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 and Chicago tend to average higher at about $100, while in smaller towns the average runs closer to $50. Those numbers are good rules of thumb to start with – and then you can adjust from there depending on your relationship to the couple, if you are coming with or without a guest and of course – YOUR BUDGET!
It’s not romantic sounding, but YOUR BUDGET is a huge 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 your 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!
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 and 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.
A Personal Touch Is Priceless
Another idea we love? The creative “add-on”! Let’s say you can afford $50 to buy a gift, but wish it could be more. All it takes is a little thought to turn a $50 gift into a priceless one. Let’s say you spend $50 on a cake stand for which the couple has registered. We suggest then adding on a beautifully compiled list of your favorite cake recipes, written or printed on lovely paper. Not only will you have made your gift so much more memorable, but you will also have given them a personalized keepsake they will treasure and use forever!
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!
Most weddings are planned well in advance and guests know for months to a year ahead of time. If you know you have a lot of wedding gifts to buy for the year, make sure to budget for them and plan ahead. That way, you won’t feel the sting of ‘suddenly’ having to spend more than you have in the bank because you will have actually saved for it!
Most of us don’t plan for gift buying in our budgets, but WE SHOULD. Especially if you are in your 20s and 30s and getting multiple wedding invites each year, wedding related expenses can easily add up to thousands of dollars!
Planning ahead will not only help you feel less stressed about money expectations, but you actually WILL be less strapped for cash when the time comes to buy the gift. We know it’s a cliche – but it really is the thought that counts!