Wedding Gifts

pretty wedding gift with gold ribbon


How much should you spend on a wedding gift? What should you get the couple? Do you bring the gift to the wedding? All this and more is explained by Wedding Planner Maureen Woodman.

John Maher: Hi. I’m John Maher. I’m here today with Maureen Woodman, a wedding planner for on- and off-site catered events at the Essex Room in Essex, Massachusetts. And today, we’re talking about wedding gifts. Welcome, Maureen.

Maureen Woodman: Hi, John. Thanks for having me.

John Maher: Sure. So, Maureen, how much should I spend on a wedding gift?

Maureen Woodman: Well, I think that you really have to think long and hard. How much do I spend on anything? But you want to make sure that when the bride and groom open up your wedding card from you and your wife going as guests of them to their wedding, that you gave them something hopefully that could cover the cost of them having you, as well as a little extra so that they actually got a gift out of it. I think that’s how you probably should go about it.

I’d say right now, $125 a person is probably — for people in a fairly good economic bracket. Now again, if the kids are getting married and they’re in college, and their college roommates are coming to the wedding, I don’t think they could afford $125 a person. They may give $25 or $50, if they can even afford that.

John Maher: And that’s to be expected. If you’re inviting somebody who’s a college student, you’re going to know that they’re simply not going to be able to afford a really expensive gift. And that’s okay.

Maureen Woodman: Exactly.

John Maher: What is the typical per person cost for a wedding these days?

Maureen Woodman: I think it’s costing them close to $125 to $150 to have you be there, including everything — the photographer, the dress, the entertainment. But I would say, as far as the plate of food goes, maybe $75 a person would be like a plate cost.

John Maher: Right. And so, that’s why you’re saying $100 to $150 per person for a wedding gift is sort of typical.

Maureen Woodman: Yes.

John Maher: Does the cost of the gift change based on how well I know the couple? If I got invited to this, but it’s like a cousin of mine and we never spend time with them, and we barely know them, do I spend a little less? Or does that not matter? Like, they’re paying for me to be there, so the gift value should remain the same?

Maureen Woodman: I think that the cost of the gift definitely changes depending on where you are in the pecking order of that invite list in a funny way, whether it’s your favourite cousin or it’s your best friend, or your parents’ best friends, or it’s an employee from work.

I definitely think there’s some psychology behind that. I don’t know if there’s really a rated math sheet on this, an Excel formula. But I would say that the closer to the heart, the more money you’re going to give as opposed to further from your heart. They’re not going to get as much.

I think the other thing that has come into play a lot – a lot of these are destination weddings now, where you may have to get a hotel room, take a day off from work, if you have to travel. And I think that that cost is definitely lessening the cost of the gift. So, it’s costing you $1,000 a weekend to go there, to get yourself there.

And I think that you may not give as much money, where if the wedding was down the street you might give a larger gift. I think people are measuring the overall expense of what it’s costing them to go to your wedding against what you’re giving them in value. I think that’s definitely something that’s changed now that there seems to be more and more destination weddings.

John Maher: Because it used to be that you’d get married in the church down the street and the reception would be at the wherever, right in town.

Maureen Woodman: Absolutely.

John Maher: And so, there wasn’t as much of that travel cost involved before.

Maureen Woodman: Yes, there was no travel cost. I mean, now it’s after parties, you go in the hotel. It’s so much more than it ever used to be.

John Maher: Do you typically double that amount if you’re going in with, say my wife and I both got invited to a wedding and we both know the couple that are getting married. Do we take that $100 to $150 per person number and double that, and get them — go in together and maybe get them a $300 gift or something.

Maureen Woodman: Yes. I think, again, the more vested you are with the couple, where you both would be friends with the bride and groom, I think you’re probably going to give a higher value on the gift.

So, if you went to a whole bunch of weddings this year — I went to a whole bunch of different weddings and I did not give the same amount. I just didn’t have the standard check. I had more of a standard category of how it was, whether they were relative, or they were friends, or they were the kids’ friends. But I made sure that we at least cover the cost of what we did.

John Maher: Right.

Maureen Woodman: Or tried to anyway. Who knows?

John Maher: Right. So, should I choose something from the registry that the bride and groom have signed up for, or should I try for a more personal or unique gift?

Maureen Woodman: I definitely think that you should take something from the registry. If the bride and groom have taken the time to go through a registry — and anyone that’s gone through the registry, it is painstaking. It takes a lot of time to choose everything — the towels, the silverware, the dishes, the glasses, the sheets.

And they took the time to do this to make it easier for you, so you should take the time to respect their wishes. Even if you do not like what they have there, try to find something on it. That’s always the biggest challenge, I think. You go to someone’s registry, like, “Oh, my gosh. I don’t like any of this stuff. I would never use it.”

John Maher: Or maybe you waited to the last minute and now everything’s picked over and all they have left are handtowels or something like that.

Maureen Woodman: Yes, and you’re like, “Oh, they’re hot pink with purple polka dots. What is she thinking of?” But I do think if that’s what they want, then that’s what you should buy them. Or give them money and let them buy something themselves.

John Maher: What about if you decided that I just can’t get something from the registry. I have to do something more unique. What are some examples of some things that you might do?

Maureen Woodman: So, I think this year, one of my favourite gifts that I’ve seen — There’s a company in Newburyport, Mass, that take a sunset and a sunrise photo every day. So, he’s called the sunrise guy. And he has a company and developed a little project widget here where you can go in, and say, “Oh, I went to a wedding on August 23rd and I would really love to give them a photo of the day they got married. The sunrise or the sunset.

And then, he has a company that frames the photo for you. He can also insert their wedding invitation or a little plaque on the bottom that says, “This is the first day of our lives together.” And people just love it. It’s so romantic. It’s your sunset or your sunrise from the day you got married.

Again, maybe down the road it won’t be so important, but you’ll hang it in the cellar somewhere. And you’ll always have that memory. I think anything that’s really personal like that that you can have, that is fun. But don’t go buying them the crazy elephant cookie jar or something because you like elephants. Don’t go too much off the track because they really probably won’t like it.

John Maher: Right, how many more vases could I get for my wedding?

Maureen Woodman: Yeah, I mean you can only have so many vases, so many frying pans, so many candle sticks.

John Maher: Right. If I really want to attend the wedding that I got invited to, but I just don’t have a lot of money to spend on a gift, can I show my support in other ways? Is there something else that I can do?

Maureen Woodman: I think that the best way to do that would be to buy a gift or make a gift, or promise a gift, something for them that you still are showing to them. And of course, if they know you, they’re going to know the situation that you’re in. And obviously, they know you because they took the time to invite you to their wedding.

John Maher: You mentioned the college student, that sort of thing.

Maureen Woodman: Yes. I do think you should buy a card at the least and write a lovely note to them or something. I don’t think you should not acknowledge it at all. I think that you should have something out of respect for them taking the time to invite you. And I think that you could — whatever you give, I don’t think they’re going to judge you either because I’m sure they wanted you there and they’re so happy that you shared in this special moment with them.

John Maher: So, you’ve bought a gift and the wedding is coming up. Do you bring the gift to the wedding still? Do people still do that? Or do you mail it directly to the couple at home?

Maureen Woodman: Absolutely Emily Post. Do not bring the gift to the wedding. I’m amazed at how many gifts continue to show up at our wedding venue. That is such an inconvenience for the bride, the groom, and the parents, to try to carry that gift off that night.

Never mind if it gets broken or transported. If you took the time to buy a gift, that’s fantastic. And now — and again, in this day and age, everything’s on the internet. They signed up at Crate and Barrel. Just have that gift shipped right to her house, her parent’s house, or the groom’s house. And that is just fantastic and lovely.

But to carry that gift is such a hassle for everybody. The venue’s dealing with it. The people are dealing with it afterwards. I don’t see any good coming out of it. Nobody ever opens wedding presents at the wedding.

John Maher: It’s not like a birthday party where you wait for the cake and ice cream, and then you open the gifts. And then, you leave.

Maureen Woodman: No.

John Maher: All right. Well, great advice, Maureen. Thanks very much for speaking with me today.

Maureen Woodman: Thank you, John. Thanks for having me.

John Maher: And for more information, you can visit the Essex Room website at, or call 978-768-7335.

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.