Mary Hunt

While tying the knot is getting more expensive for the bride and groom, attending a wedding is becoming costlier, too.

Some surveys reveal the average guest will spend $673 this year to attend a single wedding — including but not limited to travel, accommodations and attire.

How much should i spend on a gift? I’m not here to tell you what to spend on a gift, but I can offer you a sigh of relief with this: Experts agree you can forget the antiquated notion that you must spend an amount equal to the cost per plate at the reception.

A wedding is not a fundraiser. You are not obligated to pony up with a gift that reimburses the cost of your attendance.

Instead, you should come up with a dollar amount that makes sense for you. Never spend more than you can afford on a wedding gift.

Going into debt to buy a gift is never a good idea, even if you’re sure you can pay it off next month.

Is cash acceptable as a wedding gift? While experts pretty much agree it is gauche for a couple to ask for money instead of a wedding gift, it is completely acceptable to give money.

Tuck a check or cash inside an envelope with a personal message, or contribute to the couple’s online cash registry. If using an envelope, get that to the couple ahead of time, or place it in a receptacle provided for cards at the reception.

How much time do i have to give a wedding gift? Traditional wedding etiquette, which still offers you a break on timing, says you have up to a year following the wedding to purchase and send a wedding present.

Wedding gift tips:

Compare prices on registry items. It’s wise to reference a registry to see what the couple wants, but it’s even smarter to compare prices among stores. Retailers like Costco and Overstock sell popular registry brands for less than most high-end stores. In that case, send it to the couple early so yours is not the duplicate.

Use discount gift cards. If you’re planning to give a gift card, or you’re buying an item off a couple’s registry, save money by purchasing discount gift cards from The site offers gift cards for less than face value — for example, a $100 Macy’s gift card for $80.

Know where to find coupon codes. Most stores offer coupons these days, you just have to know where to look to find them. By signing up to receive an e-newsletter from Pottery Barn, Williams-Sonoma and countless other online retailers, you’ll get a coupon code for 10% off a future order.

Head to a warehouse club. Big box stores like Costco and Sam’s Club sell popular registry items like blenders, food processors and other household goods for at least 30% less.

Go in on a big gift. If the couple registered for an expensive item that is out of range for one person to afford, find a group of friends or relatives to split the cost.

Buy gift wrap and cards at the dollar store. While the cost of wrapping the gift and signing the greeting card seems insignificant, you may be tacking on another $20 to an already pricey present. It all adds up! Duck into the dollar store to get these items for a buck each; you’ll be amazed at the selection and quality.

Offer your services. If money is tight, offer your services instead of a physical gift. Whether it’s doing hair and makeup for the bride and her maids, putting your photography skills to work at the ceremony or dogsitting while the couple’s away on their honeymoon, your gift is sure to please.

Spread out your purchases. If you recently bought a gift for the bridal shower or booked airfare and a hotel for the wedding, don’t feel pressured to purchase a gift right away, especially if funds are limited. The bride and groom would never want you to go into debt to attend their nuptials, so space out your expenses. Simply follow the traditional wedding etiquette rule and send a gift later. Just don’t forget!

Mary Hunt, founder of, writes this column for Creators Syndicate. Send tips or address questions to: Everyday Cheapskate, 12340 Seal Beach Blvd., Suite B-416, Seal Beach, CA 90740, or email her at

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