How Much Should You Spend on a Wedding Gift?

Gina Meola Photography/The KnotGina Meola Photography/The KnotYou have an idea of what the engaged couple wants, but with so many wedding-related events to attend it's hard to figure out which wedding gifts are required when, and how much, exactly, you should you spend on what. It's time to talk details.

By: Amy Keith for TheKnot.com

The Rules of Gift-giving
Of all the events surrounding a wedding, the only one that technically requires a present is the bridal shower. The reason: The entire purpose of the gathering is to "shower" the bride with wedding gifts. The wedding and engagement party, on the other hand, are invitations from the couple to share in and celebrate the day. That said, while gifts might not be mandatory at these other events, they are common practice.

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What to Give?
You have two options: something from the couple's wedding registry or cash. Couples just starting out might prefer monetary gifts that they can put toward a down payment on a house or to help pay for their honeymoon, while more established couples might appreciate gifts to help round out their home. Your best bet is to ask around (the bride or groom's parents, or other members of the wedding party) to see which type of gift the couple might prefer.

If you purchase a gift from the registry, it's wise to ship it to the couple before the wedding. Although there might be a gift table at the reception, it's often inconvenient for the couple to have to schlep the presents home afterward. And if you find that the registry has been depleted, a gift card to the same store should suffice.

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How Much Should You Spend?
Whether you're gifting cash or presents, the exact formula of how much you should spend depends on many factors: your finances; conventions in your family and social circle; how well you know the couple; and whether you'll be spending a lot of money on transportation and lodging, etc.

Step 1: Come up with a total expenditure that feels right to you.
Be sure to consider all the events: the showers, engagement parties, and the wedding itself. Generally speaking, the closer you are to the couple, the more you should gift. If you're traveling great distances to attend the celebration (and are thus spending a lot of money in transit) then you may be expected to gift a little less.

Step 2: Portion out your total sum by event.
Once you've figured out what you want to spend on the couple's gifts overall, you can break it down by percentages so that the wedding gift gets the bulk of your cash. Spend:

20% of your total on the engagement present
20% of your total on the shower gift
60% of your total on the wedding gift

That means if you're spending $250 total, you'd spend $50 each on the engagement and shower, and $150 on the wedding present. (If you're only invited to the shower, then spend the extra 20% beefing up the wedding gift.) Whatever you gift to the to-be-weds, as long as it's heartfelt and accompanied by a personally penned card of special, sweet wishes to the couple you can't go wrong.

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