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The Right Amount of Money to Give for Weddings, the Right Gift for Funerals & Related Questions

In recent years, Hallmark has seen sales of greeting cards that hold cash, checks or gift cards increase by almost 150 percent. Such gifts, though sometimes viewed as impersonal, were actually the most desired among women for the 2006 holiday season, according to Consumer Reports (men preferred electronics).


If you plan to give money as a gift, crisp, new bills make an excellent presentation (and most banks will exchange your old bills for new ones at no charge).

After all, cash suits everyone's taste, and you can personalize it by adding a note about what you'd like them to use it for (Here's $50 toward your new stereo system!). But the good thing about money is that they are in no way tied to your request, they can do with it whatever they please, and there's no greater gift than that.

Giving a gift of cash or a gift card can be tricky, however, as you must find the perfect balance between generosity and practicality (to your bank account). What are the "rules" when it comes to giving money?

  • Generally speaking, you should give more to your family and close friends than to distant acquaintances

  • You should never feel obligated to give more than you can truly afford

Now for the specifics ...

Weddings: The traditional view is to give the couple at least the cost of your meal, which could range anywhere from $50 to over $100 per person. However, you should also take into account your relationship to the couple and whether you are in the wedding (and therefore have spent money on other wedding-related gifts and items, and may want to adjust your gift accordingly).

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As for whether or not cash is an acceptable gift, the answer is absolutely (the only exception being a colleague's wedding, and then buying a gift is more appropriate). According to etiquette guru Emily Post:

"With more second marriages and couples coming to the altar with established households, there's not as much need today for toasters, tumblers and table settings. For many couples, money makes an ideal gift. And there are terrific options in monetary gifting today; guests should consider alternatives to cash and personal checks such as universal gift certificates. I like the American Express Gift Cheque, which comes attractively packaged in a gold envelope just as a present should be."

Funerals: Gifts of cash may be accepted at funerals in lieu of flowers to go toward the bereaved family or a charity. Such funds are usually deposited into a single fund for the family or designated charity, and therefore it's completely up to you to decide how much you feel comfortable giving.

When you send a sympathy card, it is appropriate to mention that you gave a gift, but not to state the amount.

General Gifts: According to a Hallmark survey, here are the average amounts given as gifts:

  • $50 or more for close relatives

  • $25 or less for more distant relatives

  • $20 or less for friends

When is a Cash Gift NOT Appropriate?

You should always include a hand-written note with any cash gift to give it your own personal touch.

Certain holiday tips/appreciation should be given in the form of a non-cash gift. This includes those to:

  • Your child's teachers (though gift certificates are fine)

  • U.S. letter carriers (U.S. government regulations prohibit cash gifts, but they can accept non-cash gifts worth up to $20)

  • Private nurse and nursing home employees

Recommended Reading

The 10 Worst Gift Ideas to Keep in Mind This Holiday Season

How Much Should You Spend on Holiday Shopping?


The Emily Post Institute

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