When it’s OK to spend just $20 on a wedding gift
Weddings are super expensive — for the guests.
One in five people has declined an invitation to a wedding because they couldn’t afford to go, according to a survey released Wednesday by Bankrate.com. And no wonder: Between the clothing, travel and other expenses, Americans spend an average of $703, up 5% from 2015, to attend each wedding, according to data released in August from American Express.
One of the biggest costs? The gift. Wedding guests tend to spend about $50 – $100 per gift, says Bankrate.com’s spending expert Sarah Berger. But spending varies significantly, depending on a number of factors.
“A minimum amount to budget [for a gift] would be $20 for a co-worker, $50 for a friend and $100 or more if family.”
Pamela Eyring, etiquette expert
How well you know the bride and groom? In general, the closer the relationship, the more you should spend. “The old rules say to estimate how much the couple spent on hosting you, i.e. the price of your plate, but the new rules say to spend whatever you think is appropriate depending on your relationship with the couple,” says Constance Hoffman, the owner of etiquette and professional skills firm Social and Business Graces. Here’s how much people in Bankrate’s survey spent, based on their relationships with the couple.
|Close family, friend||Acquaintance, colleague, distant family|
|Less than $50||18%||31%|
|$50 – $99||33%||37%|
|$100 to $149||21%||15%|
|$150 – $199||9%||7%|
|$200 – $299||9%||3%|
|$300 or more||8%||3%|
Age. Millennials are both the most likely to cheap out on, and the most likely to splurge on a gift. One in four people ages 18-29 spent less than $50 on a gift for a close friend of family member, compared to 15% of people in the 30-49 and 50-64 age groups.
However, the 18-29 age group is also the most likely to drop upwards of $200 on a gift for someone close to them. “There’s sometimes this approach where you give others what you hope to receive as your own wedding gift,” explains Berger. “People in that age group are likely attending weddings of their friends, while also planning to get married soon themselves. They might be thinking, ‘Well, if I give a generous, $200 gift, this person will give that back to me for my own wedding.’”
Where you live. If you live in the Northeast, you’re more likely to spend more. “Guests in the Northeast are more than twice as likely as the rest of the country to spend big on a wedding gift for a close friend or family member,” the Bankrate.com survey showed. About one in three (30%) said their typical gift cost at least $200, compared to 13% of everyone else.”Similarly, for gifts given to colleagues, acquaintances and distant relatives, 46% in the Northeast spend at least $100, compared to 24% of the rest of the country,” the survey showed.
Experts say you can’t just use other people’s spending as your guideline on what to spend. Etiquette expert April Masini says that the couple’s registry holds clues on what you should spend. “If they register at Target and Crate and Barrel, they’re setting the tone — based on what they know about their guests — for gifts starting at $50 and running upwards. If they register at places like Bloomingdales then gifts start at $75 and upwards. Tiffany’s? $125 and upwards — emphasis on upwards,” she says.
As important as any other factor is what you can afford, says Pamela Eyring, president of the Protocol School of Washington. “A minimum amount to budget would be $20 for a co-worker, $50 for a friend and $100 or more if family.”
And you “should never feel priced out of a wedding based on a registry,” says Masini. ”It’s a clue about what a couple wants, and for some people, it makes life easy, but feel free to give your own out of the box gift — whether it’s art you’ve made, a donation to a Zoo or a single place setting that three of you went in on because it’s what you could swing”
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