How Much Should You Spend on a Wedding Gift?

illustration of how much to spend on a wedding gift

Illustration: Ashley Nicole DeLeon. © The Spruce, 2019

It's something every guest wants to know but is afraid to ask: How much should you spend on a wedding gift?

The old rules say to estimate how much the couple spent on hosting you, i.e., the price of your plate, but the new rules say to spend whatever you think is appropriate depending on your relationship with the couple.

As with 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 tchotchke. 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 you be expected to pay up for couples who can afford million dollar weddings?

It can be hard to tell how much they spent on your plate. Looks can be deceiving. That casual, backyard wedding may be more expensive than you think, and the extravagant wedding may have been put together on a budget.

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

  • For your coworker or boss: $75 - $100. You see them every day and, hopefully, you'll have a long working relationship with them.
  • For a neighbor or casual acquaintance: $50 - $75 is fine. You can spend more if you have it, but it's not necessary.
  • 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 the lasting presents 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 acknowledgment of their hospitality. If you're a poor student and, truly, absolutely can't afford $50, then make up what you can't spend in money with time and thoughtfulness.
  • For a Destination WeddingWhen 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 something. If they're a couple you're willing to travel for, they're probably pretty important to you, so it's worth spending $50 to $100 on their gift.
  • When You're in the Wedding: You've bought a fancy bridesmaid dress you'll never wear again, attended the shower, the bachelorette, and even the engagement party. Your budget is tapped! But since they're your good friends, the good news is that price is less important than sentiment, and your good friends don't want you to bankrupt yourself over their wedding. Find them a personal, 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 them one large gift, like a piece of furniture from their registry. Whatever it is, give it with love and pride.

It's gauche for a couple to ask for money instead of a wedding gift, but it's completely acceptable to give money.