Frugal Wedding Gifts: How Much to Spend and What to Give

Blog Author, Grace, with her best friend, Betsy, at Betsy’s wedding May 2011.
Photo Credit: Synergy Photography

We are right in the thick of wedding season. In addition to weddings, there are also showers, bachelor/bachelorette parties and engagement parties in abundance. While it is certainly a blessing to be invited to a wedding and other nuptial celebrations, it can often feel like a curse if you are on a budget. How do you keep your head above water and still celebrate the couple?

How much to spend?

While you are certainly not required to bring a gift to a wedding, I would say it is the right thing to do unless you absolutely can not. It can be easy to say that “your presence” is a gift in itself, especially if you have travel and hotel expenses, but it is much better to give something small than nothing at all.

Pay no attention to the adage about spending as much as the cost per person for the wedding. I looked at many articles on wedding gifts prior to writing this post and most of the sites that I have seen say that you should spend nothing less than $50 and spend even more for a close friend. On average, friends generally spend $79 on the wedding gift while family spent $146. If you balked at that number, don’t worry, so did I. If you are on a tight budget, it can often be difficult to spend that much, especially if you are invited to the engagement party, bridal shower and bachelor/bachelorette party as well. Even the etiquette queen Emily Post says that your gift should depend on your budget and your relationship with the couple

Begin by looking at your budget. How much can you afford to spend on the wedding without breaking the bank? I wouldn’t spend less than $25 on a gift, unless you are making/doing something creative. If you are bringing a date to the wedding, it is customary to spend more on the gift. Be sure to consider other gift opportunities not just the wedding gift. The knot wedding website says that you should spend 20% on the engagement gift, 20% on a shower gift and 60% on the wedding gift. If you are in the wedding party, budget carefully as you will also likely be paying for a dress/suit and other attire. It is not worth going into debt over a wedding gift, so plan ahead and be creative.

After looking at your budget, think about the couple and your relationship with them. What kinds of gifts would the couple prefer? Would they appreciate a handmade gift? Something from the registry? Money for the honeymoon or a down payment on a house? A gift to their favorite charity? What kinds of gifts would they find most useful? Then, consider your relationship with them. Are you family? close friends? acquaintances? co-workers? These questions can help guide your decision of how much to give as well as what to give.

What to Give?

If you are looking to be more frugal, but still give a nice gift here are some ideas:

  • Registry Gifts: Look at the wedding registry early so that you get your first pick of the items in your price range. If possible, choose something that is significant to your relationship. If you know that the couple loves margaritas, grab the margarita glasses. If you worked at camp together, choose some camping gear.
  • Group Giving: Get a group of people together to buy a more expensive gift on the couple’s wedding registry. Even if you can only contribute a small amount, the gift will be more significant together.
  • Use Your Talents: Help with a specific part of the wedding—create the invitation, sing a song, take some engagement photos, create the décor. Use your talents to give in time, what you may not be able to give in money.
  • Get Creative: Create something special for the couple. Frame a photo of the couple or their favorite poem. Stitch a pillow case or blanket for them.
  • Cover a Wedding Expense: Cover a specific wedding expense for the couple, like stamps for the save-the-dates, the bride’s bouquet, some décor for the tables, etc.

For more ideas check out this blog post!

While weddings can often be hard on your budget, continue to remind yourself that at the end of the day it isn’t about the gifts, it is about the couple and the love that they have for each other. It is a blessing to be able to celebrate with people on their special day. If you plan ahead, the celebration can be joyful for you as well as for them.

Join the Conversation: How much do you generally spend on weddings?


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