I’m taking a break from my normal advice-giving beat to delve into a question that evades advice—how much are people really spending on wedding gifts? We’ve had some quality wedding budget real talk, but we haven’t ever tackled the wedding gifts issue. There aren’t a lot of legitimate rules around wedding gifts. The WIC will spout endless nonsense at you, but at the end of the day, wedding gifts are not obligatory, and unless you are deliberately giving your cousin a giant metal chicken because you hate her taste in towels, you’re probably good. But you still need to decide how much you are spending somehow! I asked some of the staff to weigh in to kick things off. Let’s start with me:
I give in a range between $75 and $250, generally closer to the middle of the range. I consider a variety of factors including, in no particular order of importance, how close I am to the couple, how much money I have to spend, how much other money I’ve spent on their wedding, if I gave a gift at a shower, whether their wedding is a fancy Saturday night black tie affair or a Sunday brunch, if they gave me a plus one, and if I brought a date. I much prefer to give a gift off the registry, but if there’s nothing that fits my budget or speaks to me, I go with a check in a card or, if I know I can get it to them safely, cash in the currency of their honeymoon destination.
I’m shockingly bad at wedding gifts. First of all, I will use that one year grace period granted to you by etiquette to get the gift, because chances are that I spend a whole lot of cash on getting to your wedding (these days it seems to cost me upward of a grand to go to a wedding, between the fancy hotels people are throwing weddings at and, God forbid, flights). Assuming, I, um don’t totally blow it, I normally spend between $75 and $125. Also, don’t ask me for cash. On the inside, I’m the kind of WASP who is horrified by the very suggestion, and I become my grandmother the second you ask. And then I’ll just give you a toaster. Or a teaspoon. (I’d say don’t judge me on this, but I’m clearly judging you, so people in glass houses and all that. Judge away.)
I’ve changed so much on this. I used to panic about buying the right gift, wait until the last minute, and then be late to the ceremony because I stopped at an ATM to get them cash on the way (sorry, early twenties friends!). Now, “wedding gifts” is a category in our YNAB budget. Which means you are less likely to get a CVS gift card and more likely to get a sensible gift from your registry on time.
My gift giving is very systematic—I love my people, but my love language is acts of service not gifts, and they get the acts of service for free all the time at random. For weddings, I follow the regional rules of Long Island and always write a check at a standard amount that I have recently started adjusting for inflation. On one hand, it’s that awful “pay for your plate” tradition, but also I find it kind of delightful to think that the same $$$$$ has basically floated through my friend group as a revolving loan between us all for the past ten-ish years.
Now it’s your turn! Don’t be shy (or post anonymously for today!) and dive in. Let us know what you’re really shelling out!
How much do you spend on wedding gifts, and what do you (and won’t you) get?