New research from American Express reveals that wedding guests expect to pay $339 in general and $377 if they're in the bridal party (down from $490 and $539 in 2011, respectively). This includes not just the gift, but also travel arrangements, clothing, pre-wedding celebrations and childcare.
"Saying 'I do,' isn't just an investment for those getting married, guests have to consider their costs as well," said Claire Bennett, the EVP of Loyalty & Membership Benefits at American Express. "From the suit to the suite to the sitter, the expenses for attending a wedding add up and we're seeing consumers cutting back a bit this year to manage the cost."
In addition to the national average, the survey of 1,500 participants determined how guests decide what amount to give as a wedding gift. Almost half of respondents said that their relationship to the couple was the most important factor: On average, they spent $166 on relatives, $105 for close friends and $56 for coworkers.
Traditional etiquette dictates that there isn't a set amount that's considered appropriate for a wedding gift-you give what you can afford, period. The Emily Post Institute recommends, "Let your affection for the bride and groom and your budget be your guide." Not sure whether to spring for that new blender or stick with an envelope? Go with the cash; just over half of couples said they prefer it to registry gifts.
Respondents also had strong opinions about what the bride and groom should splurge on. Sixty-two percent of guests expect an amazing meal (couples agree), while other "musts" include a top-notch venue, entertainment and wedding cake. You can safely skimp on your save-the-dates, transportation and favors, which fell at the bottom of guests' priority lists. More ways engaged couples are reigning in costs: 36 percent is simplifying their entire wedding reception, while others are ditching the wedding planner, selecting a less expensive venue and choosing a buffet over a plated dinner.
Can you relate to these findings? I have three upcoming weddings in the near future to attend (I'm the Maid of Honor in one, so exciting!) and I'm planning my own nuptials, which will take place next year, so I'm convinced nothing gives me sticker shock anymore (I'll report back to you when I buy my first home). It's interesting that venue, location, culture, and outside influences (e.g. the opinions of friends and family members) weren't factored into the gift spending equation, since I've seen guests use that criteria before. I'm also surprised that only 36 percent of couples are paring down their overall party, since I've found that to be the most effective way I've cut costs so far.
Tell us: Are you one of the 61 million Americans attending at least one wedding this year? How do you decide how much to spend for each gift?
- Stefania Sainato
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