The Wedding Economy

Here's exactly how much you should spend on a wedding gift

Mark McKinney as Glenn, Colton Dunn as Garrett, Nico Santos as Mateo on NBC's "Superstore."
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Americans are willing to go the distance to attend their loved ones weddings, even when it comes at a price. A new survey From TD Ameritrade finds that 53 percent of millennials would be willing to go into debt to attend the wedding of a close friend or family member.

One of the most significant and freighted costs associated with weddings is figuring out how much to spend on a gift. Should you double the estimated price of the meal? Are you obligated to purchase nicer gifts as you get older?

All you need to know, it turns out, is one simple guideline: Figure out how much you can comfortably spend and stay within those limits.

"Your gift should always be within your personal budget," Lizzie Post, etiquette expert and co-host of Emily Post's "Awesome Etiquette" podcast, tells CNBC Make It. "You decide that based on your connection to the person getting married, your own gift-giving style, desire and generosity in that moment and what's feasible for you to do."

Celebrating your friend's big day should never put you in the red. "Your budget, your sentiment, your desire is what really dictates what you want to get for them," Post says.

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It's also important to keep in mind that your budget may change over time. You aren't obligated to spend the same amount on every wedding, even for couples who run in the same group of friends.

One year, you may have a well-paying job that allows you to splurge on more generous items. The next, you and your spouse may be raising a baby on a single income. When your circumstances change, your wedding budget does as well.

"You should never be compared among your social circles or your family for the gifts you got for one wedding versus another," Post says.

As you get older, you may be able to increase the amount you're able to comfortably spend on a wedding gift. But you don't need to spend a certain amount because you're a particular age. "Age does not equate to finance," Post says. Again, stick to a budget that works for you at this point in time.

You can also ignore the common advice that you're obligated to spend twice as much on a gift as the price of the meal, which Post says is one of the biggest misconceptions about American weddings. "As a guest, you should never know how much this wedding costs," she says. "It's none of your business."

At the end of the day, wedding gifts are meant to honor the couple and thank them for including you — not for leaving guests with mounting credit card bills. What you choose to buy, and how much you spend on it, should be a reflection of both your relationship with the couple and your budget.

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