How Much Should You Spend on a Wedding Gift?

With inflation reaching 9%,energy bills costing over 54% more than last year and fuel prices reaching record highs, the increased cost of living is unavoidable. However, with over 350,000 weddings set to take place in 2022 alone, the expense of attending weddings and buying presents can add up quickly and add to already tightened budgets.

Below, budget expert Jenny McCormac from BrandRated, reveals the etiquette of how much you should spend on the happy couple and what to do if you can’t afford to buy a gift at all.


By Jenny McCormac, money-saving and budget expert from BrandRated

What type of guest are you?

Many couples genuinely do not expect a wedding present, as it is agreed that spending the day with the happy couple is considered enough of a gift. However, tradition still dictates that gifts are an important gesture and a way to thank the couple for hosting you. With this in mind, you should consider what type of invitation you have, as this can help you work out what your budget should reasonably be.

Evening only invitation – £30-£50

Many couples agree that it is not expected for evening reception only invitees to bring a gift, however as tradition dictates, it may feel rude to turn up empty-handed, especially if drinks are covered for the evening. To prevent any feelings of awkwardness, a budget of around £30 up to £50 is more than enough to thank the couple for inviting you along and having you part of their celebration.

If the couple has a registry you should stick to this, as these are presents they’ve specifically chosen to suit all types of budgets. If they don’t have a registry, then consider smaller yet thoughtful tokens of appreciation. Scented candles, that act as a romantic backdrop for cosy nights in, or a voucher for a restaurant you know they’d like for a date night out are good examples of romantic yet inexpensive gifts.

Full-day invite (including ceremony and dinner) – £110

Full-day invitees are usually close to the couple, as the couple specifically wants you there to experience the whole day with them. Tradition states that your gift should cover the cost of your attendance, like your meal and drinks. As the average cost per head for a wedding guest is up to £110, this is considered the amount that guests should aim for. However, the beauty of this invite is that as a close friend of the couple, they may not expect you to spend this amount, especially if the wedding is in a location further away or requires an overnight stay.

As a close companion of the couple, you also have the advantage of knowing what type of present they would genuinely appreciate and use. Consider what they like to spend their time doing as a couple. If they enjoy holidays and travelling, then a hotel voucher or matching luggage sets would be thoughtful but also go to good use.  

If the couple has just moved into a new home, then consider their homeware taste. Are they an eccentric couple who love a vibrant print? Shop around and find the perfect homeware item that would go pride of place in their home.

Immediate family member/Member of the wedding party – £110 or less

If you are a close family member or part of the wedding party, then you have some room here to be more open. Typically, as a close companion to the couple, you most likely would have played a key role in the build-up to the wedding, whether that’s joining the hen/stag do or even helping to plan, meaning the couple will already appreciate the effort you have made. With this in mind, a gift is less of an expectation and should be treated as more of a thoughtful token of appreciation.

As you know the ins and outs of the couple, this puts you in a good position to be particularly thoughtful. For example, if you happen to know where the couple met then a memento of this would be greatly appreciated. Or, if you have been alongside the couple every step of the way in planning the wedding, then put together a scrapbook to document the build-up.

What’s the etiquette of splitting the cost of a group gift?

If the couple has registered for gifts, you should definitely consider splitting the costs with another wedding attendee. If, for example, it’s your colleague getting married and you’re going to the wedding with other co-workers, then ask if they would like to split the cost for a hot-ticket item.

If, however, you don’t know many or even anyone else going to the wedding, then it is frowned upon to ask to join in on a gift with people you don’t know. In this instance, it is best to buy your own present.

What if I can’t afford a present at all?

The cost of simply attending a wedding is high, with recent data revealing that the total average cost can set you back over £470! With this in mind, it is understandable that including a gift in this total can be the tipping point, especially if the wedding requires travelling far. Remember that the couple would much prefer having you in person and celebrating, over just a gift.

The main thing to remember is that you shouldn’t feel any pressure to spend any money that you simply can’t afford. No couple would want their guest to get into debt just to go to their wedding. Although tradition dictates you should at least “cover your head,” most couples really won’t mind if you can’t do this.

If you know you really can’t afford to spend money, then think outside the box. More often than not, a heartfelt present shouldn’t need to cost lots of money. If you are crafty, consider making the couple something personal to show you care. If you are handy, then make a promise to do a job around their home or garden. Non-typical things like this may seem untraditional but would be appreciated.

What if the couple has asked for money and I can’t afford to give it to them?

A survey conducted back in 2019 showed that 84% of couples would prefer to receive money over physical gifts for their wedding. Most couples will not specify how much money they want (this is seen as incredibly rude to specify how much money they want!) so don’t feel bad if you can only afford to give a smaller amount than you would like.

If you feel comfortable enough, then honesty is the best policy in this case. Simply speak to the couple and explain the fact you can’t afford to give anything at this time. You could suggest an alternative, say have the couple round for dinner one night, or even an old-fashioned “I owe you” would do the trick.

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