How much should you spend on a wedding gift?

May 30, 2013

By Sheryl Smolkin


Reality TV has turned me into a “wedding voyeur.” It’s a good day at the gym when I can watch “Four Weddings,” “Say Yes to the Dress” or even “My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding.” Seeing the different ways people choose to celebrate their special day and the exorbitant amounts they spend makes me temporarily forget how much I hate doing cardio.

But the one thing these programs never seem to talk about is the financial impact of weddings on friends and family, particularly if you are in the wedding party. Gifts for an engagement party, a shower and the wedding can really add up. Also you may have to travel to another city, stay in a hotel and buy a bridesmaid’s dress or rent a tux.

So how much should you spend on a wedding gift?

Wedding gifts are typically cash or specific items the couple need or want to start their life together. Often they “register” at one or more stores where you can select from a list of items at various price points.

Whether you give cash or buy a gift, the dollar value will depend on many things. If you are a student or recent graduate, $50-$75 a person or even less is sufficient. Nobody expects you to break the bank. If you can only afford to spend a nominal amount, consider getting together with several other friends in a similar situation to buy a group gift.

Another option if you are on a tight budget is to bring a gift that is not listed on the Wedding Registry. You may be able to get a lovely item on sale so your present is worth way more than the sticker price. However, include a gift receipt so the item can be returned if it is unsuitable.

Otherwise , depending on the size of the wedding and local customs, an average of about $100/person attending seems to be the going rate. However, close family members may want to give a higher amount.

Where you are included in multiple events associated with a wedding, The Knot suggests that you come up with a total expenditure that feels right to you and portion out the total amount by event.

For example:

  • 20% of your total on the engagement present
  • 20% of your total on the shower gift
  • 60% of your total on the wedding gift

If you are invited to a destination wedding where you have to pay to travel to an exotic location, many couples understand that your presence is their present. But if this doesn’t feel right, have a conversation with your hosts or bring a gift card or small money gift.

What if you are invited but can’t attend the wedding? You may still wish to send a token gift, depending on your relationship and budget.

But whatever you decide to give as a wedding gift, remember that it is the thought that counts. I have been married for 36 years and I can still look around my house and point out wedding gifts and who they came from. I have no idea how much they cost, nor do I care.

The important thing is that friends and family, many of whom are no longer with us, were all together in one place to help us celebrate our special day.

How much do you usually spend on wedding gifts? Send an email to so*********@sa*********.com and share your ideas with us. If your story is posted, your name will be entered in a quarterly draw for a gift card. And remember to put a dollar in the retirement savings jar every time you use one of our money-saving ideas.

If you would like to send us other money saving ideas, here are the themes for the next three weeks:

6-June Bringing home baby How to prepare financially for a new baby
13-Jun Fathers Day Frugal gifts your father will love
20-Jun Graduation How to use social media to find a job
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