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As the summer wedding season kicks off, it's important to remember that being invited to share in a couple's special day can be an expensive memory.
Between the travel expenses, hotel stay, special-occasion attire and, of course, the wedding gift itself, guests often shell out hundreds just to attend.
Nationwide, the average cash gift is about $160, according to
Wedding gift-giving habits also vary by region, according to a separate report by Bankrate.com. In the Northeast, guests are particularly generous. Nearly one-third said their typical gift is at least $200, compared with just 13 percent of everyone else. Bankrate polled 1,000 adults in early April.
Northeasterners are also more likely to give cash or a check, while those in the South and West are more likely to buy a gift off the registry, Bankrate said.
These days, the amount you spend should have less to do with where you live or what kind of wedding you are attending, and more to do with your own budget and feelings about the couple, experts said.
"In terms of how much you should give, whatever you think is appropriate and can realistically afford is what you should go for," said Sarah Berger, Bankrate's personal finance analyst.
It's perfectly acceptable to factor in the total cost when considering how much to give, said Rosemary Caligiuri, managing director of United Capital in Langhorne, Pennsylvania. "Being a guest at a wedding is a financial obligation. When you say yes, you are saying yes to a lot of additional costs, especially if it's far away."
For those feeling strained, "consider going in on a group gift off the registry, that way no one knows exactly what you spent," Caligiuri said. Otherwise, "consider a nice $70 bottle of champagne."
Still, for some invitees, the cost of attending a wedding can be just too much. Twenty-one percent said they have declined a wedding invitation altogether because they felt they couldn't afford to go, Bankrate said.
"Start budgeting the moment you get the 'save the date,'" advised Berger. "If you still can't afford to go, don't dip into your savings and don't feel guilty either. Respectfully decline."