Wedding Present Economics


If you are like me, you know a lot of people getting married. It seems that about every month or two, a friend calls me to tell me the good news. Of course, my first reaction whenever a buddy gets engaged is to sing the song ‘Another One Bites the Dust.’

After I am done mourning their loss, I get to work on the parts that impact me. I figure out if I can go, I check out my vacation time at work, I research flights and hotels, I make sure my wardrobe works for the wedding, which is easy because I own a tux and four suits, and make sure everything is lined up for the trip.

What always turns out to be an after thought, though, is the gift. Going to a wedding is not cheap. Flight, hotel, and rental car can easily approach $500 depending on the destination. Once you factor in meals, bar visits with friends, airport parking, and other incidental costs, $500 becomes conservative. If you are in your 20s or 30s, you might have several of these per year. Ouch!

But being there for a friend is a wonderful thing to do. Being a part of a wedding (I have been an usher a lot of times amongst other jobs) is fun and an honor. Getting there a day or two early to get your good friend incredibly drunk and pay for a few lap dances is even better.

But then, on top of all of that, you have to buy them a present. Don’t get me wrong, 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 tough. I recently read that the average wedding gift costs $70.

Many experts have rules on how you should decide what to spend on a wedding gift, but I think you have to figure out your own way to decide what you can afford and what is appropriate. Here are the guidelines I use:

  • For a good friend from high school or college, I usually spend about $50-$60.
  • For a lifelong friend or someone I consider to be a very close friend, I usually spend about $75.
  • For a “dead hooker in a trunk friend” (see below for explanation), I spend about $100.
  • If I am bringing a girlfriend/date to the wedding, I add on about $25.
  • This has increased over time as my income has increased. When I was right out of school, I usually spend about $50 no matter was as that is what I could afford.

What are your guidelines? How do you decide what to spend? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

*A dead hooker in a trunk friend is someone you could call if you somehow end up in a situation where you have a dead hooker in your trunk. This friend would help you out of the situation rather than just calling the cops. I have never had the situation arise, but I know exactly who I could call.

Image from Shelley Panzarella.

2 thoughts on “Wedding Present Economics”

  1. I have just about exited the Summer of Weddings (past 3 years or so! at least 2 a summer)…I was in probably 5 or 6 weddings…so much money GONE. 

    New York Weddings are a bit different as are the gifts.  I think the minimum I could give in good conscious without even caring about the other stuff I had to pay for is $200 or so

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