This is a question I’ve grappled with since I attended my first “grown up” wedding shortly after graduating college. I was single, living at home (but paying “rent”) and had just started working as a journalist (and making something like $23,000 a year). I had my own car and all my expenses were my own. Plus, I was trying to save to rent — and furnish — my own place, so extra money was not at a premium.

I probably could’ve afforded to give about $50, but I went with $100 because a three-digit figure seemed much more appropriate than two. Also, the groom was one of my good friends and I’d watched his relationship bloom nearly from the start.

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How much to spend is a conundrum so many face. Many people try to quote the (outdated and wildly debunked by every wedding professional out there) idea you “cover” your plate. Like wedding professionals, I find this approach incredibly stupid and I would never entertain it. The venue a couple chooses is not a guest’s fault (or good luck).

Your relationship to the couple and how much you can afford have always been the two factors I use (AKA if I know I was tier II I’m not spending as much as I would on, say, a relative). Nothing else. I don’t care what I spent to get to your wedding or how much I paid for my dress. I don’t care if I had to take no time off from work or three days or hire a babysitter. None of that has anything to do with the couple, or the cost of the gift.

Walt Hickey also grappled with this question — and was baffled by the variety of answers he was finding online — so he launched a survey and wrote about it for FiveThirtyEight.

His results were pretty much in line with my thinking:

It definitely depends on how well you know the couple. If a member is in your immediate family, the trimmed mean1 gift spending was $147, and if they’re extended family, that drops to $71. If there’s a close friend in the couple, the average spending was $82, and for someone you consider just a friend, the average amount given was an even $50, wrote Hickey in his story.

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