friend of yours—or if they’re an acquaintance—then maybe keep it under $100. What’s right for one person might not be right for another.

It would be best to consider what your budget allows and how close you are to the bride and groom before deciding on an appropriate monetary value for their present.

If they have everything, then maybe give something personal like tickets to see your favourite band play live or even offer up some of your own time by volunteering at their organization of choice. These types of gifts are thoughtful and appreciated no matter what.

Do you have a decision to make about the perfect wedding gift? Don’t worry; we’re here to help. Here are some helpful tips on how much to spend on a wedding gift. Whether you’re buying for your sister or best friend, it’s always good to know what is appropriate and what isn’t. So if you’re looking for some guidance, keep reading!

1. Follow Tradition

Traditional etiquette states that you should base what you spend on the estimated cost of hosting you at the reception. “If you think the couple getting married is spending an average of $100-$150 per person at their wedding, the price of your gift should equal that amount,” says planner Anthony Navarro of Liven It Up Events.

The downside to this logic, though, is that it’s a per-person price. That means if you think the couple is spending $100 on food and drinks for each guest, you and your plus-one should spend $200 on the gift.

2. How much should I spend on a wedding gift?

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.

According to a study from the American Express Spending and Saving Tracker, the average amount that a guest was projected to spend on a wedding gift was $99—but that’s if you’re a friend of the couple. Family members are projected to spend at least $127.

Even if you aren’t close to the couple, it’s not very considerate to spend less than $50 on a gift. However, if you’re a coworker or a distant friend, the minimum wedding gift amount you can get away with is $50 to $75.

If everything left on the registry is over your budget of $50 to $75, it’s a good idea to get the couple a gift card to one of the stores where they registered.

Here are some general guidelines to follow:

  • 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 special significance to you and fits within what you can comfortably spend.
  • Most couples register for assistance 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.

If you’re still itching for dollar amount suggestions, follow these very loose guidelines for how much to spend on wedding gifts (but remember, a smaller gift from the heart is just as valuable!):

  • 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

3. Is it OK to give a group wedding gift?

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If the only items left on the registry are well over your budget or you want to gift the couple a big-ticket item you know they’ll love, join forces with a group of friends.

And for bridesmaids and groomsmen who have already spent quite a bit of money on the bridesmaid dress, bachelor party, and shower, this is a particularly wise way to gift—the couple will receive a thoughtful big-ticket present from the wedding party, and each person can usually get away with spending a bit less individually.

4. Consider What You’re Spending to Attend

Of course, you shouldn’t forget that you’re already paying a pretty penny to attend the wedding—especially if it’s a destination wedding or during peak season.

“You’re likely paying for accommodations and even flights, so in that situation, it’s fair to assume the bride and groom are conscious of how much everyone is already spending,” says Jason Reid, founder of Giftagram, a mobile app that eliminates the hassle of gift-giving.

If you’re shelling out a lot to be there, you can cut back on how much you spend on the present—your presence is a gift, too!

5. Should I give a wedding gift that matches the price per head?

“The formality of the wedding impacts several elements, including time of day and dress, but there is no tie into the cost of the gift.

What you gift the couple should be exclusively dependent on your relationship to the happy couple, as well as your own means. No guest should feel as though they need to overextend themselves with the gift because they are expected to wear black ties,” says Carlson.

Similarly, just because your BFF had a 10-person wedding in their backyard doesn’t mean you should give them an inexpensive gift.

Also, if you happen to be attending multiple events for the couple, consider this as well: you can use the 60-20-20 rule, which means spending 20 per cent of your total budget on an engagement party gift, 20 per cent on a gift for the bridal shower, and 60 per cent for the actual wedding gift.

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.

6. Think About How Close You Are to the Couple

The amount of money you spend on a wedding gift depends on your relationship with the bride and groom.

You’ll want to consider how close you are to the happy couple before purchasing a gift, so your selection is appropriate. When it comes to general gift etiquette, though, try not to spend less than $50 on a wedding gift no matter your relationship with the couple.

“A wedding guest should always give what they feel best celebrates the occasion, taking into account their budget as well as their closeness with the couple,” says wedding etiquette expert Sara Margulis, co-founder of the wedding registry website Honeyfund.

The average wedding gift amount hovers right around $100, which is a great place to start, and you can increase or decrease that based on how close you are.

If you’re very close or related to the couple (and have the wiggle room in your budget), you may choose to spend more—about $150 per guest (or $200 from a couple).

If you’re not quite as close (or you’re the plus-one, not the invited guest), you may opt for a less expensive gift or make a smaller contribution to the purchase of the gift.

Follow our suggested spending categories below, organized by your relationship with the bride or groom:

  • Close Friend or Close Relative: $150+
  • Friend or Relative: $100-$125
  • Co-Worker, Distant Family-Friend, or Distant Relative: $50-$100

7. Is it OK to give cash as a wedding gift?

There’s nothing wrong with gifting cash. According to the American Express study, one-third of respondents prefer to give cash as a wedding gift.

In fact, as most millennials are getting married later in life and already have well-stocked homes, they prefer cash to put toward savings over registry items.

Cash is becoming more and more of an acceptable wedding gift in the modern wedding tradition. If the couple already lives together, you may want to consider giving them cash or a check since they may not need gifts for their home. If the couple also has a honeymoon fund, you can consider giving them cash for their upcoming travels.

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If you are giving cash (or a check), send it ahead of time rather than bringing it to the wedding—it’s too easy for things to get misplaced in the chaos of the day.

Some couples may even register for cash to go directly into their bank accounts through sites like Tendr, which allows guests to give money virtually, along with a sentimental note they can personally write on a digital card.

8. Do I have to buy a wedding gift for a destination wedding?

If you’re attending a destination wedding, you can consider the money spent on travel and lodging when you purchase your gift.

The couple will be more understanding about the value of your gift being less than normal since you’ve spent a great deal of money on accommodations. So when it comes to destination weddings, give the couple a gift but spend what you are most comfortable with financially.

“While there are no hard and fast rules, there is a general understanding that their presence at the wedding can absolutely be their gift.

You have to remember that your guests are presumably taking time off from work and arranging childcare, so they’ve already invested quite a bit. With that being said, if an attendee chooses to gift them in addition to being there, then that’s absolutely fine,” says Carlson.

If you do want to get them a wedding gift, but you’re strapped for cash right after spending on the flights and hotels, you can always wait until later (up to a year) to get them a wedding gift. Whatever the timing, they’ll always appreciate it.

9. Know When You Don’t Need to Give a Gift

While gifts are expected at the wedding and bridal shower, stretch your budget by remembering when you don’t have to bring one. For example, gifts are not expected at the engagement party (though a card congratulating the couple is a nice touch).

And if you’ve contributed serious time or money by helping out with the wedding, like hosting the bridal shower or serving as the bride’s makeup artist on the wedding day, you’re not expected to spend on a gift, too.

By only bringing gifts to events where they are expected, the money you have to spend will go a lot farther.

10. Should I buy a gift if I can’t attend the wedding?

“Emily Post has always attested to the fact that you should always send a gift if invited unless you’ve truly been out of touch for a considerable length of time,” says Carlson.

“I’d like to think, however, that there is absolutely an understanding that if you decline the invitation and are not in a financial position to send a gift, then you don’t, and that’s OK. Instead, send your warm wishes with a handwritten note.”

If you’re a couple’s close friend, it’s probably best to send a wedding gift. If, on the other hand, your distant cousin invited 300 people to her wedding and you feel like you were invited number 299, a sweet note of congratulations on the RSVP card is sufficient.

If you do decide to send a gift, feel free to spend less than you might spend if you were attending—that $30 wine opener is still a lovely token of congratulations that the couple will surely appreciate.

11. Should my wedding gift amount increase if I have a plus one?

There’s no rule in the wedding gift etiquette handbook that would suggest your wedding gift amount go up if you bring a date. “While it may make sense to spend a bit more because you are bringing two mouths to feed, there is no expectation that you need to do so,” says Carlson.

If you’re bringing a date to the wedding, you should spend a little more on your wedding gift to consider that the couple will be hosting your date in the count for food and drinks. Showing up to the wedding with a second person means double the thought in gifting.

You should discuss with your date in advance if they’ll be chipping in on the wedding gift, and then you can plan out the perfect gift from there.

12. Only Spend What You Can Afford

It seems easy enough, but this one’s worth mentioning: Limit your investment to what you can actually afford, even if it’s less than what etiquette suggests.

If you can’t find a single item that fits your budget, consider purchasing a few smaller items to total an amount that works for you (It’s also a great way to help the couple stock their home with things that are often overlooked, like measuring spoons or cutting boards).

The couple wants you to be there to celebrate with them, so prioritize your budget; however, you need to make that happen—even if that means a smaller gift so you can cover the cost of the hotel room.

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13. How long do I have after the wedding to get the couple a wedding gift?

Traditionally, you have up to one year to get the couple a wedding gift. That being said, etiquette experts agree that the sooner you can give the present, the better. Everyone wants to unwrap their wedding gifts when they’re still radiating with that newlywed glow.

You have up to three months to give a wedding gift after the wedding day has passed. Original gift etiquette suggests one year, but with the ease of online shopping and a variety of shipping options, it’s better to send the gift to the couple as soon as you can.

You can mail your gift to the couple’s address (or whoever is responsible for handling gifts) one to two weeks before the wedding. If you’re unable to do so, the three-month rule kicks in after the big day.

14. How do I address a check to the couple?

If you plan on giving a check to the happy couple, make sure you avoid writing their new surname in the “to” field.

It may seem counterintuitive after having just watched them tie the knot, but when it comes to cashing checks after the big day, the bank will sometimes not accept checks that don’t have the registered account name. So to be safe, it’s best to write the check out to one person and write a happy note in the memo field.

15. Should I ship a gift directly or bring it to the wedding?

“The preferred method for gifting is to send it to the couple’s home, versus bringing it with you on the wedding day.

There are just so many things to keep track of on the day of the event that it’s appreciated if you can make it a bit easier on the newlyweds. Luckily, it’s practically a given that you’ll be able to ship your gift with relative ease thanks to registries,” says Carlson.

Mail your wedding gift. Although guests used to bring their gifts to the actual wedding, modern wedding gift etiquette calls for mailing your gift to make things easier on the couple.

By mailing your gift to the couple or gift handler’s house, the couple can avoid moving gifts from the venue to their home as many couples receive many gifts.

If you’re giving the couple a wedding card with money in it, it is OK to give the card to the designated person handling gifts at the wedding. However, avoid giving cards to the couple directly as they’ll be busy greeting guests and enjoying their reception.

Bringing a physical gift to the wedding is typically reserved when someone goes off the registry to purchase a wedding gift. When in doubt, follow the instructions on the registry website and avoid the headache of wrapping the present yourself!

16. Is it OK to buy gifts that aren’t on the wedding registry?

Gifting items that aren’t included on the registry isn’t a violation of wedding gift etiquette. If, however, you choose an off-registry item, make sure it’s something you know the couple will absolutely love.

“A couple has taken the time to select items that they need, so it makes perfect sense the majority of the time to fall in line with their wishes. With, however, within said, if you are close to the couple and are 100 per cent sure that your off-registry item fits the bill, then, by all means, do it,” says Carlson.

Use the couple’s wedding registry. When it comes to choosing a gift, look to the couple’s wedding registry first to see what works best. Couples use a wedding registry to make things as easy as possible for guests who are unsure of the couple’s needs or wants.

The gifts included in the registry are certified gifts that the couple will love and usually consist of home decor, kitchen or bath needs, and entertainment items.

However, you’re not obligated to purchase a gift using the registry. If you don’t use the registry, you can consider buying a gift related to the couple’s personality or a favourite hobby.

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