The Wedding Economy

Don't bother following this rule about how much you should spend on a wedding gift

Dirk Blocker as Hitchcock, Joel McKinnon Miller as Scully, Andy Samberg as Jake Peralta and Melissa Fumero as Amy Santiago in "Brooklyn Nine-Nine."
Ray Mickshaw | FOX | Universal Television | NBCU | Getty Images
Dirk Blocker as Hitchcock, Joel McKinnon Miller as Scully, Andy Samberg as Jake Peralta and Melissa Fumero as Amy Santiago in "Brooklyn Nine-Nine."

When deciding how much to spend on a wedding gift, you might be swayed by the widespread idea that you should buy something equivalent to the cost per plate at the reception.

However, "covering your plate" isn't expected, says Lizzie Post, etiquette expert and co-host of Emily Post's "Awesome Etiquette" podcast. The value of your gift "is never based off how much the couple is paying per plate," she tells CNBC Make It. "That is a misconception in American culture."

That's because guests should never know the cost of the wedding. There's no need to speculate on how much, or how little, the bride and groom spent on their big day, either. "It's none of your business," Post says. "They might have had a family friend who catered all the food. Or they might have had unlimited funds, and you don't have to know that either."

Instead, you should figure out how much you can comfortably spend and stay within those limits, Post advises.

"Your gift should always be within your personal budget," she says. "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 someone else'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.

Wedding gifts are meant to honor the couple and thank them for including you — not to leave guests with mounting credit card bills. What you choose to buy, and how much you spend on it, only needs to be a reflection of your relationship with the couple and your budget.

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