In short, there's no exact go-to dollar amount when you're giving money as a wedding gift. (Sorry.) But there are a bunch of factors that can help you decide. Here are the 11 that matter, in our book.
Salary If you make more, you give more. So we'd give more now than we would've if we were right out of college. Unemployed guests give what they can—and a kind bride or groom will mention to anyone who's majorly cash-strapped, " We know you're struggling. Your presence is present enough."
Attendance If you're not going, you can get away with giving less. But if it's a close friend or family member, don't go too low. Especially if they attended (or will attend) your wedding and gave a gift. Plus-One Status You don't need to double the amount if you're double the guests, but multiplying your base number by 1.5 is about right. (So if you generally don't go lower than $100 when you're solo, don't go lower than $150 if you have a plus-one.)Relationship There's no hard-and-fast rule, but in general, your best test bestie gets more than your coworker.
Wedding Number If you've already been to a wedding for the bride or groom, you can give less—but not too much less if it's the first trip down the aisle for the other person.Other Gifts The general rule is you spend 20 percent of your gift budget on an engagement gift, 20 percent on a shower gift, and 60 percent on the wedding gift itself. Engagement gifts seem to be more of an East Coast thing, while bachelorette-party gifts are popular elsewhere, so adjust the numbers to suit the number of gifts you're giving, but keep a majority allocated for the wedding gift.
Wedding Party Status In general, the wedding party gives more, but if there were above-and-beyond expenses—say, a super-spendy bridesmaid dress and a bachelorette getaway in Mexico—you can give less.Wedding Location If you and the bride and groom live in a major city (NYC, L.A.), you give more. Especially if the wedding is being held in that city. But if you're from the Midwest and still live there and your city-dwelling friend hosts her wedding in your hometown, I don't think you need to bump up the amount.
Travel Distance If attending a wedding requires a plane ride and a hotel stay, you can skip the cash gift and buy something less expensive off the registry—unless the bride and groom are chipping in for your travel expenses. In that case, give something a little more substantial.Their Gift to You You don't go tit-for-tat, writing a check for the exact amount you received—especially if, say, the groom in question attended your wedding solo five years ago. But it's awkward if you're overly generous when someone got you a salad tray and tongs.
The old rule of thumb used to be "You give enough to cover your food and drink." But we take issue with that for two reasons: (1) You shouldn't know how much the bride are spending per guest. If you do, there have been some serious breeches of etiquette. And (2) the amount you can afford shouldn't fluctuate based on when they can afford.
PS: If you're giving money, opt for a check over cash in case your card gets—Yikes!—lost or stolen.