Friday, 29 November 2013

How much cash should I give as a wedding gift?

It seems that I have hit an age where a significant proportion of my friends are starting to settle down and get engaged.  This year I had 5 weddings in total and next year I already have invites or 'save the dates' for 7 so the chances are that I will be going to something more than this.

Wedding gifts have gone through an interesting evolution.  Historically there was not 'list' or preferred gift and so people typically got several presents which were exactly the same.  Then came the wedding registry which lasted for a quite a while - you set a list of items at a large department store and people went in and paid what they wanted to buy you one or more items on that list.

The next evolution of the wedding gift trend has emerged in recent years - the cash gifts.  I spoke to some people in older generations and they said that cash gifts used to be seen as almost taboo and impossible to get right because of the risk of giving too little money.  However in the last year I only received one wedding invite which had a gift registry and the rest invited you to give cash to help towards their honeymoon.

So what is the right amount of cash to give as a wedding gift?

The old problem of not knowing the right amount of cash to give as a wedding gift still exists.  Because it is a relatively recent phenomenon there is no set rule or expectation about the right amount of cash to give as a wedding gift.  The dilemma is as follows:
If I give too little I look like I'm tight and if I give too much then I'm just wasting money
I don't know about most of you but I'd rather be in the giving too much category than in the giving too little category.  However there is a limit to this.  What made me think about it was the first time that I gave an amount and then later though..."that was a lot of money".

A rule of thumb for giving cash at a wedding: give slightly more than it would cost them to have you at the wedding

This is the most basic rule and only really applies for
people that are having the traditional reception wedding.  You always want to give them more than it would cost them to have you - but within reason - if they decide to splash out a silly amount per head you don't have to go over and above this.

Typically wedding receptions cost the bride and groom something like $100 - $120 per head.  I think an acceptable cash gift is therefore $150.

If you have to fork out significant cash to get to the wedding and also for accommodation it is acceptable to go slightly lower than this and if the person is particularly close to you you may want to go slightly higher.  If the wedding is less formal you may want to go closer to $100 (any less than this and I think you're getting yourself into trouble).

There are not many ways to get around the high cost of going to a wedding

The unfortunate fact about weddings is that, unlike other celebrations and gifts, there is rarely a cheap and efficient way to give a gift.  You don't need to go over the top though. In my mind $150 is a 'safe' amount which is not likely to cause offence or for people to think you are tight but it is unlikely to break the bank as well.

As an aside - if you know you have lots of weddings coming up, it may pay to start stacking away the cash in advance.  I am doing this through my expenditure smoothing technique.  It helps budget and pay for larger expenditures.  If you are actually planning on getting married yourself (and guys this really applies to you as you need to buy the ring as well...start putting away cash early).

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  1. I'm a big fan of a standard $100 per person that attends the wedding. For instance, if a couple attends a wedding, $200. If a single attends a wedding , $100.

    If it is a wedding for a close friend, I up it to $300 for a couple and $200 for a single.

    If I'm in the wedding party, I usually gift $500.

    In most circumstances, the above won't necessarily cover the full cost of your spot at the event, but it will cover most and show that you value the friendship.

    1. That's not a bad approach actually. I was thinking about how to distinguish between close friends and others.

      If you have the choice of cash or gift which do you normally go for? I normally opt for a gift because I can put more thought into it...but I wonder what people prefer to receive...