Giving Individualized Future Travel
September 25, 2012 6:08 PM   Subscribe

My friend is getting married and has requested that instead of a present wedding attendees give money to facilitate post wedding travel. I would like to give them some travel related gift other than money. Is this wrong?

My friend and his wife live in Kolkata India but most of his family resides here. His family is relatively wealthy and could help out with travel. Giving money seems impersonal and wrong to me. i would like to give a travel related gift certificate. it would be something he would definitely use but at the same time I don't want to offend.
posted by Xurando to Human Relations (81 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
You'd not be doing what he asked. I guess I have to ask why? He is gauche to ask for cash, but refusing could be seen as a bit obtuse.

What kind of certificate are you thinking of? Would it be essentially cash?
posted by taff at 6:13 PM on September 25, 2012 [3 favorites]

I always thought money and even registries were cold and impersonal, so I went off on my own for the most part. As I got older I realized that the person is telling you what they want/need, so I give that to them, mostly cash these days. They will be thinking about a lot of things other than your gift, so do what they want -- it is their day.
posted by cgk at 6:14 PM on September 25, 2012 [2 favorites]

Doing exactly what they don't want you to do is more wrong. Listen to your friend.
posted by heyjude at 6:17 PM on September 25, 2012 [11 favorites]

Don't count other people's money. If a friend who came from humble circumstances asked for cash to help with their honeymoon, would you be more willing to give it? Despite appearances, you have no idea what his family's financial situation is.
posted by telegraph at 6:22 PM on September 25, 2012 [14 favorites]

i would like to give a travel related gift certificate.

Gift certificates are money with restrictions on where you can spend it. It's no more personal. I would suggest just giving them the cash and wishing them a great time.
posted by Rodrigo Lamaitre at 6:25 PM on September 25, 2012 [3 favorites]

In today's world, most people don't need toasters or furniture or even low-end consumer electronics. I've personally maintained a household with my SO for more years than most marriages last, we don't need more crap.

So if they just want to travel - Although we generally consider gifts of money a bit gauche, in this case, you can perhaps consider it the least materialistic option. You will give them the gift of (part of) an experience that will stay with them forever.

Rather than a toaster.
posted by pla at 6:28 PM on September 25, 2012 [6 favorites]

Giving money seems impersonal and wrong to me.

Giving cash at a wedding is an absolutely bog-standard tradition the world over. It's not gauche at all, particularly if they don't have a wedding registry. Having been there, I can promise that it beats the hell out of "personal", "meaningful" gifts from people who don't share your tastes and decide to go off message. Oh, look, a sixth salad bowl, how nice. I'll put it next to the nine hideously-mismatched picture frames.

Why not give them a resource that helps them do what they have told you outright that they want to do, instead of going out of your way to get them something they explicitly don't want, don't need or can't use? It's not your wedding, just play ball.
posted by mhoye at 6:29 PM on September 25, 2012 [23 favorites]

In some cultures it's normal to give cash at weddings. It makes things easier all around for both the giver and receiver. He is letting you know specifically because he knows people from your culture will think it is wrong and impersonal.

Please do what he asks. There are very very few situations in life where your friend may give you instructions for what he wants, and then you go ahead and do the exact opposite. This is not one of them.
posted by xdvesper at 6:30 PM on September 25, 2012 [26 favorites]

It's a very normal thing to give money in Indian weddings.
posted by dhruva at 6:33 PM on September 25, 2012 [15 favorites]

A gift is just that, a gift. Not a requirement that you supply a specific item, or give cash. If you can find a gift that will reduce their costs, or genuinely facilitate their travel, you are welcome to do so. A gift cert. that is widely accepted is fine.
posted by theora55 at 6:36 PM on September 25, 2012 [4 favorites]

Sorry, I don't buy it. My money will get lumped together with a lot of other money and the care and affection i feel for them will be lost. I do know about the families finances to a degree. I repect their instructions enough to ask this question and will probably submit and give cash but I don't like it.
posted by Xurando at 6:37 PM on September 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

If the "impersonal" part bothers you, that's what the card is for. Write a really great message. That's still less impersonal than a gift, and it's what they want.
posted by bleep at 6:38 PM on September 25, 2012 [10 favorites]

Sorry, I don't buy it. My money will get lumped together with a lot of other money and the care and affection i feel for them will be lost.

No offense, but giving a gift isn't about you. Why not show your care for them by respecting their wishes?
posted by runningwithscissors at 6:41 PM on September 25, 2012 [101 favorites]

Giving a blender or a really-good-cake-fork is just as impersonal. They will treasure the memories of their honeymoon a lot longer than pretty much any physical item you can dream up.
posted by wrok at 6:43 PM on September 25, 2012 [3 favorites]

We asked for funds to help us travel to Chile, and were very pleased by friends who gave Chilean wine or Lonely Planet travel guides in place of or in addition to a small donation. My husband comes from one of those cultures where money is a standard gift, but I do not.
posted by matildaben at 6:50 PM on September 25, 2012 [2 favorites]

I have some friends who got married a few years back. Their finances were a bit strained by it, so a couple of weeks before the wedding I dropped the bride a note saying "would you be offended if I just gave you cash to help toward the honeymoon, or do you really want something from the registry?" Her response? "Offended? I'd be incredibly grateful!" so cash it was.

Since your friends made it clear that cash would be the most useful, I would give cash, maybe with a nice card saying how happy you are for them and how much their friendship means to you.
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:50 PM on September 25, 2012

Why not give cash and a small but special present, if that's how you feel? When I've received objects as gifts, I've often been more delighted by a small, relatively inexpensive yet appealingly fancy thing than by a big thing anyway - a gift with antic spirit and charm rather than high cost. Gifts that seem to go over well: a single fancy cooking implement, a small but attractive and unusual decorative item like a little bell or a tiny sculpture, some nice yet unobtrusive everyday thing like handmade glasses, a simple small box made of beautiful know, that sort of thing.

I'm glad it's no longer considered gauche to give money in most circles - the most important thing about a gift should be making your friends happy (or if it's a "duty" gift to a relative or whomever, getting it out of the way without rocking the boat).
posted by Frowner at 6:52 PM on September 25, 2012 [14 favorites]

This is a great time to learn and appreciate a cultural difference. In many, perhaps even most, cultures across the world, cash gifts are what is expected, desired, and given at weddings. This is especially true in many Asian cultures from Vietnamese to Indian. In addition to cultural mores about money, in some cases this is to offset the cost of what can be a very large wedding - even if no one is game enough to say that.

It may feel impersonal, to you, but you are not of that culture (I presume). It won't feel impersonal, to them - you are projecting your own feelings about gifts and money onto a couple that do not share them.

You don't have to "buy it"; they have bought it for you and are telling you. Generally in life, I'm a big fan of believing people when they tell you something about themselves.

Give them the money.
posted by smoke at 6:54 PM on September 25, 2012 [6 favorites]

So, growing up (New York, Long Island/NYC), all weddings were cash/cheque. You could tell when someone married someone not from the area, because there would be boxes, instead of envelopes. Even in American culture, there are cross sections that find cash for weddings to be the norm. Does that make it any more likeable for you, or are you still thinking "mine will be just part of everything else"?
posted by kellyblah at 6:55 PM on September 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

Honestly, it really isn't about you.

But a gift is something freely given, not an obligation. You can give anything you see fit. If you think your gift would be appreciated, then give it. But don't make this about your gift being valued over others. The idea is to launch the couple off as happily as possible.
posted by inturnaround at 6:57 PM on September 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

Giving cash at a wedding is an absolutely bog-standard tradition the world over. It's not gauche at all...

Nope, it's still gauche in my part of the world, but not quite as gauche as asking for money. It's your gift to them, and if you're not comfortable giving cash, you have no obligation to do so.
posted by donajo at 6:57 PM on September 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

It's not "wrong," but at the same time it's not what he asked which can be perceived as a social faux pas since you're going against what they (the soon to be bride and groom) asked for. It would look kind of strange if you were one of the few people to get him a gift and everyone else gave him money.

I get that you want to give a personal gift, but can't you just write a sincere note inside of the card? I know a lot of people that tend to hold onto cards for years, sometimes even longer then they actually hold onto a gift for.
posted by livinglearning at 6:59 PM on September 25, 2012 [3 favorites]

Find out where they're going. Get some local currency for them.

I did the above and bought carbon offsets for my sister's wedding.
posted by thenormshow at 7:01 PM on September 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

Another analogy; you know how when you were a kid (and older...), and you asked for a christmas present from your parents, and they either:

a) Got you something you didn't ask for because they thought you would like it more, but you actually didn't because it fits into some weird vision they have of you not who you actually are.

b) Got you what you asked for, but not the actual specific object, rather some dodgied up crappo version that they thought would be "better for you" or it looked trendier or something but was actually crappier and kinda useless/embarrassing/not-as-durable/not-the-features-you-wanted.

c) Subsequently thought you would be grateful that they knew what you wanted and would like better than you did and certainly better than that ho-hum thing you asked for?

Don't be your parents, man.
posted by smoke at 7:12 PM on September 25, 2012 [24 favorites]

"and the care and affection i feel for them will be lost" Is there another way you can show this, maybe over time or through a non-gift way?

Or what about giving them money and also giving them the special item that you want to give to show your affection?
posted by ramenopres at 7:16 PM on September 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

Right or wrong in this case is subjective. But I will put in my two cents, as a recipient of gifts. Giving a gift someone does not want in place of a gift that offends you is no gift. It's a judgment, and it's wrong.

For the past few years I have received shoes as gifts from some people that I dearly love. Shoes are great! I have an Amazon wishlist that they have access to. However, every time they give me shoes from some other vendor in colors I don't wear and cuts that are uncomfortable on me.

The shoes they send are always my "size," and always difficult to return (because I'm not the buyer and also don't generally like the stock carried by the places they buy from.)

Shoes they pick have a more "sentimental" feeling to them. They feel like they didn't "work" on the gift I explicitly ask for. They give me shoes to their perception of my taste, rather than what I actually like. I get a gift that sits in my closet and I can't bear to get rid of it, in case someone comes to visit and peeks into my shoe closet. They would judge me harshly if I disposed of their uncomfortable shoes. And sometimes I do wear these shoes's miserable.

Now, I'm imagining a scenario. The couple you speak of has some restaurants in mind that they'd like to visit, or maybe they'll be eating in the homes of friends while they travel. Getting them gift certificates to restaurants would mean they'd have to either a)eat at a restaurant you chose instead of one that is meaningful to them in some way or b)invite their friends out to restaurant and only be able to pay half the bill (with gift certificate) or c) insult friends by eating out without them to use your gift.

Why is a, b, or c preferable to what they actually desire?

And finally, actually, you do not know enough about their family finances. It's possible that this wedding has caused some behind the scenes kerfluffle and somebody has been disowned for marrying someone not approved. It's also possible, as mentioned above, that appearances are being maintained but cash is not liquid.
posted by bilabial at 7:16 PM on September 25, 2012 [10 favorites]

Write a heartfelt and touching message in a lovely handcrafted card telling them how much their union means to you and all the good wishes you have for their day, their travel and the rest if their lives together...and include the money in that. That means it won't be lost.

If you like you could add a handmade voucher for an evening at your place for dinner and looking at their wedding/travel photos.
posted by taff at 7:19 PM on September 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

You are allowed to give anything you wish as a gift, although to be a good friend, I think you should give what they asked for. I do the same thing as what some folks mentioned above - if they want cash, or a donation, or whatever, I give that, but then I also find some other small personal thing to give - in this case that would be something that would be useful on the trip.

Whatever you choose to give or not, please do not do it because you've decided that "their family can afford to help them with X". You know what, their family might be able to afford it and they might not, but it's none of your business whether they do. You don't decide not to give a wedding gift because people have plenty of money and don't "need" a gift from you, or because they come from a wealthy family. You're a guest at their wedding and a friend, and deciding what their family should or should not pay for just makes you sound rude.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 7:28 PM on September 25, 2012

I got married six months ago. I have already forgotten who gave me what. If I hadn't made a list right after the reception, I wouldn't even have known who to send thank-you cards to. I was GETTING MARRIED at the time, thankyouverymuch, and remembering the identity of the person who gave me the blender was the last thing on my mind.

Even the people who gave me something "special" and "unique" and not-from-the-registry, I still don't remember who gave me what. All I remember is "Oh, yeah, that's that weird vase that some damn person brought to our wedding and now we can never get rid of it even though we don't like it or have any happy memories associated with it or even really remember who it's from."

The idea that giving money is "cold" and "impersonal" is a specific cultural idea you were raised with, not objective fact. The objective fact is, your friend will be glad for the rest of his life that you showed up, and (unless he is compulsively petty and vindictive) he will forget the details of what you gave within a year. So why raise a stink?
posted by nebulawindphone at 7:34 PM on September 25, 2012 [7 favorites]

Yeah, ok, in some circles asking for money is traditional. In my book, it is breath-takingly gauche to tell someone specifically what they should get you, unless you are 5 and sitting on Santa's lap. It's a *gift* fergodsake, not something someone owes you. The recipient should be gracious and grateful.

And if it's just money the person is demanding? Why bother at all, it's totally impersonal and the same money would just get shuffled around from person to person every few years as people have birthdays, weddings, graduations, and retirements.

If someone *told* me to give them money, I frankly doubt I would even attend.
posted by parrot_person at 7:37 PM on September 25, 2012 [3 favorites]

My money will get lumped together with a lot of other money and the care and affection i feel for them will be lost.

Whose wedding are you attending? Because the event is about their love and affection for each other, and it's not a ceremony to show how much more you love them than the rest of their family and friends.
posted by xingcat at 7:38 PM on September 25, 2012 [5 favorites]

Travel pillows.
posted by Nightman at 7:44 PM on September 25, 2012

the care and affection i feel for them will be lost.

And yet this care and affection isn't strong enough for you to accede to their wishes and give them what they're asking for? Because even though it's their wedding and their special day, what YOU want is more important?
posted by elizardbits at 7:48 PM on September 25, 2012 [12 favorites]

I think if they asked for money, you should give them money. It's about what they want, not about what you would feel most comfortable giving.
posted by windykites at 7:53 PM on September 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

My money will get lumped together with a lot of other money and the care and affection i feel for them will be lost

Also calling this out to question. Your care and affection is shown by your showing up. Most people give gifts of money in a card, and you can use that card to write a true, sincere, heartfelt and personal message, which I suspect will be of far more value to them than any tchotchke you might buy them.

This might seem gauche to some, but I think it's becoming much more the norm as people do have lives before they marry and aren't looking to outfit some sort of Victorian trousseau where they have everyday and special occasion soup tureens, caviar spoons, etc. Be useful and loving and helpful in the ways your friends have identified as most valuable to them. Express your feelings in writing; they'll read and reread that and store it away for years to come, and it will mean a lot.
posted by Miko at 7:54 PM on September 25, 2012 [4 favorites]

Also, if you want to show them how much you care, why not give them a personal gift and the thing that they actually asked for and that you know they genuinely want? Then you will be super-personal.

Also, I get that you feel like this is less personal somehow. But myself? I am always more grateful and happy for gifts of money, on any occasion, than I am for almost anything else (unless it's something that is homemade or otherwise indicative of lots of thought/ time/ love/ care went into the gift). Why? Because money is something that I actually use, want, and frankly need most of the time. Newlyweds are often a bit strapped for cash- you might be helping them more than you realise. What's more personal than helping a friend?
posted by windykites at 8:01 PM on September 25, 2012

I got married six months ago. I have already forgotten who gave me what.

This is not really something you can generalize. I got married a number of years ago and I still know exactly who gave us what.

Likewise, it apparently varies whether it's "bog standard" or tacky to give money, and whether it's tacky to tell your guests what they should give you.

I'm surprised by the unanimity in this thread. Xurando, I would also find this request difficult to reconcile with my etiquette traditions. I think you're absolutely free to give the kind of gift you want to, and your idea of trying to find a middle ground is a good one.
posted by LobsterMitten at 8:04 PM on September 25, 2012 [4 favorites]

I didn't realize that some people actually gave gifts and not envelopes at weddings until I was an adult and attended weddings outside of the NYC metro area. No one needs yet another thoughtfully gifted vase that they don't want but feel guilty getting rid of. Everyone everywhere can use cash.
posted by crankylex at 8:16 PM on September 25, 2012 [2 favorites]

I gave cash and a nice bottle of champagne at an Indian wedding where I was close to the bride and wanted something a little more personal. It went over very well.
posted by whoaali at 8:20 PM on September 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

Really obvious point: there are thoughtful, appropriate gifts. This is NOT a choice between money and something tacky, unusable, or a duplicate of everybody else's gift. I'm not sure why everybody in the money camp feels the need to mention "weird vases" and blenders. I think the OP's idea to get something travel-related is a good one.
posted by parrot_person at 8:23 PM on September 25, 2012 [7 favorites]

I think the OP's idea to get something travel-related is a good one.

It's not bad. There's always something like, if you know where they're going to be staying, calling up and pre-ordering champagne or flowers for their room on arrival, or leaving a number to bill a dinner to at a destination restaurant, or arranging for some other special experience like massages at the spa, a sightseeing thing etc. But you have to know whatever you choose isn't going to much up any preset plans they have.
posted by Miko at 8:27 PM on September 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

It's a gift and you can give them whatever you want. Of course, they don't have to like it, and they are telling you what they can use the most. Do with that what you will: what they are asking for or what you prefer.
posted by J. Wilson at 8:28 PM on September 25, 2012

My money will get lumped together with a lot of other money and the care and affection i feel for them will be lost. I do know about the families finances to a degree.

This isn't necessarily the case. It certainly wasn't the case for the money people gave us at our wedding.

Listen, I'm not telling you that you can't give something other than cash. You CAN. That's what gifts are: things you choose to give. But I am telling you that money can be a very thoughtful, personal gift.

At our wedding, I was quite surprised at how many of our relatives and friends gave us cold hard cash in an envelope. Giving and receiving wedding cash isn't part of my family tradition, and to be honest, I was a little bit scandalized that close friends would give us cash, not objects. Like you, I thought it would feel impersonal.

But on our honeymoon, that cash came in mighty handy... and I made sure to note who made which indulgences possible. I made a point of noticing what we spent and how it corresponded to our friends' and family's gifts --- not because we cared who gave how much, but because I wanted to be able to thank people for specific experiences.

For example, our friend A bought us the very first breakfast of our married life. I'm never going to forget that, and in our thank-you note, I told her the ridiculous story of our long search for an open restaurant that morning, and how happy we were to find one.

But even if your friends don't do that --- if they pool all the money together into a general fund --- they'll still be grateful to the people who made the trip possible, and if you choose to give money, you'll be able to tell yourself that you made that pleasure easier and more attainable for them.
posted by Elsa at 8:29 PM on September 25, 2012 [15 favorites]

Even if you got them something tasteful and travel related, how would you know they don't already have one (or haven't already decided they don't need it)? Especially if they travel at all frequently, they may already have figured out what stuff works best for them. Even if we're not talking weird vases and frightful artwork, I would still agree with those who've said it would be more considerate to respect your friends' request and give them what they've asked for.

However, maybe in the personalized and affectionate note you include with your card you could make a lighthearted suggestion as to what they could use the money for? Base it on what you know of them and where they're planning on going - so if you know they like kooky trips you could write that you hope they use the money to go see the World's Largest Ball of Twine the next time they're in the States, for instance. Obviously they wouldn't have to do whatever it was you suggested, but perhaps this would give you a sense of personalization without locking them in to some specific store or activity with a gift certificate.
posted by DingoMutt at 8:37 PM on September 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

Sorry, I don't buy it.

You have the option of giving no gift, and not attending the wedding. Otherwise, do what the ask. It's really that simple.
posted by spaltavian at 8:39 PM on September 25, 2012 [2 favorites]

Gifts are only gifts if they're given freely. You can't tell givers what to give you, and you can't tell recipients what to do with what you gave them.

They made a request, which is just information: it lets you know more about what they hope to receive. It's not a dictate. As long as you know them well and are thoughtful, you are likely to give them something they'll be happy to receive (just make sure you give something you really think *they'll* like, rather than something *you'd* like).

We registered for our wedding, and received presents on and off the registry, as well as cash. We were happy about all of it. We were psyched to get the kitchenware we picked out, and also several decorative items (serving bowls, mostly) that we hadn't registered for. These are pretty and distinctive, and will always remind me of the givers (it helps that the givers have excellent taste). The one off-registry gift we returned was a dutch oven. We had registered for and had already received a similar one (which, frankly, we liked better).

So, if they have a registry, and you're planning to buy something not on the registry, make sure it's not similar to something on the registry. Also, if you go off-registry, I'd choose something less practical and more decorative/special (unless you're sure they don't have one already and are likely to use it). This last part doesn't seem like it applies here, if they didn't register.
posted by pompelmo at 8:48 PM on September 25, 2012 [2 favorites]

Why not do both? You can give mostly cash, then give them something inexpensive but useful, so they think of you when they use it. Years ago, a friend gave me a really nice silicone spatula for no particular occasion, but I think of her whenever I use it, which is often.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 9:01 PM on September 25, 2012 [2 favorites]

I can't say if there's some sort of cultural factor you need to take into account here, but my western point of view is that you get to choose whether or not you get the couple what they're asking for. Just because they're getting married doesn't automatically give them to right to only accept cash.

I'm against the idea of money as a wedding present, it's like you're paying to attend, and just feels icky. The only exception for me would be if they were travelling overseas and you got them some local currency, as suggested above. This is a good compromise, shows that you've put in some extra thought and effort, and makes it less of a transaction.

If you're going to go the voucher route, maybe ask them first if they're be purchasing from a particular travel agency. You definitely want to make it something that will be easy for them to use, not a hassle.
posted by peppermintfreddo at 9:32 PM on September 25, 2012

This isn't about you, so stop making it about you.

Provide a cash gift inside the present you were originally going to give them and by all means, make said original present travel themed. If it galls you so much that you can't even do that, treat them to something special when they return from their honeymoon so you can put your love and affection for them on display.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 9:54 PM on September 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

I don't understand the idea that vouchers are more personal than cash to be honest. They're just cash in a restricted-spending form. I also don't understand the extreme judgmental attitude about how asking for or giving cash is gauche. It may be gauche where you live, but large parts of the rest of the world feels differently. Its one thing to get a different gift than requested according to your own traditions - hey its a gift, its your choice - but its incredibly rude to look down your nose at other people's wedding traditions and judge them harshly. If you don't like them and their culture, then maybe you shouldn't attend the wedding? If I found out that someone I had invited to my wedding thought about me this way, I would be hurt.
posted by Joh at 9:59 PM on September 25, 2012 [6 favorites]

Maybe you can consider getting your travel-related gift and then also give a small amount of cash for their fund as a sentiment.
posted by p1nkdaisy at 10:07 PM on September 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

The problem with gift certificates is that while the sentiment is lovely, there's stuff like... what happens if they've got a gift certificate from Brand X but it turns out that Brand Y is markedly cheaper for whatever it is they need? Or isn't located where they're going? Or, or, or.

No matter what you get them, it runs the risk of being unappreciated--such as cash combined with a ton of other gifts, potentially, yes. If you get them something other than what they ask for, you also run the risk of it being actively disliked. Why would you run that risk? If it's your best friend in the whole world and you know it's no risk because you have something in mind that you're 100% sure they're going to love, then okay, do that, but... if that was the case, you wouldn't be asking here. It's not that there's never-ever-ever a time when this is okay, but if you have to ask, go with what they asked for, and give it in a way that's unique and creative.

I once asked for a very specific item for Christmas. Purchasing it required no creativity. Giving it to me by putting a hand-made cardboard-and-wrapping-paper replica into a very small gift box? That made it really memorable and clear that the person who got it for me really cared. But in the absence of a desire to do a craft project as a part of it, just write something nice.
posted by gracedissolved at 10:41 PM on September 25, 2012 [2 favorites]

Seriously, local currency where they're going on vacation. One of our wedding guests basically ended up paying all our honeymoon incidental expenses because he just gave us a big old pile of yen in a red envelope for our wedding. It was an epic gift and we will never forget it. We had to spend it on our trip, since otherwise we'd have to eat a big exchange fee, but we could spend it however we wanted, on any restaurant or museum or tourist trap we pleased (as opposed to the well-intentioned people who gave us gift certificates to specific restaurants - nice idea, but it just meant we had less flexibility because we had to work around making reservations at those places, figuring out where they were, etc).

Think of local currency as the ultimate gift certificate for people travelling someplace. It's a gift certificate to the entire country, not some restaurant you think they should try.
posted by town of cats at 11:19 PM on September 25, 2012 [9 favorites]

You could always present the money in an unforgetable way. Travel themed money origami. Or see if you can get your hand on older styled bills that look unique. Put a crisp new bill with a crumpled old one and find a currency local to them or where they are traveling in blue and write a note: "something old, something new and something blue, you're on your own for borrowed." (or another message incorporating that old saying).
posted by HMSSM at 12:38 AM on September 26, 2012

If you did this for my wedding gift, it would give me a very personal memory... of what a jerk you are.

Seriously, a wedding gift is not about you and what you want.
posted by PCup at 3:14 AM on September 26, 2012

I got married about a month ago, near my family and friends, but on the other side of the world from our home for the next few years.
We made no mention of gifts in our invitations, but mostly received money and a few small keepsakes, family heirloom style.

Please, please listen to your friends' request. Bringing anything home is almost impossible, and always much more expensive than anticipated. Gift certificates for your location, even of redeemable online, will be difficult to use. They can probably get whatever they need for travel much more efficiently and cheaply in India.
Write them a heartfelt letter. Heck, draw them a picture! Include it with a cheque, if you want. That's what matters here, wishing your friends good luck and love on this new adventure.
posted by third word on a random page at 3:23 AM on September 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

I absolutely disagree with the 'just do what he wants' answers here.

IMHO a wedding is a celebration, a chance to share good times and to bring people together. Not an excuse to exhort money.

I can understand your friends dilema; the problem comes when writing the wedding list; thinking about what you want people to give you. Toaster;check, blender; check, towels; check. Asking for money is a simple, easy solution.

However money is impersonal, cold and downright unfriendly. Money loses all the personal good will, the thought, the consideration that a friend can give.

Getting married is not about money; it's about giving good things. So give them something good, which will remind them that you care about them, which will show them that you thought about them. Dont just give them $XXX.
posted by BadMiker at 4:05 AM on September 26, 2012

No offense, but giving a gift isn't about you
Seriously, a wedding gift is not about you
Honestly, it really isn't about you.

Just wanted to point out that this aggravatingly popular position is absurd, if understood as somehow objectively true. A gift is by definition about the giver and recipient. I agree that you should ask yourself whether you're letting certain selfish considerations get in the way of being a good friend. But if you ask yourself that, and then you conclude that it's still important to you not to follow instructions, you have only to deal with the consequences, which will depend entirely on the friend. Are you either certain that they won't be offended, or happy to tolerate the risk of them being offended? Then go ahead.
posted by oliverburkeman at 5:11 AM on September 26, 2012 [3 favorites]

The reason that "weird vases" and blenders are a gift cliche is because many people who have had weddings or have been closely involved in someone else's wedding have a story about bizarre and/or pointless gifts. Your carefully chosen thoughtful, appropriate gift might be someone else's weird vase. That is a very subjective line. Personally, I'm not interested in taking the risk that the gift I give that was not what they asked for or and/or not on a registry of some sort is unwanted. People have different risk tolerance levels.
posted by crankylex at 6:22 AM on September 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

It's their wedding. Why do you need to draw attention to yourself at their wedding with their traditions.
posted by discopolo at 6:50 AM on September 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

I would find this situation repellent, and in response, I might just skip the gift, however, I would not pointedly give a "travel related gift certificate". The event of someone's wedding is not the time to make a passive-aggressive and thinly-veiled argument.
posted by latkes at 6:59 AM on September 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

I would write a letter, something personal expressing the affection a traditional gift would, something hand written on high end custom paper. Something worthy of savings and mounting. Something from the heart.

I would also kick in some cash.
posted by French Fry at 7:00 AM on September 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

Just because their family is wealthy or able to help fund their honeymoon doesn't mean that you friend is accepting that offer.

A family member of mine recently got married, my family tried to pay for the cost of his wedding, which he declined. The couple decided to pay for the entire wedding themselves and register for their honeymoon online at Honeyfund. I thought it was kind of practical--why fill up their apartment with gifts they didn't need and might not use, when instead I could help them take a once in a lifetime trip?

Perhaps people who didn't know them as well rolled their eyes as muttered about how their families could have totally financed everything, not knowing they had chosen to pay for the wedding themselves.
posted by inertia at 7:01 AM on September 26, 2012

I doubt very much that your friends would be "offended" if you gave them a gift rather than cash (although certificates are just restricted cash with a slice taken out by the middleman, and I think those are absurd and not thoughtful). This thread is thoroughly covering what you "should" do here, but your question asks whether you will offend your friend by giving a gift other than cash -- and the answer, I think, is surely not. It's their stated preference about what they would appreciate more -- not the price of admission to the wedding and not something they would be outraged not to get from a guest.
posted by J. Wilson at 7:05 AM on September 26, 2012

I think you're well within your rights to decide what is important to you in giving a gift. How about going to the other extreme and making an incredibly personalised or even handmade present that your friend could never possibly have asked for?

This summer, a couple of my friends got married and asked for no gifts. Two of us decided we weren't going for this and set about making something that would fall into the above category. There had been a lot of talk about how the couple's names sounded like a superhero duo team, so we decided to elaborate on this and created two superhero identities for them and made action figures using carefully-chosen action figures from Forbidden Planet, a LOT of acrylic paint, and to-scale miniatures from dolls' house suppliers. We designed logos and costumes and even made them a vehicle to pose in. Not to boast, but they were awesome. Is there something similarly personalised you could do for your friend?
posted by Acheman at 7:11 AM on September 26, 2012

However money is impersonal, cold and downright unfriendly.

Not if that's what they want.

The essence of good gift giving is considering what your recipient wants and providing that to them.

Giving them what *you* want to give them because it's what you'd rather give or what you think they should have is how this turns into "making this about you."
posted by purplesludge at 7:22 AM on September 26, 2012 [3 favorites]

Just wanted to point out that this aggravatingly popular position is absurd, if understood as somehow objectively true. A gift is by definition about the giver and recipient.

That's true for individual gifts individually delivered, but when you're talking about a wedding, you're talking about dozens (or hundreds) of gifts arriving at once, with nobody knowing what the other people will be giving them, in a sort of weird hundred-person-prisoners-dilemma of gift giving That's why some cultures have wedding registries and other cultures just give cash - it solves the problem of a young couple starting their married lives with four hundred sets of mismatched salad tongs and no dishes. The right thing, when you're in this situation, is to follow the young couple's advice.

You know what the great thing about cash is? It's fungible. Two people's lives are about to change dramatically, and money gives them a flexibility in addressing these changes that a room full of ceramic cats doesn't, however much they like ceramic cats.

If you want to give these people an individual, meaningful gift, wait. Wait until they have actually settled into their married lives and have a better sense of what they really need. That will be very different than what you, or they, think they need right now, and probably more meaningful to them then.
posted by mhoye at 7:23 AM on September 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

"Requesting" anything, cash or otherwise, as a gift is about as gauche as it gets. If this couple can't afford the trip they want to take, they might think about saving up for it instread of asking their friends and families to finance it for them. It's a real shame that this kind of selfishness has become so ordinary that, judging from the responses here, most people don't bat an eye at it.
posted by Dolley at 7:44 AM on September 26, 2012 [3 favorites]

"Requesting" anything, cash or otherwise, as a gift is about as gauche as it gets.

That's silly, particularly considering the cross-cultural boundaries specified in the question. What's a wedding registry, then?
posted by mhoye at 7:52 AM on September 26, 2012 [9 favorites]

If you are worried about cash feeling impersonal, I'd like to echo other posters' suggestions to create and write a heartfelt card. I just got married, and was surprised and humbled by the amount of wonderful gifts our friends and family sent our way, and the hand-written cards are super special to me.

I honestly don't have strong feelings about giving gifts on- or off-registry, I think it's just wonderful that folks get together and celebrate. So OP, I'd add to the push back you're getting: I don't think it's worth judging your friends this much. Even if you don't like that they asked you for cash, is that really important? There are much, much worse things a person can do than offend your sense of etiquette.

(I'm totally a judgmental person, just not about this particular thing, so I get where you're coming from. But, I don't know, it's just sort of exhausting to keep all that judgement going, you know?)
posted by lillygog at 7:53 AM on September 26, 2012

Seeing as this thread has devolved into strongly held opinions, I'll just point out that the Awesome Miss Manners agrees that you should be able to give a thoughtful gift of your own choosing.

I like the ideas of local-to-their-honeymoon gifts and things like travel pillows, or even a gift certificate to a luxurious travel store.
posted by ldthomps at 8:16 AM on September 26, 2012

DON'T give them a gift. They don't want gifts. As someone who lives a long way from family, and I'll probably move back to my home country I hate material gifts, I'll jus have to move them again. It's so so wasteful. Don't give gifts people have said they don't want (moving situation or not).
posted by jujulalia at 8:21 AM on September 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

[If you can not answer this question without turning it into JudgeMe it's totally fine not to answer. Thanks.]
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:01 AM on September 26, 2012

The last time a couple requested travel money instead of any gifts in my circle, I gave my friends money, and personalized luggage tags that read "_____, traveling with _____". They loved them, and they still got the money, and they think of me whenever they pack their bags for another trip..
posted by sawdustbear at 9:56 AM on September 26, 2012 [3 favorites]

If it is normal to give money at Indian weddings, you should do so. I think you should consult a reliable authority on Indian wedding etiquette and make your decision accordingly.
posted by tel3path at 11:06 AM on September 26, 2012 [4 favorites]

As I understand it, in Indian cultures (as with many cultures outside the USA) it is the height of respect and affection to give money to a couple as a present for their wedding. It would be seen as skinflint and gauche not to give cash.

I think your friend is telling you to give them cash because you're not Indian, and he doesn't want you to be embarrassed. If he and he wife wind up opening their gifts with their family, you could be branded as "that foreign jerk who insulted our beloved son & daughter by giving them (insert item here) for their wedding, instead of what normal people give."

I rail regularly against American couples who insist on demanding cash gifts for their weddings, because here in the US it is seen as gauche (and, IMO, rightfully so). But in other cultures, where a cash gift is the norm for a wedding, and has been for centuries? You're damn right that's what I give. I had a Japanese friend get married years ago--the wedding was here in the US, but it was about as Japanese as you can get, with family flying in from Tokyo--and her American friends were quietly advised that cultural expectation was to give cash to the couple. And we did, because the bride's our friend, dammit, and we weren't going to embarrass her in front of her family.

When in Rome, dude.
posted by magstheaxe at 12:07 PM on September 26, 2012 [7 favorites]

I've had experience on both sides here. If you'll bear with an anecdote for a moment:

The first non-family wedding I attended as a grown-up was for my college roommate, Jane. Jane had had a thing about hippos all her life and collected them - little ones, stuffed ones, stylized designs, you name it. She had a registry for the wedding, but, coming from a non-US background, I found that terribly gauche and wanted to get her something really personal and distinctive instead, to really show the amount of thought and effort I'd put into the gift. So imagine my delight, when, a month before the wedding, I found a tea set (she was a big tea drinker) with (quite cute) hippos on it! I was so excited to give it to her. While I received a nice thank you from her, it was not nearly as over-the-moon as I'd expected it to be - seriously, hippos + tea set should have been the most personal and sentimental gift ever for Jane, I thought. (Hey, I was 24, OK?)

Many years later it came out that she had really outgrown her hippo collection by the time she graduated college. And I'd given her something she felt she could never, ever get rid of, exactly because of the obvious thought I'd put into it.

Several years after that, when I had my own wedding, I had changed my mind and happily registered for all sorts of things we liked. And I have to tell you, I finally understood that it's actually really annoying when people get you things they think you will like - when you've already told them exactly what you want. Now? I always give something off the registry, or, if there's no registry, cash. Save the sentimental gifts for holidays, birthdays or just-because. For weddings and baby showers, give them what they want.
posted by widdershins at 12:55 PM on September 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

Write them a card. That is more personal than a monogrammed tote bag ( or whatever travel thing). Heart felt letter/card with cash.
posted by manicure12 at 8:27 PM on September 26, 2012

magstheaxe has it. Gift-giving customs are very culture specific. You cannot rely on Miss Manners in this situation because outside of western culture, it's irrelevant.

That said, if you know very specific details about their travel plans so that the gift certificate is completely applicable, I think that's ok. If they are specifically asking money for travel I think a gift certificate would apply under that request heading, so long as you are 100% they can use it as easily as cash.

Personal related anecdote: We didn't request money, but my friend gave us one of those preloaded Amex cards that had a picture of me and my husband printed on it. It was actually pretty cute, practical (in our case they travelled far to come to our wedding and they didn't want to carry something), and totally useful for our honeymoon.
posted by like_neon at 4:51 AM on September 28, 2012

South Asian here. Give them the money. Anything else and all they'll remember you for is for being rude and insensitive. Your cultural dictates do not override theirs at their wedding.
posted by divabat at 9:36 AM on September 29, 2012

What perplexes me is those here making judgements on the request for cash and calling it gauche. At weddings, almost all guests insist on getting something for the bride and groom, and registries have been set up for that very purpose. That some people have all the physical items they want or need and would find cash more useful seems totally legit. It seems like people are saying that you shouldn't make any sort of requests about the manner of giving you'd like, but if that is the case, what is the point of gift giving in the first place? Isn't it to give something the recipient actually wants?

In my case, my brother wanted cash at his wedding (they were travelling to another country almost immediately after the wedding and would have nowhere to store a bunch of household items). However, my wedding was the same summer, so it seemed strange to give him cash if it meant he would turn around and give me cash a month or two later. So I resolved to give him something tangible but easy to transport -- a lovely tablecloth and a sturdy bag. He was somewhat appreciative but nonetheless not really thrilled about the present, even if a cash gift would have made no sense.

So the lesson is just to give people what they want, even if it doesn't sit well with you.
posted by Deathalicious at 6:44 AM on October 1, 2012

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