How Much You Should Spend on a Wedding Gift, Etiquette Experts Say
Get wedding gifting right with these simple tips.
Wedding season is here, and if you plan to attend a beloved couple's big day, you may be wondering how much you should spend on a wedding gift. In fact, etiquette experts say this is a common question among clients who want to show their love and support for the newlyweds-to-be, without going overboard and breaking the bank.
However, both etiquette experts we spoke to were loath to recommend a one-size-fits-all dollar amount when it comes to wedding gifts. They instead shared which key factors you should take into account before doing your own back-of-the-envelope calculations, and ultimately giving what feels right to you. But don't worry—they also offered some tangible tips that'll help pin down the exact right amount to give. Read on to learn which considerations tipped the scale toward giving more or less for a wedding gift, according to trusted etiquette experts.
How Much Should You Spend on a Wedding Gift?
Base it on your budget, not the cost of your seat at the wedding.
All too often, wedding guests make the mistake of giving a gift amount based on the perceived expense of the wedding.
"Contrary to myth, what you spend on a wedding gift depends on your budget, not what the hosts spent on the wedding," says Jodi RR Smith, founder and owner of Mannersmith Etiquette Consulting. "No need to wonder or worry about how much the host is spending per plate."
Smith says that a good way to begin is to think about what you would spend on a special night out.
"Double that for a starting point," she advises. "If you are a recent college graduate, with lots of loans, working in a low-budget job, then you would spend less. If you are established in your career, or independently wealthy, you would spend more."
Consider the closeness of your relationship.
In addition to your own budget, your gift-giving choices can rightly depend on your relationship with the couple, says Jules Hirst, founder and owner of Etiquette Consulting.
"Your relationship with the couple should impact your gift amount as you want to spend more to show your love and support," she tells Best Life.
Smith agrees that this is a key factor, and says it should shape not only the dollar amount but also the thoughtfulness of the gift.
"For a second cousin you rarely see, something straight from the registry will work. For your life-long best friend, your gift should have a bit more meaning or connection based on your shared history," she says.
Use the median cost of registry items as a guide.
Even if you decide not to buy a gift from the wedding registry, it may still send signals for how much is appropriate to spend, says Hirst. For instance, if you notice that the median cost for a registry gift tends to fall in the $150 to $250 range, something in that ballpark is likely to be appreciated.
"A wedding registry can be a helpful guide for determining appropriate gift options and their expected price range. It is appropriate to select a gift from the registry that fits your budget," she notes.
Raise the amount if you brought a plus one.
If you're attending the wedding with a plus one in tow, you should raise the amount you spend on the gift by one and a half to two times, experts say.
If you decide to give a physical gift rather than cash, you can include your guest by upgrading to the premium version of your gift. For instance, if the engaged couple loves entertaining, Smith suggests getting barware from Tiffany & Co., rather than a lesser-known brand.
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It's OK to adjust for a destination wedding.
Showing up to a destination wedding quite literally demonstrates just how far you'd go to support the happy couple in their new chapter. However, the costs associated with attending such a wedding can add up quickly, leaving less money for your gifting budget.
"When attending a destination wedding, it is reasonable to adjust your gift budget due to the travel expenses required to attend the event," Hirst tells Best Life.
Your time and effort can be part of the gift.
Usually, the closer you are to the couple and the wedding itself—hello, bridal party!—the more you should give. However, while your ultimate goal is to give a generous gift that expresses your happiness for the couple's union, that shouldn't mean you're both emotionally and financially drained by the time it's done.
If you've been enlisted by the bride or groom to devote significant time and effort to wedding preparations, it's OK to adjust how much you spend, says Hirst. This is especially true for DIY weddings, in which the couple's friends and family members manage key aspects of the celebration, such as decorations, flowers, or food.
"If you have spent significant time and effort in helping with the wedding preparations and planning, these can be considered part of your wedding gift. A modest gift with a heartfelt note would be suitable," Hirst adds.