How Much To Spend On A Wedding Gift

by Brandi Savitt – updated May 29, 2013

The Cost of Being a Good Guest

Wedding season is here, and with it, that eternal question: how much should you spend on a wedding gift?! After talking with friends and reading an overwhelming amount of expert opinions, there really doesn’t seem to be a clear consensus for what to do.  And if Emily Post doesn’t have a concrete answer, no wonder the issue sparks so much controversy and anxiety!

The Average $ Spent

There is good reason why everyone answers this question differently: it’s complicated!  I have seen intricate formulas based on how well you know the couple, to how much you have already spent on a shower gift and the bachelorette party, to the nationwide blanket average of  $75.

Where you live does make a difference –  major cities like New York, Los Angeles, Boston & Chicago tend to average higher at about $100, while in smaller towns the average runs closer to $50.  But that is not the whole equation!

YOUR BUDGET is a huge a factor in how much you should spend.  Buying a showy gift that you can’t really afford is not the answer! If you can’t afford the gift you wish you could give, there are ways to show your generosity which don’t involve you going into debt… We repeat: you should NEVER rack up debt to buy a wedding gift. If you can’t pay for it in full, in cash – don’t buy it! 

Get Creative

Giving a wedding present is like giving any other kind of gift – the thought behind it MATTERS MOST!  And giving a gift from the heart can be a great way for you to demonstrate your generosity in a way that doesn’t necessarily involve dollars.

If you have a particular talent, a wedding is a great time to share it with the people you love.  I had a friend who made & bound the leather guest sign-in book for our friends’ wedding.  Another artist friend of mine illustrated her friends’ Ketubah.  Our friend Vittoria handmade all of the party favors for Steph’s wedding, while a DJ friend made hours of  playlists for the rehearsal dinner.  And I myself designed Steph a handmade piece of pottery that I made just for her big day.

Pool Your Assets

If you don’t have a lot of money to spend, consider getting some friends together to buy a more expensive gift off the registry!  It will mean the world to your friends for helping to fulfill one of their more extravagant wishes.

Paying The Price?

There is often a misunderstanding that the amount you spend on a gift should cover the price the hosts are paying for your plate.  Not sure where this urban myth got started but nothing could be further from the truth!  How tacky would it be for a host to even think that you need to “cover” the cost of being there?  The gift is an expression of good tidings to the happy couple – not coverage for your dinner!

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12 Responses to “How Much To Spend On A Wedding Gift”

  1. Ian says:

    Great article, but I have to disagree with one point– if you’re going as a couple, and it’s a fancy wedding, I think you have to give a bigger gift. It costs a couple (or their folks) double to have you and a guest attend, and there’s no reason that two people should give less of a gift than those same people would give coming separately.

    • Confused from Chicago says:

      Ok, so who should I make the check out to? The couple or the parents that footed the bill? If the parents are paying, do they expect the newlyweds to fork over all of the cash to pay the bill? Just wondering why some are suggesting your gift should cover the plate. Are parents financing their childrens weddings with the expectation of repayment?

      • lol says:

        No one is making you do anything, just like no one is making you pay gratuity at a restaurant or say thank you if somebody does you a favor. It’s just social norms of courtesy. As for who foots the bill, why does it matter? If the parents are paying for you to be there, you don’t have to, but most people do, express gratitude by giving gifts to their children. If you were throwing your child a birthday party and one kid didn’t bring a gift, you’re not going to get pissed off or expect that kid to repay you–maybe you might wonder why the kid isn’t following basic social norms (you can disagree with it all you want, but it IS social norm to bring gifts to a birthday party. Even if you’re piss poor you can at least come up with a thoughtful gift instead), but certainly you wouldn’t be expecting repayment.

  2. Great information! I’ve been looking for something like this for a while now. Thanks!

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  4. keen says:

    I don’t think its necessary to spend too much on a gift. About $100 seems fair to me, maybe more or less depending on how well you know the couple getting married.

  5. dc wedding says:

    Great article. One comment — if the wedding is in a big city (i.e., NYC, LA, DC, Chicago), it is likely costing more than $100 per person. So, $100 is a minimum acceptable to barely cover the cost of the wedding. If you actually care about the couple and want to be generous, give them more than the cost for you to attend.

  6. Hey great to see another post from you – keep up the good work!

  7. Irene says:

    As a recent bride from California (as well as recent graduate grad), I can attest to the high cost of a wedding, but can understand the financial constraints on wedding gifts for some guests. Creative gifts such as photoshopped wedding photographs after the ceremony or baking cookies as party favors are not only thoughtful but practical. However, I will have to disagree on the group gifts idea though as they complicate the organization process for the couple when they return from the honeymoon.

  8. Michele says:

    I don’t understand why the cost of the wedding should at all apply to the gift. Just like for our wedding, the event choices are either that of the bride and grooms or their parents. We usually don’t go to weddings because we need something more exciting for us to doe. People need to get a change of attitude. Weddings are held to celebrate the union – not to make a bunch of money to pay themselves back for hosting a party that they choose to host. It just amzes me that people have such high expectations of the gifts, when they should just be happy to be able to share the day with friends and family. Why is this such a strange idea any more?

Any Thoughts?