Wedding Gifts: What Are People Spending and What Should They Spend?

Saving Money / Relationships

Chris Politick / Getty Images/iStockphoto

Just because it’s wedding season doesn’t mean you need to go into debt buying gifts. You should be able to enjoy celebrating this love-centered event without feeling inundated with the burden of buying expensive gifts.

Advice: How Much Cash To Have Stashed at Home at All Times
Discover: 7 Surprisingly Easy Ways To Reach Your Retirement Goals

“Regardless of the nature of the relationship, wedding guests should only spend what they can afford on a meaningful gift to the married couple,” said Jennifer Porter, an etiquette expert and manners teacher in Seattle. “The amount is less important than the actual gift or experience presented to celebrate this major milestone.”

Bonus Offer: Open a new Citi Priority Account by 1/9/23 and earn up to a $2,000 cash bonus after completing required activities.

Here’s what Americans are actually spending on gifts, expert advice on how to gift appropriately and some great alternatives when the couple’s registry is out of your price range.

Americans Are Spending Less Than You Think

While it might seem like everyone is spending a couple of hundred dollars on a wedding gift, the reality is people are spending a lot less than you might think.

Take Our Poll: Do You Tip for Service?

GOBankingRates recently conducted a survey of over 1,000 Americans to get some insight on how much people are actually spending on wedding gifts. We found that the majority of Americans — over 30% — are spending between $50 and $75, and over 23% are spending less than $50.

With so many Americans purchasing gifts for under $75, it raises the question of whether this amount is appropriate. To address this concern, we turn to etiquette experts.

Don’t Be Too Cheap

According to etiquette expert Maryanne Parker, spending $50 to $75 on a wedding gift isn’t enough. The etiquette expert says that before the pandemic this price range would be a perfectly acceptable amount, but in these times of inflation with smaller, more intimate weddings, you should be budgeting for a pricier gift.

Bonus Offer: Find a Checking Account that Fits Your Lifestyle. $100 Bonus Offer for New Checking Account Customers.

“In times of inflation, it is appropriate to spend less only if we are not very close to the groom and the bride,” said Parker, who is the founder of Manor of Manners, an etiquette consulting firm based in San Diego. “There is a very thin line between being cheap and frugal; and, in this case, being overly frugal is not appropriate.”

Avoid Falling for Outdated Rules

Don’t base how much you spend on a gift on the wedding venue or how much the married couple spent on each person.

“The old adage of spending as much as the catering costs per person is outdated and doesn’t account for wedding guests’ financial positions,” Porter said. “Married couples ought to remember that they are hosts and, as such, should never account for a guest’s gift value. Instead, (they should) relish the opportunity to share their special day with loved ones.”

What’s an Appropriate Wedding Gift Price Point?

It can be tricky to determine the appropriate budget for a close family member’s wedding versus a co-worker’s or a more distant friend’s. Here’s what experts advise in these situations.

Bonus Offer: Bank of America $100 Bonus Offer for new Online Checking Accounts. See page for details.

“For close family members, the minimum price should be $150,” Parker said. “Some people go way over this price, depending on their family dynamics, financial situation and expectations. For co-workers, it could be around $50 to $75.”

Prioritize the Quality of the Gift Rather Than the Cost

At the end of the day, remember that the couple wanted you to be at their wedding to celebrate their special day, and how much you spend on their wedding gift is probably the furthest thing from their mind. Opt for a more thoughtful and memorable gift rather than the most expensive item on their registry.

“With rising costs of consumer goods, wedding guests shouldn’t worry about the dollar amount of a gift,” Porter said. “Rather, use what they know about the couple to purchase a gift that will be appreciated and useful. Thankfully, most couples will add a range of prices to their gift registry, making it very easy for guests to choose something that the couple will enjoy.”

Don’t Be Afraid To Get Creative

Sometimes wedding registries can have unrealistic prices, so don’t be afraid to go off-registry if necessary.

“If guests feel priced out of the registry, choose a token from the wedding location,” Porter said. “Ideas include a handcrafted kitchen or entertaining item — ceramic bowl, serving platter, table linens — from the wedding destination that the couple will enjoy using for years. Likewise, there are wonderful customized and affordable wedding gift options to be found on artisan shopping platforms such as Etsy.”

Plan Ahead

In most cases, you receive an invitation to a wedding months in advance. Take this time to plan and budget for the wedding gift. Take into account other weddings and pricey events you also need to budget for to ensure you can gift appropriately if you will be in attendance.

More From GOBankingRates

About the Author

Maddie Duley is a content intern for ConsumerTrack writing about finances for GOBankingRates. She is currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in communication and design from the University of California Davis.