The most often asked question in my “Ask Cheryl” inbox is how much to spend on a wedding or shower gift.
And while we all love a hard and fast etiquette rule, this is one of those questions that doesn’t have a “one size fits all” answer. Read on for my advice and some spending guidelines to help you budget for this wedding season.
How much should you spend?
Etiquette dictates that all those invited to the wedding give the couple a gift, symbolizing your love and support for the newlyweds. The wedding gift tradition is well accepted, but it leaves many wondering, “What is a proper wedding gift, and how much should I spend?”
Unfortunately, there is no precise amount you “should” pay for a wedding gift or amount of cash you should give. Three factors determine how much you spend: how close you are to the couple, your budget, and what you think is an appropriate gift. And since these ingredients rely on your judgment, what to spend can be confusing.
Let’s break it down:
What is your relationship with the couple tying the knot?
It’s common practice to spend more if the gift is for a close relative or if you are very close friends with the couple. You want to give a nicer gift to your best friend versus a friendly co-worker. (Refer to the chart below.)
What’s your budget, or what can you afford to give?
No one should spend more on a wedding gift than they’re comfortable spending or go into debt for wedding gifts and expenses. Your friend won’t expect a lavish gift if you are struggling financially. If possible, try to stay with around a $50 minimum. To help give options, most couples designate items on their registry for “group gifting.” You can contribute to honeymoon experiences or a large-ticket gift. Or, pool your funds with a friend to purchase a more expensive gift. If the $50 minimum is beyond your means, get creative. Opt for a personal or sentimental gift, which the couple may cherish even more.
Don’t use the price-per-plate guideline.
Some wedding guests try to determine their gift amount by guessing how much the couple would spend hosting them, but this “calculation” is outdated. How could you know their costs? And it would certainly be rude to ask.
“It’s a bad idea to use the price-per-plate as a measure for how much you should spend on the wedding gift,” says Jessica Silvester, a deputy editor and wedding expert with New York magazine. “You wouldn’t give your best friend a less expensive gift just because she was having a more casual affair.”
Do you have a role in the wedding?
Being in a wedding party can undoubtedly affect your budget. If you are a bridesmaid or groomsman, you probably spent money on attire, pre-wedding parties, and travel, not to mention your time and efforts leading up to the wedding. If your budget is already blown, try pitching in with the other attendants for one impressive wedding gift, or go with the $50 minimum suggestion.
What about a destination wedding?
If you feel that you had to spend most of your budget on a hotel and travel to an exotic destination wedding, then it’s OK to pay less for the wedding gift. Most couples adjust their expectations.
How much should you spend on a shower gift?
When invited to a wedding or bridal shower, split your budget between the two events. Determine your total budget and divide it, with the larger percentage going to the wedding gift. For example: If your total budget is $200, you might spend around $50 on the shower gift and $150 on the wedding gift. No rules here – you can divide it in any way you choose.
To help clarify, I’ve put together some averages and guidelines for wedding gifts and bridal shower gifts. Please Note: These figures are an average from across the United States for all income levels.
Please use the above chart as a guideline. Customs in your family or area may be higher or lower, and what guests spend can vary significantly by location or region.
Each year, I share the average amount spent on wedding gifts purchased through RegistryFinder.com. For 2021, the average amount spent per gift was $129, which was up from the $113 average in 2020.
We recommend purchasing early if you choose to buy a gift from the couple’s wedding registry. This way, you have the best selection of gifts and price ranges. RegistryFinder.com makes it easy to find all of the couple’s registries in one convenient location just by entering the bride or groom’s name.
If you have questions or comments about this post or about gift giving, bridal shower, baby shower, or wedding etiquette, please comment below or email [email protected].
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