Weddings are symbolic. A wedding day is a gesture of a new beginning for couples about to embark on a life journey. Nevertheless, giving wedding gifts has become an expected, sometimes stressful exchange for many wedding guests. How much to give for a wedding gift as cash or as a physical gift will be explored further based on multiple factors to help you determine what is currently an appropriate-sized gift.
Gift-giving has been a tradition across cultures among wedding guests. While there is no strict rule on what to give and how much to spend, there is an unspoken truth – that the wedding gift should be as meaningful as the moments you have shared with the couple. The cost of which depends on the result of the considerations we have laid out for you.
You may feel like giving cash is an impersonal gift, the opposite of what you’re going for as a wedding guest. But, when accounted for correctly and packaged with a purpose, cash can be a thoughtful gift.
A cash wedding gift can even be the best gift for most couples, especially if they’re young as their honeymoon and future savings budgets increase! This also applies if you’re an acquaintance who doesn’t have enough personal memories with the couple to think of a practical or sentimental gift. So instead of getting the next best thing, opt for a cash wedding gift – the more fool-proof option, if you refer to our guide on how much to give for a wedding gift.
Determine How Much to Spend on a Cash Gift
While a cash gift can be less of a hassle to prepare than a physical gift, it does not mean there’s no thought into it. There are also more explicit couples that indicate whether they would appreciate a cash gift more since it will be used to fund a future cause or their honeymoon.
In general, a simple hack you could do is explore the couple’s registry and estimate the budget they expect from their guests. Often, couples will try to add items to a registry in the price range of what they expect guests to give.
To be safe, wedding gift etiquette experts recommend spending at least $75 and adjusting based on your gift budget. Although there is no hard rule for reciprocity, some couples may expect more expensive wedding gifts as the cost they spend on a wedding increases. As of 2022, the average wedding gift amount for a cash wedding gift is $160, which is a massive increase from the expectations of the past. While this is the wedding industry’s average gift, it doesn’t mean it’s the rule or necessary.
A cash wedding gift considers multiple factors, such as attendance, timing, and relationship to name a few. The intensity and level of each element will determine the budget, so the more honest you are, the more likely you will determine the appropriate amount.
Based on Relationship
The first factor is the relationship you have with the bride and/or groom. A close relationship will usually warrant a higher wedding gift amount.
Family Member and Close Friend
If the wedding gift is for family members or a close friend, you are likely more willing to spend a higher amount. Consider spending $100 to $200 per person on this gift, if you haven’t spent on other pre-wedding events or contributed to the wedding itself.
Although, if you do have a close relationship, opting for a more sentimental and meaningful gift would also be acceptable etiquette. This doesn’t mean cash is not sentimental, as we’ll explain later.
The amount will depend on how much the couple has spent on their entourage, balanced with how much you have spent on pre-wedding events or in preparation for the main event.
A gift of at least $125 should be sufficient without excessive expenses on your part. Another idea is to pool together for a group gift! As an entourage, you can contribute $100 each to get a pricey gift that will surely be just as impressive as it is memorable.
Co-worker or Acquaintance
A gift worth at least $75 is acceptable if you don’t share an intimate relationship. If you have worked together for longer or want to be more generous, increasing the wedding gift to $100 is a nice gesture.
Based on the Type of Wedding
The type of wedding should account for other expenses that are not part of the actual gift. For example, if it’s a destination wedding where guests have to purchase their tickets, they should not be expected to give an expensive gift. Other than destination weddings, the size of the wedding can also be an indicator. A small and intimate wedding gives the impression that gifts should be more sentimental, while large and more formal celebrations may nudge you to spend more.
Wedding Present If You’re Buying a Group Wedding Gift
Being invited with a plus one also reflects the gift to bring to a wedding. Attending as a couple could mean spending at least $75, $100, or $150 per person depending on the relationship you have with the couple. If both you and your plus one are close to the to-be-weds, then you can contribute more to reflect this.
Wedding Present If You’re Not Attending
This also relates to your relationship with the couple as it sets the expectations. For example, if you cannot attend a destination wedding, you can opt to send money spent for you as a compromise. If you are not really close, such as a co-worker or out-of-touch friends or acquaintances, there is no hard rule – send whatever you feel is appropriate.
Considerations for Wedding Guests
Destination Wedding Present
All of the aforementioned factors should be considered simultaneously with your share of the expenses in a destination wedding. If you’re expected to pay for your flight and accommodation or if the destination wedding will occur during a peak season, the amount you give as a gift can be lower than the average.
Engagement Party Gifts
This is also another consideration that can potentially decrease your cash gift. If you planned, funded, or gave a gift during the engagement party, then you can reduce your budget for the wedding gift. This goes the same for your participation in a bachelor or bachelorette party!
The following are the common mistakes wedding guests commit when sending a cash gift:
- Not including a note to explain the gift. Some couples may not automatically realize it’s a wedding gift. Thus, the need for a message. Or, the couple might have expected a physical gift so gifting them otherwise needs a reason for what the cash could be used for, such as a honeymoon fund.
- Spend the same amount for every couple. Each wedding is uniquely magical, and your relationship with them is the same, evaluate the different factors to determine the most appropriate amount.
- Using cash instead of a check. It’s easy to lose a small envelope at a big party, and you can’t replace the cash at that point. Compare this to a check that can be replaced and traced. If you’re wondering who to address it to, use one of the couple’s names when they were single; newlyweds rarely change their names immediately after a wedding and may have trouble cashing or depositing a check not in their legal names.
Personal Wedding Gifts Budget
Ultimately, the most important consideration is how much you can afford. Being invited to a wedding means you’re part of a circle that cares about each other. An inexpensive yet sentimental gift drifts away from some norms but will still make the recipients equally happy.
Wedding Gift Etiquette
Ways of Giving Money as a Wedding Gift
A cash gift does not have to be plain and boring. Here are ways how to give money as a wedding gift:
- The simplest one is to pair it with a card. Personalize it with your own inside jokes and best wishes! Or better yet, put the gift in a card box to fancy it up even more!
- Maximize virtual platforms. With digital innovation, you can send a virtual gift card, schedule payments, and include creative notifications for the newlyweds.
- A cash gift can come in the form of a gift card from one of the couple’s wedding registry entries. If not from the registry, you can choose a flexible universal gift card according to the couple’s needs or wants!
- Direct the cash towards a fund. Especially young couples who are yet to establish themselves financially. It would be helpful if the cash was deposited into a honeymoon, pet, house, or even baby fund, so they understand the purpose of the cash gift.
- Another creative way to give cash is to give wealth in the form of stocks, bonds, or other investments. This applies the most to family members who are looking to build generational wealth or family planning.
Wedding Gift Cost Calculators
Still not sold on your cash gift budget? Here are three wedding gift cost calculators that vary based on the elements they consider.
The first is from Credit Donkey. The unique element it considers is your annual salary range which is where you get most, if not all, of your spending power.
Again, there is no strict amount when giving cash as a wedding gift. Therefore, considering your annual salary and spending capabilities is essential to determine what works for you and the newlyweds.
The second Wedding Gift Calculator has the unique element of location, particularly what state the wedding venue is in.
This is the most relevant for destination weddings as each destination has its own costs. Compared to the previous one, it also has the elements of the salary range, personal relationship with the bride or groom, and the type of wedding.
Another interesting factor from this calculator is your relationship to your plus one, as it determines how much they’re willing to contribute in a joint gift for the cash gift. So, if a joint gift with your partner also applies to your situation, this calculator would help factor that in.
The third calculator from The Wedding Envelope is the most extensive among the options. It considers 11 elements overall, including ones you won’t typically consider!
Aside from the share elements such as salary range, attendance, plus ones, and relationship with the bride or groom, this calculator considers the number of pre-wedding events or festivities you partook in. It assumes you have already spent on these for gifts, contributions, or other resources. Thus, the wedding gift cost can be more lenient.
Other than pre-wedding events, it also considers the costs of the wedding itself, especially if it’s a destination wedding. It considers several wedding industry cost factors – whether the wedding season is peak season, the date is on the weekend, and the significance of the travel distance are all considered. These factors also contribute to how much you have already spent outside the wedding gift amount. Thus, giving more leniency on the cash amount itself.
The End of the Aisle: Wedding Season
A big day indeed creates happy memories, but these are not just for the couple. Remember, to determine the appropriate wedding gift amount, consider the past, present, and future.
What’s your history with the groom or bride? What’s your current situation? And how can your monetary gift make a happy couple?
These are simple yet loaded questions, each designed to help you determine how much to give for a wedding gift in cash.
As wedding guests, struggling to find the perfect wedding gift amount should not be the highlight of the night. Ultimately, it’s all about who is at the end of the aisle and how they can benefit from the gift you gave.
Have any questions or comments? Feel free to contact me.
Josh is a financial expert with over 15 years of experience on Wall Street as a senior market strategist and trader. His career has spanned from working on the New York Stock Exchange floor to investment management and portfolio trading at Citibank, Chicago Trading Company, and Flow Traders.
Josh graduated from Cornell University with a degree from the Dyson School of Applied Economics & Management at the SC Johnson College of Business. He has held multiple professional licenses during his career, including FINRA Series 3, 7, 24, 55, Nasdaq OMX, Xetra & Eurex (German), and SIX (Swiss) trading licenses. Josh served as a senior trader and strategist, business partner, and head of futures in his former roles on Wall Street.
Josh's work and authoritative advice have appeared in major publications like Nasdaq, Forbes, The Sun, Yahoo! Finance, CBS News, Fortune, The Street, MSN Money, and Go Banking Rates. Josh currently holds areas of expertise in investing, wealth management, capital markets, taxes, real estate, cryptocurrencies, and personal finance.
Josh currently runs a wealth management business and investment firm. Additionally, he is the founder and CEO of Top Dollar, where he teaches others how to build 6-figure passive income with smart money strategies that he uses professionally.