relationships

I spent a fortune to be in my friend's wedding. Do I still have to buy the couple a gift? 4 experts weigh in

Twenty/20

At age 31, I'm perhaps blessed that I've only been asked to be in two weddings. Not because I don't think weddings are fun (they are!) but because the cost associated with being in a bridal party is cripplingly high.

By the time the actual nuptials roll around, I've run a marathon of festivities — an engagement party, bridal shower, bachelorette party — many of which require a gift. On the day of the wedding, I feel like I've already paid a small fortune to celebrate my friend, so does the happy couple really need me to purchase them an air fryer?

Not including a gift, bridesmaids spend, on average, more than $1,600 being in a wedding, according to 2024 data from The Knot. Then, you're supposed to shell out another $100. To me, this feels like robbery.

To see if I was being totally unreasonable, I talked to etiquette and financial experts. Here's what they had to say.

Tori Dunlap, founder of Her First 100k

"Striking a balance between what you can afford and the general expectations for being in the bridal party is key.

If you're already spending a considerable amount on these activities, it's absolutely OK to scale back on the wedding gift. In fact, many couples understand the financial commitment that comes with being in the bridal party and don't expect an extravagant gift on top of everything else.

My advice is to communicate openly with the couple. Let them know that you're thrilled to be part of their special day and explain your situation honestly. Often, a simple conversation is all it takes. A heartfelt note, a small but meaningful gift, or even just your presence can be just as valuable."

Allison Cullman, vice president of brand strategy at Zola

"It is customary for members of the wedding party to give a gift, but it doesn't have to be of large monetary value. It is a gesture of love. 

Consider what options are available to you. Maybe the couple has a cash registry and you can donate a small amount. You could opt for something small from their wedding registry or you can also create a personalized token of your love.

You could offer to do something for the couple before or on their wedding day, like corralling all your friends for a photo. One of my bridesmaids did that for me and it was very much appreciated.

Anything that demonstrates that you are by someone's side is more meaningful than a check."

Jen Glantz, founder of Bridesmaids for Hire

"When you're in a bridal party, before day one of the role you should set a budget and stick to it. That should include all the pre-wedding events and that budget shouldn't be what anyone else tells you.

There is no expectation that you have to bring a gift. I think you feel pressure to do that but there is no expectation to do that. 

When it comes to why we give gifts, one reason is that we want to celebrate these people as they enter a new phase in their life.

You can write them a hand-written note. The purpose of going to a wedding and giving a gift is to celebrate."

Hannah Nowack, senior editor at The Knot

"It's customary for wedding party members to give the couple a gift. However, you ultimately need to decide on what to gift based on what fits your budget and how close you are to the couple.

Since you'll be investing a lot of time and money into pre-wedding festivities it's OK to use your best judgment about how much you feel comfortable gifting.

One great idea is to join up with some other bridesmaids to give a group gift. This is a nice option whether or not you're on a tight budget. Maybe there is a big gift, like an espresso machine or a honeymoon couple's massage, that you want to gift to the couple but know that doing so alone would be outside your budget."

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