You've probably been told that when it comes to gift giving, it's the thought that counts. And that's largely true. But wedding gifts usually require a little extra thinking. So how much should you drop on a registry item or write out on a check? We asked some experts, and here's what they had to say about how much to spend on a wedding gift in every scenario.
According to Sara Skirboll, a shopping and trends expert for RetailMeNot, you can expect to spend anywhere from $45 to $195 on a wedding gift, depending upon your relationship with the couple getting married. You should spend the most on a sibling’s wedding, around $160 for a best friend’s wedding, a little less than $100 for extended family or a good friend, and less for a coworker.
If it's a destination wedding and you have to shell out a lot for travel and lodging, you can get away with spending less on a gift. "A couple will understand if you give a smaller gift in order to travel and share in their special day," says Alana Futcher, a Chancey Charm wedding planner from Virginia. But Kansas City wedding planner Sarah Quinlivan thinks that applies only to international travel. So if you're going just a few states away, you might want to play it safe and get a similarly priced gift as if you were living in that city. If you're racking up miles, though, you can get away with spending closer to $50.
In many cases, when it comes to second or third (and beyond) weddings, you can expect the fanfare (including gifts) to be more subdued. Relationship expert April Masini recommends contributing to a charity that's meaningful to the bride and groom in honor of the wedding. Or consider offering your creativity or other talents, whether that's making invitations, baking a cake, taking photos, or providing music.
Older brides and grooms who are getting married for the first time, though, may expect nicer (read: more expensive) presents because most attendees will be older and have more money to spend, and the couple will also most likely have all the basics and be more interested in having nicer things, Quinlivan says. That doesn't mean you have to adhere to their standards or expectations, but you should realize most wedding guests will be spending more than they would on a couple in their 20s. WeddingWire trend expert Anne Chertoff urges guests to use the registry as a guide, and if the couple didn't create one then either ask them what they might like or purchase an experience for them to share, like dinner at a trendy restaurant or an excursion on their honeymoon.
So what doesn't factor into your spending decision? The size of the wedding or the number of weddings you're attending in a single season or year. Those details just aren't important. Chertoff says the old standard was to give a gift equal in value to the cost of your seat or plate at the wedding. But these days, you can give whatever you can afford.
Finally, rest assured if you're right out of college (and understandably broke) or unemployed (and financially strapped for the time being), the couple will understand that you're giving what you can, so a small, thoughtful gift is plenty, says Chancey Charm Denver wedding planner Lauren Groeper. If your gift will be less than $50, then it's best to give a physical gift, adds Chancey Charm Tampa wedding planner Julia Akins. Whatever you do, don't put yourself in debt to write a check or buy a fancy kitchen appliance off the registry. Your friends or family would never want to you fall into a financial hole over a wedding gift.