How Much Should You Spend on a Wedding Gift?

Craft paper wrapping gift boxes on pink background

When it comes to giving a wedding gift, it can be hard to settle on an appropriate price tag. Factors wrapped up in this equation include how much money you can afford to spend on a gift, how well you know the couple and how much money you're spending to attend the wedding.

Read along as we put a bow on financial etiquette for giving a wedding gift.

How Much Is Too Much to Spend on a Wedding Gift?

Wedding planning website The Knot reported last year that the average amount spent on a wedding gift in 2019 was $120. While this average obviously isn't a universal requirement, it could provide an idea of how much you may want to spend on a wedding gift—and how much might be too much.

The Knot goes further by breaking down the percentages you may want to assign to gifts for the couple:

  • 60% of your total allocation for the wedding gift
  • 20% of your total allocation for the wedding shower gift
  • 20% of your total allocation for the engagement gift

Applying that math, if your entire budget for the couple is $300, you'd spend $180 on the wedding gift, $60 on the wedding shower gift and $60 on the engagement gift. The Knot recommends that if you're not invited to the wedding shower, you might shift the extra 20% toward the wedding gift.

So, how much is too much to spend on a wedding gift? While there's technically no maximum amount, be sure to stay within your budget and weigh your relationship with the couple. Even if you aren't very close with the couple, consider the cost of putting on a wedding and look at your gift as a way to thank them for the invite.

Think About Your Relationship with the Couple

How much you spend on a wedding gift may vary based on how much you know one or both members of the couple. You likely won't be hurting anyone's feelings if you spend modestly on a friend from college you haven't seen in years. If it's your best friend, brother or sister getting married, however, you might go all out and spend hundreds of dollars on something special. But don't go overboard if you can't afford it. Someone close to you shouldn't take it personally if you're struggling financially and don't spoil them on their wedding day.

If you plan to show up to the wedding with another person, such as a date, you might consider bumping up the price tag for the gift to make up for the cost of the food and drink your companion will be consuming.

Also, keep in mind that if one or both members of the couple previously gave you a wedding gift, you may want to take that into account when deciding on how much to spend on their gift.

Stay True to Your Budget

Whether you plan to earmark $50 or $250 for a wedding gift, take a look at your overall budget before making a purchase. You don't want to spoil the happy day by spending beyond your means on a wedding gift.

If you go overboard, you might add to the debt you already have or might take on brand-new debt. It's particularly important to review your budget so that you don't wind up with more credit card debt than you can handle.

If you don't have a household budget, it's pretty simple to create a spending plan. Here are four key steps:

  1. Figure out your income (after taxes).
  2. Add up and categorize your expenses.
  3. Set realistic spending goals.
  4. Monitor your spending.

If you already have a free Experian account or sign up for one, you can track your expenses through the Personal Finances tool. You also can rely on budget apps such as Goodbudget or You Need a Budget (YNAB). Regardless of how you track your budget, it's critical to stick as closely to it as possible, and adjust if necessary. A budget will do you no good if you don't heed the guidelines you've set for yourself.

Consider How Much You're Spending to Attend the Wedding

As you figure out how much money to spend on a wedding gift, you'll want to determine how much money you'll be spending to attend the wedding.

If the wedding is local, you may feel more comfortable putting more money toward a gift than if you're paying for airfare and a hotel to show up at a destination wedding in a place like Hawaii or Jamaica. It's likely the couple will understand if you trimmed the gift budget because you forked over thousands of dollars to be at their ceremony.

Cash Is Always an Option

Budgeting for a wedding gift is a wise move, but it might be hard to find a great gift that fits your budget. Instead of buying a physical gift that blows your budget, one way to keep wedding gift spending in check is to simply give the couple a sum in cash.

Your gift of money may delight the couple more than the alternative, anyhow. According to a 2019 survey by the Zelle payment app, 84% of people indicate they'd prefer money as a gift for a major occasion (such as a wedding), with just 16% favoring a physical gift.

A gift card might be a smart option for a monetary gift too. You still won't need to worry about hunting down the perfect physical gift, but a gift card can still show some personalization if it's for their favorite store or restaurant. Plus, some gift cards can be replaced if they're lost or stolen, making them a safer choice than cash. On top of that, a card likely will be easier for the couple to transport than a physical gift would be.

The Bottom Line

No matter the amount you vow to spend on a wedding gift, the couple should be pleased that you put time and effort into the gift you gave and likely won't obsess over how much the gift cost. After all, it's the thought—not the price tag—that counts.