The Art of Gift Giving

A good friend gave me a very generous gift when I got married.  Now it’s her turn and I’m afraid that I just can’t afford to give her the same amount! How much is typically spent on a wedding gift? Am I required to give her a shower gift and a wedding gift? I need help understanding what is expected of me!    -Adele from FL

As soon as a wedding invitation arrives, many begin thinking and/or worrying about the gift. The rules behind giving wedding gifts aren’t always clear. In fact, they are often downright cryptic. Fortunately, I have a bit of advice that may help!

First of all, remember that you are giving this gift as an offering of your love and support. A gift, by definition, is “something given freely.” It is intended to help the new couple build a nest together! With that said, you should never give or spend more that you can afford. While wedding gifts are considered to be a social obligation in our society, the choice of the gift (and the amount spent) is up to each individual guest. Contrary to popular belief, there is not a set formula to help one determine the appropriate amount to spend on a gift. I’ve often heard that one should spend approximately the same amount on a gift as the bride and groom are spending per person on the reception. In other words, Jack and Jill are spending approx. $100 a head on their wedding, so we are expected to give $100 gift. This is purely a myth! It’s simply untrue and not founded in logic. Generally, you wouldn’t and/or shouldn’t even know how much the couple is spending! When deciding how much to spend, keep it simple. First, consider your budget.  Second, consider how close you are to the bride and groom. Let these two factors determine your gift.

It is understandable that you’d love to be able to give your friend a gift that is equivalent  to what she gave you. But, this isn’t always feasible or logical. This might simply mean that you’ll have to get a bit more creative with your gift. A thoughtful gift can trump an expensive gift any day of the week!

As for the wedding shower– a party that is specifically designed to be a gift-giving event- yes, you are expected to take a gift. Hopefully, you want to take a gift! That’s part of the fun of a shower, after all. Keep in mind that taking a gift to a shower doesn’t mean that you no longer have to give a wedding gift. Think of the shower and the wedding as two separate events. You were invited to each and therefore, should give a gift for each. While giving a gift is technically voluntary, it would be considered rude to skip it. If it’s the cost of giving two gifts that is the concern for you, simply split your overall gift-giving budget between the shower and the wedding. If, for example, you are comfortable spending a total of $100, you may want to consider a $70 wedding gift and a $30 shower gift. Or, $50/$50.

In the end, try not to sweat it too much. No matter what gift you end up giving, be it cash, a registry item or a sentimental gift from the heart, do so with your friends in mind and I’m sure they will be thrilled!

Sources: SmartMoney, The Knot and Emily Post’s Wedding Etiquette 5th Edition.

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