How Much Money Should You Spend On A Wedding Gift?
Wedding gift etiquette is one of the most requested topics from my readers. What the heck is the right amount to spend on a wedding gift? Is it better to give a registry gift, or a check? Is it okay for friends to get together to give one combined gift? All valid questions that are always a bit awkward to ask. As you read this article, please keep in mind that I understand different cultures have different values and ideas about gift-giving in general. The opinions below are simply my own. Take what you like to heart, leave what doesn't serve you behind.
I grew up in a Russian-Jewish household, where the gift etiquette was as follows: if you’re going to a “venue,” you usually don’t buy a gift, but you do bring a check or cash with you. The amount of money you bring depends on your connection with the host, where the event is being held, how many people are going, etc. Typically Russians want to (at least) cover the cost of their attendance for the host. So, you might give less money for a brunch on Sunday morning, than for a wedding on a Saturday night. For Jewish events, such as a bar or bat mitzvah, we gave gifts in increments of chai, which is the number 18, and symbolizes life in Jewish culture. All this is to say, I understand there are many different customs around gift giving, and whatever you choose to do will be perfect if it’s thoughtful. My personal methods are a combination of old and new world customs. See below.
Cash or Cuisinart?
Either is great! I like to give registry gifts for the engagement party + bridal shower (or any related events) but a cash gift for the wedding. For the bridal shower, you have a real opportunity to give a personal present. Perhaps you’re always poking fun at your friend for her granny panties. Why not get her a beautiful lace set of lingerie she will cherish for years on end? Or maybe you’re a cocktail connoisseur and want to get a classic set of whiskey glasses for the couple’s first home! The best gifts are a harmonious blend of the giver and receiver's personality and inside jokes. While registries are wonderful, there are so many expenses that come with a wedding, sometimes it’s nice to let the couple choose what to do with your gift- be it buy a bottle of wine on their honeymoon, or a new lamp for their living room. Additionally, many couples nowadays live together way before engagement, so by the time the wedding comes, they may not need any more pots and pans. If you are close with the couple, you can also consider asking them what their preferance is.
Bringing A Card
This is a rule that was instilled in me by my mother, and I value so deeply. No matter where I am going, I always bring a signed card. And when I say signed, I mean actually written with a personal message. This really leaves a lasting impression and it is always so nice for a couple to reflect back on in a few years. This rule doesn’t only apply to weddings by the way; the same goes for birthdays, anniversary parties, etc. To save time and money, you can buy cards in bulk online and have a secret stash at home. I’m always running out the door at the last second to a party, and this saves me the headache. Even if I write a message in the cab, it’s still better than nothing!
Rather than send a check after the fact, or follow-up a month after the wedding, get into the habit of arriving with a gift (or a check, or cash, or a card) in hand. I know that in the age of the internet, we often end up ordering something online that doesn’t come in time, but try to curtail this habit. It’s much more polite to show up to a party with something in your hands (or delivered in advance if it’s a heavy item) vs. after the fact. Set a reminder on your calendar 14 days before an event as a check-in to make sure you have a card and a gift for your bride and groom.
There is no magic number that I can tell you which would solve what the best wedding gift is. I think a safe range is between $75-$200 per person, depending on your financial status and what you’re willing to spend on a gift. Remember that a wedding is a bigger life event than a birthday or a regular party, and you should aim to be generous, especially if the couple is near and dear to your heart. Often times, weddings happen in our lives as clusters, 5 in one year, 3 in one month, and I understand that can get expensive very fast (I’m going to 7 this year alone!) No matter how much your gift costs, make sure to always bring it with a beautifully written, heartfelt card, and you’ll be good to go.
Unless you got invited to a wedding on a group invitation, you should not be bringing a group gift. There are always exceptions to the rule, but generally individuals and couples should be bringing their own cards and gifts to a wedding.
Destination weddings are wildly expensive for guests because typically you’re paying for your own airfare and hotel. While I’m sure gifts are greatly appreciated, I don’t think they are expected or necessary. I would recommend a nice card and a small present for the couple (in the $50 range is fine.)
Overall, gifting is very personal, and the most important thing is to be true to yourself and the couple. Don’t forget… what goes around comes around. Be it a physical gift, or words that will warm a couple’s heart for years to come. If you have other questions around wedding gift etiquette, feel free to ask in the comment section below!
photo for this post was taken by Katherine Marchand of Wilde Scout Photo Co. and cannot be shared, downloaded or repurposed for any reason without written consent Wilde Scout or Be Like Family