Decoding Wedding Gift Spending: How Much is Appropriate?


You’ve been invited to a wedding – and amid the excitement and happiness of celebrating with your friends, there’s one awkward question to navigate. How much should you spend on a wedding gift?

Everything about weddings can be expensive, even for guests. There is usually some expenditure on outfits, especially if formal wedding attire isn’t part of your normal wardrobe. If you have something dressier or a handy suit for occasions, there may be the added cost of getting items dry cleaned before the big day. You will also have potential costs for travel, hotels, drinks and even missing a day of work. And now there’s the gift as well. 

Gifts are not obligatory, and the couple will be delighted to have you share in their joy as they celebrate the day. However, if you have been invited to the wedding ceremony, etiquette would imply a gift should be given. 

Is there a wedding list? 

A wedding list, or registry, is created by the couple to identify items they would love to receive as wedding presents. Traditionally it would be items that help set a young couple up in the first home, and included useful things like toasters, towels, cutlery and a dinner service. 

Today, as well as a traditional list,  couples might create a fund for their honeymoon or for larger items such as furniture, or even state that no gifts are expected. 

Am I obliged to buy from the wedding list?

A wedding list is not obligatory, but it does show that the couple have thought about things they need, so it’s a good idea to stick to it if possible. Generally, couples will have added a selection of wedding gift ideas from different price brackets, but understandably, some of the lower-cost items may go first. If there is nothing else on the list that’s in your price range, a good compromise is to provide a gift voucher they can use towards items from the same shop.

You mustn’t feel pressured to spend more than you can afford on a wedding gift. If there is nothing on the list that you want to buy, then look at other options.

What can I give as a gift that isn’t on the list?

Selecting a random gift for a couple can be quite tricky, depending on how well you know them. Silver picture frames are traditional, a decorative throw can be quirky and a luxury hamper will provide them with a great excuse to relax together after the honeymoon. A nice bottle of wine or champagne is a simple, classic wedding gift. 

Choosing home appliances can be chancy if you don’t already know what they have; no one needs three toasters. An experience day can be a fun gift that lets them enjoy time together. But if you don’t know where to start, money is always appreciated by newlyweds.

Should I still buy a gift if I am not going to the wedding?

You are not obliged to buy a gift at all. That said, if you were invited to the ceremony, it is polite to send something to show the couple that you are thinking about them, even when you can’t be with them. If you were invited to the evening only, sending a gift is your choice.

How much should I spend on a gift?

How much to spend on a gift is entirely up to you. As a simple rule of thumb, we would suggest £25 to £50 for work friends and evening guests, £50 to £100 for day guests and £100+ for family. This generalised amount is applied per invitation, so if you are going as a couple or taking a plus one, there is no need to double up on your gift.

Alternatively, you could club together with a group of friends or family to buy one large gift. That way, you can get the couple a big-ticket item from their registry without spending as much individually.

Do I buy a gift for a destination wedding?

If the couple has chosen a destination wedding that is already costing more than the average hotel room, they probably do not expect you to spend more on a gift as well. The time and effort in attending and celebrating with them is a gift itself. 

Are there different rules for different cultures?

This guide is based on a traditional English wedding. If the wedding couple have different customs that you are not aware of, it’s a nice and thoughtful idea to find out a little more about them. There is plenty of information available online and putting the time into understanding other customs shows an appreciation of the couple as your friends.
For more wedding etiquette help, make sure you read our blog posts. At Coton House Farm, we’ve been hosting exclusive contemporary weddings for over 20 years, so we’ve got plenty of tips and ideas to help you navigate your way to your perfect wedding.

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