How Much Do You Give for Wedding Gifts These Days?

It’s wedding season!

And do you know what that means?…

It’s time for everyone to pull out their wallets and pay some money into the $50 billion dollar industry of wedding celebrations! 🤮

Actually, we might be spending much more than that this year… From what I’m hearing, many couples who got engaged before the pandemic didn’t get to have their weddings last year and are trying to all schedule them this year. Even some couples who did have small COVID weddings, are planning another wedding just ‘cause they feel ripped off from not having a big gathering the first time.

Anway, this has sparked a lot of chatter about wedding gifts. I got the following note from a reader named Heather last week…

“How much should I give for a wedding gift — if I am IN the wedding and have to already spend money on bridesmaid stuff? The bride wants to do a traveling bachelorette weekend which is costing $400 each person, im guessing a bridesmaid dress will be $100 and prolly more costs on top of this. Should I still give them a wedding present too and how much? I was planning to give $150 because they are my close friends, but now I’m thinking no present is OK?

Im not tryna be a cheap friend I just have SIX weddings this coming year to attend and will be in 3 of them. I will be a bridesmaid (2 for sure, 1 hasn’t asked yet but I think they will). So it’s an expensive year and have to think about savings.”

Tough spot! Six weddings in a year is a lot, especially close friends where you might feel you need to give more.

I’m going to share my thoughts on Heather’s situation first, then all you readers can tell me how wrong I am in the comments section. 🤣 My guess is everyone’s got a different opinion on this, here is mine…

When It’s OK to Give a Small Wedding Gift (or None at All!)…

I’ve probably attended 20+ weddings so far in my life and been a groomsman in 6. My wife has been a bridesmaid maybe the same amount of times. Sometimes we give big, and sometimes small.

As a baseline, our standard wedding gift is around $100-$150 (per person attending), so that’s $200-$300 for me and my wife. We like to give cash in an envelope with a card on the wedding day.

But, if either of us is IN the wedding, we usually assume much more. Upwards of $500-$1000+ in total costs (pre-wedding events, travel, outfits and gifts). I know that’s a HUGE amount, but if we’re asked to be included in the wedding, it means we’re very close to the couple getting married and are OK spending money on them.

Here are some guidelines we tend to follow regarding gift giving…

  • If you’re in the wedding party, and are expected to spend a substantial amount for your role, it’s probably OK to give a smaller gift, or none at all. Dollar amounts vary depending on how close we are with the bride/groom. (The last wedding I was in cost me $270 for a suit rental, but since there were no other costs (no batch party, etc) and we are close friends with the couple, we also gave a $400 cash gift. If the wedding related costs were more, like $600-$700, we probably would’ve given less. This couple are very close friends of ours).
  • If you have expensive travel for a wedding, a small gift is OK. I’ve traveled to Australia, New Zealand, and across the country to attend various weddings. In these cases I’ve given smaller cash gifts, or just a nice card. Usually the wedding couple are just happy that we travelled so far to celebrate with them and don’t expect a big gift.
  • If you’re not very close with the bride and groom, don’t feel compelled to give a huge amount. For weddings of distant relatives or “courtesy invites” from couples we’re not really close with, $100 would be my gift amount, I think.
  • If you don’t have much to give, a small amount is OK! My Mum told me the most meaningful wedding gift she received was just $5. And it wasn’t even a $5 bill – it was 2 x $2 coins and 1 x $1 coin (Australian money). The family that gave her the money didn’t have much in life, but they gave $5 because that’s what they could afford at the time. Personally, I’m blessed to have never been in this situation. But for anyone out there who doesn’t have much money to give, that’s OK! Any giving is good giving.

Ways to Save Money as a Wedding Guest

If I were in Heather’s situation, here are a few things I can think of that might help…

For the weddings I’m a part of (and if I were really close with the brides), I might have a conversation with them about how much the wedding is costing the bridesmaids and if they want a gift, too. This could be awkward, but there might be a few ways to bring it up in a casual way?

For the pre-wedding events, there’s no harm in bowing out of anything you’re uncomfortable paying for. If a bride or groom asked me to spend money on a trip I couldn’t afford or an activity I didn’t totally agree with, I’d have no problem telling them to continue without me. With the saved money I could give them a bigger gift anyway.

If I really wanted to give as much as possible to all 6 weddings, I’d pick up a small side hustle to cover the costs. Making an extra $2k in a year wouldn’t be that hard with all the gig-economy apps available these days. It’s for a great cause.

Lastly, there are other ways to contribute to a wedding besides cash gifts! At my wedding, there were several people who stood out as “helpers”… They solved problems, always made sure my wife and I had what we needed and were having a good time, helped with some coordination, and even put out a few fires we didn’t even know existed until months later! Sometimes just supporting the marriage and wedding day is more than money is worth. Heather might be a perfect spot to do the same. Being a bridesmaid comes with responsibilities, but if you go absolutely above and beyond the role, then THAT is what is remembered in the long run. Not how much $$ you put into an envelope.

Well, that’s my 2 cents on it.

What do you guys reckon? What are your standard wedding gifts and giving guidelines?

Have a great weekend,

Love, Joel

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16 Comments

  1. The Millennial Money Woman July 23, 2021 at 5:58 AM

    Happy Friday Joel!

    I think your outline is pretty succinct.

    Although I haven’t been to as many weddings as you have, from the times I did go to weddings, the gifts we gave were simple but thoughtful. Similar to your mom’s story – I’ve found that sometimes it’s the thought that counts more so than the cost of the gift. What I’ve done in the past is create hand-made scrapbooks with little memoirs for the bride and groom or give to their honeymoon fund, if they are going on one.

    Cheers!

    Fiona

    Reply
    1. Joel July 23, 2021 at 9:07 AM

      Scrapbooks are a great idea, they are so personal. One of our friends made my wife and I a simple art piece with some cut outs from our home town maps. It’s still hanging in our house now and we love it!

      Reply
  2. Dee July 23, 2021 at 7:12 AM

    I guess I lucked out as most of my friends were married late 90s so I had much less cash to give at that time and they all knew it. I’ve only been myself in two weddings and both my friends were very frugal so costs weren’t astronomical but one I had to travel for so between flights hotels and rental cars on top of my dress and shoes yeah not fun. When the weddings I attended I also had to attend bridal showers and give gifts then too so for the actual wedding I probably gave 50 or 75 bucks but again it was late 90s and I was poor. Now as I am more established I would probably do 200 for the cash in envelope at the wedding. Thankfully all my friends and most family are already married. Now it would be just my cousins kids at this point and fingers crossed I won’t make the cut. Lol

    Reply
    1. Joel July 23, 2021 at 9:13 AM

      Haha! I’ve got a pretty huge family too and have thought the same… Luckily I’m in the US and most of them are in Australia so I don’t get invited to many cousins and extended family weddings :)

      Reply
  3. Lizzy July 23, 2021 at 7:44 AM

    Great article.

    Could I add a suggestion? Instead of bringing gifts to the actual wedding, possibly send them to the couple’s house either before or after. So many of my wedding gifts became separated from the cards when transporting them afterwards! There is also a risk of theft

    Reply
    1. Joel July 23, 2021 at 9:15 AM

      Absolutely! Most of the wedding’s I’ve been to have a specific lockbox to put cards (many have cash inside). Totally agree about gifts brought to the wedding venue… It’s better to ship directly to their house before or after the wedding day. Carrying them all home can be a hassle for the bride/groom depending on how big!

      Reply
  4. Liz July 23, 2021 at 8:38 AM

    I have friend who are getting married tomorrow! They have both been married before, and have good jobs and asked for people to instead donate to a charity of their choice. I get a match at work so I effectively ‘gave’ 2x as much. I did get them a small token gift around $15.

    As we are all getting older, most of my friends have the dishes, appliances etc that are typical 20’s ‘setting up your house’ registry items.

    It can’t hurt to ask your friends for all the weddings if you could donate yo a charity in their honor, but let them know you’ll donate by the end of the year. Many charities have an ‘in honor of’ option & a digital ‘certificate ‘ for you to pass along.

    Reply
    1. Joel July 23, 2021 at 9:18 AM

      Love this idea, Liz. And great thinking using the company match! Congrats to your friends and have fun tomorrow!!!

      Reply
  5. Jason Brown July 23, 2021 at 10:26 AM

    Great topic Joel! — I went through a period of my life where it felt like I was buying a wedding gift for someone at least once a month. Then, when you get older, things start getting weird when you get invited to the second and third weddings of people you know! But the big thing I had a challenge with was all the wedding showers…because you’re supposed to bring a gift to those too! Normally, you would only get invited to just one of those but if you are in the wedding or immediately family (like when my two sisters got married – one of them twice!) that’s when you are required to go to SIX wedding showers and buy gifts for all of them – PLUS the wedding! Sigh….

    Reply
    1. Joel July 24, 2021 at 9:41 AM

      Definitely! The number of pre-wedding events are growing! We typically do just 1 gift for the couple, no matter how many parties they have.

      Luckily most of our friends are still married! I haven’t been to anyone’s second wedding yet!

      Reply
  6. Gary Grewal July 23, 2021 at 9:02 PM

    This is spot on and timely Joel! I can’t believe some of the screenshots I’ve seen and discussions I’ve had with friends on them feeling compelled to shell out hundreds on a wedding gift, after travelling there and partaking in other activities as well.

    I’ve been on a mission to be more mindful about those gifts too, and make them unique to the couple. Love nature? Can donate two trees to be planted in their name for less than $20. Into photography? Can put a picture you took on your phone of a place with special meaning to you two on a canvas for less than $30. For those well off couples, giving them something handmade, or meaningful, or making a modest donation to cause important to them are all fair game.

    At the end of the day, they shouldn’t judge your friendship by the gift.

    Reply
    1. Joel July 24, 2021 at 9:37 AM

      Haha love your green thumb, Gary! Actually my wife and I were dedicated a tree once, and our friends made a plaque with our names on it, planted in a secret spot on Oahu. Not sure if it’s still there, but it was one of the coolest and most memorable gifts we have received.

      Reply
  7. Impersonal Finances July 25, 2021 at 6:53 PM

    Most of the close friend/family weddings were in my broke 20s so $100 was the standard, but I suppose I’ll have to up that amount for future occasions. Might depend on the open bar situation…

    Reply
    1. Joel July 26, 2021 at 3:32 PM

      hahaha Yes it’s always nice to have an open bar!

      Reply
  8. Celia July 27, 2021 at 9:35 PM

    Weddings are costly. When planning for my wedding, we let ppl know that we are happy that they were attending. There were not obligated to get us a gift. Our bridal and groom party was very small so we paid for them so they wouldn’t have additional expenses. I think it helped having a small wedding so we could divert some of our budget to our wedding party.

    Reply
    1. Joel July 28, 2021 at 3:03 PM

      Thats really nice of you! It’s always better when the bride and groom express a lot of appreciation for guests making it there and celebrating with them.

      Reply

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