From ice sculptures to swans to a $1,200 cake, picture-perfect weddings can quickly break the bank. (Read this for what a wedding really costs
But, what about the 120 million people who attend weddings each year? From gifts to plane tickets to hotel rooms, costs can seriously add up. According to Sharon Stimpfle of Wedding Channel
, 60 percent of your gift budget should go for the wedding gift, 20 percent for the shower, 15 percent for the engagement gift, and 5 percent for the bachelorette bash, to which you should bring something cute but small.
Below, you'll find our handy chart with how much you should spend on gifts, sorted by how close you are to the person. Double all of these amounts if you're a couple. And if you live in an urban area where the cost of living is high, add $25 to $50 to each of these numbers.
If you are not invited to the engagement or bachelorette party, feel free to reassign those funds to the wedding and shower gifts. And remember -- the bridal shower is all about gifts, so wrap yours nicely and be prepared for the bride to open it in front of you and all of your friends.
Some more wedding-guest financial tips:
1. Aim for Average
But that's it. You don't have to spend more than that, even if your friend is throwing a "Great Gatsby"–style affair. "Most brides and grooms ... don't expect over-the-top, elaborate gifts from their guests, especially those ... in their 20s and 30s," says Anna Lucia Richardson, a wedding planner.
Learnvest Tip: Once you receive the invite, be the first guest to buy a gift from the registry. That way, you'll have your pick of items in your price range. Plus, you'll receive brownie points for being so on top of your game.
2. Plan Your Travel EARLY
Many airlines will make you pay surcharges of up to $30 for traveling at "peak times," but during summer, more days are "peak" than aren't. So, get your tickets the moment you decide to go to the wedding.
3. Use Your Rewards
Use credit card rewards points to purchase gift cards or gifts from the registry. You may also be able to use points toward travel and hotel costs.
4. Group Gift
Group gifting is a great way to collectively give something that you might not otherwise be able to afford on your own, says Richardson. If each person pitches in the $70 he or she would've spent otherwise, you can communally purchase something much pricier. Ideally, each person should contribute the same amount, Richardson says, in order to split those brownie points equally.
5. Just Be Nice
This is a very stressful, emotional time for your engaged friend, so do everything you can to help the couple feel special and unburdened. The gifts that they'll look back upon most fondly aren't necessarily the most expensive. Offer to help the bride find her jewelry, run errands, and ask if there's anything you can take off her plate. Also, never forget that a nice note goes a long way, so remember to break out your stationery.
6. Gift Your Services
We know a bridesmaid who created a 15-minute video to air during the reception dinner in lieu of another gift. It was a major highlight of the night, a priceless gift that the newlyweds will cherish forever. (More so than the coffeemaker we bought them.)
7. Decline, Respectfully
If you can't go to a wedding -- even if it's for financial reasons -- don't feel bad. Just follow up with a phone call and send a small, simple gift to show your appreciation for being invited, says Stimpfle. Your gift doesn't have to be expensive; it can be something creative rather than from the registry.
More than anything, remember that many couples understand the financial burden of expensive plane tickets and hotel reservations; what they'll appreciate most are your good wishes. Click here for more tips on how to survive wedding weekends with your wallet intact
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