Forget cutlery and linens. Many couples today prefer cash as a wedding gift.
But as a guest, it can be difficult to know the amount of the appropriate wedding gift. The right amount depends on several factors, including geography, your income, your relationship to the couple, and whether you’re attending the wedding as a couple or as a family.
Is it OK to give money as a wedding gift?
Yes, it is always acceptable to give money as a wedding gift. In fact, experts say giving cash as a wedding gift can be a practical and much-appreciated gift. Seventy percent of couples registered cash on their wedding registry, up 10% from last year, according to TheKnot.
How much should you give as a wedding gift?
There is no absolute answer to this question.
“The average gift people give for a wedding is around $100, and that stays the same whether it’s a physical product or a cash gift,” says Emily Forrest, director of communications for Zola, a marriage registry website. “It really depends on your relationship with the couple or if you received a plus one. In these cases the guest usually gives a little more.
Still, experts say it’s better to focus on your own budget than that of the bride and groom. Jodi RR Smith, president of etiquette consultancy Mannersmith, suggests using the following rule of thumb: take the amount you’d spend on a fine dinner and multiply it by four.
“So if my budget is really low and I only spend $20 on dinner, that would put me between $80 and $100,” she explains. “But if I have a fabulous lifestyle and easily drop $250 for a great meal and a bottle of wine, then I’d be looking around for a grand.”
From there, Smith suggests increasing the amount if you’re going as a couple or family, or if you’re particularly close to one or both of the bride and groom. You could also spend less if it’s a destination wedding and it’s expensive to get there.
It’s important to keep in mind, Smith says, that this means the right amount to give as a wedding guest can change over time.
“It could be that right now the economy is doing well and my budget is more for wedding gifts,” she says. “But at another wedding two years from now, I might have had a big expense or sent a kid to college, so the gift might be smaller to reflect my budget at that time.”
Should you give money if you don’t attend the wedding?
Both Smith and Forrest say you should send a gift even if you’re not attending the wedding, although the cash amount may be lower.
“You should send something if you’re close enough to have been invited,” Forrest says. “Right now, many couples have been planning their wedding for a year or more and they’re organizing their guest lists around a list of people they’re very close with.”