The behavioural economics of wedding gifts

October 26, 2016 by Never Mind the BE

wedding-6187249Going to an Autumn or Christmas wedding soon?  Unsure how much to spend on a gift?  You don’t want to seem mean, naturally, but equally you don’t actually like them that much to become over-generous.  What a dilemma!  Here are some suggested methods of calculating wedding gift spend from the wonderfully romantic world of behavioural economics, courtesy of Uptal Dholakia over on the Psychology Today blog.

First up is the economic calculation method – figure out what the cost of hosting you as a guest at the crumby dump their holding the reception in was, then spend an equivalent amount on the gift.  Nice and safe, you’re even at the end of the event!  Next is the reciprocity approach – work out the cost of the gift they gave you years ago, then add interest to arrive at the amount you should spend.  Neat, but only works if (a) you are actually married and (b) you liked the “happy couple” enough to invite them to your own wedding bash anyway.  Or how about the emotional significance method?  This only works for relatives or close friends, really, but involves giving an heirloom that will hold some special significance to the recipients.  Ideal chance to get rid of that old vase Uncle Toby dumped on you twenty years ago, then, they’ll never know!  Last but not least (literally!) there’s the generous gift approach – totally ignore all social etiquette and give a ridiculous amount that is completely out of proportion.

Mmmmnnnn…. I detect a hint of cynicism similar to mine in Dholakia’s analysis, the example he gives of that last method is to give enough to pay off the bride and groom’s combined student loans!   Those who know me well, however, would see me as far too mean to go down that route.  I’d probably choose the economic-root approach; figure out how much the fish supper you’re currently eating at the reception is worth and take the square-root, adjusting up or down according to the quality of the karaoke, naturally!