How Much Should You Spend on a Wedding Gift?

If you've been playing "the price is right" with wedding gifts, you're not alone -- we promise. It can be hard enough figuring out how much to spend on a wedding present for your sister, let alone for your cordial but not close ex–best friend from high school. 


Luckily, there is a secret formula, and Sue Fox, founder of the Etiquette Survival Group and author of Wedding Etiquette for Dummies, Business Etiquette for Dummies, and Etiquette for Dummies, was gracious enough to share it with us.

"The appropriate amount for the wedding gift is generally based on your relationship to the couple," Fox explains. "The closer you are to the bride or groom, the more expensive the gift."

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Though it depends on your financial situation and your relationships, here are Fox's general guidelines to follow:

  • Close family member: $100–$200
  • Distant family member: $50–$100
  • Best friend: $100–$200
  • Good friend: $75–$150
  • Distant or old friend: $50–$100
  • Colleague or coworker: $50–$100

But unfortunately, that's not all you need to consider.

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"The style of the wedding, whether it's formal or casual, shouldn't determine what you spend," Fox says. "Though, attending a destination wedding may warrant less money spent on the gift. You also need to take into consideration the pre-wedding events that may require gifts, such as a wedding shower, and consider your total budget."

Fox says that you should be careful not to overspend: While sticking close to $50 is fine if you're on a tight budget, spending too much on a wedding gift for someone who's not in your immediate family can come across as flaunting your wealth.

"Lavish gifts are not necessarily a show of love," she says, "and being an over-giver can send the wrong message."

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Same rules apply if the couple specified that they'd prefer cash to cover the wedding or honeymoon cost, or if they'd rather have an "experience" gift paid for by the group -- just pick an amount in the suggested range that you feel comfortable with.

There may also be constraints that come from family customs, so Fox recommends checking with your relatives if there's a wedding in your extended family.

"You may be expected to give a certain type of gift, or a gift of a certain value," she explains. "Be alert for the family tradition that calls for cash gifts for the bride."

It's a lot to remember, but gift-giving is tricky business, especially when we're talking about people you don't know that well. But when in doubt, go conservative. (Just not too conservative, okay?)


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