We'd prefer invites with tact
March 20, 2009 8:44 AM   Subscribe

A friend's wedding invitation had a poem that included the line "We prefer gifts of money." Besides choking on my own rage, what do I do?

My buddy is marrying his fiancee in July. Stuck in the invitation envelope was a cutesy but obviously home-made poem about how the happy couple has everything they'd ever need, but what they really want is a house (instead of the condo they already own), so please pony up. There's no "your presence is enough, but if you must" or anything like that. They just flat-out want cash from every invitee. I showed it to my plus-one and she almost swallowed her tongue in shock.

More information:

-This follows a bridal shower invitation to my girlfriend that also requested money-only gifts. (She politely declined to attend.)

-The bride-to-be's parents are from a culture that google implies is more ok with this. I know her quite well, however, and she never identifies with that culture. She's certainly Westernized enough to know how this is going to come across to the guests. The ceremony is going to be in California and won't reflect her parents' culture either.

-They are actually quite well-off. This isn't some ramen-eating college couple looking for a creative way to make next month's rent.

-Their parents are covering the cost of the wedding.

-As sweet as it would be to wrap an etiquette book and give that, I really don't want to lose or damage the friendship over this. I'm willing to score it as a lapse in judgment and forget it once I've figured out how to deal with it.

Question is: given the above, is there a graceful way out? The idea of stuffing a cheque into an envelope galls me in the extreme. What other options do I have that won't come across as a condemnation or attack?

Sub-question, since some of you are going to answer it anyway: Am I being too sensitive? Is this the way of the future? Should I just accept that some weddings are pay-at-the-door?
posted by anonymous to Society & Culture (202 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
It's kind of tacky, but you should oblige. If you also want to give a real present, do that in addition to some small amount of cash. Then be sure to take full advantage of the open bar.
posted by mds35 at 8:46 AM on March 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

Without the exact wording of the card it's hard to tell, but it sounds to me like they were trying to say that they'd prefer cash to a gift. Maybe not tactful, but I bet they were anxious over how to put it. Besides, a house would be a really nice gift, right?
posted by InsanePenguin at 8:48 AM on March 20, 2009

Growing up in New Jersey, this was very much understood to be part of the culture. Woe to the schmuck that brings a stand mixer, there wouldn't even be a table to put the gifts on.
posted by Oktober at 8:48 AM on March 20, 2009

Figure out how much you would spend on a present, and give them that in cash. It's rude of them to specifically request cash as a present, but as someone who just got married, I can tell you that cash is definitely the best wedding present you can give.
posted by sid at 8:49 AM on March 20, 2009

You know, when I read this post I saw "We prefer gifts to money." Maybe you could do the same!
posted by pullayup at 8:49 AM on March 20, 2009

It'd be rude to point out their etiquette faux pas, but you're not obligated to give any gift, cash or otherwise. It's not a charity gala, it's a wedding.
posted by Meg_Murry at 8:50 AM on March 20, 2009 [2 favorites]

Just speaking from experience (and hurdling right over the cultural issue), my wife and I got married about 600 miles from home. Not owning a large car, we had to ship a lot of our gifts, and ended up paying more than the gift was worth at times just to get it to our place. It sounds like the poem is pretty tactless, but there may be some rationale behind the request, too.
posted by ASoze at 8:52 AM on March 20, 2009

I'd pretend like you never saw it. If they don't have a registry, get creative. My favorite off-registry gift is the giant crate of spices from Penzey's. In short, if they can afford / don't need practical gifts, get them something they wouldn't think to buy themselves.

I hate giving money, partly because I feel like I'm a really good shopper and can stretch my gift budget to give them something that looks bigger/nicer than the amount spent would indicate (and I guess I feel good about giving them some of my time/thoughtfulness).
posted by swilkerson at 8:52 AM on March 20, 2009 [11 favorites]

Seems perfectly rational to me. Most weddings have a gift registry, and include a link to it or some such in the invitation. This couple have decided they don't need toasters, microwaves, and/or china sets, and do need a house. Since there isn't a gift registry that says "1000 sq ft of burnt umber pile carpet, 300 2x4 cuts of pine, etc etc" you contribute to a pot to get the house. If giving cash for a wedding gift seems less "from the heart" than your stainless steak knife set picked from a Macy's catalog, just think of the fact that a house will mean a lot more to them in the long run then said knife set.

Or, if it really super steams you for whatever reason, just don't bring a check. Will there be a bouncer checking for moolah before letting you into the reception or something?

But for real, just give the cash. The house is the important thing.
posted by FatherDagon at 8:53 AM on March 20, 2009 [20 favorites]

Its tacky, but you are being too sensitive. It is not material how well off they are or who is paying for the wedding. Do you differentiate between what you buy friends as wedding gifts based on their circumstances? I don't.

In parts of the Northeast the default wedding gift is money tho, so I don't think its weird to want/expect cash. I do think its a little weird to put it in the invitation - but as mentioned above - I bet its something they thought about for a while and the poem was their way of being "cute" about it.
posted by JPD at 8:55 AM on March 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

Donate an amount of money to charity in their name and give them a card that says you did so (a lot of charities will provide this to you). I would be more understanding of this type of request if the couple was poor or starting out, but for a couple that already owns a home and is doing well, forget it.
posted by fructose at 8:56 AM on March 20, 2009 [12 favorites]

I guess JPD is different than me, but I absolutely consider my friends' circumstances when I choose what to get them. If I know they have a wealthy family, I'm not going to buy them the big-ticket stuff, because I know their relatives will probably get that. It's also tacky to ask for money because you're also demanding to know how much your guests are spending on you.
posted by fructose at 8:59 AM on March 20, 2009

Give them their cash gift in the form of pennies.
posted by fluffy battle kitten at 9:01 AM on March 20, 2009 [4 favorites]

No, it is not the way of the future- you'll be happy to know the brides on all the wedding boards would have a fit about this (and have, in fact; I've heard reports of poems before). I don't think the rule about not including anything about gifts (we want them, we don't want them, here's what we want) in wedding invitations.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:02 AM on March 20, 2009 [4 favorites]

Agree that you should pretend you never saw it - that, or donate to the US equivalent of Shelter in their name. There are reposessions happening all over the West right now so if you feel angry, donate that way. Sure, it's a present and presents shouldn't be about what the recipents have or don't have, but it's your call.
posted by mippy at 9:03 AM on March 20, 2009

I don't think this is rude... It's just an attempt to be funny and to show their preference for cash gifts. There have been questions on Ask Me before about how to do just that... Maybe you should check them out to get the thinking behind it. A lot of people prefer cash, but are afraid that if they don't register for gifts, they will end up with a bunch of things they really don't want.

but you're not obligated to give any gift, cash or otherwise. It's not a charity gala, it's a wedding.

Uh, yeah, you are obligated to give a wedding gift.
posted by amro at 9:04 AM on March 20, 2009

Is it just a hint they are asking for cash, or is it a straight out, "Cash plz" request? Because you could get creative - foreign currency, fake money, that kind of thing. They didn't specify what kind of cash/money, right?

I know there are certainly cultural elements to cash gifts at weddings but I still think it is tacky to just outright ask for cash. Usually people I know just don't register (and registry information is not supposed to be on the invitation) and that is a kind of subtle way to ask for cash.

If it were me, I'd be a bit miffed, too. Not enough to not go, or anything, but I'd either just get them an actual gift or donate to charity in their name.
posted by sutel at 9:05 AM on March 20, 2009

Give to a charity in their name in the amount that they requested.
posted by unixrat at 9:06 AM on March 20, 2009

I don't even get why you would be upset with this, why spend money on something they don't want? Just take whatever money you were planning to spend on a gift and give it to them in cash. if you don't feel like doing that, then don't.
posted by delmoi at 9:06 AM on March 20, 2009 [9 favorites]

They are actually quite well-off. This isn't some ramen-eating college couple looking for a creative way to make next month's rent.

Yeah, well, I'm a lawyer and I'm sure friends consider me to be well off, but I can't afford a down payment on a house. Do you really know what their financial situation is?
posted by amro at 9:06 AM on March 20, 2009 [8 favorites]

Allow me to finish my sentence:

I don't think the rule about not including anything about gifts (we want them, we don't want them, here's what we want) in wedding invitations will ever change.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:07 AM on March 20, 2009 [6 favorites]

There are times when faced with inappropriate actions of others where the correct course is inner sneering and cloaked passive aggression. Figure out the amount you'd spend on a gift if they'd registered at Williams Sonoma. Mail them 60% of that amount in cash with a note saying, "I can't tell you how much we liked your poem!"

Spend the remaining 40% on something for yourself.
posted by MarkAnd at 9:07 AM on March 20, 2009 [10 favorites]

You could use this as license to be creative. I like fructose's suggestion. Another idea would be to interpret their request literally and give them a bunch of rare coins or foreign currency. This way you would be giving them money, but at the same time it would be an interesting gift and a mild jab in the ribs; all the while you'd be remaining within the realm of the tactful. If you want to make more of a statement, you could give them a paining or photograph of some money (either made yourself or bought). Again, if the object in question were to have artistic merit, it would make for an interesting gift and technically fulfill their request, while letting you opt out of the game.
posted by epimorph at 9:08 AM on March 20, 2009

Speaking as someone who specifically requested no gifts at her wedding, and if pressed had a couple of charities to suggest instead, I can tell you that plenty of people feel free to disregard the requests of the couple and do whatever the hell they want. I'm not saying that's correct from an Emily Post perspective, but that was my experience. The whole point of a gift if that it is a gift.
posted by ambrosia at 9:08 AM on March 20, 2009 [2 favorites]

If they didn't specify which currency the money gift has to be in then you could get them a complete, nicely framed set of zimbawean hyperinflation dollars. Or some nice shiny's from your foreign coin collection. While that may be in poor taste, I think asking straight out for money is in extremely poor taste. It means that when they're tallying up their gifts and sending out thank you notes (assuming they do) they can rank their friends based on a dollar amount. So classy. If you must participate in this wedding, then yes, the only graceful thing to do is pony up the cash equivalent of what you'd get them in material goods. Nice sentimental card, cold anonymous cash.
posted by Cold Lurkey at 9:09 AM on March 20, 2009

I just have to say - I think its totally acceptable to give a gift instead of cash even if they requested cash. But I think giving to a charity in their name is not appropriate - doubly so if done out of spite.
posted by JPD at 9:10 AM on March 20, 2009 [11 favorites]

ah, beaten to the punch by epimorph.
posted by Cold Lurkey at 9:10 AM on March 20, 2009

Am I being too sensitive?

To them saying "please give gifts of cash, not stuff": dramatically. Hugely. A billion percent too sensitive. That part of it is no different than including a card telling you where they're registered.

Since we don't have the invitation and poem, we can't see the rest of it. To the extent that the poem says "If you don't bring money, you shouldn't come, you dirty motherfucker," that would be tacky. But your oversensitivity in the first respect makes me suspect that you might well be reading things into it that are not really there.

For sure, don't be a passive-aggressive dick. Giving to a charity instead: being a passive-aggressive dick. Pretending you never saw it and giving them toaster anyway: being a passive-aggressive dick. If you're going to be aggressive, at least have the fucking honesty to do it to their faces, simply and directly, instead of wrapping in a lying smile.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:10 AM on March 20, 2009 [43 favorites]

I'm getting married in September, and we're requesting money instead of gifts as well. Mind if I get a copy of that poem?
posted by nitsuj at 9:10 AM on March 20, 2009 [5 favorites]

I get a little put out when I see this kind of thing, I find it very tacky, but I just put it down to the fact that I'm British and talk of money is more taboo in the UK than it is in the US. Or so I thought... Anyway, if I were you I'd suck it up and grumble.
posted by ob at 9:11 AM on March 20, 2009

Yeah I think you are being a little oversensitive with this. I don't know if it's the way of the future or anything, but I don't think it's as crass as you're making it out to be. If they already have everything they need, good on them. But since marriages traditionally needed the support of the "community", that might be where they're coming from with this.

Also, just because the bride "never identifies" with her culture doesn't mean she never identifies at all; it's kinda silly to assume that.

I have no idea what the poem actually said, so I can't really comment on whether it was worded tactfully or not. But in the end, the wedding's about them, not about you.

On preview (dang, that's a lot of answers) what everybody else who can't see what the problem with asking for cash is, said.
posted by twins named Lugubrious and Salubrious at 9:12 AM on March 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

Why abandon your idea of the etiquette book? Giving that, plus with a lovely bookmark at the relevant page, minus a card (whoops, you forgot it!) might be kind of cathartic in addition to whatever else you do or don't do.

I like the above idea too with the foreign currency. Maybe a 50 trillion dollar note makes a good bookmark? Oy vey!
posted by No New Diamonds Please at 9:13 AM on March 20, 2009

They are your friends for chrissake. Don't forget that. That's what I repeat to myself everytime I put on 4 layers of rented wool/poly blend and a tie for an outdoor July wedding.
People get crazy about this shit - you just have to deal.
posted by JPD at 9:14 AM on March 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

How is asking for cash any different from a bridal registry?
posted by amro at 9:15 AM on March 20, 2009 [22 favorites]

Personally I'd be a little relieved. I'm the world's worst gift shopper, so I always give store gift cards anyway. This would save me a step.

I think what they're really saying is "We've already got all we need to operate a household and we don't need any more stuff." I can relate to that myself.
posted by lordrunningclam at 9:17 AM on March 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

I agree that the poem is tacky (that any mention of gifts in a wedding invitation is tacky), but I just wanted to chime in to say that while donating to charity in their name seems like the lesser of two evils, it could come across as less harmless/more snarky. Especially presuming the couple is already a little nervous about how the poem is going to go over.

If that's what you're going for, that's one thing, but it sounds like you might be trying to avoid anything that seems passive aggressive.
posted by juliplease at 9:18 AM on March 20, 2009

Um, also: there's no need to get snarky with your friends' wedding gifts. Fume about it in private if you wish, but doing something sarcastic on their wedding day is just mean.
posted by twins named Lugubrious and Salubrious at 9:19 AM on March 20, 2009 [3 favorites]

Your friends are terribly, awfully tacky. But they're your friends, and if you cherish that friendship all you can do is swallow and ignore their tackiness. I'd say it's your call whether to succumb and give cash or be stubborn and give a proper wedding gift. It's too late to send any signal with clever gifts or an offhand comment.
posted by Nelson at 9:19 AM on March 20, 2009 [7 favorites]

I guess it's a little tasteless, but it's not a major faux pas. For whatever reason, they'd rather have cash than gifts, and that's not very much different from having a registry. It's not your business if they actually need cash or not. Well-off couples can probably afford a blender, too, but they still have gift registries. So, they want cash. As others have said, do something creative with how you package that cash.
posted by katillathehun at 9:19 AM on March 20, 2009

I think it's pretty tacky to ask for money, but please do not do any of the passive-aggressive things listed above. The way I see it, here are the three things you can do without being rude yourself:
  1. If it really pisses you off, then just don't go.
  2. If you want to go, feel free to send a gift instead of giving money.
  3. Or you can just acquiesce to their request and give them money anyway.
I probably would do #1 or #2 personally, depending on whether I felt my attendance at the wedding was mandatory.
posted by grouse at 9:19 AM on March 20, 2009 [3 favorites]

At the risk of being boring, have you tried asking your buddy about it? Just say something like "Cute poem on the invite. Not interested in any toasters, huh?" and see if you can guide the conversation around to the reasoning behind the request. Maybe they already have enough kitchen appliances and couldn't think of anything better, or maybe they are within some slight margin of making a downpayment on a place they really like and they thought it would be really cool if their friends were able to help give something they could enjoy too (by being invited to backyard bbqs or something...), or maybe they just don't want gifts at all but were pressured by the parents to put something on and felt awkward (thus giving the poem that obviously homemade look). Maybe if you know the motivation you can better make a call on whether or not to get that etiquette book.
posted by sldownard at 9:20 AM on March 20, 2009 [4 favorites]

I'm getting married in July, and the thing that I hate the most about the whole process is how sensitive everyone is about the wedding. I'm not even talking about the bride- I'm talking about the parents and guests who consistently seem like they need to get upset about something. "I can't bring my kids?" "We weren't invited to the tasting?!?" "You registered /where/?" "There's no open bar?!?"

There's no need to get offended/upset about this. Everyone involved with the wedding is going through enough stress right now as it is. If you don't want to bring a gift, don't. But don't make a fuss about it either.
posted by JuiceBoxHero at 9:21 AM on March 20, 2009 [29 favorites]

What's more important to you, being gracious or being smug?

If you'd rather be gracious, figure out how much you would have budgeted for a gift, get some cash, and put it in a pretty envelope to dress it up.

If you'd rather be smug, the most suave way of dealing with the issue would be declining to attend, rather than making a big show out of disregarding their request and bringing a gravy boat or whatever.

Yeah, people can be clods sometimes. That doesn't mean you have to be one too.
posted by trunk muffins at 9:22 AM on March 20, 2009 [9 favorites]

Are they chinese? money in a red envelope is a pretty common thing. My wife is Chinese and this was what we got from most of the chinese guests at our wedding.

I think the issue is less about the money and more about the way they asked for it.

I know I've said enough stupid things to friends and family in various situations, unintentionally. I'd just chalk it up to that, forgive them, move past it, and write them a check.
posted by nyc_consultant at 9:23 AM on March 20, 2009 [3 favorites]

Tacky, but tackiness is a venial sin at best.

It verges on excusable when there's a cultural gap: cash is the expected wedding gift in most cultures of the world, and in the regions of the US which take their cues from those cultures' US descendants or emigrants, and not from the odd proclivities of WASPs.

There are no lack of parents of the bride or bridegroom who are going to take serious offense when somebody who doesn't know better shows up with something from Crate & Barrel instead of a check.
posted by MattD at 9:24 AM on March 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

Please don't donate to charity and give them a card indicating so. That would be incredibly rude on your part, far more rude than their including a cheesy poem in their card.
posted by sid at 9:24 AM on March 20, 2009 [7 favorites]

You are not being overly sensitive, and I'm appalled at some of the answers here. One should never assume that people will give you gifts, not even for a wedding. That is really inappropriate. Weddings are not a gift-grab. Therefore, you'd never take the initiative to tell your guests that you prefer they buy you a house instead of send you a toaster. Their family should tell invited guests *who ask* where the couple is registered. This information does not belong in an invitation of any kind - no matter what the latest trend seems to be.

If I were you, I'd pick something I think they'd like or a gift card to some store where they shop, and leave it at that. Ignore completely their blatant bad manners.
posted by infodiva at 9:24 AM on March 20, 2009 [20 favorites]

If you want to destroy your relationship with these peple there are quite a few suggestions that will help you to feel witty and big until it becomes clear they believe you are quite an asshole.

Don't do anything funny. Gift or cash- just do it or stay away. Take care of your sick aunt that weekend.

Buy them the gift you would have gotten, include a note if you want explaining why you didn't follow their request and the wish that whenever they use that bowl or look at that little piece of art they think of you. This is the thing that gets lost with cash gifts. Twenty years later there are still things we use that were gifted at our wedding. I still think of R when I use the toaster we bought to replace the piece of crap that R bought us (it was all he could afford).
posted by pointilist at 9:26 AM on March 20, 2009 [5 favorites]

I was invited to a wedding a year ago where the couple requested money in a poem, exactly like you (I wonder if it was the same poem?). I think the cutesiness of the poem had the effect of making us even more annoyed on top of the fact that giving money is tacky to us. We thought about all sorts of different things we could do, including a lot of the ideas presented here. In the end, we thought about how, when it really comes down to it, these people are our friends. Moreover, they are friends that we genuinely like, and if money is really all they want then that's what they'll get. So I ended up getting a crisp, clean bill from the bank and giving that -- it seemed a bit more like something than if I wrote a check.

The only thing that bothered me is the notion of, "how will they learn if I let them get away with it?" Well, weddings only happen once to a person (at least the kind where you demand gifts). If you teach them a lesson then they aren't having another wedding like this anyway! So just give them the money and then complain about how TACKY and AWKWARD it is in every Internet forum where the subject comes up; that way, future couples who do even the slightest bit of research will be fully aware of the tackiness of their actions.
posted by kosmonaut at 9:29 AM on March 20, 2009 [2 favorites]

Don't get a gift if they indicated they don't want gifts. That's just lame. "Here's this thing you specifically said you didn't want!"

Cash is the default wedding gift in many, many places and cultures, and their admittedly slightly tactless way of reminding all of their friends and family about their preferred form for wedding gifts shouldn't raise even the littlest hackle.

Turn the question around: why do YOU think they NEED a gift from you?

Red envelope, big smile, sincere best wishes, off to the buffet.
posted by Aquaman at 9:32 AM on March 20, 2009 [2 favorites]

Are these people really your friends? If so, don't be a passive aggressive asshole. Don't give them a etiquette book, Zimbabwean dollars, a physical gift, or a gift to charity in their name out of spite. Where is the tact in rebuking someone over their wedding invitation? That the bride and groom may have committed a transgression first doesn't come into it. Really, does anyone think "she started it" is the foundation of good etiquette?
posted by Good Brain at 9:33 AM on March 20, 2009 [5 favorites]

I'm competely baffled by how asking for money is any more "tacky" than asking for a meat tenderizer or a set of towels? Really?
posted by tristeza at 9:33 AM on March 20, 2009 [13 favorites]

How is this tacky, but spending a bazillion dollars on a ceremony isnt? The real issue here is that weddings are ridiculous to begin with but you try to deviate from "the rules" you get people like you who are way, way too easily offended. Weddings are excuses for normally rational people to go apeshit over the smallest things. Dont be a guestzilla.
posted by damn dirty ape at 9:34 AM on March 20, 2009 [12 favorites]

It's not tacky to give money to charity in someone's name. EVER.

Our wedding culture in this country disgusts me. If someone ever asks for cash instead of a gift for a wedding I'm attending, they will absolutely not be getting cash.

The purpose of a wedding is to celebrate your relationship, not to bankroll your dream of homeownership. Oh wait, the couple already owns a home, just not one as nice as what they want. If you really need to buy a house and can't afford it, spend less on the wedding. Nobody will care. It's called prioritizing.
posted by fructose at 9:35 AM on March 20, 2009 [21 favorites]

This wedding is about your friends. It is not about you.
Respect their wishes and make sure they have a good time on their special day.
posted by jozxyqk at 9:36 AM on March 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

Aaand, in answer to how it's tackier to ask for money:
If you ask for money, you will know exactly how much your guest was able to spend on you.
If you get gifts, unless you are insane, you probably aren't going to go find out how much the toaster and the spatula and the towels were and add them together (and of course, accounting for if they were on sale at the time of purchase, etc.).

Maybe I just say this as someone who has many poor family members and friends, but when I get married, I don't want to embarrass my loved ones by making them announce how much money they're able to spend.

I'm also from the south, where this kind of thing is considered extremely rude.
posted by fructose at 9:38 AM on March 20, 2009 [28 favorites]

I guess I'm with amro on this one. I don't get why it's fine for a couple to pop over to Macy's and register for 200 different luxury items that they want, but it's uncouth to say "Honestly, we have all the clothes and blenders and curtains we need--what we'd really like is help getting into a house." If you were going to give them a gift anyway, then give them the kind of gift that they want. I don't know what you're missing out on here, except the exciting chance to go to the store where they would have registered, print out the list and run up and down the aisles finding the thing they already picked out and know is coming anyway. Really, I don't get the outrage. Maybe it was tacky, but modern weddings are usually a pretty tacky proposition all around, in my view. This wouldn't noticeably change the dynamic for me.

And give them the gift of your graciousness, whatever you do.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 9:38 AM on March 20, 2009 [13 favorites]

The way they asked for money was a huge faux pas (sorry to anyone who said it wasn't, but this is strictly an etiquette answer).

It's also completely understandable that they want money rather than gifts, too, though. It doesn't matter how well off they are, EVERY couple getting married needs money for something.

Personally, I would have gone with something that fit the accepted etiquette, and then put a modern twist on it.

Like including a note, "John Doe and Susie Smith are registered at blahblahblah.com" and then made the blahblahblah.com a paypal donation site.

Or maybe the note would include the name of a person to contact about the registry, and that person would be friend of the couple coached to say, "Dude, honestly? They are really strapped for cash and saving up for a house."

But, since they're your friends? Give them the money.

And if you really feel the need, mention to a friend of a friend that you were put off by the way this was all handled. Believe me, it will filter back to the couple. So please think about it before you do this!
posted by misha at 9:38 AM on March 20, 2009 [5 favorites]

I'm shocked that anyone here would say it isn't rude. It sure as heck is.

Nthing donate the money to a charity.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 9:39 AM on March 20, 2009

I would just give them cash, personally, which is par for the course with most of the weddings I go to anyway. But plenty of guests just do whatever the hell they want as far as gifts go, so if you were planning to give something else (or nothing) then I don't see anything wrong with proceeding per plan. I wouldn't do something smart-arsed, unless you want to be gossiped about beyond the couple themselves.

I agree with amro, they may have agonized over how to phrase this and tried to be cute and creative but are way missing the mark.
posted by jamesonandwater at 9:40 AM on March 20, 2009

It doesn't do any good to be passive aggressive. I have often looked at a bridal registry and felt like the things the couple picked out was an enormous waste of money. I do not think buying placemats at $60 a pop (just one placemat and the couple requested 6!) is a good request, nor do I think a $500 vacuum particularly appropriate. The cheaper items were like a forty dollar small picture frame (one!), a fifty dollar measuring spoons thing, and an $80 tissue box holder. I was furious that they expected me to spend money like that.

However, I gritted my teeth and bought them their stupid placemats ( I bought about 4)and not the full 6, which probably ended up in some drawer somewhere never to be seen again, because it's what they requested. I would have preferred to give them the entire $360 in an envelope and not known what crap they were going to spend it on, rather than know it was wasted on fancy placemats. I personally think it's dumb to give someone placemats and I would have preferred to give them something really lovely from India (or Target, goddamn it), but they wanted placemats. Fine.
posted by anniecat at 9:41 AM on March 20, 2009 [3 favorites]

I'm not going to weigh in on what you should do at the actual wedding.

I would, however, send my friend an email with a link to Etiquette Hell and a note that says something like "Since you're planning your wedding I thought you might find this site amusing (and maybe a little instructive). Looking forward to seeing you on the big day...."
posted by anastasiav at 9:42 AM on March 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

Unless there are cultural traditions involved (i.e., if they come from a culture where cash is the norm and they're just trying to be sure they're non-[that culture] guests understand), the question is about obligation vs. kindness. My SO and I generally give a wedding gift, but it's out of a desire to be kind rather than out of a feeling of obligation. I don't have a lot of money, and I'd feel really awkward giving $25 cash instead of a nice gift that cost me $25 on sale. If I knew a couple explicitly said they didn't want gifts and were instead requesting cash--especially if they made it clear that they had no need for a toaster or other household item and were just trying to drum up funds for a down-payment, I'd give a lovely card and maybe a very small, very portable gift.

I understand that some people expect wedding gifts, but that's not the same as an obligation on your part.
posted by Meg_Murry at 9:43 AM on March 20, 2009 [3 favorites]

Cutesy poems are just unacceptable. And no, gifts are gifts; they aren't an entrance fee to the wedding.

Go ahead and give them some money - I like the 60% idea above - but make sure it's in traditional currency.
posted by Weighted Companion Cube at 9:46 AM on March 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

Yeah, just give them some cash. Not lots. Do not include a card anything that identifies it as you. In reality, this is little different than asking for something in a registry. I so wish we hadn't done that when we got married. Greed in any form is always tacky.
posted by Barry B. Palindromer at 9:46 AM on March 20, 2009

This would enrage me as well. However, I would not want this faux pas to spill over into the relationship with my friends. Previously I would have dealt this by simply sending me regrets and not going, but I recently read an idea for a wedding present on MeFi (which I cannot find) that I think would work well in this situation.

Buy them a cheap but nice vessel of some kind - a vase, a lantern, a cookie jar. Fill it with crumpled dollar bills. I'm pretty sure you can get away with spending $10 on the object and $25 on the bills.

Since other people give this as a standard, non-hostile gift, and it has a certain cute factor, it's a 100% acceptable present that even hits the "charming" benchmark. Only you know you're venting your rage by wadding up money, plus you can bask in the passive aggressive glow of knowing they will have to unwad each and every bill and end up with a pile of very wrinkled cash.

If you want to appear even nicer, you can fold each dollar bill into a crane and include a note explaining that cranes traditionally bring luck and happiness in Japanese weddings, and that is what you wish for their marriage.
posted by DarlingBri at 9:46 AM on March 20, 2009 [4 favorites]

Apologies if this would be more appropriate for Metatalk, but I am shocked at the number of incredibly bad suggestions in this thread. Donating money to charity in a couple's name not because the charity is meaningful to them, but because the giver wants to make sure the couple doesn't get their hands on any of the cash, or worse, giving the couple a worthless gift of foreign currently is far tackier (and embarrassingly passive aggressive) than anything the couple did (which, was admittedly pretty tacky), particularly considering this scenario still involves the giver eating the free food, drinking the free drinks and enjoying the free entertainment provided at the wedding, all while consciously planning to screw over the couple.

Yes, outright asking for cash is a faux pas. If you want to demonstrate your offense, you can do so by not attending the wedding. Otherwise, I would just suck it up and realize that not everyone is as well-versed in common manners as they probably should be.
posted by The Gooch at 9:47 AM on March 20, 2009 [5 favorites]

If you're looking for ways to quell your rage, keep in mind that:

A) Ritual events like weddings spur the participants to re-assess their priorities, particularly their connections to their family and/or cultural traditions. You say "The bride-to-be's parents are from a culture that google implies is more ok with this. I know her quite well, however, and she never identifies with that culture." But in the face of a ritual event, she may be looking for ways to reconnect with her family and/or cultural traditions.

B) He/She/They may be buckling to family pressure, a powerful resource that becomes more abundant as the ritual event comes closer. If this is a family tradition, it might have seemed like an easy concession to make to placate the family. (I would speak my vows stark naked and with my veil on fire before I would allow family to pressure me into begging for cash, but I ain't them. We all pick our battles.)

C) Weddings make some people completely bugnuts crazy, and in general the more expensive/elaborate the wedding, the more bugnuts the participants. (This is true even when, perhaps especially when, someone else is footing the bill. Being the center of a big expensive event is crazy-making, especially if the people paying the bills are also calling the shots.) Your friends have gone temporarily insane.

Now on to the gift. Your friends have stated a preference, and in your view stated it rudely. You can either honor that prefence or ignore it. If you choose to ignore it, ignore it completely and wholeheartedly --- pretend that it never happened, and proceed accordingly by choosing whatever gift seems most suitable.

I have in front of me Judith Martin's Miss Manners on Painfully Proper Weddings. Her stance on cash gifts, pages 167-168:
Miss Manners doesn't approve of cash gifts and only grudgingly admits them to the outer rim of propriety when people plead that they are bedridden, out of touch with the tastes of the recipients, or dealing with ingrates who spurn all other offerings. Even then, she help but asking why one doesn't order by mail, or why one is anxious to please those one hardly knows or knows to be ungrateful.
and page 174:
However useful and welcome money may be, it is, Miss Manners would like to point out, a crude present.
Question is: given the above, is there a graceful way out? The idea of stuffing a cheque into an envelope galls me in the extreme. What other options do I have that won't come across as a condemnation or attack?

In your shoes, I might swallow my rage and find a compromise. Choose for them some small material gift and add to it a modest check (or even a gift card for somewhere you know they like to shop). Bonus points if you can somehow package the check inside the gift: roll it up inside one of the nice wineglasses, or pack it inside the cookie jar, or whatever.

And absolutely do not bring it to the wedding. Please please please send or deliver it to them, weeks before or sometime after the wedding, but don't plunk it down on a table at the wedding. Transporting gifts to and from the wedding is a hassle, which is part of the reason cash and checks are such popular gifts --- they're small and easy to transport.
posted by Elsa at 9:49 AM on March 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

I think you are being oversensitive.
I'm planning my wedding and yes, in case anyone asks about wedding gifts, we want money. We have a home and all that we could fit into it, we have plenty of sheets, towels, and all that other stuff. What we don't have is money to spend on our honeymoon, or money to have fun and go for a weekend somewhere just the two of us, or replace the car when it will die soon. And both of us are agonising about how to tell people just that when they will be inquiring. A poem sent seems like a thoughtful way of doing it.

To all those that say that your friend shouldn't do that, maybe they should read that they would prefer to have gifts of money, they never say that you have to bring a gift to come! Yes, it's traditional for people to give gifts, it doesn't mean that your presence is not important. If you don't like the way they asked, just go empty-handed. A nice card will be enough.

Just remember, he's your friend. Maybe you can just ask him about it? There might be something in their life you don't know. And if you are not that close to ask, why worry so much? Just give him some cash, in the most graceful way you can think of.
posted by tweemy at 9:50 AM on March 20, 2009 [2 favorites]

Sorry: Origami Crane with Money. (Dollar bills work well for this even though they are not square.)
posted by DarlingBri at 9:53 AM on March 20, 2009 [3 favorites]

Wedding gifts are not mandatory. Gifts almost never are. Feel free to go and not give them anything but the pleasure of your presence, secure in the knowledge that Miss Manners would approve. This has the upside of not coming across like an attack; you just haven't given them a wedding present yet. If "yet" ever comes around is completely up to you. I probably wouldn't give them anything, or would keep an eye out within the first year (the traditionally allotted period for wedding gifts) for something that they would find useful or pleasurable to have around their house that everyone chipped in for.
But you don't have to give them anything and you don't have to feel bad for it.
posted by katemonster at 9:55 AM on March 20, 2009

A cheesy poem is tacky. But asking for money is not -- it's honest. There are registries around that can deal with cash, for example a friend of mine "registered" repairs to their house, complete with hilarious photographs; this meant people could choose which fund they wanted to donate to.

We seem to have inherited this WASPy notion that it's not OK to talk about money (hence the ettiquette issue) -- elsewhere in the world, cash is perfectly acceptable. Honestly, if I were getting married I would far, far appreciate (and be grateful for) cash to a punch bowl I'll never use. Your friends are your friends; they've had the forthrightness to let you know what they want in the same way they would have if they'd registered at Macy's. And I'm betting if there had been a card saying "we are registered at Macy's" you wouldn't have thought twice.

Please don't be the passive-aggressive ass who gives them something jokey and useless just to show them you're offended. Maybe they're bucking some unwritten (and frankly outdated) "rule" but it's not about you.
posted by media_itoku at 9:55 AM on March 20, 2009 [9 favorites]

You are not being overly sensitive, and I'm appalled at some of the answers here. One should never assume that people will give you gifts, not even for a wedding. That is really inappropriate. Weddings are not a gift-grab. Therefore, you'd never take the initiative to tell your guests that you prefer they buy you a house instead of send you a toaster. Their family should tell invited guests *who ask* where the couple is registered. This information does not belong in an invitation of any kind - no matter what the latest trend seems to be.

I agree with all of this. BUT. They've gone ahead and done the tacky thing so now that it's done it's up to you to handle it with grace and not passive-aggression. Why be mad at their bad manners? Just suck it up, give them the cash, and feel a little smug that you would never be so ill-bred. What *is* tacky is if you go ahead and send them etiquette tips, donate to charity to teach them a lesson, or even get them something that you *know* they don't really want. All of those are just dick moves. And two dick moves don't make a right. Or whatever.
posted by gaspode at 9:55 AM on March 20, 2009 [5 favorites]

Sounds awesome to me. No gluttonous table full of presents. No tracking who got what. No endless piles of wrapping paper. No "I'm the friend that got stuck driving all the gifts to the parent's house." No return of the 3rd toaster. No distractions from the main event.

Seriously, there are other things to rage about than your friend's bad poetry. But if this really bothers you, you could spend some time and pick out a very lovely gift to put on the cash-dissenter's table at the reception. Just be sure that it makes it to its destination. The bride and groom have not planned for your petty grievance on their special day.
posted by iamkimiam at 9:58 AM on March 20, 2009 [3 favorites]

You are letting some ridiculous social conditioning get in the way of doing the thing your friend most wants in this situation.
posted by beerbajay at 9:59 AM on March 20, 2009 [6 favorites]

Asking for cash is a total faux pas in my culture (Midwestern, nominally Protestant), and I think since this used to be the mainstream culture in the U.S., this is believed to be an etiquette standard for the whole country. But when I attended a wedding with my boyfriend (Brooklynese, Irish descent) for his dear friend (Brooklynese, Italian descent), he made it clear to me that cash gifts are totally the norm for certain Northeastern immigrant-descended cultures. Maybe your friends were a bit clumsy in trying to communicate their gift preferences, and maybe they were a bit uncomfortable with it because they are aware of the dominant etiquette tradition. But before you go all snarky and offended, I think it behooves you to actually TALK to your friend and his fiancee to try to understand where they are coming from.
posted by matildaben at 10:02 AM on March 20, 2009 [3 favorites]

Jesus, I only wish all gift-choosing-purchasing-wrapping-giving occasions could be met with a simple check!

In our filled-up world, where most of the people I know have everything they need and a whole lot of shit they don't . . . I positively dread having to buy stuff for other people out of obligation.

posted by General Tonic at 10:05 AM on March 20, 2009 [2 favorites]

In reality, this is little different than asking for something in a registry.

Word. Straight-up asking for money seems a little tacky, because the idea of a gift is that you're putting some heart and soul into the choosing. But given that most weddings already have registries of things they want rather than being totally open to whatever you think they'd love, that tackiness is already part of the modern wedding ritual. So asking for cash isn't really any more offensive than asking for a damn blender, if you ask me.

Anyway, when my friend got married, a bunch of us realized that he could probably use cash more than a waffle iron or set of matching towels, so we all got together and pitched in on a couple hundred dollars, amounts varying from each according to our abilities. We got the money all in ones, and stuffed them into a canvas bag with a big green dollar sign on it, like bank robbers steal in the cartoons. Then we boxed it and wrapped it up, to avoid visible ostentation on the gift-table.

Later on, my friend said that was easily the best gift they got; they kept the bag of ones by the door, and if they needed to run out and pick up a gallon of milk or whatever, they would grab a few bucks from the bag; it was like we were paying for all their little errands for the first couple of months they were married.
posted by Greg Nog at 10:05 AM on March 20, 2009 [50 favorites]

1. Absolutely NOT tacky (unless worded so in the poem). MANY cultures give money at weddings. Why go thru the pretense of buying gifts from a list they provide? Half the stuff gets returned, and the other half closeted anyway. I think they're doing you a favor.

2. Am I being too sensitive? You betcha.

3. Should I just accept that some weddings are pay-at-the-door? Oh for crying out loud! They honor you by inviting you. They pay for the wedding - the food, the entertainment. They want it to be nice for you (and for themselves, of course). And they're your friends for goodness sake. I think if they asked for only eels it would be OK. And you're always free to not give a gift at all. If they are understanding friends, they won't care.

4. Donate the money to charity?... Now THAT would be smug and tacky.

5. I'm surprised at the self-righteous I-know-my-etiquette replies here. This is not the Court of Louis XIV.
posted by ecorrocio at 10:06 AM on March 20, 2009 [6 favorites]

Goofyy, it's tacky because people have to explicitly state the dollar amount they are spending on you. This is uncomfortable for many people; that's just the way it is. In addition, many people value a gift because it required some effort on the part of the gift-giver, which shows that they value their friend. So if they needed to go and pick it up at a store or spend time to choose the right thing, that makes it more special.

If "tackiness" is not something to be worried about, then probably the best thing to do is to just charge a $50 entry fee for a wedding and then every attendee is on the same page.
posted by kosmonaut at 10:08 AM on March 20, 2009 [2 favorites]

I think that proper etiquette on your side would require overlooking such an incredible lapse of the same on their part and getting them what they've asked for. However, I am not sure I personally would be able to avoid the temptation to buy them a toaster.
posted by marylynn at 10:14 AM on March 20, 2009

Personally, I think you should just give cash because that's what the couple wants and needs. Plus, it's a cultural thing - I think Elsa explained this really well above. And you say that they're well off, so what do they need more objects for that they don't really want? Cash will allow them to purchase a house, which is something that is obviously important to them and is definitely worth more than four blenders and extra chip-and-dips.

If you really can't bear giving a check or a few crisp bills in an envelope, what about a gift card to Lowes or another home improvement store? It will come in handy after they purchase their house, if they're able to do so.
posted by k8lin at 10:14 AM on March 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

I'm getting married in July, and the thing that I hate the most about the whole process is how sensitive everyone is about the wedding. I'm not even talking about the bride- I'm talking about the parents and guests who consistently seem like they need to get upset about something. "I can't bring my kids?" "We weren't invited to the tasting?!?" "You registered /where/?" "There's no open bar?!?"

And this, JuiceBoxHero, is why I am totally, totally eloping when we finally get around to it. Which technically means no invites, no registry at all, but I know my family and friends too well, they'll send stuff anyway.

I think one of the other problems here is that with people getting married later and later in the US (we're 34 and 36, have lived together 5 years and still haven't gotten around to it) is that we don't need a freaking toaster.

I have, at last count, 3 semi-broken "save for parts" high end coffeemakers in the basement alone, because if you smash a pot on the model we have, you're out of luck, so we keep spare bits to cannibalize as needed instead of having to buy coffeemaker #5. I have every tiny appliance you can think of, more linens than Linens R Us, more dishes, silverware and stuff than Buckingham freaking Palace (mother = garage sale/antique fiend and I, the only child, inherit much of her largesse).

When I get married, I would love cash, because hot damn, these hardwood floors aren't going to refinish themselves, and I highly doubt my cousins all want to drive to Ohio to help. Is it tacky to put it in the invite? Yup. Is it tacky overall? I don't think so, really. The better method would have surely been to appoint a friend or family member to answer gift-related questions so they can explain "no, no registry, they're saving up for a house and would love help with that -- ha ha, we'll put a plaque with your name on the outside BBQ grill!"

In fact, if someone wanted to make lots of money, inventing a gift registry where you could register for "the outdoor BBQ," "the new curtains," "[other parts of a house]" and the couple would instead get the cash in the end... well, it'd solve a lot of problems.
posted by bitter-girl.com at 10:14 AM on March 20, 2009 [4 favorites]

InfoDiva and Fructose, you are right on the money (ha). Asking honoured guests for ANY gifts is completely inappropriate and in extremely poor taste.

Invitations should never include any reference to gifts (whether that be requests for money or gift registry info), because then there is an implied assumption that there will be a gift, and even though most guests are happy--even excited--to give a gift, it should never be expected. A gift should never, ever be considered obligatory--and last time I checked, weddings didn't charge admission fees.

Speaking for myself, I am a far more generous gift-giver if I don't think the recipient is automatically holding out their hands expecting, and moreover, that it "better be good".
posted by parkerama at 10:17 AM on March 20, 2009 [10 favorites]

I'm competely baffled by how asking for money is any more "tacky" than asking for a meat tenderizer or a set of towels? Really?

I consider it much more tacky. Not enough that I wouldn't do it if I got a wedding invite from a close friend who specifically requested it, but I'd consider it really poor form. If it was not a close friend, it might be the sort of thing that would make me lean towards not attending a wedding.

The thing is, although wedding registries may be toe-ing the line in terms of looking like you're expecting an entrance fee for your wedding, there is something of a polite fiction involved. This polite fiction (that nobody really believes but makes us all feel better) is that guests aren't required to buy anything to attend a dear friend's wedding, and if they do buy something, certainly aren't required to buy something off the registry--that registry exists for guests who want to get a sense of the couple's tastes and desires, and is provided as a favor to guests. If cash is one item on that registry, or guests who ask are discreetly told that cash is preferred, there certainly isn't any obligation to gift cash. Contrast this to the OP's situation, where not only was he told cash is preferred, but also told that other gifts are not okay. I think the latter part is what takes this well beyond a minor tacky offense (like including information about where one is registered in a wedding invite) to something approaching offensiveness.

The idea that one isn't required to get a gift for a wedding isn't just stuffy old-fashioned etiquette. At its heart, this idea exists for the same reason that many people hate MLM schemes--it's distasteful to monetize your personal relationships for financial gain. It sends a terrible message to your friends that their value to you is their money (or more broadly, what you get out of them) rather than in their relationship to you. It's not a terribly kind message to send to a friend, which is why some people get really worked up about this.

Anonymous, I think the best way to handle this depends on your relationship with the bride and groom. If you're close to your buddy and the idea of giving them money is sticking in your craw enough to potentially damage the friendship down the road, I'd probably go to him and say that you had really hoped to get XX for their wedding present and hope that it's not a problem. (XX can be whatever you like, but it will help if it's something that is thoughtful and meaningful within the context of your relationship to the groom--like golf clubs if you two are always joking about hitting the links together, or cooking classes for the two of them if he's always been an chef wannabe.) I highly doubt that he'd tell you it's a problem. If, on the other hand, you can find a way to shrug it off as just one misfire in the planning a big stressful event, and something that just came off worse than either intended, then take the gracious road, give them some cash, and stop thinking about it.
posted by iminurmefi at 10:18 AM on March 20, 2009 [9 favorites]

Uh, yeah, you are obligated to give a wedding gift.

No, you are not. If you can afford to give one, and you do not, that's tacky, yes, but if you cannot afford to both attend the wedding AND give a gift, then you are not obligated to give anyone anything. And as someone who had a lot of poor college buds at my wedding, I was much happier to have their presence than I would have been about causing them stress over a stupid gift.

Your friends are tacky. They are your friends. Sometimes people do stupid stuff. Figure out how much you want to give them, and bring it in an unsigned card to the wedding, if you want. You can give them another card that you sign.
posted by Medieval Maven at 10:18 AM on March 20, 2009 [7 favorites]

I guess I'm with amro on this one. I don't get why it's fine for a couple to pop over to Macy's and register for 200 different luxury items that they want, but it's uncouth to say "Honestly, we have all the clothes and blenders and curtains we need--what we'd really like is help getting into a house."

The faux pas is not in preferring cash instead of gifts, but in mentioning gifts at all in a wedding invitation. It would be just as rude to include a card stating where you're registered. Typically guests discover where the couple is registered by asking a relative of the bride, or more currently, looking it up online. Or not worrying about the registry, and just buying something the couple might like.

They've already committed the faux pas, however, and they are good friends of yours, so I would just let it go and either give them the cash with a nice card, or buy them a gift (and make sure to include a gift receipt). Then forget about it and celebrate their happy day with them. You've got to make allowances for your loved ones to not always act with the utmost of proper decorum.
posted by JenMarie at 10:19 AM on March 20, 2009 [4 favorites]

Where I come from, that is shockingly, hideously tacky. (And you'd never put your registration information in a wedding invitation, either. Cripes, no.) They're not displaying cultural competence when it comes to dealing with WASPy types like me. But this is your friend; if you don't buck up and treat him with kindness, eventually you'll wish you had. And after all, it would be even tackier to make a big deal over what you and I perceive as their faux pas. Cut them a check, put it in a pretty card, write a sincere message about your good wishes for their future, and let it go.
posted by sculpin at 10:20 AM on March 20, 2009 [2 favorites]

Don't fight rudeness with rudeness, especially if your intent is to show them that their rudeness is wrong. That's just... rude.

I'd recommend getting them whatever you would have gotten them if you hadn't heard about their registry or gift preferences.

Honestly, I'd be surprised if the couple didn't already agonize over whether indicating a preference for money would be perceived as tacky or not, and I bet they're catching grief over it without your input.
posted by Metroid Baby at 10:22 AM on March 20, 2009

Well just in case the bride is Indian, this is absolutely normal. In fact, in India you can buy special envelopes for the express purpose of gifting money at weddings.
posted by dhruva at 10:23 AM on March 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

It's not tacky to give money to charity in someone's name. EVER.

You have that backwards. Donating to a charity in someone else's name, unless they're specifically asked you to do so, is almost always tacky or passive-aggressive or both.

The purpose of a gift is to please the recipient. Unless they have requested it, giving to charity in someone's name doesn't say

"Here is something I thought you would enjoy."

Instead, it says

"Here is something I enjoyed. Also, note how morally superior I am to you, who gives people gifts they would enjoy but are more materialistic than this, and to the other people who gave you gifts, because they gave you things you would enjoy rather than giving you something I think is important."

Yes, there are exceptions. Maybe you have some real, honest reason to expect that they'd sincerely enjoy it, as opposed to feeling obliged to say that they did. Or donating to an organization that they approve of but that you do disapprove of.

At its worst, it also incorporates the tackier aspects of regifting. I didn't want to get you anything, but I always donate to this charity anyway so I'll take my normal donation and make it in your name, that way I can pretend that it's a gift to you.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:24 AM on March 20, 2009 [24 favorites]

The poem is tacky. the request is rude. It's assumed that you'll give them something but what it is, is up to you.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 10:24 AM on March 20, 2009 [2 favorites]

Its tacky but pales in comparison to the money dance where people pin cash to the bride to dance with her. That is utterly tacky to me.
posted by fenriq at 10:27 AM on March 20, 2009 [2 favorites]

Around these parts it is expected that the gift will be cash, not some kitchen appliance or silver etc. A different gift would not be rude, but would seem odd. Once you finally get with the program (it took me a while) it really does make "shopping" so much easier. Write a check and forget about the ire.
posted by caddis at 10:29 AM on March 20, 2009

Many people have written that they feel that it is rude and tacky to ask for money. Well that's really a cultural thing. Many cultures and not just outside the US, feel that it is not just perfectly acceptable, but money is expected (I guess ya'll ain't seen a money dance at a wedding before, huh?)

Anyway, this really isn't about you and your sensibilities, its about the couple getting married. Get them what they want. There is no quantitative difference between the two and the qualitative difference is highly subjective.

Lastly, all of the passive aggressive, dick-move advice that has been dispensed is really awful. If these folks are your friends, then don't be that guy. If I thought that one of my friends was doing some sort of passive aggressive, "I'll get you what I think you should want" kind of things at my wedding, that would definitely set off some warning bells about what kind of friend you were.
posted by anansi at 10:29 AM on March 20, 2009

As far as what you should do:

(1) If you're really offended, don't go.
(2) If you're moderately offended, go but don't bring a gift of any sort. They've already told you that giving them stuff is worse than nothing. Take the hint.
(3) Give them some money and complain about it to their faces later.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:30 AM on March 20, 2009

Ideally, a gift is never expected at a wedding. Yet the subculture of wedding etiquette often mutates into a weird standard of what the couple expects and what the guests expect. I've attended weddings where the norm was to give an elegant envelope with a check or cash stuffed inside, which the receptionists promptly put into an elegantly-decorated box. These weddings did not state that the couple wanted cash, but that's what they got and the party had enough foresight (or advice) to prepare something proper to carry it home in. And boy, did you get "looks" if you showed up without an envelope. Anyway, that's a discussion for another time.

In answer to your question of opting-out of the monetary gift, you could compromise and get the couple a gift certificate. I can't say for sure, but I'd expect the couple to eventually have to go out and buy groceries, so maybe a gift card to a supermarket or places like Costco.

What about a gift certificate to a restaurant? Some places do not have expiration dates, so perhaps it could be used as their first anniversary dinner.

The gift certificate route can still satisfy the couple's desire for cash, and because it's in an envelope, they can easily carry it home.
posted by CancerMan at 10:30 AM on March 20, 2009

The disparity between answers here ("it's perfectly normal!" vs "terribly tacky, give them nigerian dollars instead") leads me to believe that this is a cultural issue. Therefore, I recommend that you forget any slight you felt and give them cash with an open heart.
posted by sid at 10:30 AM on March 20, 2009 [4 favorites]

Oh, and the money dance isn't tacky fenriq, its different cultural values. Lots of southern black folks practice this and it most definitely a morphed Africanism. "Homo sum: humani nil a me alienum puto."
posted by anansi at 10:32 AM on March 20, 2009 [2 favorites]

Yeah it's tacky that they asked for it in a poem on the invitations, but I don't see it as tacky that they asked for it, especially if the bride's parents have some cultural norms for that. A wedding is about the couple, but it's also about the couple's parents. This is also their big day, and maybe the bride is trying to give a hint to guests about her parent's expectations of how gifts are done.

I have the same reactions as many on here (f-em, donate to charity, deliver it in a book of etiquette, etc) on first reading, but my reactions are waaaay more tacky than simply clarifying how they would like their gift. In the end I'd give them cash, and I would hope they could buy a house with it because they are my friends and I would love to help them achieve their dreams. If I didn't want to help with that, then they aren't my friends, regardless of how well-off they may be.
posted by gofargogo at 10:32 AM on March 20, 2009

How is asking for cash any different from a bridal registry?

What's the difference between a street hooker and a golddigger asking for Jimmy Choos? There you have it.
posted by aquafortis at 10:32 AM on March 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

sid, the OP mentioned this isn't a cultural issue. The bride should know better.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 10:33 AM on March 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

Yes, it's tacky and rude, especially in this economy. Tacky and rude people do exist, and when they join they become a tacky and rude couple times 2. Sometimes they go on to have a tacky and rude wedding, as in this case.

You're not obliged to do anything you don't want to do. Despite what someone said in this thread, giving what you want to give is not passive aggressive. Not going to the wedding and saying you were sick is passive aggressive. Not being bullied into exactly what you bring the couple is not.
posted by Dennis Murphy at 10:35 AM on March 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

Actually, the OP says that it is culturally related but that he doesn't feel that the bride is that into her culture.
posted by anansi at 10:37 AM on March 20, 2009

sid, the OP mentioned this isn't a cultural issue. The bride should know better.

And, roomthreeseventeen, as mentioned in several spots above, it may not necessarily be the bride at work here. Weddings make crazy. Mothers of the bride seem to have a special place for crazy in their head that only gets activated when the engagement is announced (my god...my cousin's wedding... multiply every tacky thing you have read in this thread by about a factor of a zillion...). Who knows whose stupid idea the poem was? Etc.

If we went the traditional wedding route, we'd not only have to probably have bilingual invites (and probably none of the Euro-fam could make it over), but a church wedding (boyfriend and I both reeeeefuse, thank you, his mom has different ideas), and for me, enormous hair (she's a hairdresser; I am her Barbie doll). No thanks. But not everyone is lucky enough to avoid their family's crazy whims on an occasion such as this, particularly when said fam is ponying up the money for the rest of the wedding.
posted by bitter-girl.com at 10:38 AM on March 20, 2009

Oooooh! Get them a Home Depot or Lowes gift card.
You'll be like two steps** ahead of them!

**1) Find house
2) Buy house
3) Furnish/repair house

posted by willmize at 10:38 AM on March 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

But not everyone is lucky enough to avoid their family's crazy whims on an occasion such as this, particularly when said fam is ponying up the money for the rest of the wedding.

Maybe they could ask their fam for the cash for the house then.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 10:43 AM on March 20, 2009

I'd be tempted to just not go to the wedding. If you don't go, that solves that problem — you're not obligated to give them a gift. If you do go, you are obligated to give them a present. I think the correct and graceful thing to do is to rise about their tackiness and give them whatever gift you would have given them had they not included the poem in their invitation, whether that be cash or a thoughtful and useful gift, and to not indicate in any way whatsoever that you found the poem ill-mannered in the extreme.

Of course, the satisfying thing to do would be to send them a book of etiquette with a pertinent section or two bookmarked and highlighted. But I'm sure you're above that.
posted by orange swan at 10:43 AM on March 20, 2009

For those of us from immigrant descended cultures of the northeast - giving money is totally the norm. I must remember when I visit the more proper and pure provinces of our great country that our coarse ways might not translate.

Us papists, hebrews, hindoos and chinamen must really learn our manners around the proper sort of people.
posted by JPD at 10:47 AM on March 20, 2009 [18 favorites]

Addendum to my comment above, a risk-free and satisfying thing to do would be to anonymously send the happy couple a book of etiquette with a pertinent section or two bookmarked and highlighted. But you're definitely above that.
posted by orange swan at 10:48 AM on March 20, 2009

Certain cultures do tend to give cash as the only gift at weddings.

The key thing to note, however, that such things are based on the culture of the gifters, not the culture of the people being gifted. If some of the bride's family want to give cash as a way of setting the couple off in their life together, that's fabulous. If a money dance is something that those relatives or friends push the bride to do, so that they can share their generosity in a really public fashion, more power to them. If that's not the OP's culture, however, I see no reason why he should feel the need to follow those norms.

ROU_Xenophone has a pretty good rundown of your options (although I don't think #3 will be good for your long-term friendship with the couple). I'd make the argument that getting the gift you really want to get them--not dropping by Crate and Barrel to pick up a $20 tchotchke, but the something that you actually put thought into and really *want* to get for them--is totally acceptable. They've indicated that they have more stuff than they can possibly fit in a house, so I'd probably take that into consideration when picking something out, but that certainly doesn't limit you to cash. The one thing you can't do is get them something rude that you know they'll hate or that is meant to make them feel bad or frustrated. If you're at that point, then you really need to decline the wedding invite altogether.
posted by iminurmefi at 10:49 AM on March 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

It's very tacky, yes. As is including a list of the stores where you've registered. The intent of inviting friends to a wedding is so that they may share in the couples' happiness as they betrothe themselves to one another. It is not an excuse to have the newlyweds' home outfitted free of charge. It is an etiquette faux pas to imply that you expect gifts at all, but apparently that type of correctness went out with spats and running boards. What I don't understand about these particular instructions is that at any wedding I've ever attended, a good 70% or more of the "gifts" were envelopes/cards with cash or checks enclosed. A lot of guests feel that money is much simpler; it avoids the hassle of shopping and wrapping and hauling a big box around. So why don't most couples just understand that they will receive cash gifts along with the occasional crock pot and not bother listing gift specifications on the invitation?
posted by Oriole Adams at 10:52 AM on March 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


Good lord, your friends are getting married, cut them some slack. Have you never uttered something in public that didn't quite come out the way you intended? Also, anyone advocating some kind of passive-aggressive response to this is a shitty "friend", as in "with friends like these..."

Wedding registries filled with gross symbols of consumerist culture that will sit, unused, in cabinets and closets for years are much tackier than this.
posted by mkultra at 10:53 AM on March 20, 2009 [3 favorites]

If you don't go, that solves that problem — you're not obligated to give them a gift.

Not really. I think (but apparently there is some disagreement on this, see my posting history!) that you're still obligated to give a gift, even if you don't attend.

The more I read of the responses, I guess maybe asking for money is a cultural thing but I still think that asking for it in the invitation is rude. If in fact, it's a cultural thing, then everyone who would be expected to play along with those cultural norms would already know and the rest of us shouldn't be necessarily expected to do the same.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 10:53 AM on March 20, 2009

It's tacky as hell. In the relatively short time I've been in America, I'm surprised at how much this tactic and its acceptance have grown. Personally, I would just buy them a nice gift and let things fall where they may. If they have trouble with that, it's a weak friendship.

In Eastern Europe (where, truthfully, cash gifts at a wedding make a little more sense, as couples are often forced to live with parents for years before being able to afford a small apartment of their own), they've added a twist to this custom. They now have professional "announcers" who stand by as the bride and groom open envelopes, and they read the amount each guest gave over the PA system! I can't wait until that custom begins here. Sigh.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 10:54 AM on March 20, 2009

People really need to take their cultural blinders off here. OK, you wouldn't do this. You find it distasteful, tacky even. But that's just you. There are 6 billion plus people on this planet speaking around 6000 languages and just about as many different cultures. Even places like the US are divided regionally, religiously, ethnically, etc. Different groups of people do and expect different things, that's part of what makes people so cool. A significant portion of my family thinks that mayonnaise is fucking disgusting, that doesn't mean that nobody else should use it, nor should mayonnaise users be snubbed, sneered at or looked down upon. And if someone came to my house and asked for mayo on their sandwich, I would be a dick if I put miracle whip on it anyway cause I think that mayo is nasty.

Once again, be nice to your friends. Get them what they want for their wedding, and ignore the shrill cries of the wannabe Miss Manners' on this board trying to tell you how to correct your friends for their perceived faux pas.
posted by anansi at 10:54 AM on March 20, 2009 [6 favorites]

Sorry, but asking for money is tacky, tacky, tacky. If this is a cultural thing, then wouldn't those familiar with the practice already know that money was expected? If some wedding invitees aren't familiar with the custom, then the hosts should graciously accept non-monetary gifts.

Wedding gifts aren't obligatory. I got married 7 months ago. We are 40-ish professionals, who combined two households. We have way too much "stuff" now and didn't even want gifts. We ended up registering one place after my mother pointed out that people wanted to get us something. What we really wanted was memberships to museums and botanical gardens that we visit frequently and we mentioned that to several family members. That never materialized, however, we ended up getting lots of gift cards to the store we registered at and a fair amount of cash. One of the best gifts we got was a $50 gift card to a restuarant we visit frequently. We loved that!

If the bride and groom can't afford to pay for the wedding and all that goes with it, themselves, IMO they have no business getting married.

And for what it's worth, an engraved, personalized photo frame for the couple's wedding portrait is a nice gift, and not too spendy.
posted by socrateaser at 10:58 AM on March 20, 2009

I think anansi has the best answer so far. It is a cultural difference, whether the culture you're talking about is from Asia or a different region of the States. Forgive your friends and give them whatever cash you can afford.
posted by sid at 11:01 AM on March 20, 2009

Yeah, totally tacky. Would never dream of doing this myself. But guess what? This day isn't about you. Just give some money and bitch about it to friends later.

I have a friend who has horrendous taste in shoes. It doesn't offend me enough to not hang out with her, because it's not about me. I occasionally joke about it with other friends later.

In the end, it's the same difference - cash or a gift. Let them have their extremely tacky day.
posted by meerkatty at 11:07 AM on March 20, 2009

JPD: For those of us from immigrant descended cultures of the northeast - giving money is totally the norm. I must remember when I visit the more proper and pure provinces of our great country that our coarse ways might not translate. Us papists, hebrews, hindoos and chinamen must really learn our manners around the proper sort of people.

That is entirely not the point. The idea is not that is is rude to give money, but that it is rude to ask for money. If you come from an immigrant descended culture of the northeast, you can register for every towel at Crate & Barrel and Auntie Rachel, Auntie Jun, Auntie Gia and Auntie Aadesh are still going to give you cash if that is how your family rolls.
posted by DarlingBri at 11:07 AM on March 20, 2009 [2 favorites]

What the hell's the problem? I don't get it. Enough with the hand wringing. It's a bit tacky, but who cares? It's more convenient for you. Give 'em 100 bucks and be done with it. I always found wedding registries tacky as hell. Even more so. I mean, going to a store and pre-shopping? What a joke.
posted by milarepa at 11:09 AM on March 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

Dane Cook's an ass, but he did say "You didn't get me a sweater, you got me an ERRAND. Now I have to go to the mall, stand in line, ...."

So what's a good way to ask for money (specifically as opposed to toasters and 500-thread-count hand towels)? I like the audacity of the paypal link and 'registering' needed house repairs/improvements, but I think there's a good possibility that they might be taken the wrong way. And honestly: talking to every potential guest, or arranging for them to talk to some contact about what's needed/wanted/desired, seems like a lot of extra _unneeded_ hassle.

There's this AskMe from 2004, and while gift cards are kind of a work around, there's plenty of reasons to avoid them. Honestly, the Italian or Chinese way seems best -- kiss, well wishes, envelope.
posted by now i'm piste at 11:09 AM on March 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

I totally agree with you that it is rage-inducing rude.

That said, if you go, go in good faith. If you can't, don't go (and you'll be saving them money).

We prioritized saving for a house of a wedding, FWIW.
posted by cestmoi15 at 11:11 AM on March 20, 2009

"of" should read "over"
posted by cestmoi15 at 11:12 AM on March 20, 2009

I'm stunned at how hidebound people are being. Just because your particular sensitivities tend one way or another, it's ludicrous to declare that everyone must follow your rules of etiquette, especially at such a formalized ritual as a wedding. Jesus.

Many many cultures think it's not only acceptable but required and eminently more pratical to give cash at weddings. I learned this when my first college friend got married and I found myself in New Jersey in a scene right out of the Godfather, with thuggish people in too-tight suits flinging envelopes around meaningfully while I, alone in the massive ballroom, carried a big gift-wrapped box. In that case, *I* was the asshole for not checking on the culture of a wedding I was going to.

Don't write treacly poems though. There are limits.
posted by CunningLinguist at 11:15 AM on March 20, 2009

Pointing back to this comment. If not Chinese, Korean? Envelopes of money is how it's done with Korean weddings. The OP's friend might be Westernized or not even all that into her culture that much, but if numerous wedding-related questions on Askme, including this one, are any proof, weddings are full of other people's baggage/expectations. Is the OP's friend only inviting her friends who follow the more American wedding convention of giving gifts and finding money tacky?

And for people who are saying "well the people in the culture should know about giving money, so no need to put it in the invite," did you think that maybe the couple maybe put it in the invite for her "not from my cultural background" friends? Considering the OP had to look up the fact that in her friend's culture that's acceptable, I wouldn't put it past the couple that they were trying to simplify things in the gift giving department, even if it is done a little poorly based on American etiquette. If it's more family and family friends who are bringing money maybe the couple just wanted to go with money entirely and keep from having friends show up with toasters and silver candlestick holders when there's not even a place to put and/or embarass themselves or have to explain to their family that the American friends aren't being tacky by not bringing money? Man, some people make it sound like being tacky is a federal crime. Look, it's a faux pas. Unless the OP knows something about this couple that makes them money grubbing con artists, I wouldn't really assign anything to malice or find it anything to make me really angry.

I don't know, it sounds to me like they don't really care about receiving gifts, but wouldn't mind the help to pay their parents back for costs of holding the wedding and it's just a poor choice on their part to directly word it. I personally kind of find the catch 22 that American wedding gift conventions puts you in a little weird. I might not need or want nice plates, and prefer no gift at all, but I can't say crap about it? At least cash money would offset the cost of a wedding or honeymoon, though not necessary, and keep people from wasting their own money. And honestly, while I'm American with what I believe to be a fair amount of knowledge about American culture, there are a lot of little things about American wedding etiquette that I personally have had no idea about. So, maybe she really honestly didn't think it'd be such a big fat rage-inducing deal.

Cultural expectations aside, I'd say, if the drama really isn't worth it, either just don't give a gift, or do what they want since it's their wedding (again, not understanding the "well-off" argument mentioned in the question. So giving them 200 dollars versus being a $200 stand mixer is really different?), it's not really about me. Or if it bothers you that much, say that you're sorry, but you can't make it to the wedding (an advice I've seen in etiquette columns all the time).
posted by kkokkodalk at 11:18 AM on March 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

I don't believe that a gift is obligatory, and I agree with Rou_Xenophobe's three options, except I would add a fourth - just send them the money, and make your excuses on why you can't attend the actual wedding.

As for it being a cultural difference and the OP should just lighten up, that goes back to the question of who the wedding is really for - the happy couple, or the guests?
posted by HopperFan at 11:18 AM on March 20, 2009

Mod note: few comments removed - please don't offer revenge suggestions and if you could, maybe stop being sarcastic jerks
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 11:19 AM on March 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

If you come from an immigrant descended culture of the northeast, you can register for every towel at Crate & Barrel and Auntie Rachel, Auntie Jun, Auntie Gia and Auntie Aadesh are still going to give you cash if that is how your family rolls.

And what if you're the friend from a cultural background who doesn't do this and shows up with a toaster? would you rather get the fisheye from the aunties through the entire reception because you did something they disapprove of? or go along with what is generally expected? It's the way in which they handled the request that was tacky more so than the request itself.

When it comes right down to it, it's all about the fact that there are many cultural factors at play in the United States, and we all pick and choose which we honor personally. I'm Irish, German, Swedish and English. Yay for St. Lucia candles, and German cookies both! My boyfriend's Hungarian social customs aren't too different, for the most part. The OP's bride and groom seem to come from slightly more different backgrounds than the Euromishmosh of our house, so there's the potential for more misunderstandings.

If there was some particularly strange Hungarian wedding custom my friends wouldn't have a good chance of knowing about, I think it would be kind to let them know so they don't show up and freak out when [I don't know, make up something crazy here]. But it would also fall on me to notify them in a non-cheesy, non-tacky way. It's not the request itself, it's how you do it.
posted by bitter-girl.com at 11:23 AM on March 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

I have a bad habit of interjecting utility theory into everyday decisions. OK let's look at it this way: How is it worse for you to give money instead of picking out a gift? The answer is you value giving a gift over giving money by a certain amount because of sentimentality, signaling, and individuality. Spending time getting a gift might be costly but it also might be a fun project. Think about how you actually value these things and activities. Next try and compartmentalize things, if you are taking exception to it because 'it's not how things are done' then you might want to examine the whys of that. Why aren't things done this way? Do you think that a cash gift makes your friendship look like a commodity in a way that a chosen gift would not? You are mad about it try your best to figure out what makes you mad. What I think would be optimal is give a gift of cash and then spend the time you would spend looking for present into giving a non monetary gift. Really, I'm not going to tell you that you shouldn't be mad, but I think this is a case where examining why you are angry would make you less angry. Good luck. Happy trails.
posted by I Foody at 11:24 AM on March 20, 2009 [5 favorites]

DarlingBri I don't think you got what I was responding to. I agree asking for money in the invite is tacky.
posted by JPD at 11:31 AM on March 20, 2009

It's totally disgusting to ask for money or any other gifts (IMHO). What I would do, right or wrong, is to say NOTHING. Criticizing someone's manners is just as rude as the person who has shown bad manners by requesting money in their wedding invitation.

Instead, give them what you want to give them. Being asked for money would probably make me feel inclined to give them a more "thoughtful" gift. It's passive-aggressive, but whatever. I've gotten to the point in life where I feel like sometimes passive-aggression is necessary to preserve one's own sanity.
posted by tastybrains at 11:35 AM on March 20, 2009

Just as you prefer friends who write invites with more tact, if they knew you had such qualms and issues with this part of their wedding, they'd wish they had more friends with tact.

You don't have to get them anything; but if you choose to, don't be childish deviate from their wishes out of pure spite while trying to justify how they don't need the cash because they have enough of it/have a house/their parents are paying for the wedding.

Get over yourself.
posted by wocka wocka wocka at 11:38 AM on March 20, 2009

On whether giving a wedding gift is an obligation. It is not an obligation like feeding and clothing your children. But it is a social obligation. Like the social obligation to bring wine, dessert, or flowers to a dinner party. Like the obligation to give a present to a little boy whose birthday party you're attending. Or to a bride whose wedding you're celebrating. Minor obligations, to be sure, and easily overlooked by both the host and the guest, but real nevertheless.

To say there's no obligation to give a wedding present is to be both too literal and deaf to social conventions.

Having said that, I agree the couple was tacky to ask for cash. (My Chinese Aunties knew to give cash, but for my Western friends who didn't, instead of telling them I accepted cash or check, I just set out a gift table with a cousin to guard it and to take the gifts home afterwards.) But to the suggestion, "Just don't go to their wedding," ask yourself: do you really want to skip your friends' wedding just because, in the days leading up the most important moment of their lives, they showed themselves to be tacky about money? Only people classy with money deserve the honor of a wedding in the presence of friend and loved ones?

On preview: so yeah, get over yourself.
posted by hhc5 at 11:50 AM on March 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

Why abandon your idea of the etiquette book? Giving that, plus with a lovely bookmark at the relevant page, minus a card (whoops, you forgot it!) might be kind of cathartic in addition to whatever else you do or don't do.

You know, if you want to be that much of a cock about somebody's wedding, you should just not go.

And lump me in with the "way oversensitive, WTF?" crowd. Asking for cash is no more tacky than presenting people with a long list of "loot I want bought for me" from wedding registries.
posted by rodgerd at 11:51 AM on March 20, 2009 [2 favorites]

bitter-girl.com: It's not the request itself, it's how you do it.

I'm sorry, but it totally IS the request itself. I hate to be one of those annoying dictionary internet quoting people but I sincerely think it's time for a refresh on the menaing of the word gift:
something given voluntarily without payment in return, as to show favor toward someone, honor an occasion, or make a gesture of assistance; present.
A gift is not the price of admission to a wedding; this is not a ticketed event. To expect gifts is rude. To make a point that you're expecting gifts is more rude. To dictate what those gifts must be is appalling.

And what if you're the friend from a cultural background who doesn't do this and shows up with a toaster? would you rather get the fisheye from the aunties through the entire reception because you did something they disapprove of?

Then it is the aunties who are rude, not the gift giver. It is never impolite to give a gift in celebration. On a more practical note, the gift surely comes with a card; what is in the envelope, be it cash, a check or good wishes, is the business of absolutely nobody except the bride and groom.
posted by DarlingBri at 11:53 AM on March 20, 2009 [6 favorites]

Giving to charity is definately a lame idea as a gift for someone. It's a gift to yourself or to the charity, not to the couple, unless you give them the tax receipt to claim on their taxes.

Feel free to give to charity, but don't pretend it has anything to do with anyone else but you.
posted by blue_beetle at 11:56 AM on March 20, 2009

if you decide to give money, give cash rather than a check. also, i would suggest, if you can get past your rage, go to a bank and get new crisp bill(s), its a way to show that you were actually thinking about them, as opposed to just throwing a couple of dirty fivers into an envelope.

on the otherhand, the duffel bag with the $ sign and stuffed with bills is cool too. i may get married again and register for one. i'll put it on the invite too (OH DAMN!)
posted by askmehow at 11:56 AM on March 20, 2009

As someone getting married shortly, I understand their situation.

Maybe they have everything they need, or don't have the space for all the typical bridal registry stuff. Maybe since they know they are moving soon (plan to buy house), they don't want even more things to drag around when they move.

Bridal registries are constructed by the bridge&groom, so they know EXACTLY how much you spend on them anyway. If you buy me the MixMaster 5000 blender in black from Macy's as specified in the registry that I make.. I know exactly what you spent. Plus you now have to lug a blender to the wedding, and I have to lug 100lbs of small appliances and plates home.

That said, its considered bad taste to state cash (or sometimes even to mention the registry..) on an invitation in the US, apparently. So we didn't. Unfortunately.

I now get the pleasure of trying to tactfully state our preference verbally when asked if we are registered, and instructed my mother to do the same. I also have been tasked with creating a double-secret registry to give out verbally to the people who just absolutely have to buy us a physical gift.

The whole process of planning a wedding is worrying/being told about the 101 ways you are going to offend/upset people.

If you know she comes from a background that this is the norm, why are you expecting her to conform to your culture. Who's wedding is it?

So yes, you are being far too sensitive. No one is trying to offend you, in fact I promise you they are trying very hard not to offend anyone, in anyway.. and balance that against you know.. having their own wedding the way they want it... Is this the way of the future, maybe? Most couples I talk to getting married didn't want boxed gifts. I've heard of people registering, returning every single item.. and then shopping with the store credit over time.
posted by gomess at 12:01 PM on March 20, 2009 [2 favorites]

Honestly, I'm really starting to think that all weddings are just a big excuse for everyone to call each other tacky and tasteless.

No matter what they did, someone was going to find it tacky and rude. No matter what you do in response, someone is going to think it's tacky and rude. Welcome to a wedding.

You don't want to hurt the friendship, so just forget this ever happened. Let it go. As for what to actually DO for a gift? Do whatever. What I'd probably do is:

1. Did you already have something in mind that you wanted to give them? Something you picked out just for them, because you're their friend and you thought they'd like it? Then give them that.

2. If not, just give the money, forget this ever happened, and move on. Have a blast at the wedding.
posted by lampoil at 12:10 PM on March 20, 2009

gomess: Bridal registries are constructed by the bridge&groom, so they know EXACTLY how much you spend on them anyway.

Yes, but it's different. Bridal registries can be passed off as being for the convenience of the guests who would like to buy you a gift. Guests furthermore have the option of opting out of that list entirely; you can register all you like at BB&B, but you're still very likely going to get a handful of incredibly ugly vases, some wine glasses that match nothing else you own, two photos frames that are hideously ugly, and at least one object you cannot understand at all and which is clearly re-gifted.

You will have no idea how much any of those items cost (nor is it any of your business), you will not know where they are from, you will have no way to return them, and you will write a thank you note regardless. In other words, bridal registries are reasonably easy to opt out of, and leave the guest with an option to give a gift to which no value can be assigned.

Requesting money as the only option is entirely different. It establishes that you are expecting gifts, it establishes that is the only type of gift you want and anything else is less favoured, and the cost of that "gift" is by definition fully transparent. It can put enormous financial pressure on your guests to not appear cheap, and for that reason among a million others, it's unbearably rude.
posted by DarlingBri at 12:19 PM on March 20, 2009 [2 favorites]

We never saw the poem. We have one line: "We prefer gifts of money." The rest of the interpretation comes from the OP who is obviously upset. So, the implication could very well be: "We expect that you'll bring a gift, but we want cash instead of a physical thing of our choosing or your choosing." Or it could be: "We can't wait to see you at our wedding. Your presence is the important thing, but in case you feel like giving us a present, we'd prefer cash."

Maybe the poem is bad. It's customary in the society in which I grew up (New York secular Jews) to wait for people to ask about gifts instead of putting that information in with the invitation. But I also grew up to respect other cultures. They have every right to their practices and preferences (there are exceptions, but I don't see asking for cash as a human-rights breach). Maybe you'll feel embarrassed about broadcasting the dollar amount of your gift? Unless you buy a non-registry gift, the dollar amount will always be known.

I can tell you what this couple does have the right to assume: You are their friend. You care about them and their happiness. You are excited about going to their wedding. You'll probably want to bring a gift as this is customary in our society. If you do get them a gift, you'll want to get something that they will want and that will make them happy. You would be happy for your friends to live in their dream home.

If you have trouble identifying with any of the above feelings, DON'T GO.
posted by thebazilist at 12:27 PM on March 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

Also, when did "prefer" and "demand" become synonyms? Give these people a break!
posted by thebazilist at 12:30 PM on March 20, 2009

I agree with the crowd that is saying:

- Tacky. Yes.
- The tacky is in the mention of gift with the invitation, not in the preference of cash over stuff.
- Also the delivery method. Cash Solicitation Poem? *retch!*

So how do you cope? You realize that they are dealing with a new and different social reality that we've created in this new-fangled economy. Recall that wedding gift giving originates in very old (though not completely obsolete) concepts, such as "dowry." And while some principles have remained the same (helping the couple take their first steps together), the facts have changed for a good number of couples.

What happens when the traditional first steps - coffee maker, towels, place-setting - are rendered obsolete? This couple is apparently well-established and probably already cohabiting. (You mention that THEY own a condo.) And their request tends to indicate the same. They have the stuff they need, and so the first steps for them as a couple are not the first steps for a couple just starting out, moving out of mom and dad's house and beginning on their own.

You can cope with this by simply focusing on the sentiment. If you like them, and you want to help them take their first steps together as a couple, then you probably want that sentiment to be meaningful and not an empty display of affection. (You would never look at the registry, notice that there was no coffee maker listed, and decide, "THEY MUST HAVE A COFFEE MAKER AND I WILL BUY IT FOR THEM WHETHER THEY WANT IT OR NOT!) You have the information now about what will make your contribution meaningful, and you can choose to overlook its tacky method of delivery if you truly want to express your fondness for them.

Also of note:

There was a more delicate way to approach this. myregistry.com has integrated this into their registry service, permitting you to designate "funds" that appear on your registry explaining what you hope to accomplish, alongside items that you need/want that people may be interested in purchasing instead. It appears to even permit people to make "anonymous" donations, so that you know a financial contribution has been made to a specific fund - but you are not given a dollar amount associated with an guest's name. Simply setting this up and letting it speak on your behalf is a much more appropriate route.
posted by greekphilosophy at 12:31 PM on March 20, 2009 [3 favorites]

Get them a couple of rolls of Forever postage stamps and make sure you include a cutesy poem about how they can use them on the thank you cards they'll be sending to all the people who gave them all that cash.

What is it about weddings that so often causes otherwise normal, nice people to do such asinine things?
posted by imjustsaying at 12:36 PM on March 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

"To say there's no obligation to give a wedding present is to be both too literal and deaf to social conventions."

Just because you get an invite, doesn't mean automatic gift sending. It just doesn't always apply, depending on if the guest chooses to attend, and how close they are to the bride and groom.

It's become normal practice, and it's considered polite behavior, but it is never obliged - that defeats the idea of a gift. Just as in the cases mentioned - a birthday party for a child, and a dinner party, it depends on if the person can attend the event, and what their relationship is to who the event is in honor of.

In this case, I agree that a gift is probably called for, and it would be easier to just go along with what the bride and groom requested.
posted by HopperFan at 12:39 PM on March 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

thebazilist, read the original question: "There's no 'your presence is enough, but if you must' or anything like that. They just flat-out want cash from every invitee."
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 12:39 PM on March 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

As someone who has done this, (and my ex was a very un-jewish NJ jew so we fit the OP's profile pretty well) I do agree that I never would have considered putting it in the invitation, and we also had a registry for people who couldn't bring themselves to give cash or who couldn't make it. You don't mark down what everyone gave you, it's cash--you put it in a pot and send everyone the same thank you note, but I do think they could have more delicate about it.

Nevertheless if any of my friends had considered that or anything I did for my wedding rude, I would have laughed until I realized they weren't joking, and then laughed some more. So don't give a gift, who cares? None of my broke artist buddies brought anything but BO and empty stomachs and I'm pretty sure one of them stole my father-in-law's watch but we all had a great time. I love my tacky and absurd friends, but I surprisingly have very few judgmental and easily scandalized ones. Maybe it's a cultural thing?
posted by Potomac Avenue at 12:41 PM on March 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

To expect gifts is rude.

At a wedding? Is there any culture that doesn't see a wedding as an event requiring presents?
posted by CunningLinguist at 12:45 PM on March 20, 2009

At a wedding? Is there any culture that doesn't see a wedding as an event requiring presents?

In the US. It's customary, but not required.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 12:47 PM on March 20, 2009 [2 favorites]

Put a crisp bill in an envelope with a little sticker/sign for them to place in their new house.
I'd give detailed instructions about where to place it (under the sink, in the bathroom cabinet, the garage electrical panel, anywhere...).
" To __ & __, (wedding date), (your name), Cheers!"

Something like that. They gave you detailed instructions--it's only fair & fun to give them the same treatment. And in doing so they may even remember your gift from time to time.
posted by artdrectr at 12:48 PM on March 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

Uh, money gifts is par for the course and a longer standing tradition than the gift registry. Indeed folks, the wedding registery is the new idea of the last couple of decades which money is the old one… except when people were giving you know, cows and sheep to keep the new couple alive.

I do not get the animosity of some people posting above. What your friend did is *entirely* appropriate and part of the accepted protocol. Wedding are expensive, and many people go into significant debt to provide a memorable experience for people. If couples do not need another houseful of items and ask for money, that should absolutely, absolutely, absolutely be respected. Whether you find it tacky or not, many other people think it makes their gifts easier. Wait until it's your turn to plan the event, it's clearly evident that you haven't yet. If you don't want to attend, that's why they ALSO send you the RSVP card to send back.

Generally the rule is $50-$100 gift per person, depending upon your relationship to the married couple and size of wedding. Honestly, you really think this is tacky compared to making you go out to some store you would otherwise never visit to pick up brick-a-brack plates and the odd gravy bowl so that you can cobble together a sum you want to spend? Really? This is that offensive to you? Give me a break. Indeed I got married last year and did indeed not make a registry but opted instead to ask for cash or checks. I'm a 30 year old woman who has been settled with the same man for 9 years... do you think I don't already have a blender?

The rest of you suggesting rolls of stamps or debating whether a gift should be voluntary... please do the rest of us a favor and not attend any weddings… EVER.
Really? You want to be the shmuck who eats a $75 meal at a $100 single person place setting, and drink $50-$200 worth of free booze for the night and you're debating if it's worth it to give a gift because you feel obligated. Get out of the gene pool Darwin.
posted by eatdonuts at 12:51 PM on March 20, 2009 [8 favorites]

It's really really not tacky. Depends on where you're from, this is totally normal. In fact, it's kind of tacky to give gifts in NJ. Why give someone stuff they don't want or they already have when you can pay them back for throwing a huge expensive party that they invited you to?
posted by KateHasQuestions at 12:55 PM on March 20, 2009

Why give someone stuff they don't want or they already have when you can pay them back for throwing a huge expensive party that they invited you to?

Read the OP. The issue is not cash v. gifts. It's the fact that the poem was included at all. Reason enough to go without any gift.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 12:57 PM on March 20, 2009

Personally, I would never ask for cash in my wedding initiations.

If our parents were paying for a wedding, I would take that pool of money, spend the smallest amount possible on the wedding, and save the rest towards the house.

I would also vastly prefer a gift of cash to someone picking out something they think I would like, only to wind up with several/tacky crap/errands making returns/what have you.

If the first isn't possible, then how do you clearly state the second without seeming rude? It seems like a minefield. Your friends did it in a way you find rude. I'm quite sure they didn't mean to offend you.

1- You can not go. RSVP and let them know, but make up something significant, and never tell them the truth.
2- You can go, empty-handed. Personally, I would prefer my friends showed up with nothing to give me, rather than a "fuck you" gift, or not coming at all.
3- You can go and give a token gift. An unmarked envelope with a crisp 20$ inside covers you giving a gift, and also covers your anonymity and your wish to not buy into this nonsense.
4- You can go and give them the amount of cash you can afford to spend on them. This is the most kind-hearted gift by far, it is what they want, and what they will appreciate.
5- You can go and give them a "fuck you" gift, like many, many people recommended. A gift card is not cash, it is cash that can't be spent at their discretion. A physical gift isn't cash, it is either one more thing they have to move, or a whole day of their life trying to turn it into cash. A note from a charity is an office secret Santa present, not a wedding gift. If you do this, it means you are willing to do both of the following: (A) risk marring a special day in both of their lives and (B) risk alienating them as friends.
6- You can give them "joke currency" that they can't spend. This is a de facto termination of the friendship.
posted by paisley henosis at 12:59 PM on March 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

Wow, the sanctimoniousness of couples who ask for cash--and the strained ways they try to justify it--really skeeves me out. I enjoy the process of buying gifts for people. I like taking their tastes into consideration and to really think about what could make them happy--something that might surprise them, but still be useful to them. When someone gives me a carefully considered gift, I treasure it, even if (especially if) it's not something I would get for myself.

So what if it's not exactly what you want. Gifts aren't about getting exactly what you want--that's what paychecks are for. I don't have the money or the inclination to just dump cash in someone's bank account. I'd much rather spend time and thought and effort and intention on the people who mean something to me. And if you don't appreciate that, then what kind of friend are you?

Gifts aren't about you. They're about your relationship with the giver. Honestly, if I go to a wedding, it's not so I can get a fancy meal for "free"--it's so I can celebrate the happy couple. Everything else is a gift that the couple gives to the guests. Gift. No expectations or obligations or strings attached.

To OP: I would give a card with a really thoughtful gift or giftcard attached. Maybe a giftcard for a gardening center so that they can landscape their new place when they eventually move in would do.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 1:03 PM on March 20, 2009 [4 favorites]

No Pho, you're wrong. Winter holidays are about finding a gift that express your special relationship with someone.

Weddings are about helping a couple set up for their life together. You are there to celebrate their union, but the gift should have absolutely nothing to do with your tastes. You may find this offensive but someone elses' wedding should never center on you and you should be gracious enough to accept that. One day it will be your turn and will expect the same.
posted by eatdonuts at 1:13 PM on March 20, 2009 [3 favorites]

I don't get why this is a big deal. Why is this any different than including gift registry information? If you think it's tacky to ask for gifts, than only a "no gifts please" line would satisfy. Clearly they do want gifts, and they are specifying what kind they want. Clearly they don't need the traditional stand mixer/cutlery set. Also, it is traditional for alot of people to give money as a wedding gift.

The bride-to-be's parents are from a culture that google implies is more ok with this. I know her quite well, however, and she never identifies with that culture. She's certainly Westernized enough to know how this is going to come across to the guests. The ceremony is going to be in California and won't reflect her parents' culture either.

I'm not sure what this means. I don't always "identify" with my parent's culture, but it is still a part of who I am and what expectations I have in my life events. Maybe this is the norm in her family, and her aunts and cousins won't be at all shocked by this request. Also, Westernized? Really?
posted by purpletangerine at 1:16 PM on March 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

I think I could have used the word "clearly" I few more times here.
Also, "also". sigh
posted by purpletangerine at 1:18 PM on March 20, 2009

A gift is something that they enjoy.

It's not about what you want. That's not a gift.

(But lately I've been going to Japanese weddings where you only give cash. Presents would be a giant faux pas. )
posted by Ookseer at 1:22 PM on March 20, 2009

Yeah, get over it. It sounds to me like they are trying to tell you they don't want any more stuff; they know that people will want to give them a gift, so they are asking that the gift be money instead of stuff. I also think they probably thought it was cute and kind of funny to say so in a poem, failing to anticipate that it would offend some of their guests. That's the log and short of it.
posted by Kafkaesque at 1:30 PM on March 20, 2009

Crumple up the cutesy poem and throw it away. Give them whatever the normal type of gift is for your social set.
posted by The corpse in the library at 1:32 PM on March 20, 2009 [2 favorites]

artdrectr is on to something. They should handle it the way, for example, colleges and other non-profits handle some monetary gifts.

Instead of the Joe and Jane BigDonor Reading Room, attendees could request and expect, for example, the imjustsaying Garage Door Opener, with a modest appropriate plaque nearby in the new home.
posted by imjustsaying at 1:36 PM on March 20, 2009

This discussion has fascinated me for the deep cultural devide it reveals. Ask Metafilter isn't the place for debating things, but I do want to include this guide for Americans to money wedding gift customs around the world.
posted by Nelson at 1:48 PM on March 20, 2009 [2 favorites]

Tacky, maybe but practical both for the couple and the invitees.

So what do you do? Give a gift of cash, and go for a ride on your bike, or maybe take some photos, do some gardening. Life is way too short to agonize over something like this. Remember, you can not make people change their ways, not your spouse, not your friends, not your parents, and the kindest thing to do is to accept behaviours that are not hurtful. (I think breaches in etiquette apply here). Ask yourself, how long have you already spent on raging over a behaviour that was not intended to be hurtful or rude, that on the surface at least, is at most a slightly thoughtless way of expressing a preference. Don't worry about it. Have a laugh (this is what X & Y do at their wedding, how like them, isn't it fun how diverse we all are, I know Z was astounded that my parents paid for my wedding...) and have a good day. Don't worry, be happy.
posted by b33j at 1:49 PM on March 20, 2009 [4 favorites]

Just a couple of things here. Asking for presents in a wedding invite is not necessarily part of accepted protocol and asking for money on an invite certainly isn't. Of course you should give something when going to a wedding, but a lot of people find that saying anything about gifts on an invite is tacky, a cutesy poem about how you only want cash even more so. So this isn't really about money, it's about asking for presents on an invite compounded with the fact that money is being asked for in the form of a poem. That's tacky.

Things aren't as clear cut as some people are saying. I've been to plenty of weddings in NJ where money and presents were given, and I've been to many an Irish-American wedding where money and presents were given, so the immigrants-to-the-north-east thing doesn't necessarily apply unless you're being more specific about what immigrant culture you mean. FWIW, weddings that I've been to in several countries have had a mix of presents and money. In a few places family give money and friends give gifts.

That having been said, your friends are your friends and we all annoy others at some point. Give them what they want.
posted by ob at 1:53 PM on March 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

What a polarizing question!

I think that suggesting cash is a touch tacky, but nowhere near as tacky as the suggestions to give them gifts out of spite. Jesus.

Dear AskMe:

I am stuck for what to get my wife for our third anniversary. Emily Post tells me the third anniversary is traditionally leather, but she is a vegan! Would a watch be appropriate? -- richochet biscuit

RB: She should suck it up. Get her a nice pair of calfskin gloves.

People starting a new life together could probably make more use of some coin than a fifth toaster. For what it's worth, I've always found registries pretty much the same thing as when, at age eight, I would give out Christmas lists that dictated what page in the which catalogue the toys were on because I didn't want anyone giving me toys I didn't want!
posted by ricochet biscuit at 1:55 PM on March 20, 2009

amro: "Uh, yeah, you are obligated to give a wedding gift."

Absolutely not. You are never required to give a gift.

I skipped a baby shower which provided a registry, in addition to that asked you to bring your favorite childhood books for the new baby's library, and on top of that required a bag of diapers to be entered into the door prize drawing.
posted by IndigoRain at 2:07 PM on March 20, 2009

When someone invites me to their wedding, it usually means that I stand outside in the hot sun wearing formal clothes, make awkward small talk with people I've never met before and will never talk to again, eat mediocre food and disgusting fondant-covered cake, and listen to a lot of boring speeches. It's like a perfect storm of things that I would otherwise go out of my way to avoid. But when it's someone I care about, I suck it up and go and pretend that I'm having a good time, because it's the bride and groom's day, they wanted me there, and I want them to be happy. It's worth it to me.

Are the OP's friends such lousy friends that it's not worth it to overlook an etiquette breach?
posted by creepygirl at 2:13 PM on March 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

Not at all tacky, and you are overreacting (assuming this was more of a "no gifts are required, but if you must bring something we prefer cash to material objects"). That's what I'll be doing for my wedding if/when such an event occurs. It's the gift registries that have always struck me as incredibly tacky.

If the issue is having a record of how much $$ each person gave, why can't the gifts be cash, no checks or gift cards, in unmarked envelopes?
posted by Fin Azvandi at 2:35 PM on March 20, 2009

There are plenty of cultures worldwide where money is known to be the preferred (and expected) gift. If your friends are part of such a culture, then write them a check, go the wedding, and have a great time.

As a rule, however, the US is not one of those cultures.

The etiquette rule in the US is simple: someone gives you a gift because they want to, not because they have to.

In the US, it is the height of rudeness to dictate to your guests what (if anything) the must give you for a wedding gift. And there's good reasons for that.

First, it opens the door to more presumptions, specifically from the guests. If it's okay for the couple to dictate what the guests should give, then maybe it's okay for the guests to demand the return of those gifts if the couple divorces, say, less than five years later. If it's okay for the couple to insist on cash because they want to buy a house, then maybe it's okay for the guests to demand that they scale back the size of their wedding, rather than start life together with such a large expense, and put the saved money towards the house. My personal rule is that if the bride demands money as a gift, she gets it only if I get to sleep with her fiance. Make demands on people, and pretty soon you'll have a hard time explaining why they shouldn't make demands on you.

Another reason is simply courtesy to your guests: someone you might want at your wedding, a cherished friend or relative, might not be able to afford to give you cash, however much they'd like to. (An item known to be desired by the couple can at least be bargain-shopped for, or perhaps put in layaway, or otherwise acquired via means not harmful to a small budget). Insisting on cash can cause undue embarrasment to someone you care about.

Too many Americans use weddings as an excuse to shake down friends and relatives for dream items, and even worse they have the nerve to become indignant when the guests are offended. It started when department stores convinced engaged couples that a registry was an acceptable compromise for demanding gifts and continues unabated, to where the average wedding in the US costs nearly $30K USD.

A wedding is not a game show you're getting gifts not prizes, and the guests are not Monty Haul. Weddings are about two people and two families coming together, and the guests are they presumably because the couple loves them and wants them there to celebrate the occasion, not because they can afford the price of admission.

I like cash as a gift, I recommend it as a gift, and goodness knows I've given it as a gift many times. But being told by the recipient that cash is what I ought to give them? If it's all right for them to do that, perhaps I can ask them to make my car payment when my birthday rolls around.
posted by magstheaxe at 2:39 PM on March 20, 2009 [2 favorites]

Sub-question, since some of you are going to answer it anyway: Am I being too sensitive? Is this the way of the future? Should I just accept that some weddings are pay-at-the-door?

I've been thinking about your sub-question for the better part of the last two hours. For the weddings that I have attended (and the one that I had for myself), the dos and don'ts are generally determined by many factors; among them, family history, family influence, personal taste, and third-party advice and experiences. Likely the couple or family believe it's perfectly fine to explicitly request cash. Or, if it was the couple's idea and the family also thinks it's tacky, it's obviously too late to retrieve all the invitations and issue new ones, and the couple will have to live with their decision.

Does this decision suddenly mean they are lesser people? Does it signify that they are no longer worthy of your precious time and attention? Does it mean that any bid on a future home should immediately be denied because they had the gall to request cash? Somehow I don't think that's what you really feel.

I think that what it really boils down to is this; there is no one way to hold a wedding or wedding reception. Despite the Miss Manners articles, online forums, do-it-yourself books, and wedding magazines, the only thing that really matters is the couple and their families. There isn't a fixed rule or formula that weddings have to be performed a certain way, that receptions have to follow a set program, or that gifts have to be a certain type. Yes, gifts of appliances or linens are usually given, but it's usually because the couple does not have any to begin their new family with. The poem describes that they don't need such gifts, so why give them something they don't need?

I don't think it's the way of the future, and I don't think it necessarily means weddings have admission fees. I think it's just that this is how this particular wedding is being handled, and many more just like it are going on elsewhere. This particular couple, your friends, want to have their wedding this way, and whether it's forced upon them from family or of their own personal volition, it's not up to us to determine whether or not it's right or wrong.

The only rule I can see is that everyone (guests, vendors, staff) respect the wishes of the couple and the courtesy of their families. I feel to do otherwise would reflect poorly upon myself as an invited guest and attendee. If a friend wants to have a wedding in shorts and a tank-top, lounging around a barbecue with cans of beer, I'm not going to belabor their choice, even if I wouldn't do the same. If a friend requests cash on the invitation, I'm not going to pass judgement, except to decide whether to pick out a nice eloquent card or handwrite one myself.

One gift suggestion I have, if you are truly intent on not honoring the couple's request, is a large shadowbox or picture frame. You don't have to bring it to the wedding or reception, but please bring a card, written within your hopes that they enjoy the gift (and state what gift so they know it was from you; sometimes couples want to include the specific item in their thank-yous). I don't know if they already have something similar, but maybe they could use it to hang one of their wedding photos.
posted by CancerMan at 2:40 PM on March 20, 2009

...is not even a fraction of the sanctimony of some of their detractors.

Because I prefer to spend my time giving careful consideration to a present rather than giving cash? Seriously, there are people on this thread who have suggested that if they don't give the recipient exactly what they ask for then they shouldn't breed. If a wedding gift is for starting a household, then wedding gifts needn't be given in a situation where a household is already established. Obviously, this isn't how wedding gifts are being used anymore. I prefer to give wedding gifts that are, like any gifts I give, thoughtful reflections on my relationship with the other person. Their wedding might not be about me, but the gift that I'm choosing to give them out of warm feelings of celebration about their union are going to reflect that. Then again, while, like ricochet biscuit I would write a x-mas list around Christmas, I wouldn't get only the gifts that were on my Christmas list, but I was still expected to graciously accept those gifts I hadn't asked for (and write thank-you notes for them!). Hopefully OP's friends, as adults, will have the grace to do the same.

OP, I really think you should give whatever gift you feel most comfortable giving. I wouldn't do anything passive aggressive, but if you really don't feel comfortable giving cash, don't. Follow whatever process you would normally and get your friends a gift that you think would be meaningful to both of you. I'd do my best to put their lapse in etiquette behind you and foster good feelings regardless; if giving money is going to make you feel crappy about your friendship with them, don't do it.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 2:49 PM on March 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

This happened (including the poem) at the last three weddings I've been to. I didn't bat an eyelid. Beats me having to walk around the stores looking for something neither of us are entirely happy with, having to wrap it and lug it around. One got a honeymoon, the other two got a deposit for a house. Seems to be common in pretty much every culture in the world except mine - pinning money to the bride's dress and all that.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 3:15 PM on March 20, 2009

If they are your friends why wouldn't you just just do as they've requested? Why give them a gift they don't want or do something else out of spite? In the grand scheme of things this is a silly thing to get bent out of shape over. Help them celebrate their wedding and wish them well.
posted by Wendy BD at 3:26 PM on March 20, 2009

obiwanwasabi could you summarize or quote the poems that you got? I think everyone having a rough time understanding what this would look like exactly and how demanding they might be.

posted by PhoBWanKenobi
posted by obiwanwasabi


posted by Potomac Avenue at 3:29 PM on March 20, 2009 [3 favorites]

If you are literally choking on your own rage over this, you are totally overreacting and need to get some perspective. The invitation says they would "prefer" to receive money - give them what they want, give them a gift you've specially chosen, or give nothing at all, but don't be a dick about it (ie/ give a bitchy passive-aggressive gift such as an etiquette book). You either like this person or don't, and so you want them to either enjoy their wedding or want to make a big statement about how it's all about you and how you're so offended by your perception of their lack of tact and probably lose the friendship. It's really not that hard, and only you can choose which way you want this to go.

I really think you should take a deep breath, maybe sleep on it before making a decision, though. Don't make a decision while you're choking with rage, as that's your issue and not at all fair to your friend.
posted by goo at 3:40 PM on March 20, 2009

For those wondering what the poems might say, here's a selection from Yahoo Answers.

Poems 4 Money instead of Gifts

So what do you get
For the Bride and Groom
Whose house has things
In every room?

When shopping for a present
Please, don't be rash
As the option is there
to just give cash

We hope that you don't find
Our request to be funny
But the decision is yours
To buy a present, or just give money

Now you have the choice
Please do not fuss
the most important thing of all
Is that you come and celebrate with us!


Our worldly possessions are plentiful as such,
On our wedding present list there really isn't much,
A gift of currency is all we ask, To help us on our lifelong task

We've been together a few years now;
We have pots and pans and linen and towels;
We have glasses and toasters, really quite a few;
So instead of more gifts, we suggest this to you;
If it doesn't offend and it won't send you running;
What we would really appreciate is quite simply money

"If you were thinking of giving a gift, to help us on our way.
A gift of cash towards our house, would really make our day.
However, if you prefer to purchase a gift, feel free to surprise us in your own way.

An Ode to the Gift List

In a wedding invitation,
You usually find some lists,
For venues, menus and hotels,
And also for the gifts

But this one is unusual,
It comes in a different way,
As we're not asking for presents,
But for something else today

Now please don't think we're selfish,
Or that this comes from greed,
But we've lived together for a while,
So there's not that much we need

We would appreciate help though,
To send us on our way,
And allow us to have our honeymoon,
In a land quite far away

So now the point of all this rhyme,
The thing that we would like,
Isn't towels, toasters or microwaves,
But pounds and pence alike

And now you know the reason,
Behind this cheeky accord,
Please help to give us memories,
Of a dream honeymoon abroad

(Asking for money, but you could revamp it for your honeymoon money) Not a poem.

You being there to share our special day with us is the best gift we could receive. However, some people have expressed a wish to buy us a present to mark the occasion.
We do not expect anything, but if anyone wishes to give us a gift, then a monetary donation to our home renovation project would be gratefully received, as we have already accumulated most things that we would put on a wedding list.

Because at first we lived in sin
We've got the sheets and a rubbish bin
A gift from you would be swell
But we'd prefer a donation to our Wishing Well!!

More than just kisses so far we've shared,
Our home has been made with Love and Care,
Most things we need we've already got,
And in our home we can't fit a lot!
A wishing well we thought would be great,
(But only if you wish to participate),
A gift of money is placed in the well,
Then make a wish .... but shhh don't tell!
Once we've replaced the old with the new,
We can look back and say it was thanks to you!
And in return for your kindness, we're sure
That one day soon you will get what you wished for.


For a couple of years we’ve lived in sin,
we have a toaster, a kettle and a stainless steel bin,
saucepans and towels we have many,
corkscrews and flannels we don’t need any,
we just want you with us to celebrate our day,
but if you insist on a gift anyway,
What we’d really like is a gift of money,
we hope you don’t think we’re being funny!
We’ll put it all together and buy something that’s best,
as a reminder of our day and our wonderful guests!

Liz & Paul’s possessions are plentiful as such,
On their wedding present list there isn’t really much.
So please consider our request, but do not take it wrong,
On this special day, the day they’ll be wed,
There’s a register for gifts, or give money instead.


'As everyone is aware, we both have a home so gifts are not needed but if anyone feels the need to give anything then a couple of pennies would be very appreciated. Please don't feel obliged to give cash as we are more than happy that you will be here to join us on our happy day'

We know it's not traditional
It's not the way it's done
But instead of a wedding list
We'd like a bit of sun.

Please do not think of us as rude
Please do not take offence
We do not want to upset you
That's not the way it's meant.

We've lived together quite a while
And all the bills are paid
We've got our plates, our pots and pans
Our plans have all been made.

So if you'd like to give a gift
To help us celebrate
Some money for a honeymoon
We would appreciate


We are sending out this invitation,
And hope you will join our celebration.
If to send a gift is your intention,
In modesty we would like to mention,
We have already got a kettle and a toaster,
Crockery, dinner mats and coasters,
So rather than something we have already got,
Please give us money for our saving pot.
But, most importantly, we request,
That you turn up as our wedding guest


We live together and have everything we need but if you wish a monetary gift will be gratefully received.






We are sending out this invitation
In hope you will join a celebration
But if a gift is your intention
May we take this opportunity to mention
We have already got a kettle and toaster
crockery, dinner mats, and matching coasters
so rather than something we have already got
We would appreciate money for our honeymoon pot
But most importantly we request
That you come to our wedding as our guest


To celebrate our wedding you may wish to buy us presents
However this is not required, all we want is your presence
If you insist, we must admit, some money would be great
To help us do some home improvements at a later date.
If you still feel the need, to get us a small token,
We have a small Argos gift list, or
We would appreciate vouchers for any shop that's open
Regardless of which choice you make, all we would like to say,
is come along and have some fun, on this our special day.


We would prefer your wedding presence
rather than your wedding presents
but if you really do insist
then please visit debenhams for our gift list

We haven't got a gift list, for all of you to see,
Because as you all know we never can agree!
But if you'd like to help us, start our married life,
cash or high street vouchers, would save a lot of strife


We hope that you will come along
On this special day,
To celebrate our union
In a very special way.
Together we have been for a while now,
We collected all our household goods
Before we took our Vows.
To make it easy for you
And avoid the shopping hell,
We thought that we would have
A little 'Money Well'.
So please don't be offended at our request,
Just seal it in this envelope
And come and be our guest.


We have most of the things we need
Like a kettle and two toasters,
We have two different crockery sets
With dinner plates and coasters,
Pots and pans, knives and forks
A chopping board for cheese,
If you would like to give us a gift
We would like the money please!


The wedding has come, its here at last
what present shall I get? I hear you ask
a set of glasses, towels or a toaster,
vases, plates or even some coasters.
these things we already have in our nest
so if we may we'd like to suggest
a gift of money would be best.
we know reading this some may be offended
we hope your not as this wasn't intended
but the life we have we hope you agree
means being honest with you is the best way to be.
So please don't think we are being funny,
If we say "can we just have money"?

We haven't got a wedding list,
the reason we'll explain,
is to save you all the hassle as shopping is a pain,

We've been together for a while,
And have most things we need,
John Lewis vouchers, cash or cheque will be gratefully received,

So, if you'd like to contribute,
to our soft & cosy rooms,
Our heartfelt thanks go out to you
-with love the bride & groom
posted by b33j at 3:51 PM on March 20, 2009

But the decision is yours
To buy a present, or just give money

I can think of a third option.
posted by The corpse in the library at 3:54 PM on March 20, 2009 [3 favorites]

You are not being overly sensitive.

You thought you were receiving an invitation to a wedding but it turned out to be an invitation to a fundraiser.
posted by CarolynG at 3:55 PM on March 20, 2009 [3 favorites]

WOW ..... very strong feelings in all directions on this one... that might indicate that this is not so much a breach of etiquette as it is something that your friends see differently than you do. Certainly there is enough evidence in this thread to cut them some slack here.

You mentioned that The bride-to-be's parents are from a culture that google implies is more ok with this. so while she may not identify so much with that culture her basic feelings on it would not lead her to see it as a gross affront to the sensitivities of her guests.

As they are your friends, don't do something that is distasteful to you, they would likely not want a gift of any kind given grudgingly. So don't give money if it offends you but as has been said already passive aggressive, snide gifts are inappropriate for a day of celebration.

I hope you can go and just enjoy the day with them.
posted by Weaslegirl at 4:22 PM on March 20, 2009

Preferring to receive cash over gifts? Not tacky, and probably far more sensible in the long run, especially with all the current financial crap going on these days.

Specifically asking for cash with a cheesy poem, on the wedding invite itself? Really tacky. Really. Even I, a gleeful nose-picker and open-mouthed chewer, can tell it is tacky.

What they want is not wrong; it's the way they went about expressing themselves that was unwise. If you truly feel uncomfortable with the idea of an envelope of cold, impersonal cash, make them a kindergarden-style cigar box covered with macaroni art and glitter glue. Stick the cash in there. If you have a few beers before getting crafty, everyone wins.
posted by elizardbits at 4:29 PM on March 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

I think it's much more rude to give someone something they don't want simply because you don't feel comfortable about it. Gifts are about giving.

Considering how much older people are these days getting married, I'd presume that asking for cash will be an increasingly common thing. Wedding gifts are supposed to be practical, anyway, and cash is an exceedingly practical gift.
posted by timoni at 4:35 PM on March 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

I don't think you're being oversensitive; to me, this is really rude. However, it's their wedding, so I think you should just get over it, be the bigger person, and do what they ask. Weddings are not the place for snark, tempting though I'm sure it is. Anyway, the best gift is the one chosen becuase the recipient will love it, not becuase it's what the donor wants to give. In this case, you know what will bring them the most happiness, so you should follow that; the fact that it was tackily demanded doesn't really change things.

I do kind of like the idea of getting it for them in a foreign currency though. Part of the fun that they're missing out on by taking this route is surprises. Swiss francs are very pretty. If you miss the idea of getting to choose a gift and wrap it nicely, Australian (and New Zealand) dollars are plastic, so maybe you could present it in some kind of fun way, like in a pretty bottle filled with water and some gold dust or something.

Also, they said prefer, so if there's some gift that you have in mind that that you think they'll really love, I think it's totally ok to go with that. After all, if you're giving the gift, you get to choose.
posted by Emilyisnow at 4:38 PM on March 20, 2009

I can not believe the indignation this act has caused, and this comes from someone who watches to see if you scoop your soup from front-to-back or back-to-front you uncouth bastards. ;) TPS kind of framed it well. It broke the unwritten rules, but they are friends, young and really how much sleep should you lose over this? The people who say gifts are totally optional at weddings are living in the last century, or two. If you show up with no gift you are ten times more rude than this couple, unless you are some sort of economic sad sack. So everyone is going to bring a gift and they are trying to tell you what kind of gift they prefer, you know like when you ask someone what kind of gift they would like. I know that the form factor here is all wrong, making their little poem kind of rude, but choking on rage is far, far more uncouth than anything this poor young couple has committed. If they are your friends you swallow your indignation and forget about their indiscretion. This is what friends do. If all our friends must be perfect, we won't have many of them.
posted by caddis at 5:29 PM on March 20, 2009

I'm another person amazed how upsetting this is to some people. The poems are a little weird, but... whatever, wedding invites are kind of weird all around, with all the random rules (parents announcing etc) and fakey fancy engraving and so on. But, this:

If you get gifts, unless you are insane, you probably aren't going to go find out how much the toaster and the spatula and the towels were

is completely false, as noted above, since almost every wedding has a registry, and if that isn't announced on the invite, then I don't remember how I generally find out about it - must be announced by some other piece of mail or something? But it gets announced, because I am not organized enough to be calling someone's parents to ask for such details, and I still manage to pick a couple things that add up to what seems reasonable for me to spend... And since the couple made the registry, they know exactly what I spent on them.

The only way you can claim it's different is if the guest manages to buy something that happens to resonate personally (get the toaster because you used to always eat cinnamon toast with the bride when you were roommates, or get the yellow towels because yellow is your favorite color or.. well, i dunno how you can make spatulas personal, but, you get the idea.) Still, that assumes you can find some suitable connection like that, and even if you do, that the couple notices or remembers.

Money is less personal, but not much less when the other normal option (and both seem pretty normal to me) is buying pre-approved presents. And if gift cards and charity donations are acceptable, then why is cash to the person not? Those say just as bluntly how much the gift-giver spent. It seems to have something more to do with wanting to influence the couple through the gift, than with being discrete about what was spent.
posted by mdn at 7:12 PM on March 20, 2009

And if gift cards and charity donations are acceptable, then why is cash to the person not?

Many people think that gift cards or charity donations are not acceptable gifts either.
posted by grouse at 11:43 PM on March 20, 2009

@anansi As a southern black woman who's been to several southern black weddings in her lifetime, from Atlanta to Louisville, with both poor and wealthy couples, I have no idea where you're getting that information from.

Among the blacks I know, the money dance is considered on a par with pimping, with the added embarrassment of doing it to the poor woman on her wedding day. (There really is a resemblance between the two activities, if you think about it--a money dance essentially consists of the groom saying "Hey guys, you can't sleep with her, but for the right price you can do the next best thing!").
posted by magstheaxe at 6:18 AM on March 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

So is THAT what the Catholics on my street are doing twice a year when they solemnly parade a holy icon up and down the block, pinning dollars to her? Good thing I can see it through your eyes now.
Again, people: different people have different customs. Just because their rituals are different from yours doesn't make them"tacky" or "disgusting" or "appalling."
posted by CunningLinguist at 8:06 AM on March 21, 2009

Coming back to say:

Okay, you've had the singular pleasure of feeling polite outrage. Ooooh, it tingles!

Now allow yourself the even greater pleasure of overcoming your outrage (whether it's justified or not hardly matters for the moment) and showing yourself to be a gracious friend.

As someone who is currently planning a wedding, I will say: no matter how old or adult they are, no matter how independent or traditional the wedding, I guarantee that your friends are getting advice of all sorts from all sides. They are also getting grief and complaints from all sides.

I, too, would be initially appalled by this request. And I would find a way to get past that feeling. As you can see from the almost-200 responses above, there's no concensus on this question, and whatever the couple does, they run the risk of offending someone. People get louder and louder about these supposed offenses as the date draws near. (Remember what I said about weddings making people completely bugnuts crazy? I'm not just talking about the couple and the families.)

So what it the best gift you can give your friends? Give them your friendship. Now is the time to be as gracious as you can be, even if in your view they've committed an appalling faux pas. Be the friend who doesn't have a complaint or a piece of advice or a superior attitude. Be the person who is unreservedly happy for them.

The best thing you can do for them is to find a way, any way, to swallow whatever ill feeling you may have and find a way to celebrate with them wholeheartedly. Give them a gift* you can give with love and without reservations.

If you cannot reasonably do this, send your regrets and your best wishes, and stay home. If you cannot celebrate with them, you cannot in good conscience accept their hospitality.

*In practical terms, I'd like to revisit my suggestion above and say: if you decide to give a modest material object along with a modest gift of money, consider making the material thing a consumable. If they're winelovers, make it a bottle of wine; a certificate for their neighborhood bistro; a box of the finest chocolates; a homemade batch of cookies along with the recipe.

Your friends have expressed a desire not to accumulate more objects, and it would be kind to respect that wish. Indeed, you could in good conscience skip the cash gift, if you feel you must, and only give them the consumable. A gift can be a token.

posted by Elsa at 9:15 AM on March 21, 2009 [8 favorites]

I once received an invite to a wedding that was purple. Why did they make the invitation purple and yellow? I hate the colours purple and yellow together. And what is with this butterfly on the invite? Don't they know that makes me think of Nabokov which makes me think of Lolita which makes me think of Humbert Humbert which of course means PAEDOPHILES. God that is just so tacky, I could see this marriage wouldn't last. I totally didn't go.

The money issue is a total derail. This thread is a demonstration of how easily offended people are by your wedding no matter what you do. The point of this wedding invitation was to invite you to their wedding, not to upset you with some tacky request for money.

If you are constantly having issues with this couple because of their insensitivity about money related issues, pick another time and another less personal for them instance to raise it.

If you want to be graceful, you want to be there for your mate, then do so and chalk it up to experience. Follow some of the nicer suggestions in this thread. (The cranes thing sounds nice to me but who knows they might get offended by it. )
posted by BAKERSFIELD! at 2:20 PM on March 21, 2009

It's definitely tacky (and to the people saying, "but what about registries?" - putting info about your registry in your invitation is also tacky, sorry). That said, would it really kill you to just give them the money and be done with it?
posted by naoko at 2:31 PM on March 21, 2009

Hideously tacky. It is not tacky to prefer money as a gift, it is not tacky to give money as a gift, but it is indeed tacky to make any mention of gift expectations on an invitation.
posted by lalex at 2:35 PM on March 21, 2009

"But *I* am offended!"

"But *I* love deciding what people want!"

"But it makes *me* feel good!"

Get over yourselves. They didn't say gifts were required. They just stated a preference. It's their party. You are an invited guest. It's not about you. The act of gift giving ISN'T ABOUT YOU!! It is about GIVING something that the RECIPIENT would enjoy/appreciate/cherish. It's the thought that counts- and I know exactly where I stand when someone gives me a gift that clearly meant more to them that it ever could to me. It shows that this person is so vain and full of themselves that they couldn't for one moment, even under the guise of being generous, think of someone else. It's like giving a Jewish person a rosary for their birthday.

I guess I'm the weirdo, but I think it's NICE when my friends have a preference and they share it with me. "Hey, instead of making you read my mind, here's what I'm thinking." I want to make my friends happy. I want to give them something they'd like.

Whenever I see someone get offended because the world didn't follow their rules, I feel sad inside. How miserable must it be to be these people, or to love these people, when we are constantly failing to meet their standards.
posted by gjc at 3:50 PM on March 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

Sounds like a clash between Guess and Ask Culture. I'm from G.C. so requests for money or information about gift registries in invitations get my back up too. I think the answer for any future brides and grooms is to divide your guest list into the two culture groups and tailor your invitations accordingly.
posted by saucysault at 4:27 PM on March 21, 2009

Many people think that gift cards or charity donations are not acceptable gifts either.

Sure, everyone differs on what is appropriate, but many people suggested or favorited comments that suggested charity donations instead of a check to the couple.

Gift giving has gotten kind of weird in general, though, with the recipient having so much to say about what they want - even for birthdays etc, many people rely on Amazon wishlists or the like, and while wedding registries were supposedly once only meant to provide a sense of the couple's tastes to the extended family, they have certainly become like wishlists, where people can just point & click and be done with it. Giftcards also seem increasingly common.

Basically, the simple mass production and internet availability of pretty much everything means that even if you hand-pick something, it is unlikely to be really unique or something the recipient couldn't have gotten for themselves if they had wanted it. So what's the point of picking it out for them? At one time it would have been because you were in a different place, came across something they wouldn't have, but that you thought they would like. But now they can probably find it on eBay anyway...

So it's kinda come down to money anyway, unless you are going to make something yourself, or really have an inside track, or a great idea that you don't think the recipient will have thought to seek out but will love.

Is it rude to be straight-up about this? Reading other threads that seem related, it's clear people are often offended. Personally, I would not lose any sleep over it one way or the other, but etiquette isn't something you can really argue about. People who find it rude will simply find it rude... (and with so many different cultures mixing these days, almost anything will be rude to someone.)
posted by mdn at 7:17 PM on March 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

Addendum to what I said above: rise above it. Your friend's gaucheness doesn't excuse snarky presents on your end. It's not about you, so if money is what (they think) they need, be a good friend and pony up some cash (deciding how much is, unfortunately, kind of awkward). They get what they want, and you get to keep your dignity by not being catty -- it's a win-win. Plus, unless you don't see this marriage lasting, it's kind of too late for you to try to teach them wedding etiquette.
posted by naoko at 8:38 PM on March 21, 2009

@anansi As a southern black woman who's been to several southern black weddings in her lifetime, from Atlanta to Louisville, with both poor and wealthy couples, I have no idea where you're getting that information from.

As a black man who's also been to several black weddings and additionally studies African and Diaspora cultures for a living, I assure you that the connection is there. It may not be omnipresent, as AA culture is not monolithic, however it has deep roots. And just 'cause you haven't seen it does not invalidate it.

The association with pimping is unfortunate and all to often a social/class division. Just as various Africanisms (the blues, jazz, etc.) were demonized by certain classes of AA for being lowclass, this is yet another example.
posted by anansi at 10:39 PM on March 21, 2009

In fact, magstheaxe, here it is in context during a Nigerian (Yoruban) ceremony:
Spraying money

The money is often associated with ashe within Yoruban cosmology. As one of the last African ethnic groups to be brought to the Americas, Yoruban culture is more fresh in the historical memory and tends to dominate AA Africanisms
posted by anansi at 10:52 PM on March 21, 2009

Confederate money.
posted by forrestal at 10:26 AM on March 25, 2009

SO damn tacky. Wanting money isn't tacky. Not registering so you'll get money isn't tacky, either. But including ANY information about gifts on an invitation is just so gauche unless you are deeply ensconced in one of the cultures that considers this okay. Californians do not count.

The graceful way out, however, is to hold your tongue. Get a gift or don't, but as Miss Manners would tell you, pointing out an etiquette faux pas is in and of itself an etiquette faux pas!
posted by Never teh Bride at 9:50 AM on June 10, 2009 [1 favorite]

When I got engaged I wanted to tell people we were registered at the US Mint and preferred something from the Jackson or Grant line.

My fiancee said no.
posted by Mick at 11:00 AM on June 10, 2009 [1 favorite]

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