What is a good / lucky amount of money to give at a Chinese wedding?
March 2, 2012 9:21 AM   Subscribe

I am attending a wedding reception for two casual friends on Saturday. They are both Taiwanese (well Taiwanese but ethnically Chinese if that makes a difference) and I wondered what is a suitable amount of money to give?

I usually buy wedding gifts in the 100 dollar range, so would 100 dollars be appropriate? Another friend gave me a pack of red envelopes to use, but should I put in 98 dollars for luck? Does it matter how many actual bills are in the envelope?

The wedding took place at city hall a few months ago and this will be a celebratory dinner at a restaurant in Brooklyn (not a banquet). I will be attending solo and the couple are paying for the meal.

Let me know if any more details are needed.
posted by Julnyes to Society & Culture (19 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
$100 is perfectly fine. Use as few bills as possible, i.e. 1x $100 or 2x $50. Don't give $98...too many bills.

Use freshly minted bills...you will have to make a special trip to the bank to obtain them. Bank branches in Chinatown always have me on hand precisely for this purpose...in fact they all know that they have to stock up around Cinese New Year. Don't fold them (no crease!)
posted by wutangclan at 9:37 AM on March 2, 2012

Have THEM (not me) on hand. Stupid iOS autocorrect!
posted by wutangclan at 9:38 AM on March 2, 2012

Thanks for the info wutangclan. Two problems however:

1. I only have ebanking accounts - no teller service, are older bills a huge no-no?
2. The red envelope I was given would require me to fold the cash, also a deal breaker?

A solution would be to get someone else to withdraw a new 100 dollar bill and I give them the cash (easy enough) and then I can find a large enough red envelope to hold the money unfolded I guess.
posted by Julnyes at 9:52 AM on March 2, 2012

are older bills a huge no-no?

Absolute no-no.

The red envelope I was given would require me to fold the cash

That's not as big of a deal. Use as few folds as possible.
posted by wutangclan at 9:58 AM on March 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

You could also try going to a bank with your $100 cash and just asking to exchange it for a new bill. I don't know of there'd be a fee for that.
posted by jacalata at 10:02 AM on March 2, 2012

Also, eights are very auspicious. So $88 might be better than $100.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 10:05 AM on March 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

The red envelope I was given would require me to fold the cash

BTW, most larger banks are wise to the Chinese red envelope tradition, and will give them to you for free (coz they're branded with the bank's logo). They will usually give you envelopes sized exactly to hold bills without having to fold them.

Also, eights are very auspicious. So $88 might be better than $100.

Nobody...well, nobody Chinese does this. There is a time and a place for it, and red envelopes is not one of them.
posted by wutangclan at 10:08 AM on March 2, 2012 [5 favorites]

The advice here to give a fresh, unfolded, $100 bill is consistent with what happens in my Chinese family. However, I've also received red envelopes with money that was old or folded, and it really wasn't a big deal. In fact, even within my family, sometimes we just give a check.

Especially since your friends have been living abroad, and you are not Chinese, I think it would be very hard to offend someone by giving red envelopes the "wrong" way. But its really thoughtful of you to put in the extra effort.
posted by tinymegalo at 10:28 AM on March 2, 2012

Also, eights are very auspicious. So $88 might be better than $100.

Financial gifts or transactions is pretty much one of those times where this is pretty much irrelevant for Chinese people. :)
posted by sawdustbear at 10:29 AM on March 2, 2012

Financial gifts or transactions is pretty much one of those times where this is pretty much irrelevant for Chinese people. :)

I have to agree. $88 might be "lucky," but $100 is still more money.
posted by asnider at 10:39 AM on March 2, 2012

Asian-American who was recently married. $98 is a perfectly fine replacement for $100 (always prospering), as is $128 if you don't want to give less than $100. $100 is also fine.

A check is totally fine, and the couple will send a mental blessing your way when/if they sit down to do thank you cards, because it's so, so much easier to make sure that your name and address are right.
posted by joyceanmachine at 10:40 AM on March 2, 2012

Nthing the okayness of giving checks as wedding gifts.
posted by mild deer at 10:45 AM on March 2, 2012

Look, here's the thing. $100 is the appropriate amount these days between friends, but it is a modest amount compared to what they will be receiving from relatives. Therefore, I believe that the aesthetic presentation of your monetary gift is important. Take short cuts if you have to (they won't be offended), but put in the extra effort if you can (they will notice and appreciate it).
posted by wutangclan at 11:01 AM on March 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

FWIW, I don't think the small red envelopes are appropriate for a wedding. Find the larger sizes ones.

Also, you may want to write a check - it's a little more personal, and they can track where all the money came from (and has your address to send a thank you card).
posted by wongcorgi at 11:05 AM on March 2, 2012

$100 in bill form, in a bigger bill-sized envelope. Cash is always preferred. If they are a younger couple, you can do like 5x$20 or 2x$50. When I got smaller bills it was weird, but I kind of appreciated it because it gave me some pocket cash. But a $100 will stay on the safe side.

You can put the red envelop in a wedding card if you like, with a message.

There is no lucky amount (well, maybe if you want to go up to $800); the fact that you are putting the money into the traditional red envelope is what counts.

(Also, being Taiwanese but ethnically Chinese does make a difference in a lot of things, but I'm not sure it does in this instance.)
posted by jabberjaw at 11:15 AM on March 2, 2012

I always make an effort to put fresh $100s into red envelopes, but frankly, it's not important. When we got married, I didn't judge or even remember those who gave me 5x20 or a dirty 100 or a cheque or whatever. Didn't have a single person do $xx8 and I was happy about that because it made things easier logistically to add things up. Don't worry about it - you won't be judged by the cleanliness of your money.
posted by ajackson at 12:10 PM on March 2, 2012

Thanks for all the advice. So, I have a friend exchanging my cruddy 20s for some new money at their bank. I am going to hit Chinatown after work to find a more appropriately sized red envelope (any store suggestions?)

If all my plans fails, I am glad to see that they will appreciate my clumsy efforts.
posted by Julnyes at 1:01 PM on March 2, 2012

If you receive less than new bills, you can always iron them with a high steam setting. It does a pretty good job of making them crisp.
posted by Mercaptan at 6:21 AM on March 3, 2012

Found a small shop on Mott Street for a proper sized envelope and placed the newest $100 bill I could get in the envelope.

Thanks for the help. The dinner was lovely and the couple was pleasantly surprised I went the extra step.
posted by Julnyes at 10:02 AM on March 5, 2012

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