We Asked A Wedding Expert How Much You Really Need To Spend On Gifts

Instagram engagement announcements are all fun and games, until the save the dates pour in. That’s when you start hemorrhaging money into weddings that aren’t even your own. From buying a dress you haven’t posted a photo in to paying for travel and buying a gift, funding your wedding attendances can be f*cking expensive.

Luckily, you have two options. The first is, consider the fact that like, 50% of weddings end in divorce. Realistically, you can probably skip half of the weddings you’re invited to. In a few years, these people likely won’t care that you missed their special day. They’re knee deep in a messy divorce anyway.

If your FOMO is holding you back from missing out on an open bar, then you’re better off with option number two: learn how to budget. Because budgeting is like, def not my forte (I spent $17 on a sushi burrito last night, someone please cut me off from my own finances). So, I asked Zola’s Wedding Expert, Jennifer Spector, for some advice.

Before we really dive into this, we’ve gotta get two general things out of the way:

First off, when buying a wedding gift, it’s probably best to stick to the couple’s registry. Like, even if you think your college roommate and her new husband could really use a set of crystals, don’t be cute. Just get them the damn blender they asked for.

“Do not spend money on a gift the couple will probably return!” warns Jennifer. “The registry is a wish list of items that the couple actually wants, so it’s best to spend money on something they’ll use, even if it’s not your personal taste.”

Second, it’s tough to estimate exactly how much most people spend on a wedding gift. It truly depends on the relationship you have with the couple. The average amount of money people spend on gifts from Zola registries is $100. So you can expect to spend about that much, but potentially more or less depending on the circumstances. Here’s a guide to choosing gifts for practically every kind of wedding scenario you’ll find yourself in.

When You Have To Attend Literally Every Wedding Related Event

Did you get sucked into attending a wedding that’s actually like, a million mini events spread out over the course of a few months? I mean, there’s a pretty good chance this will happen to you at some point, considering how out of hand weddings are getting. The best way to get through an entire string of wedding events is to set a budget ahead of time and stick to it. If you can plan things out, you won’t get stuck just buying something last minute and blowing more money than you’re comfortable spending.

Jennifer explains, “A good rule of thumb is the 60-20-20 rule, spend about 40% [of your budget] on pre-wedding events, and 60% on the wedding gift.”

Another solid tip is to blow everyone away with your ability to act like an actual adult and gift items at the appropriate occasions. For example, a smaller, more personal gift like a Winc Monthly Wine Club subscription is a dope gift for a bridal shower. While bigger ticket items like plates and sh*t are better for the actual wedding.

When You’re A Bridesmaid

I mean, generally speaking, as a bridesmaid, you basically have to sell your soul to the bride. There’s kind of no getting around this one. While the leader of your #BrideSquad (barf) will probably dictate how much you spend on the bachelorette party and your dress, it’s totally appropriate to cap off your gift budget at $100 to $150. If you have a bride friend who keeps complaining about the fact that nobody has bought her the Roomba she registered for in the #BrideTribe group chat (barf, again), you can totally team up with some other bridesmaids to buy a bigger gift.


When You’re Expected To Go To A F*cking Destination Wedding

Yup, even though this couple is making you drag all of your skin care products to like, Bermuda, you’re still totally expected to get them a gift, too. The good news is, it’s totes kosher to spend a little less than you normally would had it been, like, some random venue in New Jersey. Most sane couples will understand that since you’re showing up, there’s less pressure to buy a crazy expensive gift. In the wise words of Kanye West, “my presence is a present, kiss my ass.”

When You Have To Go To Karen From Accounting’s Wedding

Maybe the only good thing about attending a coworker’s wedding is the fact that you don’t have to go all out on the gift giving. You can grab one of the basic items off the registry and spend about $75 without worrying. If you’re going to “regretfully decline” the invite, you can get a gift around $50 as a “sorry I didn’t go to your wedding, but I still have to see you every day” consolation.

When Your BFF Or Cousin Is Tying The Knot

If your childhood best friend who you’re still close with but who doesn’t love you enough to make you a bridesmaid invites you to your wedding, you might want to spend a little more than you would on another wedding. Same goes for like, your cousins. It’s tough to say exactly how much more you should spend. It’s really dependent on your relationship with the person. However, these should definitely be more personal gifts. Idk though, just like, ask your mom!

Images: Unsplash/Gades Photography; Giphy (5)

Hannah Chambers
Hannah Chambers
Hannah Chambers is one of those people whose entire personality consists of Real Housewives references, taking pictures of her dog, and drinking out of an obnoxiously large water bottle. You can find her work in Cosmopolitan, Bustle,, and more. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter @hanchambers