Wedding flowers

Don’t Go Broke for the Wedding Gift

Wedding season remains in full bloom and while tying the knot is getting more expensive for the bride and groom, attending a wedding is becoming costlier, too. Some surveys reveal the average guest will spend $673 this year to attend a single wedding—including but not limited to travel, accommodations and attire.


Wedding flowers and gift

How much to spend for a gift?

I’m not here to tell you what to spend on a gift (check these figures if you want a general idea), but I can offer you a sigh of relief with this: Experts agree you can forget the antiquated notion that you must spend an amount equal to the cost-per-plate at the reception. A wedding is not a fundraiser. You are not obligated to pony up with a gift that reimburses the cost of your attendance.

Instead, you should come up with a dollar amount that makes sense for you. Never spend more than you can afford on a wedding gift. Going into debt to buy a gift is never a good idea, even if you’re sure you can pay it off next month. If money is tight, adjust your gift budget accordingly.

Is cash acceptable as a wedding gift?

While experts pretty much agree that it is gauche for a couple to ask for money instead of a wedding gift, it is completely acceptable to give money. Tuck a check or cash inside an envelope with a personal message or contribute to the couple’s cash registry If an envelope, get that to the couple ahead of time or place it in a receptacle provided for cards at the reception. For sure, don’t plan to hand it to the bride or groom during the event. That’s a sure way for it to be misplaced or lost forever.

How much time to give a wedding gift?

Traditional wedding etiquette, which still offers you a break on timing, says that you have up to a year following the wedding to purchase and send a wedding present. Just keep in mind that while there aren’t any socially acceptable rules about how much to spend, it truly comes down to the thought that counts. It’s better to give a gift that’s smaller and within a window closer to the wedding, rather than waiting for a long period of time to be able to afford a wedding gift that’s more expensive.

Wedding gift tips

Compare prices on registry items

It’s wise to reference a registry to see what the couple wants, but it’s even smarter to compare prices among stores. Retailers like Costco and Overstock sell popular registry brands for less than most high-end stores. In this case, since your purchase is not likely to be recorded on the couple’s registry list. In that case, send it to the couple early so yours is not the duplicate.

Use discount gift cards

If you’re planning to give a gift card or you’re buying an item off a couple’s registry, save money by purchasing discount gift cards from The site offers gift cards for less than face value, like, for example, a $100 Macy’s gift card for $80.

Know where to find coupon codes

Most stores offer coupons these days, you just have to know where to look to find one. By signing up to receive an e-newsletter from Pottery Barn or Williams-Sonoma and countless other online retailers, you’ll get a coupon code for 10% off a future order.

Head to warehouse club

Big box stores like Costco and Sam’s Club sell popular registry items like blenders, food processors and other household goods for at least 30% less.

Go in on a big gift

If the couple registered for an expensive item that is out of range for one person to afford, find a group of friends or relatives to split the cost.

Gift wrap and cards at dollar store

While the cost of wrapping the gift and signing a greeting card seems insignificant, you may be tacking on another $20 to an already pricey present. It all adds up! Duck into the dollar store to get these items (you’ll be amazed at the selection and quality) for a buck each.

Offer your services

If money is tight, offer your services instead of a physical gift. Whether it’s doing hair and makeup for the bride and her maids, putting your photography skills to work at the ceremony or dog-sitting while the couple’s away on their honeymoon, your gift is sure to please.

Spread out purchases

If you recently bought a gift for the bridal shower or booked airfare and hotel for the wedding, don’t feel pressured to purchase a gift right away, especially if funds are limited. The bride and groom would never want you to go into debt to attend their nuptials, so space out your expenses. Simply follow the traditional wedding etiquette rule and send a gift later. Just don’t forget!

You may also enjoy:

How to Organize a Closet in 5 Easy Steps

A Wedding from HEL

9 Ideas for a Frugal (Not Cheap!) Wedding



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11 replies
  1. Anonymous... says:

    Thanks, Regina, for your response as well. I know they will be insulted because it has always been “their way or the highway” but we have sent our “regrets and best wishes” to the “happy couple” and will send a nice gift from their registry to them. Thanks to both you and Mary for confirming what I hoped was the proper things to do in this situation. God bless…

    • Joyce says:

      We have come up with a standard bundle of gifts we give every couple as a wedding gift. First, a finance book by Dave Ramsey which offers common sense money management ideas. Next, i found a lovely ceramic tile art piece from a Wisconsin artist that shows a house and tree on a hill with a heart hanging in the tree. Text on the plaque reads “And they lived happily ever after.” My husband, an artist, personalizes it with the date and the couples’ names on the back. Then we usually include a card and a check. It makes giving a wedding gift easy.

  2. Yehudit says:

    One of the best wedding gifts we received was from a clerk at in my father’s office. She gave us a month of cleaning service. Four Saturdays in a row she came and cleaned our apartment top to bottom. That was more than 50 years ago, and I still remember it.

  3. Regina Kohutek says:

    As I see it, the only obligation you have here is to be courteous & kind. You do not need to go into debt. You do not have to be present for an awkward & unhappy social scene. You do not owe anyone visits, travel or hotel costs. A simple brief prompt RSVP with best wishes for a happy occasion and bright future together, are kind and courteous. No other explanation is necessary.

    • Anonymous... says:

      Thanks to you also, Regina. I’m sure they will be insulted b/c it has always been “their way or the highway” but we have sent our “regrets and best wishes” and will follow up with a gift from the “happy couples” registry. Thanks for the confirmation from both you and Mary. God bless…

  4. Anonymous says:

    My husband’s nephew is getting married in October. My husband is not close to his brother – they have had conflict over the years and his brother and SIL have not been kind to us. We have been invited to the wedding that is 700 miles away. It is a pretty good bet that with the SIL’s huge family of six siblings on her side we will not be missed by my husband’s brother and we will feel like fifth wheels and money will just go out the door to attend an uncomfortable situation. We have sent the RSVP that we will not be attending the wedding due to a conflict. We will be sending a gift however. Just the other day I have received an invite to the Bridal Shower that of course I will not be attending – they are 700 miles away. Do we also have to send a Bridal Shower gift? This seems a bit out there. I also sent an RSVP that I will not be attending the Shower. Can you please advise of the right thing to do? We will probably rarely if ever see this couple again because we haven’t in decades spent time with the parent. Please don’t bash me … this is just how things have happened. No hard feelings on our part … just not a comfortable situation for us to attend a wedding where things are awkward. Thank you for any thoughts on the subject.

    • Mary Hunt says:

      According to Peggy Post, daughter (I believe) of the last Emily Post, if you are unable to attend the wedding, it is proper to send a gift. If, however, you are invited to a shower (baby, wedding, etc.) you should RSVP as such, but a gift is not necessary. I don’t know the difference there, but I trust the Posts! So, sounds like you’re doing everything properly.

      • Thanks, Mary. Such a relief and good to know. says:

        Thanks, Mary. Such a relief to know and not stress about such things.

    • Cathy down on the farm... says:

      Same thing happened with my great nephew last year. Sent him $50.00 for graduation and didn’t hear a peep back. Now I suppose when he graduates college I’ll get another announcement. I probably won’t send another gift… maybe not even a card…


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