Exactly How Much Money to Spend on a Wedding Gift

Etiquette experts answer this common guest question.
Wedding guest holding gift wrapped in blue bow
Petra Zacharias/Shutterstock.com
sarah hanlon associate editor the knot
by Sarah Hanlon
sarah hanlon associate editor the knot
Sarah Hanlon
Associate Editor
  • Sarah is an Associate Digital Editor for The Knot, with special focuses in fashion, pop culture and wedding trends.
  • Before joining The Knot Worldwide, Sarah was a contributing writer for Bravo at NBC Universal.
  • Sarah has a degree in journalism and resides in New York City.
Updated Jul 09, 2021

After you receive a wedding invitation in the mail, one of your first thoughts might be about the kind of gift you want to get the to-be-weds. While traditional wedding etiquette has evolved over the years, giving a gift is still a common practice among guests. Not only is a present a nice way to congratulate the couple, it also serves as a thank-you for being included on their special day. But as you start browsing the couple's wedding registry for a great present, you may wonder how much you should spend. We'll let you in on a secret: There's no rule that determines exactly how much you should spend on a wedding gift. And, while traditional etiquette indicates that giving a wedding gift isn't mandatory, it is highly encouraged—and you likely want to spend the right amount on the couple you're celebrating.

To help you figure out how much is appropriate to spend on a wedding gift, we've tapped etiquette experts and our own data from real wedding guests to help you pick a number that's right for you. Below, we break down exactly how much you should spend on a wedding gift for a close friend, an acquaintance, a couple you don't know, and even a co-worker. We also share how much you should spend on a bridal shower gift too, along with additional etiquette tips on whether you need to buy presents for each wedding event you attend. Brush up on our top gift-giving tips below to help you find the perfect present for any couple. (And when you're ready to shop, check out our roundup of the best wedding gifts to give this year.)

Wedding Gift Tips to Know

Before we dive into the numbers, there are few wedding gift tips all guests should keep in mind. First and foremost, you should only spend what you're able to realistically afford. "The magic number for how much you should spend on a wedding gift depends on what fits your budget," says Lizzie Post, Co-President of The Emily Post Institute. "You should give a gift that's worth what you can afford to give comfortably."

Being a wedding guest can be expensive, especially if you find yourself in a season of life where the majority of your friends and family members are tying the knot. Plus, in the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic, couples are hosting microweddings, sequel ceremonies, vow renewals and more, all of which can add up for guests. Giving a great wedding present can feel daunting, which is why experts suggest setting a gift budget to prep for situations like this. "Setting aside a specific budget ahead of the wedding and determining your relationship with those getting married, especially in a year when you may be attending a few events, can help take the stress out of determining how much to spend on a gift," says Alissa Van Volkom, Head of Consumer Deposits, Products and Payments at TD Bank.

You might also find yourself wondering if old gift etiquette rules are still relevant. In the past, guests were sometimes encouraged to give a gift that would cover their plate at the reception, or to give a gift that matched what the to-be-weds gave them as a wedding gift. Here's the good news: Neither rule applies today. "The amount of your gift does not have to cover your 'head' or 'plate,' which is a common misconception," Post explains. "Guests shouldn't even know how much their seat costs at a wedding. Your gift amount also does not have to be influenced by what the couple may have given you as a wedding gift either."

The formality of the event may also make you feel inclined to spend more on a present for the happy couple. And, while you can spend more if you're attending a formal black-tie wedding if you want, it's not a requirement. "Just because you get invited to a formal event doesn't mean you can suddenly afford a gift at a higher price range," Post adds. "It always goes back to what you can comfortably afford."

Keep these wedding gift etiquette tips in mind as we share ideas of what to spend for various people in your life below. As a general rule of thumb, these numbers should be used as a guide to determine how much is appropriate to spend on a wedding gift given your budget and your relationship with the to-be-weds.

How Much to Spend on a Wedding Gift for a Close Friend or Family Member

Perhaps your best friend or a close cousin is getting married—you likely want to spend a little more on the wedding gift amount. According to our data, the average guest spend on a wedding gift is $120, though guests spend closer to $130 for a couple they're close to. Depending on your budget, you might consider spending anywhere between $100-$200+ on a gift.

If you're also in this person's wedding party, though, Volkom suggests evaluating the amount you've already spent on an engagement gift, a shower gift, the bachelorette party, and any other wedding-related expenses. "With this in mind, it's perfectly acceptable to opt for a more sentimental gift rather than an extravagant gift," she says. You can always give something on the lower end of this spectrum considering the large role you've already contributed to their big day.

How Much to Spend on a Wedding Gift for an Acquaintance

The wedding day of an acquaintance or a distant relative is no less celebratory. While you might not have a close relationship, you can still get them a great gift to celebrate their love. We recommend browsing presents in a range of $75-$175+. Again, taking the level of your relationship into account—along with your budget—is the best way to choose a present that feels appropriate for you.

How Much to Spend on a Coworker's Wedding Gift

While inviting co-workers to your wedding isn't mandatory, it can be quite common, especially for those that have great friendships outside of the office. In this case, consider looking for wedding gifts that fall anywhere between $50-$100+. If you've been working together for longer than a year, you might feel more inclined to spend on the higher end of this scale, budget-allowing. (Psst: Check out this roundup for great gift ideas for your co-worker or boss.)

And, if you're still unsure what to get your co-worker, you can always give a cash gift or gift card, or donate to a honeymoon fund on their wedding registry. "Cash is a perfectly acceptable gift to give on its own," Post shares. "We just recommend that you give a monetary gift with a wedding card so the couple knows who it came from."

How Much to Spend on a Wedding Gift Per Couple

Let's say you're attending a wedding as a plus-one and you don't know the couple particularly well, or you're bringing a date to a wedding you were invited to. You might wonder if these rules change when you're thinking about how much to spend on a wedding gift as a couple, and they don't. In this scenario, again, you might consider spending between $100-$200+ on a wedding gift.

"If you're attending the wedding with a significant other, you can always give a gift together," Post explains. "The gift can be structured any way you want: One person can give the gift while the other just signs the card, or you can chip in to the gift together. Whether or not you contribute to the gift is between you and the person you're attending with—just make sure both names are on the card." Adds Volkom: "Not only does this option cut costs, it also allows you to put a larger budget towards the gift."

How Much to Spend on a Wedding Shower Gift

While etiquette rules are a bit looser around wedding gifts, it is stricter when attending a wedding shower. "A wedding shower is the one event where a gift is required because the entire event revolves around giving gifts to the couple," Post says. "If you're ever not sure whether a gift is necessary, check with the host to find out what's expected."

Paying for a shower gift in addition to a wedding gift can be pricey, thus proving the importance of making a wedding gift budget. "Setting aside a small fund for wedding gifts prior to wedding season is a great way to ensure you aren't spending beyond your means and can enjoy your time celebrating," Volkom says.

Use your budget for both shower and wedding gifts, as well as small presents for additional events like an engagement party or a bachelorette party. While you might want to spend an equal amount on gifts for the shower and the wedding, you can give a little more at one event and less at the other. What matters most is that you give what you can—couples will appreciate your generosity and your presence as they celebrate their milestones with you.

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