Home > 2015 > Personal Finance

How Much Should You Spend on a Wedding Gift?

Advertiser Disclosure Comments 0 Comments

I am an excellent wedding guest. If you invite me to your blessed union, I will put on something nice, wear more makeup than normal and cry at the ceremony, regardless of how well I know you. I will dance when implored to do so, I will tip well at the open bar, and I will tell you how beautiful you look in your dress. I will use the hashtag you made for your event on all my Instagram photos. I will wear a fake mustache and grin wildly in a photo booth. If asked to make a toast, or say a word, or participate in a line dance that I have no prior knowledge of, I am game. I will look at your wedding registry when I get the invite and be seized with panic. I love attending weddings because celebrating the miracle of two people loving one another enough to legally link their finances and their lives together is a joyous occasion. But, I am very, very bad at wedding presents.

The notion of a registry makes sense. As tradition dictates — and probably to avoid your well-intentioned relatives picking up the phone and asking your mother where you’re registered and if you haven’t, when in the hell are you going to get on that — the registry is a nice, simple way for people to get you something that you’d actually want. I get it. Though I would never do like Carrie Bradshaw did and register to “marry myself,” I would honestly love it if I had a Amazon wish list from which it was publicly acceptable for people to purchase me presents. Aside from the joy of sharing your life with someone that you ostensibly love, from what I can tell, marriage also means throwing away the three pint glasses you stole from a bar in New Orleans and replacing all of your flatware and glassware with tastefully thin CB2 water glasses that would probably shatter if you set them down in the sink wrong. This is reward enough for legally hitching your wagon to someone in an institution that feels outdated, but is a good tax break. I support the requests. But, I never know what’s right.

Are there formulas about how much and when to buy the gifts? I’m sure in a dusty etiquette book lies a clear and succinct chart of how much to spend and what to buy. I have never seen this chart and I am sure if I did, I would be aghast at how off course my etiquette veers. Some say it’s a year. For someone who leaves a nice set of steak knives for the happy couple in their Amazon cart for two months, then forgets to actually buy them, you’d think this would be fantastic. I assure you, it is not. Even though general etiquette says that you have a year, If I buy the couple something off their registry, or at least adjacent to what was on their now-decimated and shuttered registry six months after the fact, something about that seems inconsiderate. You were together enough to put on a fancy outfit and wear shoes that hurt and drink the many whiskeys from the open bar, so you should certainly be able to pull it together and buy a present off the registry before all that’s left is the $300 Kitchenaid and the $400 Dyson.

Worrying About Feeling Cheap

The anatomy of a modern registry is simple: Big-ticket items in each category blanketed by smaller, more affordable things, so every person in attendance can feel like they did the right thing without griping too much about how much money they’re spending. The reach presents (the Cusinart, the Vitamix, the Frette sheet sets) are to be snapped up by relatives with deeper pockets and connections. Surrounding these items, which you will most likely never purchase, are the smaller things. It will feel cheap to buy, say, a set of cereal bowls, but those cereal bowls are frankly nicer than anything you have in your home right now, and they cost, with shipping, $80. That’s a fine present. It’s what they asked for. Do that and be on your way.

I have been told by various sources that the amount of money you spend on the gift should be comparable to the amount you think the couple is spending on your presence. This, to me, seems outrageous, but perhaps I am being uncouth. I bumbled through early weddings that I attended spending an amount that I felt comfortable with. A $60 salad bowl here, a $50 kitchen towel and spatula there: These are things that are all within my means, but still feel cheap. When friends reveal that they bought the slate cheese serving platter and the attendant cheese knife, I realize that whatever I bought probably isn’t enough. It feels trashy to show up at the wedding knowing full well that you skimped on the gift.

When does one learn these things? Is there a conversation that I missed out on, a solemn parent-child talk in which they sit you down on the couch, drag out a tattered Emily Post and read out loud the chapters on how to be an adult in social settings? It was only after my stepmother watched my sister and I reach arms and forks across the table while talking to each other with our mouths full that I learned that you pass plates to the left. My father spent that majority of his time trying to keep his children alive and dressed. Etiquette fell by the wayside, but I don’t think I suffered because of it.

I have only gone off-registry once. My best friend from childhood got married a few years ago. At her shower, I broke the code and gave her the wedding present I had picked out a week before: a rust orange Le Creuset honeypot. It was not on her registry, but it was thoughtful, nice and somehow more personal than buying a bath sheet and espresso cups and having them sent to her apartment. I felt wrong about it, but went with my gut. She loved it.

This story is an Op/Ed contribution and does not necessarily represent the views of the company or its partners. This post originally appeared in TheBillfold.

 More From TheBillfold:

Image: iStock

Comments on articles and responses to those comments are not provided or commissioned by a bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by a bank advertiser. It is not a bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

Please note that our comments are moderated, so it may take a little time before you see them on the page. Thanks for your patience.

Certain credit cards and other financial products mentioned in this and other articles on Credit.com News & Advice may also be offered through Credit.com product pages, and Credit.com will be compensated if our users apply for and ultimately sign up for any of these cards or products. However, this relationship does not result in any preferential editorial treatment.

Hello, Reader!

Thanks for checking out Credit.com. We hope you find the site and the journalism we produce useful. We wanted to take some time to tell you a bit about ourselves.

Our People

The Credit.com editorial team is staffed by a team of editors and reporters, each with many years of financial reporting experience. We’ve worked for places like the New York Times, American Banker, Frontline, TheStreet.com, Business Insider, ABC News, NBC News, CNBC and many others. We also employ a few freelancers and more than 50 contributors (these are typically subject matter experts from the worlds of finance, academia, politics, business and elsewhere).

Our Reporting

We take great pains to ensure that the articles, video and graphics you see on Credit.com are thoroughly reported and fact-checked. Each story is read by two separate editors, and we adhere to the highest editorial standards. We’re not perfect, however, and if you see something that you think is wrong, please email us at editorial team [at] credit [dot] com,

The Credit.com editorial team is committed to providing our readers and viewers with sound, well-reported and understandable information designed to inform and empower. We won’t tell you what to do. We will, however, do our best to explain the consequences of various actions, thereby arming you with the information you need to make decisions that are in your best interests. We also write about things relating to money and finance we think are interesting and want to share.

In addition to appearing on Credit.com, our articles are syndicated to dozens of other news sites. We have more than 100 partners, including MSN, ABC News, CBS News, Yahoo, Marketwatch, Scripps, Money Magazine and many others. This network operates similarly to the Associated Press or Reuters, except we focus almost exclusively on issues relating to personal finance. These are not advertorial or paid placements, rather we provide these articles to our partners in most cases for free. These relationships create more awareness of Credit.com in general and they result in more traffic to us as well.

Our Business Model

Credit.com’s journalism is largely supported by an e-commerce business model. Rather than rely on revenue from display ad impressions, Credit.com maintains a financial marketplace separate from its editorial pages. When someone navigates to those pages, and applies for a credit card, for example, Credit.com will get paid what is essentially a finder’s fee if that person ends up getting the card. That doesn’t mean, however, that our editorial decisions are informed by the products available in our marketplace. The editorial team chooses what to write about and how to write about it independently of the decisions and priorities of the business side of the company. In fact, we maintain a strict and important firewall between the editorial and business departments. Our mission as journalists is to serve the reader, not the advertiser. In that sense, we are no different from any other news organization that is supported by ad revenue.

Visitors to Credit.com are also able to register for a free Credit.com account, which gives them access to a tool called The Credit Report Card. This tool provides users with two free credit scores and a breakdown of the information in their Experian credit report, updated twice monthly. Again, this tool is entirely free, and we mention that frequently in our articles, because we think that it’s a good thing for users to have access to data like this. Separate from its educational value, there is also a business angle to the Credit Report Card. Registered users can be matched with products and services for which they are most likely to qualify. In other words, if you register and you find that your credit is less than stellar, Credit.com won’t recommend a high-end platinum credit card that requires an excellent credit score You’d likely get rejected, and that’s no good for you or Credit.com. You’d be no closer to getting a product you need, there’d be a wasted inquiry on your credit report, and Credit.com wouldn’t get paid. These are essentially what are commonly referred to as "targeted ads" in the world of the Internet. Despite all of this, however, even if you never apply for any product, the Credit Report Card will remain free, and none of this will impact how the editorial team reports on credit and credit scores.

Our Owners

Credit.com is owned by Progrexion Holdings Inc. which is the owner and administrator of a number of business related to credit and credit repair, including CreditRepair.com, and eFolks. In addition, Progrexion also provides services to Lexington Law Firm as a third party provider. Despite being owned by Progrexion, it is not the role of the Credit.com editorial team to advocate the use of the company’s other services. In articles, reporters may mention credit repair as an option, for example, but we’ll also be sure to note the various alternatives to that service. Furthermore, you may see ads for credit repair services on Credit.com, but the editorial team isn’t responsible for the creation or implementation of those ads, anymore than reporters for the New York Times or Washington Post are responsible for the ads on their sites.

Your Stories

Lastly, much of what we do is informed by our own experiences as well as the experiences of our readers. We want to tell your stories if you’re interested in sharing them. Please email us at story ideas [at] credit [dot] com with ideas or visit us on Facebook or Twitter.

Thanks for stopping by.

- The Credit.com Editorial Team