How Much to Give for a Wedding Gift

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Wedding Gift Rules Made Easy

Finding just the right dress to wear to a friend or relative’s wedding can be an easier task than determining how much or what to give as a gift. It’s a confusing decision and one that doesn’t even have a specific right or wrong answer, but rather, it depends on the situation. Factors such as how close you are to the bride and groom, your income level, the amount you have spent on the engagement party and shower, if you are in the wedding party and whether you are not attending the wedding all have to be considered. Focus on the relationship to help with any indecisiveness.

General Protocol

Whether you are giving cash or buying a gift, the general protocol is to spend at least $50. If the bride or groom is a distant relative or co-worker, feel free to give around $50 to $75. If you're a good friend or close relative of the wedding couples, the situation usually calls for a more generous amount, such as $75 to $150, or higher depending on the relationship and venue.

Keep in mind that weddings usually consist of more than just the day the couple gets married, and that each related event may require giving another gift. It is perfectly acceptable to split your total gift budget among the various events. For example, if you are a friend of the bride’s, consider spending 20 percent of your budget on the engagement gift, another 20 percent on the shower gift and the remaining 60 percent on the actual wedding gift.

Destination weddings can throw a wrench in your budget because of the travel costs. Therefore, it is okay to spend less on a gift in this situation, since you have to spend money on the flight, hotel and food, and childcare. You are also likely giving up precious vacation days from work.

As a Couple

It seems reasonable to think that since the gift is coming from two people, it should be double the size. Not necessarily. The general rule is to multiply your base number, which is what you would give by yourself, by 1.5. However, if the kids need braces or you want to send them to summer camp, which makes funds tight, do not feel pressured to conform. If you are worried about making a bad impression by gifting $75 rather than $150, choose something from the couple’s registry rather than giving cash. A desired kitchen appliance, for example, can appear to be more than its value in actual cost. The point of the wedding registry is that the items are things the couple actually wants, so there is no shame in purchasing something that is on the less expensive side.

If You’re a Bridesmaid

While it is always an honor to have a friend or relative ask you to be in their wedding party, the invitation can come with a pretty hefty price tag. Bridesmaids are often responsible for paying for the dress, shoes, accessories, transportation, lodging, and possibly even hair, nails and makeup for the big day. The engagement party, bridal shower and bachelorette party will likely pile on even more expenses. All in all, bridesmaids tend to spend about $1,200 to $2,000 by the time the bride walks down the aisle.

Often, the gift is where members of the bridal party are allowed to cut back, because there may not be any room left in your budget for even one more item. Some women will tell their bridesmaids not to give a gift and that their help and participation are enough. If you don’t want to show up empty-handed but are tight on funds, consider going in on a group gift with the other members of the wedding party. It is likely that the other bridesmaids, and even the ushers, are also tapped out and would welcome an economical option. Choosing something from the registry is a better option than cash in this instance. Just the same, if you want to go it alone, choose one of the lower-cost items from the registry. Alternatively, if you’re really stuck for funds, consider hand-making a special keepsake to commemorate the day, such as an ornament, framed wedding vows or embedding the invitation on a wooden memento box.

Not Attending

There are really no specific rules about whether you should or shouldn’t give a gift if you are not attending the wedding. Missing a good friend’s wedding can cause feelings of guilt, and you may want to compensate with a larger gift. Others may see skipping the ceremony and reception as an opportunity to spend less on the gift or to not give a gift at all.

Rather than making the attendance the deciding factor, focus on the relationship to decide how much to give. Close friends should probably receive the same amount as if you had attended the wedding. Alternatively, if you hardly know the bride and groom, such as if they are distant relatives, then you can take a more thrifty approach to the gift.