Grad Advisor asks:
A colleague and I co-advised a student who graduated a couple of years ago. The student is now getting married and the colleague and I are both invited to the wedding. The colleague wants to buy a present together and split the cost, which is a great idea. The problem is that the colleague wants to buy three little-ish things that together cost $90 and split that in two. I think that’s too cheap. If we were grad students, sure, that would be a good amount, but we are both grownups with salaries and I think we should be able to buy something bigger. (I haven’t talked with the colleague about this yet as I am not sure what to say.)
How much would be customary to spend in this type of occasion? Someone told me it depends on whether they feed you or not etc. but I find it hard to believe it’s just tit for tat (i.e. I should spend no more than the price of my and my husband’s meal and drink or whatever). So what’s the etiquette?
Miss Manners definitely frowns on the idea of tit for tat. And there really is no specific etiquette– you don’t have to buy a gift at all if you don’t want to. I tend to give $50 in cash for friends and acquaintances and $100 in cash to family and close friends (sometimes more depending on the circumstances). When it’s a friend who has a lot of money already, I just buy something between $45 and $80 off the registry depending on what catches my eye. But most folks just starting out could use the money more than they can use household items, to pay off the wedding if nothing else. (About.com has guidelines, as do many other websites.)
Honestly, you can give whatever you want. At our wedding, we got many large checks from DH’s side for our wedding, and only trinkets from my side. The difference being the need for social insurance in the two cultures. If you feel like giving more than $45, then just tell your colleague that you’re planning on cutting a check, and cut the check. Or if there’s something else you have in mind, tell the colleague you have something else in mind.
The real etiquette answer here is that you can give whatever you want, but you cannot dictate what your colleague should give.
Grumpy Nation, how much do you spend on wedding gifts? What advice would you have for grad advisor?