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How much should you spend on a wedding gift?

How much should you spend on a wedding gift?

06.28.2023

Wedding season can be an exciting time. It’s when you and the people closest to you are dressing up, dancing, popping bottles of champagne and celebrating love and friendship. But as the wedding invites start to accumulate on your refrigerator door, you might find yourself wondering: How much is this going to cost me?

If you’re asking that question, you’re not alone: two-thirds of Americans confess they’re unsure about how much to spend on a wedding gift, according to recent Empower research, Money Talks.

But you don’t need to let wedding gift confusion stop you from celebrating the happy couples in your life. Read on for five key considerations that can help you make confident and thoughtful wedding gift decisions that align with your personal values and financial situation.

1) Traditional etiquette

Traditional etiquette guidelines suggest wedding guests should give a gift that costs a similar amount to their plate at the reception. By this logic, if you estimate your hosts are spending $50 to have you at their wedding, your gift should cost about $50—the price of a good toaster, for example.

Another traditional etiquette rule of thumb is to give a gift at a similar price point to the gift the two partners gave you at your wedding. Of course, this rule only applies if you’re already married, and the couple was invited to your wedding.

2) Your relationship with the couple

How close you are to the couple is one of the most significant factors to weigh as you pick a gift. If you haven’t known the partners for very long or they are only acquaintances, it’s appropriate to spend less than you would for a close friend or family member.

The average wedding gift amount ranges from $50 to $100, according to online wedding planner and retailer Zola,1 so stick to the lower end of that range for a distant co-worker or college friend you haven’t kept in touch with. Spending above that average—say, $150 or more—makes more sense for closer friends.

3) The cost to attend the wedding

Just attending a wedding can be costly, when you factor in plane tickets or gas money, a hotel, the cash bar and your outfit. If you’re already spending a hefty sum to get to the wedding, it’s appropriate to spend less on the wedding gift itself. Consider your presence part of the present, and factor in overall costs when you decide how much to shell out for the gift.

4) Other gifts you’re giving the couple

A wedding might not be the only occasion where you’re expected to give a gift to a particular couple. If you’re invited to the bridal shower, bachelor party or engagement party, you might have already given the couple several gifts leading up to the nuptials.

Consider how much you’ve already spent on gifts for a couple’s wedding as you pick the wedding gift. If you’ve already given substantial presents for earlier celebrations, it’s reasonable to adjust your budget for the wedding gift accordingly.

5) Your financial situation

Ultimately, you know your financial situation best. It’s important not to spend money you don’t have on a wedding gift. Don’t rack up credit card debt or forgo your retirement contribution. Spend what you’re comfortable with and able to fit into your budget, keeping in mind that your financial priorities and principles are unique to you.

Remember, the best wedding gifts are not necessarily the most expensive. If you’re on a tight budget, consider the following options:

A group gift. Contributing to a group gift with several other friends or family members attending the wedding can be a more cost-effective way to give a larger item without breaking the bank.

A gift from the heart. Consider making, designing or writing your gift rather than buying something from the store. A personalized, heartfelt gift can be more affordable than something off a registry—and maybe more special to the couple.

Finally, keep in mind the purpose of a wedding. Most couples will be happy to have you attend their wedding to celebrate with them and share in their joy, no matter what your gift is. Your role as a wedding guest has more to do with your support of the couple than it does with a material object.

1 Zola, “How Much to Spend on a Wedding Gift,” June 2023.

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The Currency editors

Staff contributors

The CurrencyTM, a publication from Empower, covers the latest financial news and views shaping how we live, work, and play. We keep you current on ways to plan, save, and invest for life.

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