Weddings have been on my mind lately. My Facebook timeline has exploded with wedding photos, and I kept seeing people having their wedding photos taken everywhere we went this summer. Plus, I’m going to be in a wedding next year, so I’ve been peeking at wedding boards on Pinterest every now and then. :) But every time I find out another friend is about to walk down the aisle, I start to calculate the costs. I can’t help it. Of course, I’m elated for the couple, and I’m so excited for them… but let’s face it, even if you’re not in the wedding party, weddings are expensive for guests too.
Gift obligations don’t begin and end with just the wedding gift either. There’s the engagement party, bridal shower, and bachelorette party. Then, if you’re in the wedding party, you might have to pay for a dress (plus alterations), shoes, hair, make-up, nails, etc. If it’s a destination wedding, you’ll need to think about flights, accommodation, and meal expenses as well. And at the very end, when you don’t think you can afford to squeeze another penny out of your budget, you realize you need to buy a wedding gift.
You want to give your friends everything they want and deserve, but your budget is tight, and you’re not sure if you can do it. Sound familiar?
Here are three things to keep in mind if you’re facing a similar situation:
How much should I spend?
Generally speaking, the closer you are to the couple, the more you should spend. Popular wedding website TheKnot.com recommends nothing less than $50 per guest, with an average gift from a friend around $70, and the average gift from a family member at $125. For a student, or recent graduate, these amounts might not be possible. In fact, I’ve never spent more than $75 on a wedding gift before, and it’s usually closer to $50 if it’s a destination wedding. I like pooling money together with my significant other, or a friend that is also going to the wedding. That way, we can get something off the registry that we otherwise couldn’t afford to get on our own.
When I was in college, two friends from high school were getting married. They were avid rock climbers, so I went and picked up two carabineers and had them engraved with their names and wedding date. I wrapped them nicely in a box, and wrote a thoughtful message on a card. The whole gift cost around $25 – all that I could afford at the time – but they are still using those carabineers to this day. :)
What if I can’t afford a gift?
Even though a gift is a tradition and expected, it is by no means mandatory. Remember that a wedding invitation is not an invoice, nor should a gift be considered the price of admission to a wedding.
I remember watching Rich Bride, Poor Bride once, and the cost of having each guest there was close to $150 per person. The bride kept insisting that they would be able to “recuperate” the cost of the wedding with gifts from the registry. I had to laugh because she was so serious, and it just sounded like a crazy business transaction. The purpose of having a wedding is not for the bride and groom to receive as many gifts as possible, or to “recuperate” the cost of the wedding, and guests shouldn’t feel obligated to spend $150-200 each to cover the cost of them being there. Because really, if you can’t afford to spend $150 per guest unless you get something back in return, you probably can’t afford the wedding you’re planning.
A few years ago, I read a comment from a bride on a wedding forum that if a guest cannot afford to buy a gift, they shouldn’t go to the wedding at all.
Invitations are usually sent three to four months before the date of the wedding, and more often than not, you will know the details well beforehand. So don’t wait until the last minute to figure out how you’re going to come up with the money to buy a present. If you have a few weddings coming up, create a budget and see how much you need to tuck away from each pay cheque in order to reach that goal.
And as cheesy as it may sound, your attendance at the wedding is the best gift of all. And whether your present cost $10 or $1,000, a gracious bride and groom will accept it and appreciate your thoughtfulness.
Related: The Bridesmaid Budget