How Much to Spend on Wedding Gifts

The average cost of a wedding is now well over $30,000. Coming up with enough cash to pay for the reception, the dress and the food can be difficult for brides and grooms. Wedding guests can also find themselves in a financial pinch, especially if they have to attend multiple ceremonies in a single year. If you’re trying to figure out how much to spend on wedding gifts, read on for some advice and tips on how to save big on presents.

Covering Your Plate

In the past, people living in certain parts of the U.S. (like the Northeast) were under the impression that if they couldn’t decide how much to spend on a wedding gift, they could estimate how much brides and grooms were spending on their meals. Being able to “cover your plate” was associated with having good etiquette. At the same time it probably made some guests assume that if they were attending the wedding of a couple who didn’t have a lot of money, it was okay to buy a cheap gift.

If you don’t know how much you should spend on a wedding gift, going with the old price-per-plate rule of thumb may not be the best idea. Asking your friend or family member how much they’re spending on their wedding and calculating what your individual plate costs could make things awkward. And you probably wouldn’t want to offend the bride or groom.

So how much should you spend on a wedding gift? One important factor to consider is how well you know the couple that’s tying the knot.

Assessing the Status of Your Relationship

A recent survey from retailmenot.com and a branding and marketing company called Kelton Global found that the average cost of a wedding gift has to do with the relationship between wedding guests and the people getting married. On average, survey participants reported spending $89 on friends, $63 on co-workers and $195 on immediate family members. In short, the closer you are to the bride or groom, the more money you should spend.

Experts have their own ideas about what wedding guests should spend. The Knot says that it’s a good idea to spend $50 to $75 on an acquaintance, a co-worker or a relative you barely know. For a standard family member or a friend, $75 to $100 is a good range to shoot for. But if you have an especially close relationship with this person, it might be a good idea to spend between $100 and $150.

Other Factors to Consider

When it comes to buying wedding presents, different people have different standards. But overall, folks generally seem to agree that spending less than $50 is a bad idea, regardless of whether you actually attend the wedding. If you live in a big city like the Big Apple, it’s customary to give between $150 to $200 (or more) if that’s where the wedding’s being held.

Whether you have to travel to the wedding matters too. If you have to book a flight and find a place to stay, you might be able to get away with giving the bride or groom a gift that’s not so pricey. And it’s okay to buy a less expensive gift if you’re not going to the wedding, as long as it’s not an amount that might upset whoever invited you.

But what if you’re not just going to the wedding? Once you figure out how much to spend, it might be a good idea to divvy up that amount so that you can buy an engagement gift, a present for the shower or bachelor party and a gift for the wedding. Not quite sure how to do that? Experts suggest spending 40% of your budget on the engagement party and shower gifts (so 20% for each) and 60% on the wedding gift.

Regardless of what anyone says, spending more than you can personally afford on a wedding gift isn’t wise. Defaulting on your student loans or racking up hundreds of dollars in credit card debt just to buy a gift doesn’t make sense. In the process of trying to impress your best friend or your brother, you could derail your own plans for the future.

How to Save Money on Wedding Gifts

When it comes to buying wedding gifts, not everyone can afford to go all out. If you don’t have enough money to purchase your own gift, you can get together with other friends and relatives and purchase something together. Or, if you have a special skill set, you could give a small gift and offer to do something that’ll save the couple some money, like agreeing to serve as a DJ or building their wedding website.

Instead of buying a large gift, you could purchase a couple of small gifts that the couple lists on their wedding registry. If nothing on the registry is within your price range, you can find a cheaper gift that’s similar to what the couple selected.

You could also consider getting creative and putting together something thoughtful like a photo album. That could work well if you’re part of the wedding party and you’re already doling out a significant amount of money for a bridesmaid dress or a tuxedo.

The Takeaway

Deciding how much to spend on a wedding gift can be tricky, especially if you’re planning to go to several weddings within a brief span of time. But considering things like how close you are with the bride or groom, the wedding location and your own budget can help you gauge whether you need to shell out more or less than the number in your head.

There are plenty of ways to save on wedding presents. And keep in mind that you could always wait to buy a gift. If you can’t purchase anything until your next pay period, you could use that extra time to compare prices and find discounts.