Money etiquette

Should wedding size determine gift size?

Special to The Globe and Mail

Well, wedding season has been kicked off in style, thanks to William and Kate. I imagine the average cost of a wedding will spike this year. Call it a hunch.

As a guest, then, the question becomes: Should you base your wedding-gift spending on the scale of the event for your less royal, but equally regal, friends who are tying the knot?

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The Globe ran a poll last week asking questions along that vein. It turns out that 54 per cent of people decide how much they will spend based on the recipient, 21 per cent base the expense on the cost of the meal plus a bit more, 14 per cent give only what they can afford, and 10 per cent spend the same on every couple.

Recently, a friend asked me a related question. He had attended a relatively big wedding for a very good friend, which included being a part of the bachelor party and wedding party. He gave a cash gift of $500 in addition to an outlay of $500 for the bachelor party and wedding party costs. In total, taking part in his buddy's big day set him back $1,000, and he was happy to do it. He guessed that the wedding cost the couple about $40,000.

He has another equally good friend who is getting married soon. This time, the happy couple are planning to elope and then hold a small reception at a later date for their friends to celebrate. This time the total cost to the couple is estimated to be $7,500.

So the question my friend asked me was: How much to give as a gift this time? He initially thought he would give less because the wedding cost was significantly lower, so they don't need as much help.

My instant reaction was: What does someone else's financial responsibility have to do with the value of your gift? He would effectively be penalizing the second couple for being more responsible. Personally, I would feel more comfortable giving them money, because if they are more responsible about their wedding planning, they may be more responsible with any excess gift cash.

I'd rather see my money go toward a down payment on a house than a giant ice swan by the dessert table.

As I've said time and time before, I have no problem with indulgences every now and then, if you run a surplus. If a fairy-tale wedding day is a priority for you, that's fine - if you can afford it.

My advice to my friend was to give his equally good friend the same $500 cash gift. If anything, he could consider himself lucky that he's still saving $500, since there was no bachelor party or wedding party costs. Perhaps he could even use some of those savings to take his friend out for a one-on-one bachelor night with Scotch and cigars.

It could be a worthwhile expense - he may even learn how his friend resists the urge to keep up with the Joneses.



Preet Banerjee is a senior vice-president with Pro-Financial Asset Management. His website is wheredoesallmymoneygo.com

Follow on Twitter: @preetbanerjee