What Kind of Wedding Gifts Should You Expect?


Planning on using some of your wedding gift cash to help pay for your honeymoon? You may want to invite lots of guests from the Northeast or the Midwest to the reception.

Gift givers in those regions are most likely to give cash or checks as gifts, while people in the South and West are more likely to buy the newlyweds an item from their registry, according to a survey, which found varied preferences based on age and geography.

Guests from the Northeast are also more than twice as likely to spend more generously on a wedding gift for a member of their family or a good friend, the survey found. Just under a third of Northeasterners said their typical gift was at least $200 in value, compared with just 13 percent of respondents from the rest of the country.

Similarly, almost half of the respondents in the Northeast said they spent at least $100 on wedding gifts for co-workers, acquaintances and not-so-close relatives. Just a fourth of the rest of the country said they gave at least that amount.

Gift preferences varied by age. Nearly half of older Americans, and about a third of baby boomers, preferred to give cash or a check. Younger wedding guests — millennials, who are now in their 20s to mid-30s, and GenXers, ranging from the late 30s to early 50s — were more likely to give a gift from the registry.

Some guests just can’t handle the financial strain of attending a wedding — or weddings, plural, as the case may be. Sarah Berger, who is in her 20s and writes about personal finance for Bankrate as the Cashlorette, said many millennials felt overwhelmed by the cost of attending their friends’ nuptials.

“A lot of them feel almost crippled by the amount of weddings they are invited to,” but nevertheless find it hard to say no, she said. Ms. Berger said she had heard about a young woman who attended five weddings over eight weekends, and another who lamented that she had used all her vacation time attending weddings.

Twenty-one percent of the people surveyed for the Bankrate study said they had declined a wedding invitation because they felt they couldn’t afford to go. Women (27 percent) were more likely than men (16 percent) to decline because of cost.

For the survey, Princeton Survey Research Associates International interviewed 1,000 adults by phone in early April. The margin of sampling error was plus or minus four percentage points.

Here are some questions and answers about wedding costs:

How can I manage the cost of attending a wedding?

Travel for weddings, particularly destination weddings in exotic locales, is a big part of the cost. Since invitations — or at least “save the date” notices — typically go out well in advance, try to nail down flights early to take advantage of lower fares. Ms. Berger suggests using apps like Hopper to target the best time to buy your airline ticket. Then, try to trim your discretionary spending a bit at a time, to build up a fund for the wedding.

Kristen Maxwell Cooper, executive editor of The Knot, a wedding planning website, suggests teaming up with other guests to economize: Look for an Airbnb rental to share, and consider giving a group gift. Pooling funds with others can help you stick to a budget, while enabling you to buy a pricier item from the couple’s registry.

How can the couple keep their wedding costs down?

The average tab for a wedding is more than $35,000, according to The Knot.

To rein in costs, consider holding your wedding on a Friday or Sunday night, when venues typically rent for less, Ms. Maxwell Cooper said. Or have a Saturday morning ceremony followed by a midday brunch: Venues are often open to doing so, she said, because they can still book a separate event in the evening.

Spring and fall are generally the most popular times for weddings, so you may find costs are lower by having the event during “shoulder season,” from November through February. (But expect to pay more for New Year’s Eve, and budget more money for flowers if your chosen date falls near Valentine’s Day.)

Can I rent a wedding dress to save money?

Many brides still prefer to have their own gown, for sentimental reasons, Ms. Maxwell Cooper said. But there are now more options for brides to rent wedding dresses. Websites like Borrowing Magnolia let brides rent designer gowns instead of buying one. (Even if the bride prefers to buy her gown, rental sites may be an affordable option for bridesmaid dresses.)