The audacity of asking for cash gifts

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If you ever want to get into a quick argument, try talking to someone about doing a cash wedding registry. People love to debate the issue, and sometimes it feels like the discussion just goes on, and on, and on. In fact, the New York Times recently published an article by Princeton sociology professor Viviana Zelizer that makes it clear that the debate has been raging for over a 100 years:

[Giving cash] horrifies traditionalists, who see giving cash as the ultimate commodification of a sacred ritual. Money is acceptable for charitable donations or bonuses, but certainly not for friends or family.

In the December 1909 Ladies' Home Journal, for instance, the writer Lou Eleanor Colby said she had found a way to “disguise the money so that it would not seem just like a commercial transaction.”

(Read the full article here, and Sociological Images' perspective here.)

The historically-respected solution is disguising the cash. These disguises have shifted from hiding cash in art or integrating it into crafts, to gift certificates (like cash, but the giver still controls where it's spent), all the way to the current solution of honeymoon and cash registries. (It's not actually cash because it all happens on the internet, right?)

Despite the methods for “hiding” the gift of money, there are still folks who simply canNOT abide. And if the shrieks of “TACKY!” have been raging for over a century, I certainly don't think Offbeat Bride is going to be able to magically change anything. (Of course this is very much a regional and cultural thing — in some areas and some cultures, cash gifts are totally the standard!)

That said, I feel like part of what goes unexamined in this debate is who generally benefits from non-cash gifts: RETAILERS. I mean yes: the thoughtfulness involved in picking the perfect gift is awesome. I get a little buzz when I manage to catch a loved one mentioning something in conversation (“You know that old wool sweater from college? It finally unraveled passed the point of no return…”) and then surprise them months later with the perfect gift (“Oh my god, how did you know I needed a new Merino sweater!?”) That's an awesome feeling.

But I have to wonder how much of the etiquette around cash gifts being supposedly awful is generated by the retailers and industries that benefit from it. Like the manufactured tradition of diamond engagement rings, how much of the tradition of purchased gifts trumping cash is generated by retailers?

I don't have an answer to the question, but whenever you're considering advice or etiquette or traditions that simply MUST be followed, I find it's helpful to consider who's got the biggest investment in that tradition.

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Comments on The audacity of asking for cash gifts

  1. In the Northeast it’s traditional to give cash as a gift at the wedding. Physical gifts are reserved for engagement parties and showers.

    That said, I think asking for or expecting cash (or any gift for that matter) is supremely tacky. I didn’t invite anyone to my wedding because of what they might give me – honestly if I wanted to get rich I wouldn’t have asked any of those bums to come! πŸ™‚

    • I think there’s a difference between *expecting* gifts from guests and acknowledging the reality that many people will want to give gifts of some kind, and helping them out by telling them which kind of gift you need the most.

      • It seems like the safest bet is to have a small registry full of essentials that you’d love to have, AND a link to a charity where donations can be made in your name, AND a link to your PayPal account with a blurb that says something like “If you don’t see anything here that strikes your fancy, please consider donating to [charity name] or contributing to our “House/honeymoon/new lawnmower” fund!”

      • I agree – as a wedding guest, I appreciate a registry because it allows me to find a gift I know that the couple needs/loves/will use/experience (i.e. honeymoon), etc. I mean, even Santa clause gets a list. πŸ™‚

    • Yes, that’s the way it’s always been at the weddings I’ve been to: gifts for showers, cash for weddings. In fact, I’ve heard people comment on those who bring physical gifts to weddings, calling THEM tacky!

    • In Canada almost every wedding I have been to has been “presentation” – code for $ only.

    • I’m from the Northeast and this has not been the way it went at weddings I have been to. People usually buy gifts and have them shipped to the couple.

      That said, I have no problem with giving cash, or with people asking for cash.

    • We are asking everyone donate to the Bob and Kelly Honeymoon fund (we spend all our cash on the wedding and we already have lived together for years so I’d rather have a honeymoon than new towels -and I don’t think it’s tacky to ask for something you need/want isn’t it the same as a registry?)

    • My fiance and I are taking monetary donations to put towards our future home together. This seemed like a better use of gift funds than things we wouldn’t need. I’ve been living on my own for 5 years, I’ve pretty much got all we need. This is NOT tacky…this is practical…that being said, we wouldn’t turn down a hand made gift or a gift with meaning behind it. We are just trying to avoid the 3 toaster, unneeded towel set, blender fiasco.

    • You know, people always say “you don’t invite people just so they’ll give you a gift” as if that means gifts are distasteful. Giving a gift is a social tradition that has been associated with weddings for ages. People expect and *want* to give them and *it’s okay* to admit that you’ll probably get some. It makes your guests feel comfortable to have a guide to what you want. I wasn’t going to have any kind of registry or gift guide because my mum thinks such things are “tacky,” but people HOUNDED US for gift requests so we set up a honeymoon registry (the only thing we wanted or needed). If people wanted to give gifts they chose themselves (and some did), they wouldn’t have asked. Acknowledging gifts are a thing isn’t tacky, it’s honest.

  2. The timing of this post couldn’t be more perfect for me. I just registered for a honeymoon, and the site we used has the option to itemize particular things or activities (dinner for two, horseback riding, etc), which we opted to do precisely for the reason that we didn’t want people to think we were just asking for a handout.

    I heard from a friend that her own fiance had asked, upon receiving our invitation, “who registers for a honeymoon?!” At which point his mother said that if we have the basics already (we’ve cohabitated for 5 years) then we’re supposed to register for the expensive crystal, silver, etc at Tiffany. But my question is, if I can’t afford that stuff, what makes her think that my friends can? And furthermore, what the hell do I need with crystal champagne flutes when I don’t get to go on a honeymoon? I’m baffled by the resistance. Weddings are not cheap – why balk at helping the new couple stay out of debt?

    • Did you by any chance use Traveler’s Joy? I only ask because that’s the site we used, and surprisingly, we didn’t get any flak for doing such a registry. We registered for nice dinners, drinks, and things that we would normally have to save a very long time for if we wanted to do all of it in the week we had off work. In short, I love honeymoon registries. Selfishly, it makes it easier on me to shop for the couple! πŸ™‚

      • Actually, we used Honeyfund. I’m hoping we don’t get more than that initial comment! I was sort of annoyed at my friend for passing along the judgment – I really didn’t need to hear it. Thanks for the tip!

        • We’re using honeyfund, too, which is awesome because people can even print out a little certificate and gift with actual cash if they want, and nobody pays a fee unless they pay thru PayPal, which means *I* absord the fee, not them.

          I havn’t had any issues, and I think people love knowing that they’re giving us something real and itemized and quantifiable, instead of just a random cash gift. My aunt literally called my mother jumping up and down because she bought Groom and my admissions to the art museum.

    • My mom balked a little at the idea of our honeymoon registry, until I told her my plan… My husband and I are both professional photographers, and our honeymoon was a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Australia to shoot in the Outback, meet the opal miner and jewelry design who made my engagement ring, and do few traditional honeymoon things like snorkel and relax on the Great Barrier Reef for a few days.

      We made sure to give everyone who contributed to the honeymoon fund a one-of-a-kind signed print that one of us had shot, plus a few photos of us enjoying the activity they “sponsored” and shared this YouTube video:

      People said they loved it, and we got a lot of positive feedback along the lines of “This was so much better than writing you a check or giving you a muffin tin.” Or maybe the TACKY naysayers just didn’t say anything, but my mom was mollified.

    • We set up a honeymoon registry too! We got to customize categories with anything we wanted or could need. We have categories for helping us with travel expenses, massages, outdoor activities, romantic dinners, and household goods for our return. We have been together for 3 years, and my fiance is in the military. We don’t need expensive china or such that has to be moved every 3-4 years. We want to be pampered on our honeymoon!

  3. This is a great article. The nice thing about a thoughtful gift is that it doesn’t have to cost much. Keep the thoughtful gift under 30$(a book, a placesetting, a sweater!) then make give a second gift of cash for the B&G’s decision-like you said, it may be fueled by retailers-I agree! So if the B&G would prefer to just start a savings account with it, they can!

  4. i’m from romania and here the only gift you get from guests is money.even parents give money. at the end of the wedding, people put money in envelopes, write their name on it, then place the envelope inside a house/heart/whatever-shaped box. it may be tacky, but here it’s considered as helping the couple buy a house.

    • I’m from Europe too… people in my country even put a picture of a little envelope on the invitation as a reminder for guests that they prefer money as a gift! I never knew until OBB that giving money was considered in some places as ‘not done’.

      • I don’t know if we’re looking at this the right way- I’ve never heard it considered “tacky” to GIVE someone money, but I think its usually considered rude to ask for it directly. My family always gives money, and that is seen as the normal thing to do- but they’d be shocked if I asked them to put money into my PayPal account. The polite way to “ask” for money is to simply NOT REGISTER. There. Done. People won’t know what to get you, so they’ll give you cash.

        • Well said. I agree. If you’re hoping to receive mostly cash, don’t register. Its really that simple.

  5. Great post! Being Asian, cash gifts during weddings are actually more common to me, and I’m still a little baffled by the idea that this is “tacky.” My fiance is Hispanic and he says, at least in the community he grew up in, that cash gifts are common as well, so neither his family nor mine have problems with it. However we felt a little obligated to create a small registry for our friends who are resistant to the idea of giving cash. We aren’t inviting people so that we can get gifts OR cash, so we won’t really mind if no one brings anything at all, but if they did, we secretly wish it would be cash instead of anything else.

    • My understanding is that cash gifts are common for weddings in a lot of traditions. I think it makes a lot more sense. I coordinated a friend’s wedding in 2006, and her family, who are mostly Latino, gave cash. She was able to pay me out the envelopes she had received. That’s often how couples are able to throw huge wedding for 300, 500 people, etc. The guests help you out!

    • I agree. My fiancé, who is Filipino, has already told me to be prepared for the money dance, in which our guests will dance with us and pin cash to our clothes.

      I think we will have a registry for the fancier kitchen stuff we can never afford, but frankly, I want to buy a house (more, really, than I want a wedding). I’d love it if those who were able just gave us money towards that goal.

  6. I’m surprised. I didn’t know a cash gift wasn’t the norm! LOL. I thought gifts and registries were for showers and stuff and then at the actual wedding you brought a card with cash/check. No? Is the WIC/The Knot/etc. only all gifts all the time?

  7. We put “a monetary gift is preferred” simply because we have lived together for a couple years now, we have a child, china or anything household for us is not needed. We have all of those things. People have asked us if they could get us a gift other than cash and we said that is fine. Most of the people we invited already know that we do not need those things to get us started. We most certainly do not expect anything from our guest but a good time together at our wedding. If people want to think that we asked for cash a a gift is “tacky” then so be it.

    • I’ve always wondered if anyone does this! Traditionally, a wedding guest is supposed to give at least enough money to cover the cost of their seat at the reception, so why not have them pay for it directly? It’s a great option for those who can’t afford to shell out all that money upfront. If you end up going this route, please share your experience with OBB!

    • Ok I have to ask, was that meant sarcastically?

      Because every time I’ve seen a comment about selling tickets come up in regards to cash gifts it’s been intended negatively – implying that if you ask for cash that’s pretty much what you’re doing and of course no one would dream of doing something so terrible.

      But this being OBB (where people are much nicer and more open to, well, everything) I can’t tell. Especially since in some situations I could see it working.

  8. You guys are bringing up another reason I loathe most wedding etiquette: what’s supposedly unacceptable in one region/culture is completely fine in another. Blanket decrees of what’s acceptable completely ignore the fact that it totally depends on the region and community.

    • This is one of the things that had me most stressed when I first started wedding planning.

      I didn’t have much experience with weddings and was getting all my advice from the internet. Which quickly overwhelmed me with tons of customs and traditions and etiquette which I “had” to follow in spite of a lot of it seeming very contradictory. (Eg. cash gives are never, ever, ever ok vs. wrapped gifts are only for engagement/showers and everyone brings cash to the wedding vs. no gifts at the engagement and WTF is a “wedding shower” anyway?)

      I was afraid to even begin planning for fear of offending someone until I started talking to people around me, and found some UK-only info and realised a lot of these ‘rules’ were so alien precisely because they were exclusive to other cultures or places and would never be anything to do with me and my wedding anyway.

      • For all that supposed “etiquette” stuff, I refer to Ask Elise on indybride. She debunks so much supposed etiquette as people simply being mired in the sticky sticky mud of tradition for tradition’s sake. Most of her advice is common sense rather than wedding sense, which i have found super-helpful. πŸ™‚

    • I was just thinking how this is such a cultural aspect. In Portugal everyone knows that as a guest you’re expected to give the couple some money in an envelope they provide you with when you get a piece of cake. You know this money is going towards your seat at the reception. And it’s ok. No big deal. It’s not awkward at all. The thing is everyone is on the same page. I think the issue arises when (like me) you have your wedding with people from different cultures and have to explain where you stand on this. But no guest should be offended at how the couple prefers to be gifted (or not at all).

  9. i’ve neverrrr understood why someone would consider cash gifts “tacky” but a registry is okay, in fact it’s “what you do!”

    is it not the same thing? think about it. you’re either a) picking out the exact presents people can buy for you with their money or b) picking out exactly what you want and spending the cash they gave you on it.

    hmmm… yep! it sounds like the exact same thing to me.

    • Exactly! Here (Ireland) you can give gifts, or give cash, whatever but the idea of REGISTERING for gifts and effectively telling people what to get you? Oh lordy no! It’s seen as awfully unmannerly (to get away from the dreaded tacky word…).

    • I used to work at Service Merchandise 15 years ago. we allowed people to return anything they received on their registry for cash. I took returns for dozens of couples that brought in 3-4 buggies full of boxed gifts. We’d scan and take back what we sold, gave cash for what was on the registry and a gift card for anything not on the registry. Wouldn’t it have been so much easier just to ask for cash, rather than register for things you don’t want just to return them for the cash?

  10. Does anyone listen to Planet Money on NPR? It’s awesome. They ran one episode last year and another this year talking about gift-giving and how inefficient it is (“inefficient” used as an economic term) because people end up spending money on things for other people that those people get absolutely no value from.

    On this year’s episode they did an experiment where they took some (maybe 10) kids and gave them each a treat randomly. These ranged from raisins to candy bars. Then they had each kid say how satisfied they were with their treat from 1 to 10. There were a lot of unhappy campers. But then they asked the kids how they could increase the overall happiness with the treats (valued as each of the 1-10 ratings added up into one number). The kids settled on trading the treats with each other. The kids ended up with things they liked way more (like I think the person who got the raisins absolutely hated them and gave them a zero, but he/she was able to trade with someone who thought they were pretty good, and who gave them a 2 or 3 or something) and the overall happiness went up a lot. Here’s a blog post about it, and the episode is still up on iTunes (the 12/21/10 show).

    All of which is a long way of saying that yeah, the RETAILERS!!!

  11. For me, personally, my own view is this: if you’re an older couple or have been cohabiting for years, are gifts really necessary? Who really needs more “stuff”? I don’t mind giving cash to people for wedding gifts; that’s generally my preference as, even with a registry, the thing you can afford to buy might have already been purchased by someone else. My problem comes in where a couple (there’s one in particular I’m thinking of) DEMANDS cash only on their invitation, because they needed to renovate their house & can’t get a loan to do so. Ummm … I’m sorry, I thought I was being invited because they’d like to have a celebration and would like friends/family to be a part of it. Instead, I now feel like I’m the third-wheel date of my wallet.

    When my now-spouse and I got married, some people didn’t get us anything – which was cool, we didn’t invite people so that they could get us stuff or give us money. I don’t think gifts should be expected as a matter of course; it’s lovely if people do it, but it’s not going to make the wedding better or worse if they don’t. Some people donated to charity in our name, which was totally awesome. I wish we had thought to actually just request donations, in lieu of gifts.

    I don’t view weddings as a particularly sacred ritual that have become crass; my view is that it’s supposed to be an occasion to celebrate the life you’ve made or are making with your chosen partner. Gifts shouldn’t form the basis of what sort of celebration you throw … and as for expense, even huge weddings can be – well, not cheap, but the costs don’t need to be astronomical.

    I’m sorry, this is probably going to sound really b**chy, but: the issue of gifts vs. cash, and people complaining about how cash is tacky, is really a First World problem. Whatever happened to “What a great day! Oh, someone got us something/gave us money to celebrate? What a cool bonus, that’s really nice of them!”

    • Totally totally agree with you. I have yet to be married yet, I’ve been living with my boyfriend of three years so we’re pretty settled. I’m all for the no gifts policy at my wedding. I feel like the guests have pressure to get something just to be allowed and accepted at the wedding. It just seems like added stress that’s not really necessary.

  12. Love this article – thank you! This is such a weird argument and it’s funny that most of the comments are like “what? it’s tacky?” Just goes to show you, the WIC might be needling its way into all of our heads…

  13. It’s interesting to think about this from a Western/American standpoint. The dichotomy of being “expected” (ie, pressured by societal expectation/the industry/our families) to throw enormous galas, often far beyond our realistic budgets and completely unlike our everyday lives because that’s “how it’s done” clashes badly with the insistence that asking for cash gifts is classless and giving them is unaffectionate and shallow. At best, it assumes a level of wealth and comfort that’s probably unrealistic for most folks, and at worst it’s selfish and greedy. We’ll plunk down a couple of bucks to help cover drinks and pizza at a Friday night party, but we expect a couple to host us at their wedding for free?

    Realistically, I think (I hope!) most of our friends and family would rather we had a smaller or more casual wedding than literally go into debt to pay for it. It seems like this doesn’t occur to a lot of folks who are offended by being asked for a cash gift–if a couple is shelling out money that could be used for rent, debt, or just savings, they are losing far more on their wedding, financially, than appears to the naked eye.

    I wonder if there’s a classy, non-preachy way to remind folks of that.

    • Some one was telling me once of a wedding tradition where, in addition to whatever gift you brought, you left a small envelope of cash under your plate that was about what you guessed the meal cost. The idea was that, while the bride and groom still payed for decor, entertainment, etc, your personal decision to attend was a zero cost issue.

      • I’ve been told that so many times – you have to “cover your plate.” Personally, I really don’t like this, because I don’t have any input into how much is being spent.

        More on topic of the gift vs cash thing, our finances are very limited right now, but I’m a very savvy shopper, so I can sometimes get some really nice gifts within my budget. When forced to give cash gifts, I usually don’t go for fear of being judged cheap, when I’m actually just broke.

  14. I just don’t get AT ALL why the “right thing” to do is register for a buncha crap. If I need cosmo glasses or china I go to goodwill!

    I am currently apartment-hunting, only have a few boxes of kitchen stuff packed away for when I am settled again..and my fiance will be coming over from England (once our fiance visa is approved) with nothing more than a couple suitcases. And we still don’t want “stuff”. We love the idea of nesting in an uncluttered environment. We plan on registering for a honeymoon trip somewhere in the US so we can visit a place in his “new country”.

    I’d much rather have an experience WITH him with memories to last a life time, as opposed to stuff that doesn’t make us happy.

  15. What we did was ask for contributions to a honeyfund (for our honeymoon); we ended up with a LOT of cash, and we are planning to use much of that for our honeymoon to New Zealand in March, but we’ll also be saving some. People liked contributing to the specific wishes we had on the honeyfund list (massage, meal, room upgrade, etc), and whether or not we do whatever they exactly pledged to do, we’ll send them a postcard from our honeymoon thanking them.
    We are both in our 30s and combined our households so we didn’t need much stuff (and we did get a few things we did want, that we put on a short Amazon registry), and also gave people the option of making us something (we like crafts and handmade stuff, and some of our friends are suffering from the economy, so that gave them something inexpensive but meaningful to offer). We got no complaints, and didn’t hear any second-hand, either — it really seemed to work well.

    • I’m using Honeyfund as well. I’ve got it all set up. It’s listed on my Wed Site that while we don’t expect a gift, we prefer cash, or gifts through honeyfund. My reasoning on my site was that we don’t have room for anymore stuff. We live in an apartment that my fiance built on to his shop. We literally have NO SPACE. I’ve told family that if they buy us a gift, it will end up in storage ’til we have a home. They just laugh and say “cash fits anywhere doesn’t it?” =D So far, so good! I hope we get a good honeymoon out of it!

  16. In our situation, we’re taking contributions toward our honeymoon because our families, bless their hearts, absolutely suck at getting us gifts.

    I once read that when buying someone a present, never consider what their favorite hobby is. Yes, we cook. But Grandma doesn’t know what the hell an aluminum core is, let alone where to get it at a good price.

  17. I actually have no idea what the norm or the ‘polite’ thing to do in the UK is.

    I know in my family cash is a perfectly acceptable gift (for birthdays and Christmas as well as weddings), although physical gifts are also common. It’s normally a question of what the recipient would most appreciate.

    At my wedding I’m expecting a mix. Some people will probably give nothing, especially those who are already facing relatively high costs just to get to the wedding, some are contributing to the wedding itself as a gift, some will give cash and others will probably give a gift.

  18. Here’s my thing:

    People are going to give you cash no matter what at a wedding. It. Just. Happens. Whether or not it’s a tradition. So when the general WIC people scoff at how awful giving cash is…I’d like to see them dump out their card/cash box and give it all back because “it’s tacky”. Plus, there are people who will register for a bunch of items, and just return everything for the cash!!!

    I plan on doing two registries. A honeyfund and a tiny material registry of things I do need, for people who NEED to get a material gift. That way, the traditional people have something to wrap in white sparkly wrapping paper, and everyone else can contribute to something even better. Memories! I’d rather have a lifetime of memories from a honeymoon than a toaster that will only last me 5-7 years.

    Plus. I plan on taking photos of each gifted activity from the honeyfund to show people back home what I did with the money they gave. That way, they can see their gift and how much we loved it.

    • I don’t think they scoff at GIVING cash; I think it’s the asking for cash/not registering for other stuff.

      I did a Traveler’s Joy registry so obviously I think the whole thing is silly, but I believe that that’s the complaint.

      But the truth is people will call “tacky” on ANYTHING … πŸ™‚
      – Becca

  19. I don’t get how registering for “Stuff” is better than just doing a fund of some sort. Either way, you’re expecting something from someone! It’s still “Hey, get me sh*t, we’re getting married!” to a certain extent.

    I appreciate getting things, but I’d be happier if the tradition of gift-giving at weddings went out the window period. A nice congrats is all I need, really.

    • You know I’m really w/ you on this. However my sister-in-law to be didn’t register, and tried to spread the word that gifts weren’t expected, & she ended up w/ a room full of sh*t she didn’t need / want. It was a huge pain for her to have to go through returning, or storing it all. After seeing that I decided might as well let ’em know what I want. I my case, a honeymoon (aka cash).

  20. My wedding is in two weeks.We have asked for money as we would like to go on a honeymoon.Plus we already have a home and a daughter added into the mix.We have had a post box made (sis in law ), so people can post cards wiv cash.It is the norm in many traditions to give cash as wedding gifts, it is seen to give good luck and a prosperous marriage.Also for have said to guests that they don’t have to give any gift.I think if you have a registry for cash it could put people in an awkward position.They may feel they have to give more than they can afford.

  21. When my hubby and I got married in November, we’d already combined households and bought a house, so we really didn’t need a whole lot that would be in a normal wedding registry. Instead, we used a service to register for things on our honeymoon, and it was great! Our guests could go on there, and send us money towards a night in our hotel, dinner for two, spa time, or whatever! I only had one person balk at it, and that was because he’d already bought presents (and didn’t end up coming to the wedding anyway). I don’t know if there are more sites out there like this, but I think it was amazing.

  22. Would it be tacky to put on the insert with the information about the reception something like, “If you would like to bring a gift we are registered at “X”, but if you want to avoid the hassle of shopping, money to help us on our honeymoon is appreciated as well.” We’re not going to set up a wedding website like many couples do nowadays. (Though, if we did, since we’re not sending out Save the Dates, would we put it on the invitations? How would people know about it?)

    • Yes, on the invitations you list somewhere “Please RSVP at” Or, if you aren’t using the online RSVP option you simply state “For more information check out ___” Then you list your registries on the website. It’s a great way to avoid mentioning presents on the invite (another thing many people find tacky because it creates the expectation of gifts), but still give people the information they want about what to get you.

    • It depends on your area (again). Where I live, EVERYONE puts a little tidbit of info where they’re registered at. So I’m putting a small snipit on an info insert with the invitation. Plus, I actually LIKE seeing that. It’s just 10x easier.

      But in lots of places it’s considered rude to do that, and it should be communicated verbally or via website.

  23. A little bit of Devil’s Advocate:

    I think a lot of people like the idea of you putting your plates on the table and thinking “These are the plates Aunt Megann bought us.” Even if they’re just buying you the stuff you asked them to buy you, there’s still the idea that you will think of them when you use it. I know I could go through the vast majority of the items in my house and tell you who bought me what. Thing is, I can do it for people who got me gift certificates, too. “The placemats Michael and Jess bought us” are actually the placemats I bought with the gift card they got me, but I still know they were from them.

    However, cash gifts tend to get spent on practical things, like our carpayment, or the power bill, or just put into savings until we need it. While we still need money for all those things, it doesn’t create the tangible memory that a material gift does, so I can understand some people being adverse to it.

    That’s why I think people who register for all the individual things of their honeymoon (like a massage, or snorkeling, or a night at the hotel) might meet with less resistance. People are reassured that there will still be that moment when the couple thinks “Man, I’m so glad Grandma Silvia got us this.”

    • I’ve seen this point made before. It explains a lot of the phenomenon, but it kind of bugs me. Why does it bug me?

      Because it underlines the idea that the gift is about the giver, not the giftee. And that’s simply not the case.

      It’s true in every walk of life where gifts are given, it’s just magnified x100 when it comes to a wedding. But, the best example I can come up with is how my uncle pitched a fit to my mother that all of the “good stuff” was bought off of the registry. She called me to tell me this (she hadn’t looked at our registry yet; she was waiting til later to buy stuff we wanted that no one got us yet), and I informed her of a number of key items I knew were still there that we really wanted.

      She called him back to tell him this. “Oh, well, I don’t want to get her THAT. I want to get her something SPECIAL. Where is her CHINA? Didn’t she register for CHINA?”


      My mom, bless her soul, said, “[Brother], they don’t have any room to store china. They live in an apartment. They don’t have dinner parties where they could use it. They didn’t register for things they don’t need.”


      As if the fact that we wanted a real bed set wasn’t special. Or that we wanted nice bed linens because our favorite sheets had holes in them. That was special to us!

      Everyday plates get replaced. Kitchen electrics get replaced. Bed linens, even the nicest ones, eventually get holey and need to be replaced.

      But fine china? That’s heirloom material. You’ll have that FOREVER. And the guest seems to think that they need to get you something that will last FOREVER, regardless of your current situation. Maybe you don’t cook. Maybe you don’t have a house and have no intention of buying one. Maybe you bought all of this stuff for yourself years ago and because it LASTS FOREVER, you have no desire to replace it just so someone can fulfill their need to GET YOU SOMETHING SPESHUL!!!!

      I realize that the intent isn’t mean-spirited, but it is awfully selfish. Of course, if a bride complains about it, she’s ungrateful and greedy – which, actually, is the attitude I resent even more. I didn’t care if people brought gifts to our wedding, but I DID get annoyed when people complained that there was “nothing good left” on the registry.

      • Sadly I’ve heard this issue come up a lot. The worst example being the aunt who bought the couple a dining table and chairs because it’s what she ALWAYS bought the nieces and nephews and it wasn’t her problem if they lived on a house boat…

        • It’s a terrible story, but I sort of love having a terrible story to tell. This is hilarious!

      • Ugh, I agree! I was ruminating on this earlier in regards to the whole not wanting to give cash thing. My FMIL gave me some money for my birthday, stipulating that I use it “for something nice for myself.” I thought it was sweet, and told her it was going toward some lumber for a house project, and turns out later that what I had said upset her because she had wanted me to use it on a new outfit or a manicure or something. It frustrated me somewhat that in that case, the giving of the gift was more about what she had imagined, rather than what I had wanted. And if that’s the case, why bother giving a gift? Who was it really for?

      • We had a friend get married awhile back where ‘all the good stuff was gone’ from the registry. There were lots of tiny things, but I think a lot of people feel weird buying them (the whole speshul thing :p). So, along with some other friends attending the wedding, we bought out the entire registry as one big group gift. It was fun imagining them opening the box like a stocking at Christmas, filled with cool little things that they wanted. Another friend didn’t register anywhere except a wishlist at anthropolgie. I bought her a strainer and a kitchen timer off her wish list and she said they were some of her favorite presents. Sometimes its the little things that ARE speshul. I really want new measuring spoons. I won’t buy them for myself because I have some that are perfectly good at measuring, but I’d really love some shiny, heavy duty ones. And if someone gets me some, I’ll think of them every time I measure

    • I was brought up on cash gifts (birthdays, new year, my wedding), but I was also brought up with the idea that when you get a cash gift, you don’t spend it on groceries. You buy something you want, something you need (but normally can’t afford), something you enjoy, because it was a gift and not your pay check. So, from the cash we got for our wedding, some was spend on things we need for our life together(house hold items, two new bikes) and some was spend on the honeymoon. It is important to me that we acknowledged it as a gift and therefore did something “special” with it.

  24. My fiancee and I are in the same situation. We are getting married in September of this year but we really don’t feel like going the whole registry route. There is a small collection of things we will likely register for but otherwise we are fairly sure that we are going to ask for cash gifts instead.

    The wedding is coming shortly after our lease at our current place is up and we don’t want to have a large amount of clutter as well and we would rather buy things that we need instead of having too many things we don’t need. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate any type of gifts but I don’t want to be overwhelmed with everything and have a whole apartment or house full of items!

  25. We used Traveler’s Joy, but are giving folks the option of the honeymoon registry or donating to a cause near and dear to our hearts. I tried to make the “gifts” on the honeymoon registry really personal by including details in the descriptions. Everyone who has seen it says they feel like they’re giving us a “real” gift. Someone on this site had the idea of sending thank-you postcards from the part of your honeymoon that they helped give to you, which I think is so awesome and thoughtful!

  26. I have always found the wedding gift thing a bit odd – it seems like an exchange – you get a nice dinner, we get a nice present! My partner and I have lived together for years, and in sending out email invitations were able to really spell out how we feel about gifts, and how people can best support us. I asked a friend who simply said ‘no gifts please’, and they ended up with a crazy amount of platters that sit in her cupboard unused. Also, we have already had our first offer of homemade sugar-free tomato chutney in lieu of a gift!! Here is what Tommy came up with:


    In lieu of presents we are asking that everybody bring a dish to share (see food section above).
    For those of you who feel compelled to give a little extra (and please know that your attendance truly is gift enough in itself!) we have a unique conundrum: As we have been living together for some time we have already acquired most of the things required to start a household and therefore are in little need of traditional wedding presents. We have only a few larger items that we are saving towards buying (over the next few years!) and we would appreciate any contribution towards those items in the form of a bank deposit, cash or cheque at the wedding.

    These items include; a king size bed to fit us and our two future kids, a TSM dehydrator for our increasingly raw food diet, a big TV to mount on our wall like a movie theatre (because we love movies but need to save and so seldom go out to them) and the holy grail of all blenders, a Vitamix.

    We donÒ€ℒt wish to be uncouth by asking for cash but in true Greek-pin-cash-to-the-bride-fashion we find ourselves needing nothing more practical, specific, or affordable by any one party.

    After all this talk of gifts we would like to reiterate that we are sincerely in need of, and desire nothing more than your blessing and fine company and we only include this footnote for those of you with a burning desire to contribute something more.

    • I LOVE this. It’s heartfelt and beautiful, and anyone who is offended by it has issues. πŸ™‚ (No one who matters will be.)

    • Nicola, I LOVE that!

      My fiance and I have been living together for the entire duration of our relationship (literally!) and most every one of our family and friends knows this. They, also, know that we are paying for the wedding ourselves.

      We have all of the “new house” stuff we will ever need…with the exception of the house. We have mentioned to a few relatives the idea of coming up with some kind of wording (like yours) that will state that we are saving up to purchase a home of our own to start our new life together. While our families know this is the “practical” approach, there still are a few eyebrows raised. Not because it’s necessarily in bad taste to them, but they don’t understand it since it’s not the traditional way to go about things.

      I may have to borrow your wording and tweak it for my own Registry notes for the invites. πŸ˜‰

  27. Honestly, as I see it, it is in no way rude to *give* cash. Giving a gift is at the discretion of the giver – including what that gift is. I simply reject a ‘tradition’ (heh) that says that gifts have to be a certain thing. They should be whatever you want!

    The bigger debate, honestly (and the debate that I think Offbeat Bride should cover…as it’s more of an issue) is whether *asking* for cash is acceptable.

    I’m on the side of “no, it’s not”, but apply that rule to only one person: me (and possibly anyone who actively seeks out my advice on the topic). Giving cash is fine, but going out of your way to say “cash please” (in ANY form, including a “cute” poem) gives me the heebie-jeebies. For me. As in I’d never do it. I wouldn’t judge someone else who did it and probably would give them cash as requested.

    But then, I’ve mentioned that one side of my family is Armenian. Another side is Old Straight-Laced New Englander. For us, even announcing a registry (including registry cards in invitations) is a big fat no-no. (But, again, I’m not going to judge someone else who does it).

    Asking for gifts and expecting gifts of any kind for a wedding is bad form, though. Guests are not obligated to give any gift and you are not entitled to expect one. That is one line I do draw that if someone I knew crossed it and acted ‘entitled’ to wedding gifts, I’d re-evaluate my opinion of that person.

    But as for GIVING cash gifts? Fine. Whatevs.

  28. Himself and I agreed that we would feel kind of strange straight up asking for money, so we set up a couple small registries (REI and Amazon) for some things that we need and some things that we would love to have (camping equipment!). But we also let our mothers know (because we’re comfortable enough to give them the skinny) that what we’d prefer is cold hard cash toward a down payment on a house. That way, when they get the typical “Where are the kids registered?” question, the moms can say, “They have registries at Amazon and REI, but they’re also trying to save up money for a down payment so if its easier, cash is fine”.

    Our friends Tess and Nathan had a very down-to-earth approach. They didn’t register anywhere. When people asked, they said “Thanks, but we’ve lived together for five years and we already own a house. We don’t need anything.” Many of their guests included cash and checks in the wedding cards anyway and everybody won: Tess and Nathan got some extra nest egg, and their guests got to revel in the feeling that they had gone above and beyond the couple’s expectations. They key to making this approach classy: When they said they didn’t need anything and gifts weren’t required, they MEANT it.

    • We did that too (we live abroad, so we had a built-in excuse, but we would’ve done it anyway). We simply registered nowhere, didn’t announce anything about gifts (our wedsite had some charities that could be donated to) and really, we got a few gift cards but mostly checks and cash.

    • We are doing exactly like your friends moreover we’re just shy of turning 40 having only met a few years ago and we already have doubles of every basic thing and we sincerely only want their presence and blessing which is what we really care most about. I think the tradition is to provide household gifts to the “young” couple to help them start of their life but these are modern times where most people are independent, they no longer live with their parents leaving only to be married, co-habit before matrimony (absolute sin back in the days- in my culture is still taboo) have reasonably good china to serve guests instead of dented tin cups and beat-up wooden spoons. Honestly DH and I agree that what the heck do we do with “fine” china, we have perfectly good but simple dishes we use everyday to serve our guests. For us we look forward to the fond memory of having everyone we care about there as being priceless. BTW I am trying my damnest not to get sucked into the whole wedding fiasco but I am glad I found this site! thanks

    • We took a similar approach and said we didn’t want gifts, and meant it. We are an American+German couple and we had our wedding in Germany, where we and his family live. We told our guests coming from the US that the travelling to see us was more than enough of a gift, and we told our German guests that instead of a gift we would love it if they would contribute to the event in some way, whether by helping with decorations, taking photos, DJ’ing. People were really enthusiastic about helping out, which made our wedding much more personal (and affordable).

      However, my mother-in-law wisely advised us that no matter what you say about not wanting gifts, people want to give them to you anyway. Her opinion was that it’s better to just tell them what you want and make it easier for everyone. We didn’t want to believe her, but finally we decided to compromise by writing on our invitations, after the stuff about helping with the event, “If you want to contribute something, please contact the groom’s mom.” That way people could ask her how they could help out AND about gifts.

      Of course she was right and many people ended up giving us gifts or money anyway. Interestingly, in Germany it’s actually not considered at all tacky to ask for money, so I definitely agree with the other brides above who said that this differs a lot between cultures. Here, instead of “hiding” the cash, people actually try to make it funny. For example, because “mice” is slang for “cash,” my friends received a diorama of Haribo candy mice and money caught in mousetraps for their wedding. We received two large piggy banks filled with coins, as well as not one but two beautiful little pirate-style treasure chests, the second one being full of sand that we had to sift through to find the coins!

      I do have to agree with the person who said that the advantage of gifts (or even honeymoon registries) over bare naked cash – for both the giver and the receivers – is that you can think of the person when you use the gift. Though we’ve taken the money to the bank, we still have the pigs and the treasure chests. Also, it does warm my heart when I use the other gifts we got and think about how in 30 years, I’ll still remember that this was a gift for my wedding. I think I like the gifts more because they weren’t from a registry though and they reflect our friends’ personalities as well as our own. But I guess I’m lucky that my friends made good selections!

  29. I used to work at a small bridal store with china, crstyal, and other small gifts. Brides would come and register with us. We would have some little old ladies come in asking about, let’s say a dinner plate. “Oh, the brides already has 16 dinner plates purchased for her, but only has 1 salad plate purchased. Unfortunately we don’t have any salad plates in stock, but I can wrap you a gift card specifying it is for 1 salad plate.”

    Well some of those ladies would have a complete fit. “I can NOT give her a gift card! It has to be an actual plate wrapped up!! You can’t just give someone a GIFT CARD!! I’ll take a dinner plate!!”

    It blew my mind they would rather give the brides something she obviously does not need, just so they would have a tangible object in the gift box.

    • That’s funny, especially since most people would probably rather not get all of the physical presents at the wedding since they’ll have to lug them home.

  30. It’s funny that in America/the west it’s generally considered rude to give cash. Here in Singapore, it is expected that guests give cash at weddings. It’s OK to give a gift and cash: that would be considered sweet and thoughtful, though somewhat superfluous. If you give only a gift and no cash, it would be considered rude and perhaps even cheap because the cash is supposed to go towards meeting the couple’s expenses for the wedding (particularly the guest’s meal as that’s typically provided). My culture prides itself as immensely practical and can’t imagine anything more practical than cold, hard cash!

    • The cousin of a friend of mine said that her nephew got married and had something like 520 people at their wedding. And I said, “I can’t imagine paying for all of those people!” And she said, “We don’t worry about that because in Asian families, everyone brings cash to help out!” Makes so much more sense to me!

  31. My partner and I are in what seems to be (but in reality, probably isn’t) a somewhat unusual situation: we don’t expect to have a permanent home for the next few years. As in, we don’t expect to be in the same country for more than a year or two. At present, we have to fit all our belongings into a couple of suitcases each, and everything else I own (plates, sheets, books, art, personal stuff) is in a storage unit in my home city.

    If we were settling in our home country – or even if we had made a commitment to stay in our adopted country for a number of years – physical gifts would be a wonderful thing to receive. As it is, they’re something we would either have to put into storage, or something we’d have to carry around with us from country to country.

    As such, we really really really do not want to register, and really do not want to receive more “stuff” (frankly, I wish we had less than what we currently have!). We’re thinking of getting around this by writing up a non-traditional registry with a number of options:

    – Make us something. (Yes, a lot of this is still ‘stuff’, but I’m a sucker for sentiment.) A song, a painting, your favourite recipe, a short play, a fake NYT wedding announcement, a nice card, etc etc.

    – Buy us an experience. Something for our honeymoon, or something we can do when we head back to our new home after the wedding.

    – Donate to charity. One of the ones we’ve been involved in personally (we met volunteering at a not-for-profit organisation), or an organisation working for marriage equality.

    – Donate to a fund we’re thinking of setting up to buy homewares and furniture once we’re actually in the position to be “setting up house” (whether that’s in one year or 10).

    – And of course there’s the option of no gift at all! (A cute message in the guestbook would be nice, though.)

    No doubt some people would find this terribly tacky, but our wedding looks set to be 80-90% friends, most of them under 30, working in the creative or not-for-profit industries, and highly mobile (three of my four closest friends, like me, are currently living out of our home country). And I’d rather older relatives shared with us their ideas for a killer roast, or a beautiful card, than gave us another set of sheets we’ll have to store in my future in-laws place.

    Also: every wedding I’ve been to for my generation has had a cash registry.

    • We live abroad and are in a similar situation. We didn’t register and our wedsite page on gifts gave charities that could be donated to, or the option of no gift at all, with an explanation of why (which sounds similar to yours).

      Nobody thought it was “tacky” (woulda been their word, not mine), because we didn’t ask for any kind of gifts, including money.

      It worked really well. We got a few hundred dollars in charity donations, a few very small gifts that are portable, some gift certificates that we hope will be good for a few years, and a whole mess of cash.

      People understood that the traditional gifts one would give at a wedding were not something we could hang on to at this stage in our lives. Most people are perceptive like that and do want to give you something you can use.

  32. My husband and I are from different countries.In my culture if you are very close relatives with the bride/groom its a must to give money/gold coins/gold jewelery.
    Theres a small ceremony between dinner and cake, newly weds stand up and guest make a line in front of them to attach money on their dresses.

    In my case, it was a little hard to explain about this tradition to my husband’s family. And we didnt need any household gifts, because we were going to move to the other side of the world after the wedding. They were also having hard time to think about gifts that we can maybe bring with us. But then they surprised us by opening a secret bank account for us where all the family and friends put some money in it.I dont know if it was tacky but it was surely helpful.

  33. Yay! I was so excited to see Sociological Images mentioned… along with OBB, it’s one of the few websites I check every day. Just perfect!

  34. I just love how asking for cash is tacky, but it is somehow not tacky to make a registry full of crap you are esentially ordering guests to buy for you. I agree that it’s all “tacky” (whatever the hell tacky means, anyway). We chose to do a honeymoon registry only. I do not expect gifts, but for those that would like to give I wanted to have something set up. I need another crockpot or towel like I need a hole in my head so we felt that this was the most appropriate decision. I think our friends and family will be happy contributing to this (if they feel compelled) because with two small children, full time jobs and being full time students they know that this vacation is the only thing we truly need πŸ™‚

  35. Interesting. So I guess the ‘Wishing Well’ concept hasn’t made it to the US yet.

    Here in Australia it seems to be getting more common and completely acceptable. I was having trouble coming up with a gift registry (I’d prefer at least *some* gifts that I can keep for years to come) as there’s not much we actually ‘need’. When I quizzed married people at work, all the younger ones just said, “oh, we just had a Wishing Well. Much easier”.

    Essentially it’s a card + cash, often put into a ‘well’ at the reception.

    The only wedding I’ve been to recently that didn’t have the Wishing Well was for a young couple who had only recently moved in together.

    • I grew up in the North East coast of the US and “wishing wells” were very common there.

      Also in the family I grew up in (Ukrainian) it was common to give cash as a gift. Also they would often have dollar dances that were also very popular too.

  36. What about, instead of just asking for cash gifts, you tell your guests specifically what you hope to do with the cash? You could ask for cash to put toward your honeymoon or toward a down payment on a house. That way people would know exactly what they’re giving you and they’ll feel good about helping you accomplish that goal.

  37. What a great discussion, and very timely for my own life. My beloved and I are this close (holding thumb and finger 1mm apart) to turning 40, have been married before, and are in need of nothing in terms of household stuff. We have been trying to figure out what to say regarding gifts on our invitations and website. I was thinking of:

    “We are thrilled that you will be joining our celebration. The gift of your presence and love is all the gift we want — no presents, please.”

    I really love the idea one of the other commenters had requesting something homemade, or suggesting various charities for donation.

  38. At our wedding we asked people to not bring gifts and instead asked for donations to charities that either meant something to us or themselves if they felt they wanted to mark the occassion somehow. We got so choked up after the wedding reading cards that said “X has made a donation in you name to Y charity.” We were really touched that people thought hard about where to donate and felt pretty good knowing that people less fortunate than us had benefited from our little circus. We did get a few actual token gifts and some cash too but not much and only from parents or aunties/uncles.

    I don’t mind either way gifting cash or actual items but don’t like to be asked for either. Sure point me in the right direction but not until I’ve asked you to do so. And don’t ever think you’re entitled to a gift just because YOU decided to get married!

  39. Looking through the comments it actually seems like worldwide giving cash is more common than not.

    Especially since it seems all of Asia, Eastern Europe and Germany consider it normal or expected in some format. (I wonder what the tradition is in the Middle East?)

    Then we’ve got the UK and Australia where both seem to be acceptable. Along with parts of the USA where it’s either both are fine or one for showers one for weddings.

    Off the top of my head we’ve only got New England where it’s definately NOT acceptable.

    I’m kind of tempted to make a colour-coded map, stats geek that I am. πŸ˜€

    • Awesome idea! πŸ™‚ If you do, you can put NJ down for acceptable as cash for weddings is the norm here.

  40. Two of my best friends did this: in the invite, they said that gifts were not expected, but that they would humbly accept donations to the savings fund they had started for a down-payment on a house. They had been co-habitating for many years and had all the blenders and stemware they need, but wanted to work towards buying their first home together.

    My partner and I were more than happy to give them a check for their fund as a gift instead of laboring over what to buy. Just over a year later, they did buy their house, and I feel a certain warm fuzzy feeling when I visit them to know that I helped invest in their future.

    If/when my partner and I get married, I’d like to do the same thing. Truthfully, there is a certain awkwardness to it, but we’ve been together for so long that, at this point, getting married would be exactly that – investing in our future together and moving forward on our goals. At the heart of it, I feel that my family and friends would want to support us in the most meaningful way possible.

  41. Wow, this really isn’t something worth debating to me.

    Cash is more useful, you can use it where it’s NEEDED! I really don’t NEED another two toasters, coffee maker, cutlery or bed linen. I am not a teenager moving into my first apartment!

    I’m not going to demand cash, but if anyone want to give it it’ll be preferred to something from a department store. For those who can make us something by hand that’ll be even better .. as long as it’s awesome :).

  42. Here’s what we did: We asked our parents for nice things. My mom and dad got us a really nice cookware set that we picked out. His mom and dad are going in with his brother and sister-in-law to buy us a few very nice and expensive knives. We’re asking everyone else coming to the wedding for gift cards to certain places (local businesses and 3 big box stores). We’ve also listed on our “registry” page of our wedsite that cash/checks/homemade gifts/charity donations/no gift at all are okay.

    We just clearly stated that we weren’t going to waste everyone’s time with a registry because: 1) Not everyone lives where we do to buy us local gifts; 2) I don’t feel like walking around a store for 3 hours scanning things, especially a big box store that I’m not particularly fond of; 3) “There’s nothing good left on the registry” always comes up (or it has in my family); 4) People don’t follow registries and buy stuff you never have any intention of using.

    David and I have lived together in a house we bought almost 2 years ago. What’s the point in us registering for a bunch of stuff we already have? I haven’t met any resistance to the gifts yet, other than our parents, which is why we set the “nice gifts” up for them. Honestly, it was the only way to chill them out. With all the options we’re giving people, everyone should be happy. If they complain, well, the “no gift” option is just fine with us. Our wedding is a celebration, not a present-fest! πŸ™‚

  43. This is perfect timing for me as well! My fiance and I just opened a wedding savings account that people can donate to and I was unsure if people would react badly to it but I have found that most people aren’t bothered by it and are somewhat relieved. They must have been having a hard time figuring out what to get us! My fiance is the one that came up with the idea simply because he felt guilty when I asked him if he wanted to open a registry. He didn’t want it to just seem like we were getting married to get stuff. I am in total agreement. If people want to help, contribute to paying for the wedding and everyone benefits from that!

  44. This is something I’d really like some advice with. My future husband and I live 6,500 miles apart…. (we met while I was spending some time in New Zealand.) We don’t know whether we want to live in NZ, the US, or Europe, but chances are we’ll be traveling a lot, so having “things” really isn’t logistical. Add to that the fact that we’re poor artists who are going to have immense fees to be together and please our families like plane tickets, visa applications, etc….. I’d really like it if those people who want to give us something would just give us cash.

    But despite the fact that it’s all tacky, how do I ask for this without being tacky – or worse, making people who can’t give us much cash feel bad?

  45. I typed up a little “wedding info” for our guests stating things like there was no “dress code, wear what makes you comfortable”, the type of food (we are having a cook out) and to let me know of any allergies, special diets ect… a rough plan between wedding and reception (they are at two different sites). and that we had no expectations of gifts,just having them there was gift enough. but some people feel they should so we just asked for a donation to our honeymoon fund if they wanted. I don’t find being specific tacky these days. people get married at all ages, lifestyles, and sometimes its their second or more marriage. Maybe they have all the things they need. So letting people know just helps with ideas whether its cash, a registry, or for a honeymoon.

  46. I’m sort of stuck on the idea of *asking* people for money. I know that most people choose to give the couple a gift at a wedding, but for some reason requesting monetary gifts feels a little funny to me. I’m from the east coast of Canada and I’ve always seen a mix of gifts at weddings I’ve been to – often a box for cards (presumably some of which contain cash) but also a table where people put wrapped gifts. My boyfriend is from Quebec and said the standard for weddings here tends to be cash gifts only and that he’s never seen anyone bring a physical present to a wedding. I guess for people who expect that and where it’s traditional, it must seem so normal but I’m still a little undecided about it.

    What I really want to know, though, is as a *guest*, how does one decide how much to give in cash? I saw a comment above about giving enough to cover the cost of your place at the reception – but what if you have no idea about the reception cost, etc? Clearly I’ve never been to a wedding as an adult where I wasn’t included under the gift from my parents…

    • You give what you can comfortably afford. If that’s too nebulous, you can make an educated guess based on where the reception is, etc.

    • I second irisira above. Typically you give what you can afford. If you’d like to help the couple cover their costs, you could try calling the venue to check the typical cost per person for attending. Here, I’m assuming the venue covers everything as it generally does in Singapore where we normally do lunch or dinner receptions at hotels.

      Our local (Singapore) newspapers have even published articles before on how much to give at what type of venue.

    • I’ve never really understood the idea of guests covering their plate because as you said they don’t know what it cost, especially not in advance. (Just as silly as the idea that the hospitality at the reception should reflect the cost/effort to the guests. Nice idea but does that mean my friend from Hong Kong gets better food than everyone from this country?)

      I think you should give what you can comfortably afford and/or what you would spend on a gift. That’s the way it’s always been in my family at least, if they don’t want a gift or you can’t find the right one you give them the money you would have spent on it.

  47. In my (Irish-Italian 2nd gen) family, giving cash is customary at a wedding. A shower is the time and place for “real” gifts. Especially these days, where so few people wait until marriage to start a household together (and, therefore, probably already have flatware), giving them cash to spend on what they need is more considerate and helpful.

  48. Plus, giving a nice, easy cash gift allows one to spend lots of time on the card! πŸ˜€

  49. For our wedding we did a Honeymoon registry since we were having our wedding/honeymoon at Disney World and they have a nice honeymoon registry that people can donate toward various things.

    One of my cousins actually wrote in her note to us that she chose to give to our honeymoon registry instead of something practical BECAUSE she prefers to give “experience” gifts because the memories last longer than items do. MEMORIES.. are forever… exactly. We will remember our wedding and the awesome things we did and saw and the people that came for EVER.

    We’ll never use fine china. It will gather dust.. for EVER. Which is why we didn’t register for any and no one gave us any. Hoorah!

    We also registered for things that we needed in two registries with price ranges from the very small to the more expensive and let people have a variety of options. Most people chose to go the cash/check route since it was a destination wedding and that was easy for them to transport to the wedding. Some used our honeymoon registry, and some bought us traditional gifts. And some just came and gave us the gift of traveling all the way out to see us get married. And not a single person complained about the options that we provided. We let them choose what felt right to them.

    And no one gave us anything crazy like crystal goblets and monogrammed napkin holders that we’d never use.

    IMO, just provide options.. list the things you really need.. pick a couple of “fun” things that people can get if they don’t want to get you something “boring”.. and let them choose what they feel fits their sense of appropriateness.

    There’s nothing tacky in honesty and understanding.

  50. We’re going to have some registries, but we’re not only going to ask for things we haven’t been able to acquire in the past 5 years. Those things, of course, are more expensive items. I’m not going to add “small gifts” to my registry if I don’t need anything on the “cheap” side.
    That being said, we’re orphans – spending a lot of our money on the wedding/reception for a small group of people. There is no WAY we could come close enough in cash gifts to even go on a honeymoon. And that’s cool. We aren’t inviting people for their money OR gifts. We’ve both been self sufficient for a long time. We chose to spend our money to make memories with our loved ones.
    So gifts are cool, I’ll appreciate what I get and return what I don’t want. We could use money more than items, sure, but it’s not worth the risk of offending anyone when Target makes a return SO easy.

  51. We asked for charity donations and named three charities we support. This approach was not as successful as we’d hoped. We were put under a lot of pressure from our mothers to register for items, even though we live in a small apartment and can afford what we really need. Admittedly, our moms had a legit reason. They were receiving lots of calls from (generally older) guests who saw what we’d asked but wanted to know what gifts we “really” wanted. We ended up with some donations, some cash, and a lot of random items. Maybe we should have registered.

  52. My fiance and I hated the whole registry idea. We’re hoping to move overseas after our wedding, so we didn’t want a lot of stuff. Of course, our families wouldn’t accept the idea of not having a registry (and they brought up the (very valid) point that we would probably just end up with a bunch of stuff we didn’t want if we didn’t do a registry.) So we caved and set up a google checkout account (lower fees than the ‘official’ wedding cash sites) and made up a bunch of things – stuff that we’re doing on our honeymoon, stuff that we wanted to buy, etc. and put those up on our wedding website. People have been ‘buying’ them for us, and the money just goes into our account and it’s all awesome. So far the only person who has been upset was a grandparent who doesn’t trust the internet. We’ll probably get an ugly fruit bowl from him. That’s fine. πŸ™‚ And really – I don’t care if we get a bunch of money or presents – I just want the people I love to come to my wedding and have an awesome time.

  53. Cash gifts are not a negative anymore.

    One would need to consider the community and cultural traditions and then make a judgement accordingly.

    We are living in a sometimes cash strapped society so for the couple to receive cash is sometimes also a welcome relief considering the often high expenses associated with a wedding

  54. I had no idea that cash gifts were considered tacky! My fiance and I have been thinking about skipping the registries and letting our friends and family know that if they really want to give us a gift, we’d appreciate a cash donation towards a honeymoon. We’ve been living together for several years now so we have everything we need. We’re depleting our savings by buying a house and having our wedding in the same year. I’d rather have cash for a plane ticket or hotel on a honeymoon than a second toaster. Is this still tacky?

  55. Since I am young, and my friends that are getting married are also young, I’d rather give cash. We are all broke. So, if all the of $20 I can afford to give helps them pay the rent on time, why not?

    I don’t understand why it’s such an issue… My grandma has given me cash or gift cards for everything my entire life! She knows that most of the time it’s much more useful than a fancy gift I’ll put in a closet and forget about. Plus, I don’t like asking for nice things. I’d rather buy it myself. If I can’t afford it, why should I ask for it? So gift cards or cash is what we will be putting as an “if you simply MUST” gift option. Maybe registering on Amazon for the few things we need…

    Is it wrong to register for books? haha

  56. I’ve already commented, but just remembered that my friend Jen and her guy had an awesome alternative way to ask for cash when they got hitched some years ago. They had just moved into a little clapboard house in New England that was a ways back from the road. There was only a dirt path leading to the house, and they wished they could pave it with nice flagstones, but they were $40 a stone! So they asked that people sponsor a stone. They didn’t actually put people’s names on the stones like at a museum or a school, but it was nice. My friends and I pooled our money to sponsor several flagstones.

  57. I’ve always grown up with the notion that asking/mentioning of gifts of any kind – registry, cash, honeymoon fund, donations, etc – when you’re getting married is somewhat arrogant just because you’re implying that people will get you something. Therefore, no one I know put this on the invitation or mentioned that they were registered at “so-and-sos” and this is what I’m going to do.

    I’m inviting my friends and family because it’s a day of love that I want to celebrate with others that I love. If they give me gifts – that’s great! If they don’t, that’s great, too. They’re my friends – not my paycheck.

    However, I do find it weird that people think it’s “tacky” to give cash. In my community [Southern US, for those wondering], cash is what you give if you’re giving a gift.

  58. This is all very interesting to me – it seems like the options are basically: gift registry, cash, honeymoon registry, gift certificates, cash registry.. What I want isn’t on the list… I don’t know if this exists, someone please tell me if it does, I haven’t been able to find it and have been considering creating a website to do it:

    I’m in an opposite situation to some – I don’t have all that many things, and there are a number of things I’d like – some plates and silverware, and glasses, some various sorts of kitchenware and cooking items, and a number of other things. Were I buying for myself, I would buy almost ALL of these items at goodwill, salvation army, or other resale shops, where they are about 1/10 (or less) of the price. Or, I would rely on hand-me-downs from people who have perfectly good items but simply want new ones. Frugal as I am (with my money AND on behalf of people buying me things) I really dislike the thought that if someone gave me $50 in cash for housewares I could buy 10 or 20 things at goodwill, but if they spent the same amount on a registry they’d only get a couple of things because they’d be new.

    I’d love to see a website where I can “register” for the things that I need, and people can check them off when they are purchased so I don’t get duplicate items, but there is no particular store associated with them – and I can specify that I would prefer hand-me-downs and clean functioning used items instead of new ones. That way, people who want to give physical gifts instead of contributing to a “house” fund or a “honeymoon” fund can do so, without me feeling so silly about having to include the retailers in the picture. Also, if I were going to have a set of china, I would love to have a beautiful bunch of mismatched pieces (with a general registry, I could even give a basic color theme if I wanted), so I could associate each piece (or few pieces) with the person who gave them!

  59. We have an older lady who’s considered the expert on ettiquette and she recently pointed out that it is not rude to ask for money as long as you’re polite about it but still provide options for physical gifts as well.

  60. “Dear loved ones,
    As we have been living on our own for many years, we have many of the things typically gifted to newly-weds who are also leaving the nest. We also know that some of our particular lifestyle preferences may be inconvenient for our guests to accommodate. With that in mind, if the spirit moves you to gift us with more than just your presence, please consider contributing to the funding of our new home, in which we hope to throw many parties to which our loved ones may be invited.”

  61. I grew up in the Northeast in an Italian family. Geographically, it’s always been gift for the shower, money for the wedding (from what I’ve seen). Culturally, the Italians will throw an envelope of money at you for any occasion. Funeral, birth, wedding, birthday, you name it, they’ve got an envelope of cash for it. Bringing a gift to a reception isn’t necessarily considered tacky, it’s just out of the ordinary.

    My fiance is from the Midwest. His sister had two or three registries, two showers, and a gift opening party the day after the wedding. His Mom asked us if we were going to register. I hadn’t planned on it originally until I found out about the shower. Thing is, we are in our mid-30’s, have lived on our own since late teens-early 20’s, and we have at least two of almost everything. We said we were going to make a small registry, but since we want to buy a house and we currently have no room for much, we were hoping for money (or nothing) for the wedding.

    I’ve taken the F it attitude for the wedding. I think the T word is BS and I’m pretending it doesn’t exist. I would never be rude or break (real) etiquette, but anything goes in the realm of “tacky”.

  62. My fiance and I are moving across the country 2 weeks after our wedding, and doing so by plane – meaning whatever fits in our luggage is all that comes with us. Unfortunately, there will be no room for toasters and china in there. We’ve explicitly asked for no gifts, which people aren’t listening to, so as an alternative we’re asking that it be greenback (meaning cash only), which some people aren’t listening to. It’s just unfortunate because I’ll have to leave whatever gifts we receive behind because we can’t bring this stuff with us.

  63. The information in the article that the cash vs. gifts debate has been going on for at least a hundred years makes me wonder if cash gifts are considered tacky not because they are less advantageous to the retailers, but because cash gifts are considered normal in Eastern Europe. The very strong social trends of rejection and fear of whatever traditions the most recent wave of immigrants have brought with them is a consistent trend in history. I can easily see cash gifts being rejected for this reason alone, and then that rejection getting codified into tradition.

  64. I enjoy being audacious, and my academic work often deals with commercial culture. I like buying my own shit at antique and thrift stores, need nothing from a registry with a retailer, amd DON’T CARE if family members or others find my asking for cash as tacky or audacious. I’m a poor graduate student and mama throwing a huge expensive party for all y’all’s butts. GIVE ME SOME MONEY IN LIEU OF A GIFT I WILL SELL ON THE INTERWEBS ANYWAY.

  65. We’re currently in this dilemma now, where we have to word our invites JUST right in order not to step on any toes. My fiancee and I have been living together for 4 years, we already bought a house, we are pretty much settled so buying household items simply won’t work for us. We are having a themed wedding, and we’d much rather have our guests spend money on their outfits than on gifts for us. We do have a little phrase inserted so far in our invites for those who 1. Insist on giving a physical gift and 2. Those who insist on giving cash. We said something along the line of “…No gifts necessary, but if insisted upon, feed our nerdy desires with a copy of you favourite book, or a donation towards our choice…” We figured that it is much cheaper for our guests to bring a book, or money for a book than to spend hundreds on something waaay more expensive. We love books and we love adding to our collection too, so it seems like a win-win for us as well as the guests.

  66. we have and are asking our guests for money, we have little poems to put it in the nicest way cash please. we are planning to go to disneyland paris as a family moon for our wee girl for a few days and the money is going towards that and work on our house. i dont think it as rude but as modern, times change, traditions arent the same, it use to be tradition to not move in before married but all the couple i know either/and have kids, a house and all furniture and accesssories needed.

  67. My husband and I did a destination wedding, so a lot of our guests gave us money to avoid having to cart a gift along with them. The money came in a variety of forms – cash, cheque, gift cards – but the cash gift that touched us the most, was from my cousin. We got married in Banff, AB and when she arrived in the mountains, she found some tree branches on the ground, put them into a pot with some dirt, and then clipped bills to the branches, creating a “Money Tree” for us. She also included a lovely poem she’d written about how with this “Money Tree” she wished us a life full of wealth – emotional, spiritual, physical, mental, and of course financial. I’m sure some of our guests probably thought her gift was tacky, but for my husband and I it was one of our favourites, not because it was cash, but because it was original and came from the heart!

  68. This is soooo funny to me…

    I live in Oregon… Here, every wedding I have been too has the MONEY dance lol. The Bride and Groom go on the dance floor. Typically they start the dance with either the groom attaching a bill to the brides dress OR with the bride with an older male family figure and groom with an older female family figure and the older family figure attaching money to their partners wedding garment. People cut in through the dance to attach money and dance with the bride or groom.

    I’ve also seen boxes out for people to deposit money in. Gift registries are big. And while Ive never heard of a honey moon registry I love it. As I love the idea of providing guests with paypal information to help out towards a home down payment. When I get married, I’ll probably have an array of options.

    Also, here in the NW it is not frowned upon to bring a gift to the wedding, just don’t expect it to be opened there. Those are typically opened after the honeymoon and receive and thank you card within a month/6 weeks after the wedding.

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