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How Much Should You Spend on a Wedding Gift?

The New Rules for How Much to Spend on a Wedding Gift


Bride placing presents on table by wedding cake
Martin Poole/Digital Vision/Getty Images
It's something every guest wants to know: How much to spend on a wedding gift? The old rules said to estimate how much the couple spent on hosting you – the price of your plate. But the new rules say to spend what you think is appropriate, depending on your relationship to the couple. And like every good rule, there are some exceptions. Confused? Read on.

Why the Price-Per-Plate Rule Doesn't Work

Think about it this way: if your best friend were getting hitched at City Hall, you wouldn't give her a $10 knickknack. Your wedding gift is not a ticket for admission, nor is it a financial exchange. It's a present! This token of your affection for the couple is in celebration of their new life together. And why should the couples who can afford million dollar weddings get the best loot? Plus, it can be hard to know how much they spent on your plate. Looks are deceiving – that "casual" wedding may be more expensive than you think, and the luxurious wedding may have been put together with coupons and freebies. Also, I doubt that most people who've never thrown a wedding in New York City know that it commonly costs $250 or more per guest here.

So, Really How Much Should You Spend on a Wedding Gift?

  • For Your Co-Worker or Boss
    $75-$100. You see them every day, and hopefully you'll have a long working relationship with them.

  • For a Neighbor or Other Casual Acquaintance
    $50-$75 is totally fine. Spend more if you have it, but there's no need.

  • For a Friend or Relative
    $100-$125. These are people you love and want to celebrate.

  • For a Close Relative or Close Friend
    $100-$175. For your dearest friends and relatives, it's worth spending a little more. Think about lasting presents that they'll look at 20 years from now, remembering your thoughtfulness.

Exceptions to the Rules

  • I'm Broke! What's the Minimum?
    No matter who's getting married, $50 is a good place to start. You'll want to give something meaningful, even if they are just a casual acquaintance. If you're bringing a date, add a little more as an acknowledgement of their hospitality. If you're a poor student, and really, truly, absolutely can't afford $50, then make up what you can't spend in money with time and thoughtfulness. Check out our ideas for inexpensive wedding gifts.

  • For a Destination Wedding
    When a couple's asking you to spend money on airfare and hotel, they'll understand that you can't spend as much on their gift. Nevertheless, you should still get them a present. If they're a couple you're willing to travel for, they're probably pretty important to you and vice versa. Spend $50-$100 on their gift.

  • When You're in the Wedding
    You've bought a fancy bridesmaid's dress, attended the shower, the bachelorette, and even the engagement party. Your budget is tapped! But since they're your good friends, price is less important than sentiment, and your good friends don't want you to bankrupt yourself over their wedding. Find them a personal and creative gift like a piece of artwork for their home or a handmade quilt. Or, band together with the rest of the bridal party and give one larger gift, like a piece of furniture from their registry. Whatever it is, give it with love and pride.
Need more help? Check out my Top 5 Wedding Gift Ideas. And of course, while it's inappropriate to ask for money instead of a wedding gift, it's certainly fine to give money.

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