wedding gifts

Wedding Gifts: How To Give Without Busting Your Budget

Throwing a wedding is not cheap for the bride and groom, but it can also be pricey for attendees. Regardless of whether you are attending a local or destination wedding, your wallet will take a hit, especially when it comes to wedding gifts.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure buying a wedding gift doesn’t drain your budget. Here’s how to give a gift to the happy couple without breaking the bank.

How Much Should You Spend on a Wedding Gift?

I don’t mind buying a wedding present or gift card for a friend. But knowing how much to spend and what to get can be challenging. I recently read that the average wedding gift costs $70.

Many experts have rules about how you should decide what to spend on a wedding gift, but I think you have to figure out your own way to determine what you can afford and what is appropriate.

Here are the guidelines I use:

  • I usually spend about $50 to $60 for a good friend from high school or college.
  • For a lifelong friend or someone I consider to be a very close friend, I usually spend about $75.
  • I spend about $100 for a close friend who knows all my deepest, darkest secrets.
  • If I bring my wife to the wedding, I add about $25.
  • This has increased over time as my income has increased. When I was right out of school, I usually spent about $50 no matter what, as that is what I could afford.

The Knot suggests these pricing tiers:

  • Coworker or distant family friend or relative: $50-$75
  • Relative or friend: $75-$100
  • Close relative or close friend: $100-$150

Ultimately, the general rule is nothing less than $50, with a reasonable maximum being $150 to $200.

wedding gifts

What Gifts Should You Buy?

Once you set your budget, how can you decide what to buy? There are a few simple ways to give a gift that will be both appreciated and cherished.

Stick With the Registry

If you are on the fence about what to get the bride and groom, stick with the tried and true wedding registry. Many couples have a registry, which makes it easier to choose what gift to buy. If you get something from the list, it’s hard to go wrong!

When I got married, this was 100% true. We were totally happy with every gift of money or item from our registry. Other gifts were very hit-and-miss.

Don’t DIY

Most wedding experts don’t recommend going DIY or crafty on this occasion unless you can make something you know they will use. 

For example, let’s say you are an experienced woodworker. If the couple has a cutting board on their registry, you could make them a custom cutting board with their initials on it.

Otherwise, save the DIY gifts for Christmas or a birthday. 

Combine Practical and Fun

Wedding gifts should be practical but also fun. You want to create an experience for them! Think of things the couple likely won’t buy for themselves but something that would be useful and provide value and luxury in their lives.

If they like to cook, kitchenware or fancy kitchen tools are always a great option. You could also give a nice warm blanket or silky sheets. 

When you know their beverage preferences, consider indulging them in a Keurig or a cocktail tray, recipe book, and martini glasses. Or, if you know they are music or theater lovers, buy them a membership to the orchestra or the local theater.

Make it Memorable

You want your gift to be memorable and an extension of your friendship, so incorporate some of their interests and passions as well as some of your personality into the gift.

For example, if you are friends with the bride and you both enjoy making candles together, get a candle-making kit featuring a scent from one of the bride and groom’s favorite places to travel.

Other Costs Associated with Attending a Wedding

While a wedding gift is one unavoidable aspect of attending a wedding, there are a few other costs to be aware of to minimize their impacts on your wallet.


If you are attending a wedding that isn’t nearby, you will likely need to take paid time off from work (or miss out on pay for a day or two if you are self-employed). While this isn’t a typical cost, it is still something to factor into your budget.

There are a couple of ways you can accommodate for this. The first is to try to minimize the number of days you need to take off by opting for departing flights that leave later in the day, not costing you a full day of work.

Another solution is to turn the destination wedding into a vacation to maximize your PTO. Instead of taking one day off, take a few so you can enjoy the city you are traveling to without having to rush to see all the sites. That way, you’ll return to work feeling rested and refreshed.


You can’t attend a wedding wearing your regular, day-to-day clothes. Depending on how casual or formal the event is, you’ll likely need appropriate attire to wear. This can get expensive!

Before you start shopping, check your closet to see if you already own anything that would suffice. Maybe you have an old suit tucked away that just needs dry cleaning. Or, you may have a dress you wore to a different event that will also work for an upcoming wedding.

Travel Expenses

If you are attending a destination wedding, flight, hotel, and rental car can easily approach $1,000, depending on the destination. Once you factor in meals, bar visits with friends, airport parking, and other incidental costs, $1,000 becomes conservative. 

Try to save money on these expenses by splitting the room costs with another guest, seeing if flying in and out of a different airport nearby might be cheaper, or opting for flights at less ideal times to get better deals on airfare.

The Bottom Line

With the right strategies, you can ensure attending a wedding is fun while minimizing the impacts on your bank account. Being smart about a gift budget and your wedding gift to the newlyweds is a critical part of the process.

Wedding Gifts: How To Give Without Busting Your Budget
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