Chances are, if you’ve been invited to a wedding, you are an important person in the life of either the bride, the groom or both. With the average Aussie wedding setting couples back a staggering $51,000 couples don’t hand out invitations to just anybody. So, the question of how much money to give at a wedding is something you want to get right.
These days, many couples have already set up home, so it’s very common for them to suggest a contribution to a wishing well or a money tree as a gift idea. In her book A Guide to Australian Etiquette, Ita Buttrose covers this in her typically charming yet no-nonsense way.
On the topic of whether it is ‘morally repugnant’ to ask for cash, Ita writes“I don’t think so. If a couple has lived together for a long period of time and are saving for some special item for their home, perhaps even a deposit on a home, money makes so much sense”.
And of course, there are delicate ways to word this on your invitation. Just don’t put your BSB and account number on the invite(!)
To get a gauge on how much money to give as a wedding present, consider these factors:
Your relationship to the bride and groom
Depending on how close you are will determine what you can give:
- A ‘ride or die’ friend can set you back $150-$200
- Fun friend from school? $100-$150
- Important work colleague? $100
- A family member? If they are your son or daughter you’ve likely already contributed significantly to the day itself. Siblings, God Parents and extended family fall on a sliding scale anywhere from $100-$500, (if you’ve really had a good year).
But, and there is a ‘but’. You need to balance it with another important factor -
Your own finances
Did you just receive 10 wedding invitations within a short space of time? Are you in between jobs? You must stay within what is feasible and comfortable for you given your current circumstances. True friends will not expect you to go into debt for them.
The type of wedding
An old-fashioned rule of thumb when either giving cash or a gift at a wedding is to, at a minimum, cover the cost of your plate. As in, estimate how much the venue charges per head. Obviously, the ritzier the venue-the more expensive the ‘plate’. Whilst you don’t want to nose around the detail of the couple’s wedding budget, use common sense and adjust accordingly. Depending on the level of bar access, the average price per head for catering alone runs between $80-$150.
How much to give at a wedding in Australia, one of the most multi cultural countries on earth, hinges on the background of the bride and groom. For example, while giving cash in some cultures is the norm, particularly at Greek, Russian, Chinese and Jewish weddings. The amount you give and how you give it comes with its own protocol.
For instance, when giving cash at a Chinese wedding, avoid including the number 4 in the number at all costs, (not only an unlucky number but a homophone for death). Instead go for lucky numbers like 0, 3 and 8s. The tradition at a Jewish wedding is to give cash in multiples of 18 which signifies life. So instead of 100, you’d bring $108.
Ita says: “Even if the invitation is not accepted, it’s customary to still send a present. Gifts should be addressed to the bride at her home and not the bride groom, even though the person sending the gift may never have met the bride. The enclosed gift card should include the bridegroom’s name”.
But what about...
Giving a cheque – For those still in possession of a cheque book, go right ahead. This is not considered crass in the slightest. In fact, you could say it’s positively quaint.
Re-gifting – Unless you’re re-gifting money, stay right away from this.There is a reason your re-gifting.
Ignoring a suggestion of cash – The true spirit of ‘giving’ is to think of the receiver and not yourself. They’ve suggested cash for their own reasons and probably felt uncomfortable in the process. Even though you may have found the most head spinning toaster ever manufactured – the gift is for them not you.
Look, weddings are an expensive business for almost everyone involved. Once you’ve decided how much to spend on a wedding present - one that allows you to maintain your dignity, show your appreciation and not send you broke, kick back and enjoy the day! The gift isn’t the reason you were invited.