Andy Butler is a lifelong boater and Vice Flotilla Commander of Flotilla 65 in Fairhaven MA (the largest flotilla in the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary). Andy is also District Staff Officer for vessel safety checks, and commodore’s aide in the first northern Division. He has his professional 50 ton captains license and has both sailed transatlantic and fished commercially for tuna in the Northeast canyons for 20 years.
You probably hear that planning a wedding can be stressful, but attending a wedding can be equally as nerve-wracking: you have to buy a gift. Combined with transportation, accommodations and attire, it can all financially add up.
I feel you. Before I worked in the wedding industry, I struggled with the same dilemma. If you give too little, what does that say about you? It’s the number one challenge I hear from wedding guests, both personally and professionally, so I crafted five must-know tips for attending weddings.
Base your gift spend on your relationship with the couple.
Throw out the antiquated idea that your gift pays for your meal. Your gift should reflect your closeness to the couple. If the couple includes a family member or close friend, you’ll want to give more than you would for a coworker or acquaintance who you may not know as well. Guests spend, on average, $118 on a wedding gift, according to The Knot 2016 Real Wedding Study. So what should you spend? Gauge $125. If the couple is in your inner circle, you can spend higher, up to $200. If it’s a distant family member or coworker, feel confident spending less, from $50 to $75.
Don’t spend more than you can afford.
You have to be honest with yourself. If you cannot afford a large amount on the gift, that’s fine! Set a budget that feels comfortable to you. The couple will appreciate the gesture, no matter what the retail value.
You aren’t obligated to go to a wedding, but you should still send a gift.
Guests often forget they don’t have to attend a wedding just because they received an invitation in the mail. If it doesn’t make financial sense for you, politely decline, then send a gift. It’s wonderful to offer something to honor the couple’s new chapter in life. This is definitely a top concern for destination weddings, since guests typically incur higher travel costs than local celebrations—a lovely gift costs less than a plane flight and hotel room.
Go in on a gift with other guests.
One of the easiest ways to save is to partner with other guests to buy a joint gift. Most likely, you’ll know other people attending the wedding. Together, purchase a larger ticket item for the couple— they’ll thank you, and so will your bank account.
Buy off the registry.
Today’s wedding registries have endless gifting options, from kitchen supplies to honeymoon excursions and funds for down payments on homes. A couple adds items to a registry for a reason—they need or want the items listed. If you go off the registry, you risk purchasing something that the couple already has, does not need, or, for those of us in urban environments, don’t have space for! Check their wedding website or online registry on The Knot to peruse the options, including cash registries like The Knot Newlywed Fund. If you really feel keen on purchasing something that isn’t on a registry, buy at least one item from the registry and supplement it with something personalized. My favorite option? Champagne flutes from the registry with a bottle of vintage Champagne.
Stephanie Cain is the Real Weddings Editor at The Knot, part of XO Group Inc., where she oversees all real weddings coverage for the national magazine, 16 regional publications and TheKnot.com. She also contributes to fitness, wellness and travel content in the magazines and online. She holds a Master’s Degree in Journalism from Columbia University and has written for several lifestyle publications, including Wine Spectator, Esquire, Brides, People, Elite Traveler, Prevention.com and SpecialtyFood.com.
Additionally, she is a 200-hour certified yoga instructor, volunteer with the New York Junior League, vice chair of a fundraiser for children’s food education, avid traveler, culinary adventurer and sommelier. She lives on the Upper East Side of Manhattan with her husband, Vik. Follow her adventures on Instagram at @stephncain.