How Much Should Guests Spend On A Gift?

By Helen Ochyra

The wedding gift list is a tricky business

Like other people’s relationships, other people’s finances are a murky, mysterious world. That person who flashes the cash may well be your most debt-ridden friend, while the family member who scrimps on everything from nights out to toilet paper could well be sitting on piles of moolah.

You simply never know what's going on in someone's bank account.

Trying to aim it at the pockets of your guests is akin to aiming a water canon at the center of the Atlantic – there is simply no evidence to suggest if where it’s landed is anything like on target. Is it worth putting anything on the list above, say, 100? Is anyone really going to spend that on you? Or, is it foolish to only list items you know are easily affordable to everyone when there are people who may actually want to spend more?

Most post-gift-list brides that I’ve spoken to have said that people were far more generous than they expected. This is a wedding we’re talking about after all and there’s nothing quite like the promise of free food and booze for an entire day to get people reaching for their wallets. While it is suspected close friends and family members spend significantly more, we all know there are some who will spend very little, and those who won’t buy anything at all.

Now, before you, huff and puff, note that weddings are not cheap for couples—or guests.

Don't Judge!

This is something a lot of couples forget when judging who spent what or nothing at all. Perhaps your deep-in-college-debt pal wanted to purchase a nice gift but had to spend the money on the room in the four star boutique hotel you picked. Or maybe they’re saving a little each pay check and that’s why the gift is so late.

So, what should you spend?

Of course it depends on personal circumstance. No couple would expect their guests to rack up debt to buy them something pretty (at least, we hope not) and, truly, money isn’t everything – but if you buy from the budget end it probably won’t go unnoticed. Most couples now operate their gift list online, logging on multiple times before the wedding to see what their guests have bought, and post-wedding, they’ll receive a printed list detailing everything purchased, by whom and for how much. Looking back on wedding presents past, that’s a thought that scares me a little bit – does it you?

Of course, couples (at least for the most part) don’t invite people to their wedding in order to receive presents from them, and the gift list is, at best, merely a guide. It may sound like a minefield but if you’re really important to the couple getting married they won’t care whether you buy them a television or a teatowel. For us, the wedding is all about spending the day with our nearest and dearest, and the all-too-common idea that some couples have of getting back what they’ve spent per head is, frankly, laughable.

Asking for money towards the honeymoon (or, increasingly, some undefined purpose) may be growing in popularity but we wanted something with a little more longevity – and so we hope to receive candlesticks from Auntie Joanwhich will grace our dining table for decades, perhaps a casserole dish from Cousin Florencefrom which we’ll serve her Sunday lunch in years to come, and maybe even a set of dining chairs from Uncle Bertie* which he’ll sit on every Christmas from now on.

It’s about people, not presents

Almost everything on our list is a household item with a long shelf life, and so anything our guests choose to get us from it will be gratefully received and used throughout our married life by not only us but also by those we share our lives with. We won’t be excommunicating anyone who chooses not to send a gift – but perhaps when they come round for dinner, we’ll make them use the old china!