Ask the Experts: How Much Should I Spend on a Wedding Gift?

By Azure Nelson, Published Aug 19, 2010

Dear Ask the Experts, What's the rule of thumb one should use for cost when purchasing a wedding gift? I just heard that it's the cost of two plates at the reception. But how does one know what the cost of two plates is? Especially if one is completely ignorant on the costs of such things? Signed, Frequent Wedding Guest Arianna of Iris Fields says: You are not alone when being totally confused by how much to give! Unfortunately, it is a bit complicated. It is based on location (city), relationship to the wedding couple, if you are attending the wedding or not and if you are going alone or not. But since you asked for it: I would use the $125 number if you ARE attending alone and go from there. However, if you truly cannot afford that much then go for something off of the couple's registry because that is better than giving a random gift to hide the cost:) Dawn of Traditionally Modern says: You must be a terrific friend to be invited to so many events. I truly believe that there is no "rule of thumb" to giving. You should give what you can, but don't be cheap! Choose something that you would like the couple to have as well as something you would like to receive. As far as making your purchase the same cost as two plates at the wedding, I feel like that is a bit off. The reception part of the wedding is a "thank you" to the guests for coming and you should not know the cost of a gift! Arti of Zoya Couture says: Yes, common wedding etiquette calls for each guest gifting the cost their dinner plate. To gage the cost, use the couple's wedding invitation, as it is usually reflective of the event to be held. DIY likely means a more casual, less costly event and a boxed, embellished invitation means something much more elaborate. As a general guideline, when attending the wedding of a couple you don't know well plan to spend between $50-150 per attendee that you RSVP for. Jeff of Blackbird Images says: I may be taking a different approach, but your gift should be based on what you can afford and not on some general, one-size-fits-all rule of thumb. The couple that invited you certainly has a sense of what you can afford. For some people, that may be $20. For others that may be a gift costing thousands. Bottom line: Your gift should be something you want to give, feel good about giving… and won’t regret or resent later. The best present you can give is your presence at the wedding; a tangible gift is just icing on the cake. Rebecca of The Studio B Photography says: If you're going to a wedding with a date, then yes, the cost of two plates is an acceptable measure for the gift for the couple. However, reception venues vary drastically and the cost of of your meal can be hard to pin down. Therefore, it's best to stick with a standard number that you can give no matter where the wedding is. If you give between $75-$100 per guest, you should be in great shape! You can get gifts that add up off the couple's registry that add up to that amount, but money is also always a welcome gift. In fact, in some cultures, money is the traditional gift, as it is seen as way for guests to contribute to the newlywed's nest egg and send them on their way to a great future. Brandi of All Events Planned says: That “rule” was created by someone without any understanding of actual etiquette. First, you should never be informed of the cost of your meal at a wedding, that is a tacky tactic used by brides that are only interested in making their wedding a “for-profit” event. Your gift should reflect what you can afford/what works within your budget. No one wants to go into debt purchasing a friend or associate a wedding gift. If you are working from a registry and there isn’t anything in your price range, you can always find other guests and see if they are interested in all contributing to a larger gift from the group, as opposed to the individual. While a bride & groom should never request a cash gift, it is something that everyone enjoys receiving. If you decide to go that route because you aren’t able to find something on the registry, then the average amount ranges from $20-$50, again depending on your budget and depending on your relationship with the bride and groom. If you are a frequent wedding guest to friends and associates, budget accordingly but for your close family or best friend, you could consider spending more. Marta, OneWed’s Wedding Maven says: I believe that a wedding gift is a token of affection, and an acknowledgment that the bride and groom are moving on to a new phase of life. It is NOT intended to repay the bride and groom for the cost of the wedding, it is NOT intended to furnish their new life and it is NOT a measure of the relationship. The fact that there are so many different opinions from these experienced wedding professionals just goes to show you that there's no "right" answer here. If your guests behave differently than you expect, please try to keep in mind that they aren't being rude and it isn't a reflection of how they feel about you, they're just operating from a different playbook. About Our Experts: Brandi Hamerstone is the owner & senior wedding planner for All Events Planned. In her nine years of experience in the wedding industry, she has planned over 300 weddings. Jeff Haden is President of BlackBird Images, wedding photographers based in Harrisonburg, VA. Not only is he a well-respected and talented photographer, but has also gained recognition as a ghostwriter. Rebecca is the owner of The Studio B Photography in the Atlanta, Georgia area. As a recent bride herself, Rebecca is able to better understand what her clients need and enjoys providing them with images that capture the joy of their wedding day. Arti Anand works with ZOYA Couture, a boutique design and print studio in Washington, D.C. that creates wedding invitations and marketing collateral. The company incorporates work of numerous in-house and freelance designers, offering clients fresh new designs, layouts, and materials. Ariana Gordon Stecker is the co-founder and Lead Planner for Iris Fields, Inc. She is a seasoned New York City event professional who has been featured on MTV, Fox News, and the New York Times. Dawn Cowart is the lead event planner for Traditionally Modern Wedding and Event Planners in Atlanta, Georgia. With a sophisticated flare for the dramatic, Dawn can create a wedding tailored to the couple. If you have a question for the panel write

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