How Much to Spend on a Wedding Gift? Experts Explain.

Wondering how much you should spend on a wedding gift? Learn the etiquette of wedding gifting, including how much to give for a cash wedding gift.

By Monica Mercuri and Jennifer Prince

Guests gifting young ethnic newlyweds during wedding celebration with confetti
Photo by Zola

As the resource for all things wedding registry, we get a lot of questions here at Zola from guests looking to pick out the perfect wedding present. The question we get most often is, “How much should I spend on a wedding gift?” The answer varies depending on a few factors, such as how well you know the couple and how many different wedding events you’re invited to. Some of you may even be wondering if you need to purchase a wedding gift at all. Read on for our complete guide on wedding gift etiquette.

How much should you spend on a wedding gift?

These days, where cost-per-plate (explained below) does not factor into your choice of a wedding gift, exactly how much you should spend on a wedding gift depends on various factors. Here are some general guidelines to follow:

  • The average wedding gift amount ranges from $50 to $100, depending on how close you are to the couple. But more importantly, choosing a wedding gift isn’t about the price tag—it’s about giving the couple a special acknowledgment, from you to them, of this happy moment that they will use throughout their new life together.
  • Try to find a gift that has both special significance to you and fits within what you can comfortably spend.
  • Most couples register for gifts at a range of prices, so while big-ticket items might be exciting, couples also want smaller gifts that hold just as much meaning, purpose, or joy in their daily lives.

If you’re still itching for dollar amount suggestions, follow these very loose guidelines for how much to spend on wedding gifts:

  • If you’re a coworker, acquaintance, or distant relative: $50-$75
  • If you’re a friend or relative: $75-$100
  • If you’re a close friend, immediate family, or part of the wedding party: $100-$150+
  • If you received a +1 on your invitation: 1.5-2x more on the gift

What’s the “cover your plate” rule?

Once upon a time, it was considered good etiquette to purchase a wedding gift with a price tag comparable to the cost per plate (i.e., your meal) at the reception. Although it’s outdated, this sneaky piece of advice still gets passed around by wedding attendees like wedding gospel.

Here’s why you should leave it behind:

  • Following this guideline means having to ask around (or ask the couple directly) how much they’re spending per plate at their wedding, which is a pretty uncomfortable question to circulate.
  • It implies that you, as a guest, must spend a certain amount on a wedding gift regardless of your budget (which isn’t true).
  • Attending someone’s wedding isn’t a food-for-gift exchange. It’s about celebration and coming together.
  • This practice indicates to the couple that you’re only interested how much to spend on a wedding gift while giving them a gift that matches their wedding catering budget.

Is it OK to give a cash wedding gift?

Cash gifts are not only totally acceptable, they’re becoming increasingly requested by modern couples who are getting married later in life and have already outfitted their homes. If the couple is using Zola, they may have even registered for cash funds to help them save for the honeymoon, a new home, a puppy, or even a lifetime supply of avocados (yes, it happened). However, there are a few best practices you should follow when contributing to a cash fund and wondering how much money to give as a wedding gift:

  • Make sure you contribute an appropriate wedding gift amount through the couple’s registry if their list provides that option.
  • If you write a check, mail it before the wedding day. Giving cash or checks on the big day isn’t necessarily wrong, but it does risk being lost in the chaos of the day.
  • If writing a check as a wedding gift, make sure to write it out to one person and use pre-married names. Couples don’t always share joint accounts or change their names after the nuptials, which can lead to the bank refusing to accept the funds.

Should I contribute to a honeymoon fund as a gift?

Those from former generations may consider a honeymoon fund an oddity, but if the couple has one, by any means, utilize it. If you’re wondering, “What is a good wedding gift?” adding a massage, helping pay for a hotel, or contributing to the overall honeymoon fund can be a lifesaver. Plus, it eliminates some of the stigma with how much to give for a wedding as you can donate any amount that suits your budget.


Is it OK to give a group wedding gift?

Yes! If you want to give the couple a big ticket item you can’t afford on your own, it’s a great idea to go in on a group gift with other guests. Zola’s group gifting feature can make this process extremely easy. Two pieces of advice here:

  • Make sure that everyone contributes the same wedding gift amount they would have spent on smaller gifts purchased on their own. When wondering how much to spend on wedding gifts, don’t skimp as a group.
  • If you are attending a wedding as a large family, it’s a good rule of thumb that all adults (or each household) give their own gift.

Can I buy wedding gifts that aren’t on the wedding registry?

As wedding gift etiquette, it’s always best to purchase a gift on the couple’s wedding registry. That way, you can ensure they like (and need) the item. If all of their registry items have been purchased by the time you get around to buying a gift, you have a few options:

  1. Ask the couple if there’s anything else their hearts desire.
  2. Contribute to a cash fund (or give them cash or a check directly).
  3. Opt for an off-registry gift you’re 100% confident they’ll love. If you go with this option, make sure to get a gift receipt so that the couple can easily return duplicate or damaged items without hassle.

Do I need to buy a gift if I can’t attend the wedding?

In short, yes. But there is some flexibility here depending on how well you know the couple and your personal financial situation. If you’re close friends, it’s best to send a gift and a personalized note with warm wishes. Your mom’s boss’s daughter that you’ve never met? While it’s always polite to send a gift if you can, in less personal circumstances, you’re less on the hook.

Should I buy a wedding gift if it’s a destination wedding?

Yes again. However, the travel and lodging costs that come with a destination wedding can put a big strain on your budget. It’s likely that the happy couple views your presence as a gift in itself, but if you want to get technical about it, purchasing a wedding gift is proper, even in the case of a destination wedding. If you’re shelling out quite a bit actually to make it to the wedding, then feel free to spend less than you typically would for a local celebration. With a destination wedding, there is a little leeway with how much cash to give for a wedding present.

What is wedding etiquette for a plus-one?

First of all, be sure that your plus-one is cleared with the couple, either via the address on the invitation or by chatting with the couple beforehand. A surprise guest can really be a burden if they aren’t accounted for in the catering, seating arrangement, and other plans. That being said, when giving a gift, it’s best to double the amount you’d normally spend on the gift, therefore accounting for a present from both you and your guest.

Do I need to buy a gift for every wedding event that I’m invited to?

Not to sound like a broken record, but yes, you should purchase a gift for each event. Yes, it can cause anxiety over how much to spend on a wedding gift, we know. Buying this many gifts can be tough. If you are invited to the engagement party, shower, and wedding, we suggest planning ahead and setting a budget for gifts in advance. To make things easier on your wallet, follow the 20-20-60 rule, which dictates that you spread out your spending like so:

  • 20% on the engagement gift
  • 20% on the bridal shower
  • 60% on the wedding

Breaking down the expenses and knowing how much to give as a wedding gift percentage-wise can be a big help.

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Should I ship my wedding gift or bring it with me?

Follow these rules to determine if you should physically bring a gift with you to any wedding-related festivities:

  • If you attend a shower, engagement party, or purchase a gift that isn’t on the registry, take the wrapped gift along with you to the event.
  • If you bought a gift on a registry or are giving cash/check, gifts should be mailed to the couple before the big day.

Zola perk: Couples with a Zola registry have the option to ship your gift whenever is convenient for them. Whether that’s before the wedding, after they return from the honeymoon, or months later. Spreading out the gifts can alleviate some of the cost of how much to spend on a wedding gift.

What can I do in place of a gift on the big day?

If finances are truly a hardship, don’t skip the special day due to gift-giving. The couple invited you and wants you to be a part and not stress over how much money to give at a wedding. That being said, if you can’t budget for a gift, it’s time to get creative! If you know the couple well, think about any services you could offer to help them out. Here are a few examples (hint: these also make fun last-minute wedding gift ideas):

  • Have a beautiful garden? Gift the couple a monthly arrangement of fresh-cut flowers from your own garden during the peak season.
  • Are you handy? Offer to help the couple get their new home ready. Hang photos, help paint rooms, install sound systems, and change light fixtures. Whatever is within your skill set works and will help them save instead of hiring someone.
  • Love animals? If the couple has pets, offer pet-sitting services during their honeymoon or annual family vacation. Go the extra mile and spend extra time with their feathered, fur, or fish babies while they’re out of town.

Is it ever appropriate to ask the couple how much to spend on a wedding gift?

Unless you’re especially close to the couple—say, a sibling or BFF—avoid this question and take cues in other ways. Look at their registry and see what they have listed. Also, follow the general rules given above. The couple has so many things to plan for their big day, and they shouldn’t be asked what amount to spend on them.

How late can I give a wedding gift?

Speaking of the timeline, some say you have up to a year to purchase a wedding gift. However, the best practice is always to buy and send gifts before the wedding day or within 3 months of the nuptials. Any longer, and you’re likely to forget. Plus, it’s more convenient for the couple to manage receiving gifts (and writing thank you notes) sooner rather than later. When wondering how much do you give for a wedding gift, waiting until after the big day can help.

Whether you’re invited to everything from the engagement party and bach parties to simply attending the wedding, knowing how much to spend on a wedding gift can prove daunting. Rest assured that the couple wants you there to celebrate. Although you should give them a gift, it’s not their focus, so give graciously and with joy. Find out more about registries or find a couple’s wish list in a snap on Zola’s wedding registry section.

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