If you've ever given money as a gift, how much did you give?  This is a tricky question and probably something that not a lot of people talk about.  How much money is appropriate as a gift for various occasions? 

For weddings, we typically give enough to cover the cost of our meal in addition to a monetary gift for the bride and groom.  For example, if the meal costs around $50 each, and two of us attended, then we would give $200 or so. Does that sound about right? Or what if you were invited to a wedding/reception, but didn't attend?  How much do you give then if at all?

Birthdays/Christmas, it really depends on the person and how they are related to me.  Immediate family members get the most, then come good friends, then regular acquaintances.  I find though as we make more money, the gifts seem to get bigger. 

New Babies, $40-$50 seems to be a pretty standard gift that we received.  I'm not sure if this is normal.  What do you give to new parents?

What rule of thumb do you use for monetary gifts?

Photo credit: Bill in Ash Vegas

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Haven’t been to any weddings or baby showers yet as I’m only turning 22, but for birthday gifts, anywhere from $40-60 is what I would consider a good amount. For friends I haven’t seen in a while, maybe even $30 is appropriate, but for my good friends and I we have an understanding that we’re all cash-strapped, so anything more than $60 is unnecessary.

I find rules-based giving really kills the joy in it. My wife and I try to give based on the the need and where our hearts are most moved to give.

For example, we don’t give as much to our family any more as most of us are well established at this point ($20 – 40 gifts on birthdays), but in the past year we’ve also known two young couples that had triplets (both already having another child) and we gave both these couples gifts in the hundreds of dollars even when we didn’t know them that well. They were clearly more in need at that point and time and we just felt like that’s where we were “supposed” to give.

As another example, I’d be inclined to give less at an extravagent wedding (say $75 per plate) than I would at simple wedding ($20 per plate).

Just my $0.02.

We just got married in January and the least expensive per plate price was about $80. And that was for a basic chicken, roasted potatoes and mixed veggies.
Having said that, we really didn’t care so much if the cash gifts covered the plate price. My wife and I paid for the wedding ourselves but were less concerned about how much people gave and were just glad these people could join us.
I would say that the average we received was probably about $100 per person. That’s what I’ve heard is also about the “standard”.
We have usually given $100 for weddings we attended, now that we’re married we might give more since, (hopefully) this is a once in a lifetime event.

I rarely give cash gifts. I attended my first wedding last year and was shocked that people were giving money.

I don’t really solicit cash gifts either so hopefully that balances out the karmic aspect of it.

For weddings, I would give depending on my family relationship to the bride or groom. What I would give to my sister for her wedding would be a much larger amount that what I would give to my distant cousin, who I have seen twice in my life.
As for birthdays, I don’t really spend a lot on that.. Maybe a b-day card or a bottle of something good. ;-)

Like The Reverend, I don’t have a hard and fast rule about giving. I give however much I can based on the situation (my own financial situation, how well I know the person/people I’m giving to, what the occasion is, etc).

@ Mister E
Unless they have said otherwise, most newlyweds love and welcome cash gifts. It so much easier to receive cash (which you can use for anything from paying bills to buying yourself something special) than to receive 5 different blenders!

Holy crap! I don’t know what kind of weddings you go to, but $50 each for a meal? That’s insanely high! Perhaps $50 total, but even that is high.

@ Curtis

Most restaurants will charge you more than $50 for a starter, entree, dessert, after tax and tip. Throw on the venue of the wedding as well as all the ancillary fees and you have a per head cost of well over $50.

@ Richard

A. Weddings are normally a buffet. What would a tip be for?

B. I know that every story is different, but when I had my wedding a year and a half ago it cost $1250 TOTAL for a meal for 80 people (we cut costs and only invited immediate family and a few close others to supper) – and that included the cost of the venue too! That was a starter, two meats, salads, extras, and dessert.

Even in larger centres I have never seen a meal go for more than $25. Perhaps, when considering this is mainly a forum about money saving to reach the million dollar goal, that cutting back on obvious extravagances would be a start

We are getting married in Jan 09. The venue is picked out (very nice, but not Victoria Empress, Edmonton Hotel MacD, Chateau Lake Louise though). Cheapest plated service is $38 per person. Buffet service starts at 50$. On top of that is 21% in tax and gratuities. Prices went up over 20% year or year.

I’ve got a very close group of friends and we’ve never spent anything on each other for gifts (maybe it’s a guy thing).

I can’t remember if I’ve ever given cash as a gift. I don’t think so. $100-150 is pretty standard value for a friend’s wedding. Less if I had to travel a long distance to get there (but enough to cover the meal).

We looked at a lot of places, but here in inflationary/boom Edmonton, there are no meal options for less than 20-25$ a plate.

When I was younger I spent a few years working in banquet halls and I never heard of a $50/plate wedding. It’s entirely possible they exist but you wouldn’t get much.


Live and learn I guess, the wedding I attended was my girlfriends father re-marrying and we didn’t give any sort of gift. I did attend a Jack and Jill for a friend, bought the tickets to get in, bought some raffle tickets and then she called the wedding off. My go-forward plan is basically to avoid weddings in general unless one of the couple is immediate family and I can’t possibly get out of attending. And that’s not just out of cheapness, I just found the whole experience to be rather unpleasant.

In todays world, anything goes. but what is more surprising is the cost of having wedding, a reception and all the rest of the trimmings that goes with it.

Someone told me last week that it was costing them $200/head and with it being an Italian wedding there are to be 500 guests.

My personal gift for weddings, showers or a christening, birthdays & christmas is $100/pop each in case.

At a funeral gathering what do people generally gift & how much (flowers maybe a donation to a charity) and from my experience it is the only time when people have one thing in common, generally without anger, cliques, infighting or one upmanship

I’ve found that there can be a huge variance in the per person cost of meals at weddings. I think venue, presentation (sit down or buffet), and location are big factors in what people pay for the cost of the meal. Am I right to assume that city costs would be more expensive than rural areas?

As for the original question I’ve given $100 in cash at a wedding. I’ve heard this a general rule, but I usually try to give something from the registry. If they get more than one blender at least they can return it for store credit.

$50 per plate seems pretty low to me. I’ll be getting married in the next year or so, and I know we’re budgetting $100 per plate to be safe. There’s no possible way you could have a wedding and it cost $15 per plate as Curtis has mentioned. And tipping for a buffet is normal and should be expected. The waiters still clear tables, refill drinks and bring in the food and clear away empty containers.
I fail to see how a meal would cost $15 person unless it is held at a friends potato farm as a close friend of mine did.

All the banquet places I checked out automatically include the tip/gratuity. I wonder if it’s negotiable. It’s been 15% in the past, but when the GST dropped, guess what, they increased the gratuity by 1%.

For the food portion, $50/head is pretty good. For the entire wedding, $100/head is reasonable, maybe even a little low. Ours is looking to end up around $125/head (160 people), and that is nothing extravagant.


I completely agree. Although the future Mrs. is doing a lot of the leg work, the numbers she’s passed on to me, it seems that $100 per head is on the low side. But now that I think about it, that includesthe hall and everything that comes with that. Of course that doesn’t include the bar. What are you thoughts on the bar tab? Open? Pay as you go? I’m beginning to realize it’s a tough choice…..

Actually my wedding was under $10 a plate – so it is definately possible. The meal was great too. My mom actually ended up buying the catering business, and she still charges well under $10 a plate – she is busy every, and I mean EVERY day. That being said, however, I got married in a smaller community…BUT…like I stated before, larger communities will charge more. Still, $50-$100 a plate is unreal. Let’s pretend that it was $75 a plate – if you had 80 supper guests like I did, you are looking at $6000. That’s pretty sad considering my entire wedding was under $5000. We had about 300 people total and it was a nice, well done, and tasteful wedding.

My next thought would be WHY ON EARTH would you want to shell out $6000+ to feed other people on YOUR special day? Perhaps I am just different, but that makes absolutely no sense to me.

My still at home about to be 22 year old daughter says she has a reasonable solution for this problem

1. Rental wedding dress (around $300), she refuses to pay the $000’s for a new one.
2. Has a friend (as well as a family member) with quality digital camera’s to do the wedding shots
3. City hall for the marriage license and back yard family affair wedding clergy included, no more than 20-people, each have to bring one-dish, one bottle of wine or a 2-4
4. Each guest she says must donate $100 (fee to attend the wedding), this would pay for the honeymoon
5. On her return she would invite each guest to her and her husband’s home for dinner, one at a time over a 3-month period.

This gal has frugal ways, she figures less than a grand all-in all-done

Eh, maybe because I’m an amateur photographer, but I wouldn’t skimp on the photographer. That’s my personal preference. The only thing you’re going to be remembering down the road are pictures (and possibly the meal if it was amazing), so going with someone that only charges $400 for a day when they only have a couple shoots under their belt is just too risky for me.

100% DO NOT skimp on the photographer. also coming from an amateur photog who has shot a wedding (poorly). if you want to take your chances that you might get one good snapshot, then go ahead.

that being said, i think the 5-6K rates for pro wedding photogs is outrageous.
we have a family relative who is a pro wedding photog and her ‘family discount’ rate still put us back $2k

RE: wedding dresses. it isn’t hard to find a brand new one, for purchase, for under $500.

I fourth that. Our photographer was great. Money well spent.
Count yourself really really lucky if that’s what you spent on dinner for your wedding. $50-100 is the norm.

After consulting with my wife I see we paid $60 per plate which included a host bar (guest do not pay for drinks we did). Add in 15% gratuity for the wait staff so we were near $70 per person and that was for the Old Mill in Toronto.

@JR Being frugal can be a good idea but as a guest I wouldn’t like being told I had to give $100 towards their honeymoon. (If I interpreted point 4 right).
Also, Italian and Greek weddings don’t count as the norm, lol They spare no expense for their little girls big day. I’ve been to a few and it’s usually over the top IMHO.

capture the memories (dont go cheap), I shall let my daughter know that.

Can it still be done for less than a grand, doing the home based (frugal) wedding?

Wedding dress > $500 (new) rental $300
Tux for the groom $?
Photographer > $400
Misc >$100-$200 (flower arrangements-self made, table rentals, local kid to be a discjockey)
Limo, use family & friends, white big-one with stick on home made messages & paper mache flowers
Food & booze, everyone pitches in (add Frugals home made stew, remember to invite Frugal)

Anything missing?

Tux rentals are about 100-150$.

Biggest challenge would be picking out the 20 people to invite. Personally, I know that we could not pick only 20 people. Either a sibling or a life long friend would not make the cut.

And I second the idea of not being comfortable being told to bring $100 for their honeymoon. Historically, the cost has been the groom’s responsibility. I don’t even include it in the wedding costs.

When my wife and I got married in 2004, it cost us around $4,000 for the whole thing, dress, food, JP, etc. Our meal (appetizer, dinner and dessert) and banquet room cost about $35 per head, which is quite cheap for that sort of thing. Wine cost another $1,200. It’s extremely easy to spend upwards of $10k on a wedding and not have anything particularly extravagant.

So, knowing this, I try to spend $100-$200 on a wedding gift, more if it is immediate family. If my wife and I were to go out for a nice dinner with entertainment, $100 would easily be our bill, so spending that much on a gift is just paying the same amount of money.

For other ocassions, in the past my family has given out a lot of gift certificates. I would like to start to convince everyone to instead give cash as gift certificates far too often end up unused/underused/expired and just result in making the issuing companies free profits… money that would have otherwise stayed within the family. I’ve even thought about encouraging immediate family members to instead buy stocks for each other… but that will take a bit of convincing.


Thanks. I am not saying everyone can do it BUT there are ways to have a cheap wedding!


I made reference earlier about Italian weddings and the cost today quoted of $200/plate … 500 guests.

The Italian, Greek, Polish, Asian weddings are huge, and it is tradition to give money.

You are in TO, you know the ethnic wedding routine, but we are talking frugal.

Your particular wedding, was all-in, all-done $70, or was that just the reception?

What was spent in total on the wedding, did it include, the wedding dress, Tux, flowers, photographer, limo, band … other stuff that I may have missed.

On the frugal invite, I was at an Indian wedding last summer in T.O, where the invite stipulated “no gifts”. When I questioned the brides father, I was told, no gifts, money graciously accepted, with a side note that envolopes are provided marked on the face $100. A token I was told to be a guest, just like what you would pay to go to an office Christmas party.

Novel idea I thought …. unique and quite applicable to any event, sort of an entrance fee, but by invite only

Frugal to say the least and it takes all the worry out of what to buy the bride & groom

Our wedding was $65/plate, and thats because we knew the owners. Typcically in Ontario it is, 80-100/plate, drinks included. Anyone who says $10/plate is out of touch.


I am the one that said $10 a plate. Ours was $8.75/plate. Do you think I would just make this up so I can come argue on a blog comment section? Trust me, I have better things to do with my time.

Keith: I agree with you, that trying to do a traditional catered wedding in a hall for $10/head is as near impossible as it gets, even if you were the cook and had family serving.

Minimum wage in Ontario has gone up; the caterer has to make money. So unless it’s done small, at home, or on a nude beach (that would be a special wedding), you just ain’t going to get the $10 a plate, unless everyone ate first and it was a totally liquid BYO reception

Our wedding in 2004 was about $20/plate, and it was a cash bar.

Though we live in Toronto we decided to get married in one of the small towns where we grew up. Less distance for family to travel, cheaper reception hall, and cheaper costs.

One of the most important things to do is tell the caterer that its a family function, not a wedding. The same meal costs a lot less when the caterer does not know its a wedding.

Yeah, I’ve heard the “no gift” thing before. I also needed to be told that meant they only want cash. I was at a Greek wedding in December. Huge, too many people too much food and there was the Mother of the Groom waiting at the door holding a box…………..yes you’re right, it was a money box. They also had a “money shower” for the bride earlier in the month. That’s what the invite said in plain English on the front “money shower”.
I might have to consult dear wifey on this but here goes
The $70 included, hore d’ourves, bar service for 5 hours, dinner, gratuities for the dinner staff, and the biggest of all they clean up even the tables. They put out the centre pieces and took them away, also they kept our gifts and cash locked away until the next day for us.
Anyone planning a wedding keep that in mind that the bridal party is usually on the hook for those things.
Also includes a room in the Inn for the bride and groom……awesome. The Old Mill is one of Toronto’s most beautiful buildings.
Chapel rental at the old mill, $700ish
Tux $120 per tux
Wedding dress, complements of her Mom $1400
DJ $800 for 6 hours (he played during the cocktail hour)
Photographer $2000 for 5 hours 2 (photographers) and digital proof. Well worth it.
Flowers $600

No limo for us, it was all at the Old Mill.
On the “I have a friend with a digital camera who’s going to take the pics” comment someone made above, I don’t recommend this at all.
My cousin who is taking a course for general interest in photography took pics at our wedding and was kind of trying to shadow the photographer. His pics were awful. Blurry, out of focus and the pics had no real definition. He paid $800 for his cam and another $300 for the lenses. The photographers equipment is state of the art and there was no comparison.
I’ll post more if something comes to mind.

I’m not sure about your situation in particular but maybe a good gift to them would be a photographer for the wedding?
Also, we used a company that kind of specializes in more candid shots. The ratio of candid to posed was about 80/20. We rarely even saw them taking candid shots of us but they turned out to be the best.

Sorry for the long post MDJ

Sorry, forgot to add dinner service included 2 bottles of wine per table and a late night dessert table, with coffee and tea.
I’m not sure about bridesmaids dresses. My wife bought material that matched my vest and each girl had a dress made to their liking. Not your typical tacky bridesmaid dresses it’s actually something they will wear again since they chose the style. They both looked great.

When Dave Ramsey comes to Dallas, TX, my wife and I pay for a couple to attend his Live Event, Total Money MakeOver and we go along with them and take them out to dinner to discuss how to help them with debt. Very rewarding. – Debt Free Hispanic

@Curtis: My next thought would be WHY ON EARTH would you want to shell out $6000+ to feed other people on YOUR special day? Perhaps I am just different, but that makes absolutely no sense to me.

Wow, talk about flamebait!

Why on earth would you offer an $8.75 plate to someone who has traveled hundreds of miles to attend your wedding? Somebody is taking some of their very important time to be with you. In some cases taking their own precious vacation days and spending hundreds of dollars to travel. Your way of thanking them for their attendance is to provide an $8.75 / plate meal?

Your special day? What arrogance!

My wife and I had a “quickie” wedding in Edmonton this December (no sit-down food, no dance/speeches). Our “thank you” was to take everyone bowling. “Yes, have appetizers & drinks, put it on the tab”. Yes this is our “special day”; we want to enjoy it by having a good time with our loved ones.

We’re having a ceremony back in Winnipeg in August. The cost is $35/plate just for the food and we want it that way. I have family flying in internationally and from parts of Ontario and Alberta, I have other family playing host and offering their precious time to help at the event. Offering a quality dinner and a nice party experience are my way of respectfully thanking them for joining the celebration.

Showing extreme frugality at a wedding (or extreme lavishness) is not something to be proud of, especially when it concerns the guests. It has nothing little to do with absolute number, there’s no moral victory in running the cheapest (or the most lavish) wedding.

FT: What rule of thumb do you use for monetary gifts?
Don’t give them except at weddings? Honestly, I’ll scale my presentation based on my cost for attendance, but I’ll shoot to cover at least the food costs if I can.

Maybe I’m a little charmed in that most people I know don’t need for anything which I why I avoid giving cash. But that’s not completely true. My wife & I are giving cash to our newborn nephew and niece, they just don’t know it yet. They’re both less than 18 months and living with parents who don’t have great means. They won’t starve, but they’ll need the money in 18 years to attend post-secondary, so we’re starting now. I believe that’s pegged at $500/year each (though I’m not sure). One of these parents is 18, her gift was a donation to her driving school fund, she’s now working on getting her license.

But for friends and family, they’d rather get some of my time. Taking a cousin to the movies or an aunt to dinner is a far better gift than cash. Maybe it’s just part of being “well-off”, but I don’t feel that cash registers as a very “thoughtful” gift most of the time (weddings aside).

GatesVP said: “But for friends and family, they’d rather get some of my time. Taking a cousin to the movies or an aunt to dinner is a far better gift than cash. Maybe it’s just part of being “well-off”, but I don’t feel that cash registers as a very “thoughtful” gift most of the time (weddings aside).”

We arrived at this conundrum a number of years ago for my parents. Dad had been a problem for decades — we’d spend ages determining the perfect gift; something he would use, had a real need, etc. He’d go out any purchase it for himself just before the event. As time progressed, our parents acquired all they could ever need or want, and after much consideration, we decided to host them on a short vacation trip. Last year we spent some time in Spokane, viewing the historic architecture, and enjoying dining and live theatre. This year will be a wine tour. We now give small tokens at Christmas & birthdays, and coupon a vacation event they would not consider themselves.


Hmm…I give $50 for wedding gifts for friends and family. I live in the midwest and was married in 2004 – many of the cash gifts we received were in the $20-$25 range, so I’d say our $50 gift is quite extravagant for the area. The only $100 gifts we recevied were from parents and older, well-off relatives. I think giving based on the cost per plate is absurd, personally. Gifts should be based on what you can afford and your relationship to the person, not the amount of money they spend on feeding you.

I’m with Finance Girl. I also live in the Midwest, where wedding costs aren’t quite as high (but still outrageous, IMO). My wedding was about $15/plate (last July).

My husband and I are going to a wedding this weekend and we’re giving $50. Of course, we’re also paying all of the costs to get to Arizona. When my brother gets married this fall, we’ll give probably $100, but anyone besides immediate family gets $50 if we go and possibly $15 back with the reply card if we don’t go.

My family and friends avoid gift-giving for birthdays. None of us needs more “stuff” and it’s silly for me to give my friend $20 for her birthday and then for her to give me $20 for my birthday.

For wedding and bridal showers, I try to keep my gift cost to about $15.

Again, this is in the Midwest. I guess even gift-giving is cheaper here!

I really don’t give money as a gift. Instead i buy a present. For me buying a gift means a lot of expression like you really exert an effort to make that person happy with your present unlike giving a monetary value.

@Gates VP

Your comment:

Why on earth would you offer an $8.75 plate to someone who has traveled hundreds of miles to attend your wedding? Somebody is taking some of their very important time to be with you. In some cases taking their own precious vacation days and spending hundreds of dollars to travel. Your way of thanking them for their attendance is to provide an $8.75 / plate meal?

Thank you for proving my point. Obviously one that is so influenced by price is one that is superficial. What makes a $8.75/plate meal any less good than one for an outrageously high $30/plate? Do you have statistical (or concrete) evidence to back up your claim? Or…is it just because the higher prices makes YOU think it is better?


There is a wide disparity geographically in terms of what a certain price would get you for food. Gates VP lived in Edmonton, as I do, and 8.75 would not get you a hot meal. Probably just some sandwiches and wraps. But I’m sure where you live Curtis, it’s a nice enjoyable meal. And you’re very lucky to be in such a position.

While it is your special day (the bride and groom), it would certainly not be as special (to me at least) if the friends and family weren’t there. Most will have to take holidays and fly across the country to come to the wedding. Giving them cold sandwiches and pop would not be thoughtful. It is a once in a lifetime event after all.

I think there’s definitely different opinions on how extravagent a wedding should be. Personal finances, culture, city, etc all contribute on how you decide to spend that special moment. I’ve been to quite a few weddings, including my own, and regardless of how much they’ve spent, each one was very special.

I don’t know if this is odd, but we keep track of what we’ve received and what we’ve given for weddings. We usually give back what we’ve received as a gift as cash … so if a friend gave us a large cash gift, we also give back to them that same amount. We think of it as a micro-loan, especially when weddings can be so costly and when people need it the most.

people who think it’s appropriate to give 30 35 or 50 bucks as a wedding gift are ridiculous. That is so cheap.

students giving 50 is one thing but 75 minimum per person and 100 is good. I gave 300 recently and I admit it was about 50-100 more then I wanted to give but 100 per person is good.

ANYONE claiming 50 or less is average or normal is living in outer space. Reality check!

can I ask where you got married in 2004 (for $35/head)….I’m looking to get married in the Spring 2009 and desperately need a venue with good/decent food for under $50/head…possible???

I am a Canadian now living in the USA and will be attending a wedding in a couple of weeks. Because I haven’t actually been to a wedding in at least 8 years I need to know the “going rate” for a monetary gift. After reading all the above comments I can see that there is actually a great discrepancy between the two countries’ idea of an appropriate money gift for a wedding. I was married ten years ago in Canada and the average gift of money was $100-$150 back then. (BTW- we had a $20 per plate meal (all food and desserts) and a fully stocked open bar-no cost to our guests). I now live in the mid-west and hearing some mid-westerners say they give only a $50 gift of money is very eye-opening. Maybe I need to rethink my $250 gift that I was planning to give and go back to the $100-$150 range. Hmmm.


I would base the amount on two criteria – how close (emotionally, not geographically) am I to the couple (the closer, the higher the $ amount) and how expensive is the meal? If they go all out and it is $100/head, well that is your starting point and you go up from there.

Thankfully my stepbrother is a professional photographer & his shots of people & scenery are absolutely beautiful. So I will be utilizing his skills for my wedding. I figure it would be fair to give him a gift in leau of payment?
I already have a wedding dress.. it was actually a $600 floor-length white dress that I bought for prom, but never ended up wearing.. so I will wear it for my wedding!
I’m thinking of saving money by making a reservation at a nice but not over-priced restaurant.. & then maybe going out to the bars afterwards to dance/party/drink. I think it would be a lot more fun than a stuffy reception anyways.