How Much Should You Spend on a Wedding Gift, Anyway?

We delve into the etiquette of wedding gift giving, so you don't have to worry about over- or under-spending.

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Photo: Bryce Covey Photography

When attending a wedding, most guests give the couple of honor a gift to celebrate their marriage. Although the tradition is long-standing, the question of how much to spend on a wedding gift often arises. Ultimately, purchasing an extremely expensive item isn't necessary, especially since most guests are already dishing out hundreds of dollars to attend the festivities. On the other hand, choosing something inexpensive can feel like a social faux pas. Ahead, we look at the etiquette of wedding gift giving to help you determine exactly how much to spend on a present.

Disregard the outdated "price per plate" guideline

In the past, wedding guests often determined the cost of their gift using the "price-per-plate" model, which involves guests guessing the amount the couple is set to spend on hosting them and purchasing something around the same price. This measurement, however, has become outdated since it can be difficult to assess how much a couple's wedding actually costs. Plus, not everyone throws a big wedding, and you wouldn't want to pick up a $15 gift for a friend who throws a low-key ceremony, would you?

Consider your relationship with the couple

Various factors should be taken into account when determining how much to spend on a wedding gift, but the most important one to think about is your relationship with the couple. Naturally, close friends and relatives should plan to purchase more expensive gifts than coworkers and acquaintances. If you're bringing a date to the wedding, budget a little more for the wedding gift as a hospitality, since the future newlyweds are paying for him or her to attend the big day.

Think about what you can afford to give

If you're struggling with finances, the couple won't expect you to shell out lots of money for their gift, even if you're a very close friend. Try to keep your budget to a minimum of $50; you'll still be able to find a thoughtful gift, and you hopefully won't need to pinch pennies afterward. Alternatively, you could put together something more personal, like a scrapbook or a handmade piece of art.

Do you have a role in the wedding?

Another factor that influences how much you should spend on a wedding gift is your role in the celebration. Bridesmaids and groomsmen often pay high prices for attire, bachelor and bachelorette parties, and other prenuptial festivities. Since the wedding party already contributed lots of time and effort to the big day, they shouldn't need to purchase a $150 gift. Instead, they should consider pitching in for a single massive wedding gift—or stick to the $50 minimum rule. The same principle goes for wedding guests attending a destination wedding; these types of attendees typically pay top dollar for airfare and lodging.

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