When you receive a wedding invitation and RSVP as “Attending,” it’s common practice to give the happy couple a wedding gift. You can think of this gift as a sweet gesture from you to the couple, and a way to celebrate their love.
But you may be wondering how much to spend on such a gift — among other expenses you might incur to attend the wedding, like airfare and lodging. While there isn’t a one-size-fits-all wedding gift amount to aim for, there are some essential factors to consider. Here are eight tips on how much to spend on a wedding gift to help you make a decision that’s right for you.
Tip: What if you can’t attend the wedding? While it’s not expected or required, gifting the couple is still a nice gesture and thought, but how you approach it is completely up to you.
1. Follow a traditional wedding gift model
If you want to follow what tradition has to say about wedding gifting, consider the “cost-per-plate” model. This means basing your gift around how much you think the couple is spending per person at their wedding. You might need to know how many people are invited to the wedding, where it will take place, and the time of year to come up with a rough estimate. For example, if you think the cost to attend the wedding is $100 per person, and you bring a plus one along, your wedding gift price tag would be around $200.
This method is a good way to determine a reasonable dollar amount to spend on a gift — if you’re comfortable with doing a little bit of guesswork upfront. Beyond this traditional route, gift-giving has certainly evolved over time and includes other factors that might contribute to your decision.
2. Determine an overall wedding gift budget
At the end of the day, your budget will determine how much you’ll spend on a wedding gift. This is especially true if you’re working under certain constraints, particularly ones out of your control. For example, if your finances have been negatively affected by COVID-19, you’ll have to take that into consideration when setting a budget and making a purchasing decision.
Even if you’re not experiencing financial constraints, it’s important to set a budget you’re comfortable with — not just for the wedding gift itself but for all the things that come with a wedding celebration. Once you have your overall gift budget nailed down, start perusing the couple’s wedding registry to discover gift ideas that work for you.
3. Break up your wedding gift budget for different events
It’s a good idea to account for other wedding events you plan on attending, besides the big day. For instance, if you want to go to the wedding shower or engagement party, a good rule of thumb is to break up your gift budget by bringing a gift to all parts of the wedding celebration.
This is why setting an overall gift budget first is so important. Depending on how many wedding festivities you attend, you can purchase a gift for each event while working within your budget. Here’s a general breakdown of how much of your overall gift budget you should spend on each wedding event:
- 20% on the wedding shower
- 20% on the engagement party
- 60% on the wedding
Just remember: A wedding present is a kind gesture from you to the couple getting married! The focus should be more about celebrating the couple — and less focused on the specific gift or the amount you spent.
4. Consider your relationship with the couple
Your relationship with the couple is another important factor in how much to spend on a wedding gift. For instance, are you an immediate family member, close friend, distant relative, or co-worker? While this answer — along with your personal budget and comfort level — can help you settle on a gift that makes sense, here are also some loose price range guidelines.
- Immediate family, close friend, or best friend: $100
- Friend: $75-$100
- Coworker or distant relative: $50-$75
Additionally, if you plan to bring a plus one to the wedding, spending 1.5x or 2x more on the gift is reasonable but not expected.
Tip: If you’re in the wedding party and have financial obligations for the various wedding festivities planned, like the bridal shower or bachelorette party, it’s best to refer to your personal budget to guide your day-of-wedding gift.
5. Account for the wedding location (destination or local)
If the couple is having a destination wedding, and you plan on attending, your presence is generally considered the ultimate gift. Although this sentiment is still true for a local wedding, the nature of a destination wedding is that it may require guests to spend a lot more. As a result, whether you decide to bring or forgo a physical wedding gift ultimately comes down to your personal budget.
6. Contribute to a group wedding gift
If you’re heading to the couple’s destination wedding or have financial constraints, a great way to gift is to go big on a big-ticket item with multiple wedding guests. It’s especially helpful if you know other people who are attending the wedding. This way, you can reach out to them and coordinate as a group, deciding what item to purchase on the couple’s registry and how to split up the contributions.
7. Consider a cash wedding gift
Nowadays, it’s totally okay and common to gift cash. In fact, many modern couples prefer it, especially if they marry later in life and already have everything they need for their home. As a result, these couples add a general cash fund, a honeymoon fund, or even an experiences fund that guests can contribute money to — whether in lieu of physical gifts or alongside them. A cash gift is also a great option if you can’t decide on a retail gift or don’t have time to peruse the couple’s registry.
8. Time your wedding gift right
Etiquette suggests you have about a year after the couple’s wedding day to send a gift, giving you plenty of time to decide what’s best. However, at the end of the day, you as the gift giver need to do what’s right for you and your budget, whether that means gifting within a year of the wedding or after that timeframe. As a recommendation, try to extend the gift as close to the wedding date as possible — this way, there’s less of a chance you’ll forget, and it also helps the couple manage their Thank You notes a little easier!
Whether you follow a traditional gift-giving model or use a combination of the tips above, how much you spend on the happy couple will ultimately come down to your personal budget. By using these guidelines as a framework for how to approach the wedding gift, you’ll be well on your way to navigating the experience with a little more confidence.