I recently read about a wedding gift incident in Canada that went viral. The story goes that a man and his girlfriend went to the wedding of an ex-colleague. Their wedding gift to the bridal couple was a basket filled with sweet treats and gourmet items. On the card they wrote “Life is delicious. Enjoy.” Well, apparently it struck a sour taste bud with the newlyweds. They sent this message to their guest:
I want to thank you for coming to the wedding Friday. I’m not sure if it’s the first wedding you have been to, but for your next wedding… People give envelopes. I lost out on $200 covering you and your dates plate… And got fluffy whip and sour patch kids in return. Just a heads up for the future.
Wow! (Was the smiley face supposed to take the sting out of it?) A tirade of back and forth messages pursued. Then the guest got their own back by sending the transcript to a local newspaper inviting readers for their advice.
It begs the questions: How much is the right amount to spend on wedding presents? And what sorts of presents are appropriate? These questions are becoming more pertinent since an increasing number of couples are asking for cash and creating gift registries. Dollars are certainly more useful than doilies, but is it appropriate to expect guests to pay for their own dinner?
And what about members of the bridal party? By the time a bridesmaid or groomsman has bought their own outfit, then contributed to hen’s/buck’s day activities and a wedding gift, the bill can run to hundreds (sometimes thousands) of dollars.
Here’s my humble opinion…
Advice for gift givers
- My nana always told me that the value of a wedding present should be roughly equivalent to the cost of catering per head. I asked around the MyBudget office and most people agreed that Nana is right. But that being said…
- Don’t feel pressure to buy a wedding gift you can’t afford. It really is the thought that counts (no matter what the bridezilla above thinks.)
- Consider pooling your money with other guests to get the bridal couple something you know they really want.
- If you feel awkward about not being able to afford an appropriate gift, consider declining the wedding invitation. If you’re close to the bridal couple, try explaining your situation to them—good friends will understand.
- Some bridal couples would be pleased to receive services in lieu of a gift. What are you skilled at? Some ideas: Make a wedding video, manage the music at the reception, pet sit while the couple are on their honeymoon, do sewing alterations, make the bouquets and lapel flowers, design and print the wedding program and menu…
Advice for bridal couples
- Plan a wedding you can afford – certainly don’t go into debt for it. See my wedding planning tips here.
- Always accept a gift graciously, no matter what you think of it – you may not fully understand the other person’s financial situation.
- Consider creating a gift registry—most guests prefer to buy a gift they know you want. Just make sure that you select a range of items to accommodate different budgets.
- Does your wedding budget rely on guests paying for their own grub? Be open about it. Instead of hoping for cash gifts, invite guests to pay for their own meal—eg. We are having a dinner to celebrate our marriage and would love you to join us. Cost per head is $70 including a two-course meal, wine, beer and soft drinks. Please RSVP with payment. No gifts please.
Advice for members of the bridal party
- So you’ve been invited to be a bridesmaid or groomsman—what an honour! But for many people the excitement is tempered by concern for their budget. Before accepting the role, it’s okay to ask the bride and groom about anticipated costs. (Will you need to buy your own outfit? How much will it cost? Will there be any flight or accommodation costs? Does the bride/groom have big plans for their hen’s/buck’s party?)
- Create a budget and be honest about how much you can afford. Have that conversation with the bridal couple early: I’d love to be your bridesmaid/groomsman. I’ve looked at my budget and I can afford to put aside $ [you fill in the amount]. Will that be enough? What are your thoughts?
Remember, the great thing about budgeting and saving is that it frees us up to enjoy special life events like weddings. These are the reasons we set aside money, so celebrate! Budgeting has its own rewards.