Wedding Gift-Giving Tips

Summer is usually wedding season. With 2.5 million brides and grooms getting married each year, a lot of money is spent on weddings. And the couples aren't the only ones dishing out cash; so are their guests.

So Vera Gibbons of Kiplinger's Personal Finance visits The Early Show to offer gift-giving tips that won't leave you broke.

Do I Have To Go?
"Ultimately it depends on your relationship with the bride, groom or both," Gibbons says, "But it's not required to go to everything, particularly if you're just a casual acquaintance and it involves travel. One thing you do want to do, though, is RSVP. That's just good manners."

If money is an issue and you choose to decline, Gibbons says Peggy Post, etiquette expert at the Post Institute, advises to break it to the couple gently and early on. You should have the conversation over the phone (don't hide behind e-mail), and give an honest, upfront explanation.

For example: "I would love to be able to go to your wedding, but financially, I just can't swing it." Post also recommends that you follow up with a handwritten note and make up for it somehow: "I'd love to take you out for a celebratory lunch." Gibbons notes the key is to let them know you care.

Cost to Consider:
Attending costs - Gibbons says you have to consider hotel room, airfare, gas, train ticket, a new dress, haircut, manicure, etc. That's all extra. So when all's said and done, you're looking at about $500, unless it's a destination wedding, which now account for about 12-15 percent of all weddings. Those can cost significantly more to attend, as can costs of being in the wedding.

Gifts - The Wedding Channel suggests that the average amount for an engagement gift is $35, while the average amount for a shower gift is $25.

Whether you're going to a lavish country club wedding or a low-key wedding at a local hotel, Gibbons says it shouldn't have anything to do with the gift you choose. A nice gift just needs to be thoughtful - not equal to the $300 plate.

Instead, Gibbons says the wedding gift is based on your relationship with the bride and the groom; your affection for them and their families; location of wedding (metropolitan vs. rural); what other people are doing for them; and, of course, your budget.

She says, "If you're a college grad and you spend just $50, that's perfectly acceptable. They wouldn't want you to break the bank. They want to you go to their wedding."

Here are some suggestions:
Co-worker and/or distant family friend or relative: $50-$75
Relative or friend: $75-100
Close relative or close friend: $100-$150
Source: The Knot

If you want to give a nice gift but can't spend a lot of money, here are some ways to save:

  • Personalize Your Gift – Gibbons explains, "If you can't afford the expensive china that they registered for, for example, give them a nice place setting and enclose a copy of an old family recipe. Put together a scrapbook or photo album or some of your more memorable moments. This is the kind of thing that can really go a long way."
  • Gift Your Talent - If you can sing, play the guitar, or have some other special talent, show it off. This is something they'll remember for forever and it won't matter that you only spent $50 or less on the actual gift, Gibbons says.
  • Go in on Group Gift - This is an easy way to save money and an easy way to make a big statement without breaking the bank.

Regifting is acceptable, "so long as the gift is brand spanking new and you know the couple will like it," Gibbons says.

Although retailers say you have a year to send a gift, Gibbons says it's better to send a gift as soon as you receive the invitation, but definitely within several months of the big day.

Gibbons considers it a bit greedy and inappropriate for couples to ask for specific services on top of the wedding gift. These are mostly couples who already have the traditional household items. The specific services could include anything like asking for guests to pay for photography services or contribute to honeymoon costs.