brutal honesty filter: asking for money instead of wedding gifts?
January 3, 2017 10:35 AM   Subscribe

Is there any elegant way to ask for money instead of gifts? Is this always just rude? Details within!

The time has come for me to put together a registry for my May wedding. My fiance and I have been living together for several years, in small NYC apartments, and have no use for more dishes or a vacuum cleaner. Because of this, and because I consider bridal showers to be the lowest depth of boredom and misery, I am not having a shower.

I was planning to not register at all, because really, what we would truly love is CA$H money, but I have been warned that if I do not create a registry, we will just get a bunch of weird presents we don't want. I found this website, which seems to be an attempt to normalize and class up the cash grab approach, and I'm wondering, as a wedding guest, would this put you off?

Most of my guests (and the wedding is smallish, only 60 or so guests) will be friends and peers in their mid to late thirties. I guess it's possible that this could offend some of my older relatives, but they are uniformly Trump-voting weirdos and I care less about offending them (they certainly don't mind offending me!). Do I need to let this idea go, or is it possible to do without looking like a jerk?
posted by cakelite to Human Relations (37 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Quick extra detail: I know there are registry sites that allow you to accept cash for items instead of the item itself, but this feels deceptive to me.
posted by cakelite at 10:38 AM on January 3, 2017

Including a note that "No gifts required. We have lived together for several years and have everything we need!" is the tried and true way of signaling that you'd prefer a gift of money. you'll still get some gifts, but most people will take the hint.

source: We did this for our wedding. We included a note that we did not register anywhere because we already had everything we needed and that no gifts were necessary. 90% of people gave us a gift of cash.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 10:39 AM on January 3, 2017 [35 favorites]

I recently saw a wedding registry website for a friend which listed both material items that could be bought and a place where you could just throw them money for a "Honeymoon fund". I think that way you would give people the option to buy you a concrete object if that's what they want, while also being able to steer any of your friends who ask you towards the money option.
posted by peacheater at 10:39 AM on January 3, 2017 [3 favorites]

So, one wedding I attended, on their invitation wrote something like "please no boxed gifts". We all knew the bride and groom and that they had tons of stuff already, and it was fine. They got no judgement from anyone as far as I could tell. You could do something similar.
posted by FireFountain at 10:41 AM on January 3, 2017 [4 favorites]

final threadsit I promise! We are not planning a lavish honeymoon, so I feel weird about being like "please help us raise funds to stay in a hotel for two nights!"
posted by cakelite at 10:41 AM on January 3, 2017

There's no way to do this that at least some of your guests won't consider to be unspeakably rude. Some people won't care, but the ones who do care will really, really care. I think PuppetMcSockerson's approach is probably the most likely to net you some cash and no weird crap you don't need.
posted by decathecting at 10:42 AM on January 3, 2017 [14 favorites]

This, or any type of obvious cash grab, or any mention of gifts on the invitation is considered rude by traditional etiquette and would put me personally off to the extreme. (I'm a mid-thirties New Yorker, if that matters.)

I'm not judging you AT ALL for thinking about it because I know how hard navigating the etiquette surrounding weddings and gifts can be! But don't do it.

Don't register and lots of people will default to cash or some sort of cash equivalent like gift cards.
posted by lalex at 10:46 AM on January 3, 2017 [16 favorites]

I don't think it's tacky to ask for cash. I usually give cash and a nice bottle of liquor for a wedding gift and nobody has ever complained. But you should be aware that some of your relatives will not accept this* and will insist on buying you something tangible for whatever reason. So maybe pick out a few things you could use but communicate that you would strongly prefer cash. It might help to dress it up and say it's your "honeymoon fund" or something and describe where you're going and what you're going to do with the money.

* It occurs to me now that a lot of people might not actually have cash to give. So maybe this is tacky in certain circles. I don't know.
posted by deathpanels at 10:48 AM on January 3, 2017

Also I know you will find some people on the greater internet saying "I asked for cash and nobody cared!" But I guarantee you at least some people will care - of course they are just not rude enough to say that to the couple's face!
posted by lalex at 10:48 AM on January 3, 2017 [21 favorites]

Zola collects just a credit card processing fee for cash. They give you the option of just asking for cash or asking for cash for reasons x, y, z, etc. Our registry is a mixture of gift and money requests, but on our site we mention that "we've been living together and would prefer you help us fund..."

Zola ALSO allows you to ask for items, handles the money for the item, and then allows you to simply get the cash and purchase it on your own. This seems more sketchy, since you'd be lying to guests, but it might make people less apprehensive. It's not the route I would take, but if you feel like you're getting significant push back from relatives, it is an option.

Our friends that have recently gotten married have all emphasized honeyfunds, as well. Just one data point, of course.
posted by lownote at 10:54 AM on January 3, 2017

My cousin got married recently, and she (in a polite way!) asked for money and picture frames. The picture frames, she said, were to display photos in their new house.

This meant that she got mostly money, but people who wanted to buy a traditional gift (something with sentimental value) could do so.
posted by HoraceH at 10:55 AM on January 3, 2017 [1 favorite]

I think you're the only one who can gauge how your friends will react. My sister did this for her wedding and it was fine, but cultures are different and crowds are different. You'll have to decide if the people you care about offending would be offended. Maybe ask a few close friends directly to test the water?
posted by monologish at 10:58 AM on January 3, 2017 [2 favorites]

You can't explicitly ask for cash, really, but you very much can ask that certain types of gifts be excluded. The problem with asking for cash is that it's far harder for your poorer guests to feel like they've given something nice, as most people will likely give in the hundreds, and those that can't afford it may very well give that much anyways just to avoid judgement. You're assigning a number to your guests conribution.

The only sure-fire polite way to ask for cash is to have a charity donation set up for your guests to contribute to. You can say "no gifts please" as well, but asking for cash kinda corners people into bankrolling you honeyfund style(something I personally find extremely tacky/nouveau riche) . Tell them what you don't want, then leave it from there, if you really want cash. It's your close friends so they'll probably understand what you're wanting.
posted by InkDrinker at 11:00 AM on January 3, 2017 [5 favorites]

One time-honoured way around this is to ask people involved with your wedding (parents, maid of honour, etc.) to spread the word for you where they think it is appropriate.
posted by warriorqueen at 11:06 AM on January 3, 2017 [5 favorites]

My experience was the same as PuppetMcSockerson's. We didn't have a registry, but also didn't ask for money. When asked, we told people to make a charitable donation in our names. We only ended up with two physical gifts. Everyone else gave money. (No one made donations, unfortunately.)
posted by neushoorn at 11:07 AM on January 3, 2017

We just went through this. We had just merged households and gotten rid of lots of stuff in the process, and really didn't need/want anything. On our simple wedding website, we included a FAQ about gifts that basically reiterated this ("Gifts are absolutely not necessary - we're just thrilled you can join us, and we recently merged our two households. We do have a very tiny registry at xxx"), with a link to a few nice picture frames (for wedding photos), some new kitchen towels, and a replacement for our dustbuster. We got cash/gift cards from about 80% of guests, nothing from about 10%, and some nice picture frames and kitchen towels from the grandmas and other elderly relatives.
posted by writermcwriterson at 11:14 AM on January 3, 2017 [6 favorites]

I'm a person who is always really put off by the request for money as a wedding gift. I would not be put off at all by PuppetMcSockerson's wording. I would happily give money to this couple.
On refresh: I would have happily given money to writermcwriterson too!
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 11:21 AM on January 3, 2017 [3 favorites]

If "no boxed gifts, please" might not be obvious or clear enough, you can have friends and relatives spread the word more directly. I know some people are stuck to traditions and cash gifts feel like cheating, so a personal call from someone close to them could send the message more discretely yet directly.
posted by filthy light thief at 11:26 AM on January 3, 2017 [1 favorite]

"No boxed gifts" is how I always see it. Its the norm for the weddings I attend because most of my friends and family are from various parts of Asia.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 11:34 AM on January 3, 2017 [1 favorite]

We got married in April 2014 and basically did the same thing as writermcwriterson. We set up a small registry at for the few things we did need as well as some links to charities.

I asked my mom about how to handle this and she said that people would want to buy us something regardless of what we said so we might as well set up a registry with stuff we want or else we'd get a dozen gravy boats.
posted by Diskeater at 11:41 AM on January 3, 2017 [1 favorite]

The easiest way not to offend anyone is to set up a small, limited registry and accept any gifts gracefully.

What to list on the registry? If you've been living together for years, you probably have household items that could be replaced or upgraded. Think about all the stuff you have that makes a home - shift focus from just kitchen and dining spaces. For example: sheets, blankets/bedding, bath towels, a bathroom accessory set, shower caddy, floating wall shelves, picture frames, end tables/nightstands, lamps, small electronics (phone charger blocks and wires!), salt shaker & pepper grinder set, fancy wine-bottle opener, kitchen towels & potholder.

You could also ask for "experiences" as part of your registry, such as: tickets to a specific concert, show, comedy club; gift certificates to restaurants; a cooking class; museum, zoo, or botanic garden patron memberships; a National or State Parks pass; a specific adventure outing such as skydiving; registration fees for a 5K or similar athletic event (if you're into that).

On preview, I second writermcwriterson's comment.
posted by Ardea alba at 11:42 AM on January 3, 2017

A heads up that if you ask for no gifts, when delicately asked for clarification, you say 'oh a donation to x charity would be great' please for the love of god do not actually let me ever hear that you were upset that I donated in your name to your named charity instead of getting that money as cash. Asking for a donation in your name may well get you a donation in your name.

This has happened to me twice. WTF
posted by larthegreat at 11:45 AM on January 3, 2017 [14 favorites]

Including a note that "No gifts required. We have lived together for several years and have everything we need!" is the tried and true way of signaling that you'd prefer a gift of money. you'll still get some gifts, but most people will take the hint.

Here's the thing: gifts are never required. It's tacky to make any reference to gifts, even if it's to say you don't want them.
posted by Dolley at 12:04 PM on January 3, 2017 [11 favorites]

Ok, I'll go ahead and mark this resolved. You're all right, I won't ask for money. I just wanted to quickly also add that I would never dream of mentioning gifts on a wedding invitation, I'm only half cretinous.
posted by cakelite at 12:09 PM on January 3, 2017

You can't explicitly ask for cash, really, but you very much can ask that certain types of gifts be excluded.

You can, and they still won't entirely be. The only way to ensure that the human beings at your wedding will behave even predictably, let at alone in the way that you would like them to, is to only have yourself+spouse at the wedding, which of course comes with its own problems.

Sometimes I think weddings are designed to socially stress-test a couple as much as celebrate and welcome them, wonderful things though they can often be.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 12:18 PM on January 3, 2017 [1 favorite]

Might be a cultural difference, but FWIW I recently attended a wedding of two British-born people in New Zealand. They said they didn't need anything and asked for cash for their honeymoon (with the emphasis that no-one needed to give anything). I found this fine. I genuinely wouldn't interpret "no gifts required" or "donate to a charity" as meaning that you really wanted me to give you cash. (Ask v Guess culture, as well, maybe?).
posted by Pink Frost at 12:41 PM on January 3, 2017

this works best if you have an overbearing family who is doing the traditional family wedding communications stuff, but it's not rude to make your preferences known, only to do it yourself. if you tell people a contribution to a whatever fund is what you really want, it is unforgivable but if your mother or best friend does it for you behind your back, it's fine. it's a sacred wedding mystery.

the deal is your older relatives certainly, and your friends maybe, will ask your parents where you're registered. parents then say "Oh, they didn't register anywhere because they have a tiny apartment and don't expect gifts, isn't that sweet, but I know they're saving up for (whatever -- trip or new house sounds nice, doesn't have to be true). & then some people will still not give cash but even if they find the idea offensive, you're not the one who said it. this is actually the rule for registries too, as I understand it (not telling people directly). really old-school people think registries are presumptuous because you are supposed to be shocked and surprised that anybody would think of giving you anything.

but you do have to get a third party to tell people if this is really important to you, because lots of people (like me) were brought up to think that giving someone cash is insulting. it's also hard because if you give a physical gift, you can compensate for poverty by finding something really beautiful or thoughtful or making it yourself, but if it's cash only, the couple knows exactly how much you paid and how much your gift is worth. that is taboo and kind of humiliating for some people.
posted by queenofbithynia at 12:59 PM on January 3, 2017 [3 favorites]

Gifts really shouldn't be mentioned at all, even to say you don't want gifts or gifts of a certain kind.

For "Tendr" specifically I have a big "ugh, definitely not" feeling. Adding a middleman (who takes a $3 fee) is probably the tackiest way possible to do this.

We had a registry but did not mention it anywhere publicly, including on our otherwise-extensive web site describing logistics. The people who found it did so by searching the web or by asking us or someone else. And 51% of our guests gave cash or gift cards. If you don't have a registry at all you'll get more cash equivalents.
posted by grouse at 1:12 PM on January 3, 2017 [1 favorite]

We spread the word through family and friends that we really didn't need anything and presents weren't necessary. Also, that we were making a huge geographic move and just couldn't tote much.

This resulted in lots and lots of gift cards. We ended up making a very limited registry at Target for those who were fretting about the lack of a registry. There are some older folks from our parent's church who ended up getting us the standard odd varieties of hostess stuff (punch bowls, serving trays, etc.) but it was pretty non-stressful all around this way.
posted by stormygrey at 1:18 PM on January 3, 2017

Our invitation said something like "Thank you for the gift of your attendance or well-wishes." So not really mentioning anything to be given but subtext!
posted by pearshaped at 1:28 PM on January 3, 2017 [1 favorite]

I agree with the people who have said that dictating what gifts guests give, and especially asking for cash gifts at weddings is never appropriate. (I'm a city-dwelling early-thirties progressive, if it matters.)

I'm opposed to it because it puts your guests in the really uncomfortable position of putting a dollar value on their relationship with you. Unless you exclusively socialize in truly rarefied circles, there are almost certainly several people on your guest list who are struggling, and who might be able to afford to purchase something modest from a registry, but who would feel uncomfortable giving you the equivalent amount in an envelope. It's also really unfair to people who may be on a budget because they haven't been sharing household expenses with a significant other for several years, or who will be spending significant sums on travel expenses, hotel rooms, and fancy clothes in order to attend the wedding.
posted by Lycaste at 1:35 PM on January 3, 2017 [7 favorites]

We are also in NYC, and getting married this summer. We just aren't registering at all and hope people get the hint, if they are kind enough to get us anything.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 1:36 PM on January 3, 2017 [1 favorite]

"Please no gifts" is so widely understood as code for "Cash gifts only" that when we tried to actually discourage all gifts, we ended up with a bunch of checks anyway.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 1:38 PM on January 3, 2017

Fwiw, years ago my first wedding invitation included something like "There is no need for presents, your presence is gift enough" and I was later chastised for adding that line.
posted by she's not there at 2:20 PM on January 3, 2017

I suggest a few items that even well established homes can use, like plush new sheets and towels, or a griddle you'd actually like. We also used a registry site that let us link things from across the web, so we included DVDs of the Muppets, and bridge equipment, and camping stuff -- the best part there was the matching of people and gifts, always entertaining and obvious after the fact.

Discouraging gifts is fine -- we actually hand-wrote something on all the invitations that went overseas, since I think travel to be there is a big gift. But a few grandmas will be bent out of shape, and a few friends would rather give you something apt (man! we love that same grater SO MUCH!) than the small amount of cash money they can afford...
posted by acm at 2:35 PM on January 3, 2017

For anyone who genuinely does not want gifts, we used this wording on a (non-wedding) party invitation: "Please resist your natural inclination toward extravagant generosity. Best wishes only please." We got a couple of small token gifts and that was it.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 6:08 PM on January 3, 2017 [1 favorite]

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