What is the proper way of asking for cold, hard cash for wedding gifts?
July 8, 2004 11:54 AM   Subscribe

Wedding etiquette question. We live in the US, but are having a ceremony in the UK. We don't want to have to haul the booty presents back, and many UK appliances will not work in US because of the voltage. Any Mefites had experience of the correct way of asking for cold, hard cash for wedding gifts?

It's kind of half-sorted, as our respective parents are giving us cash, and so we opened a joint account; so gifts could go into that, maybe as a beginning of a house deposit or something. I have also told my friends just to bring really small things if they want to bring a gift, but even thirty or forty really small things is going to add up to at least a suitcase of chotchkas. I'm more concerned with the gray area of in-laws, old family friends, godparents, and so on. I'd even ask for gift cards, but you'd be hard pushed to find UK stores in the states; I think the only common store is Walmart ...

We have considered online registeries, but these are people in the UK who are not too online savvy; I have to phone them to tell them to that I've sent them an e-mail; so I think online CC transactions might be a bit much.

I know this is all kind of unromantic and practical, but we have to make a decision too. Or rather, we're being asked about what we want to do. And to be quite honest cash would be useful.
posted by carter to Human Relations (24 answers total)
Walmart doesn't really exist in the UK. They do own Asda, but everyone in the UK still thinks of it as Asda,

I would have thought setting up an online registry at a US store would be the best bet. You can't cover everyone, but most people have an internet connection and if you give clear instructions, should be able to handle buying something. Make sure you put plenty of 'cash' or 'vouchers' down in the list. Also, find a store that will fax registry lists abroad and maybe even ring people in the UK themselves.

Just be clear and precise in the instructions you send out: we have an online registry. Go to this web site. If you can't do that, ring this number - here is how from the UK. Remember the US is 5 or whatever hours behind (and explain, that means when it's 1pm in the UK, it's 8am in the US).

The big thing is to remember that people want to get you something that you will like. I know, it can be a hard concept to get around. Just help them out on that as best you can...
posted by humuhumu at 12:17 PM on July 8, 2004

Asking for a voltage adapter to go along with the gift would probably go over better than asking for cash.
posted by trondant at 12:25 PM on July 8, 2004

My cousin got married a few weeks ago and for different reasons, they wanted cash rather than presents. I can't remember the exact wording that they placed in the invites, but it was along the lines of...
[Bride & Groom] have decided to mark the occasion by buying themselves a piece of art. Whilst they don't expect to receive wedding presents, any donations towards this art would be happily received.
Something like that. To be honest, I was a bit uncomfortable about being asked for money. Not sure why, it may have been because I felt it was impersonal, it may have been because the groom was a millionaire and probably has enough money already! I definitely felt it was a bit weird because it is like putting a definite cash value on your relationship with the individuals.
It was a difficult situation and I can understand why they did it though so went along with it.
Maybe you could set up on online wedding list service so that the web savvy among your guests at least have the option to buy a proper gift?
posted by chill at 12:33 PM on July 8, 2004

well, there are definitely plenty of stores that exist in both places... I guess they're just places that wouldn't help you much starting a household (like the gap, or borders, etc).

It seems pretty straightforward to me though; just tell them the issue, that you can't carry big presents home! Tell them there's an online registry, or they can give you gift cards to stores that exist in your home state or that ship to your home state. Just make it clear that this is a major concern, considering the number of people attending, and I don't see why it should be a problem...
posted by mdn at 12:38 PM on July 8, 2004

We have considered online registeries, but these are people in the UK who are not too online savvy

Online registries are the way to go. Have some of the more-savvy people over there help the less-savvy people. As their wedding gift, even. Is it possible for the UK parents to print a copy of the registry? Then they could sit down with gramps and Cousin Francine and act as a middleman between Technophobe Luddite Trash and the glories of the internet.

We used amazon for ours (US/Canada; we were just trying to avoid having to pay duty on the stuff and having to jam it into my poor little car) and it was hunky-dory.

--OR-- ask for gift cards that you can use online to get stuff shipped from Britain. The shipping will be a bitch, but oh well.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 12:46 PM on July 8, 2004

It's not inappropriate to mention cash as something you'd like for a gift along with all the other gift ideas you mention to friends and family. It is inappropriate to tell your family or friends what to give you, or to phrase a request in such a way as to have the same effect. While your practical considerations are perfectly reasonable, as a gift recipient, you take what you get and say "thank you."

If you are given UK-voltage appliances and don't want them, you may be able to exchange the gift at the store.
posted by majick at 12:50 PM on July 8, 2004

Generally, you can't tell people you prefer cash for gifts unless they specifically ask you first. The greatest sign you can give that you don't want gifts is not to have a registry, at all. When people ask you, your attendants or close family members for registry information the answer that conveys give me cash, while staying firmly on the polite side of the line is 'Oh, Carter and June will be travelling back to the US after the wedding, so they haven't registered for any things.' The non-socially dense will immediately recognize that as 'I'm not so rude as to suggest you give me cash, but really, actual things would be a terrible pain in the ass, so please don't be so rude as to give them to me.'

Mentioning gifts, registries, cash, or even lack of gifts on invitations are all no-nos in both British and American etiquette. Chill felt uncomfortable because his/her cousin stepped way over the bounds of good etiquette in that one. Except for showers and children's birthday parties, you should never imply that you expected a gift, at all.
posted by jacquilynne at 12:51 PM on July 8, 2004

Response by poster: ROU-xenophobe, maybe Amazon's worth a try; I'd mentally ruled it out after my suggestion of putting my wish list in the registry was voted down; but maybe asking for Amazon certificates is worth going for, as it's not cash, and they do have alot of stuff we could get further down the road ...

majick, the exchange idea would work, but we're leaving the UK the next morning ...

jacquilynne, that kind of makes sense re. dropping hints; although we did have a do for our US friends here, told people we weren't expecting gifts, and then some people got huffy cuz we *hadn't* registered and they wanted to get us something anyway and then didn't know what to get.

The smart ones of course got us smallish gift certificates - Target, local hardware store, restaurants, etc.

Any, keep 'em coming!
posted by carter at 1:03 PM on July 8, 2004

I told my fiancee that we were going to tell everyone that we are registered with the Federal Reserve and we're rather found of their Grant and Franklin lines of fine stationary
posted by Mick at 1:07 PM on July 8, 2004 [3 favorites]

Etiquette Hell - also, what jacquilynne said.

Asking for any kind of gift in conjunction with your wedding is one of the most egregious (and common) etiquiette faux-pas. Be grateful for what you are given, thank those who give you gifts in a timely and effusive manner, make sure those closest to you (wedding party, parents, etc.) are briefed on how to respond to questions about gifts (again, jacquilynne's comments are excellent), and be prepared to return some stuff.

Best wishes!
posted by anastasiav at 1:17 PM on July 8, 2004

Friends of mine recently got married in the reverse situation as yours (i.e., they live in the UK but got married in the US). They set up a UK gift registry (with johnlewis.com), and then explained it on the invitation something along these lines: "Due to complications in compatible voltage as well as in transporting goods between countries, we have set up a small online gift registry in the UK at [info here]. There will also be a 'wishing well' at the wedding itself if you would like to contribute in another way." ("Another way" being, of course, the synonym for "cold hard cash.")

I think it was about as pleasant a way to put it, although personally I think it would have been nice to add some sort of acknowledgement that (along the lines of what the always-wise anastasiav says above) made it clear that they were not expecting a gift -- e.g., "Your love and good wishes on this special day are gift enough. We have been asked, however, how best to accomodate those who might like to give any other gifts...." etc.

This may strike some as disingenous -- either given the ubiquity of giving wedding gifts, or given the sort of "we don't want anything, but in case you want to give us something, here's the instructions" message. Still, I would have liked the acknowlegement that being present to witness the marriage (often potentially at a cost of travelling, hotel, etc.) is the fundamental reason one receives an invitation to a wedding. An alternate way to deal with it may be to say nothing on the invitation, but to have a separate, less formal printed page to send to folks who specifically ask you or your family how to handle the gift/transportation/voltage situation.

I was glad my friends gave the registry option -- personally, I would have felt unbelievably awkward giving cash to friends as a gift, even though they requested it and I know it would come in handy. I think of a cash gift as something exclusively given by a parent, grandparent, aunt or uncle to a child, grandchild, nephew or niece -- friends (or family members within the same generation) always give presents.
posted by scody at 1:36 PM on July 8, 2004

What are you doing for the honeymoon? What a couple of (UK) couples I know have done is to get people to pay for elements of their honeymoon. Eg, a night in Venice, trip to Siena, etc.
posted by biffa at 1:37 PM on July 8, 2004

I like Chinese weddings (I've been to a few here in Vancouver). Red envelope, cash inside. The traditional belief is that this provides good luck to both the receiver and giver.

I realise that it's outside of "etiquette" to ask for cash, personally I think it depends. If it's two people moving out of the folks and setting up their own home I'd have no trouble giving cash. If, as a previous poster mentions, the groom is a millionaire, I'd find asking for gifts (of any kind) rude. My view on gifts is that it's to help people start out as a couple, not to provide some added highball glasses just for the heck of it.

Two friends got married recently and they had been living together for several years. They asked that no one bring gifts, but if they wanted to donate to a cancer charity in the couple's name, that would be appreciated. They got what turned out to be a fairly generous tax receipt out of it.
posted by Salmonberry at 1:48 PM on July 8, 2004

I don't know how even to say this correctly, but no correct way exists to suggest what a guest might offer as a gift. None. Period.

If someone asks, you tell them what you think is appropriate -- e.g. you might say something different to a blue-blood uncle than a long-time friend.

You will receive something that you do not like, something you can not use, something which is quite possibly the ugliest object ever created. These will be left behind, regifted, stored in an attic until forgotten, given away. C'est la vie.

We used our oddest gift (36" tall wooden ca\ndlesticks -- at least we think they were 36" tall wooden candlesticks) as "rigging" for home projects before they went into the rubbish.
posted by Dick Paris at 2:04 PM on July 8, 2004

Response by poster: yoinks, it's a bit of minefield, isn't it (nice link, anastasiav); anyway here's how it's shaping up in my head.

I'll brief my parents on the voltage/portability issues, and get them to spread the word around the inner circle at their end. I'm thinking about mentioning Amazon gift certificates as a workaround, if people want; or maybe Amazon certs plus something small and portable, because most people do like handing over something they've chosen, I think (unless they're like me ...)

scody, I'll re-emphasise to friends that they should just bring themselves and 'something small'; I'm really not expecting anything from them apart from their presence together in the same room for the first time in years (and in fact we're laying out a wodge on putting them in what I know is the poshest hotel a number of them will have ever seen ;)

biffa, we're off to the Algarve for a week ;) The relatively quiet (west) end. I hitch-hiked round there 15 years ago before the villa complexes arrived, and now we're staying in one ...

Salmonberry, we're both half-Asian - and used to the red envelopes - maybe that's been influencing us, I never thought.

Anyway this is all very useful; me and mrs. c. are pretty much crap at it, having never done it before, etc. Be prepared for more marriagefilter questions!
posted by carter at 2:23 PM on July 8, 2004

i have to agree with the "there is no polite way to tell people what gifts to give"--a registry exists not to tell people what gifts you want, but to let them know that your kitchen is going to be yellow or that your china pattern is suchandso (it has devolved, at least in the US, to a giant "dear santa" list and is, in itself, becoming offensive).

jaquilynne is completely spot on that all you can do is downplay the idea of receiving gifts and hope that people catch on that this means you'd prefer cash.

it's actually improper to bring the gift to the wedding, anyway. you're supposed to have it sent to the couple's new home, to arrive around the time they return from the honeymoon. keeping track of gifts at a reception is impossible for the couple and a burden to whichever member of the wedding party or guest assumes the duty of it. it also increases the risk that gifts will get separated from anything that identifies the giver.
posted by crush-onastick at 2:33 PM on July 8, 2004

Just a bit of what others said. We were moving from Ontario to Halifax two months after our wedding, so we definitely were in the market for cash rather than things, especially since we needed to buy a good bed, dresser, pay to move, etc. What we did was set up a gift registry for those who were intent on that, but it was quite small and only had things we knew were easy to pack, like towels, sheets, and small kitchen appliances. It wasn't on the invites at all, and when people inquired with my parents or us, it was mentioned that we were moving. No pressure, but an indication.

We ended up with a mix of gifts and cash/cheques. Some people, seeing the paltry registry, just went out and bought something else. C'est la vie. The nice part was that the things were all much, much nicer than anything we had previously. And would we have ever bought candlesticks?

Currently, I never give anything but a cheque for a present. I think more couples are looking for money than you think. Plus, then they can buy whatever the heck they want with it, and I don't have to pick out a present. Showers, however, require gifts. So watch out if your wife is having a wedding shower in the UK - they are always gift occasions.
posted by livii at 2:45 PM on July 8, 2004

"majick, the exchange idea would work, but we're leaving the UK the next morning ..."

You'll be in the UK for a reason, obviously: you know people there! Can you draft a confederate to handle any such transactions in your absence? I'm sure, no matter what you do to prevent it, there will be the odd toaster on offer.
posted by majick at 2:51 PM on July 8, 2004

I just got back from a wedding where the folks involved were going on a fairly lengthy honeymoon. They asked for any gifts to be delivered to a close friend of the bride at such-and-such an address which was also noted in the registry. Isn't it possible to have registries at US companies delivered to a US address [yours, someone else's]? People should know that you are from the US, right? They won't get you a UK toaster if you can't bring it home with you. I have also had friends go the "Please make a donation to [designated charity] in our name" as Salmonberry said, and it worked out well. They didn't get cash, but people made nice donations [online or off] to some noble cause, and they got the tax deduction.
posted by jessamyn at 4:26 PM on July 8, 2004

Ask for a donation to your favorite charity, instead?
posted by normy at 5:03 PM on July 8, 2004

Must admit that my usual thought on being presented with a wedding present list is "Look, you're getting married and I'm still single. Why not give *me* a prezzie you happy bastards?"

Last wedding I went to the invitation stated that *if* you felt the need to give you should contribute to Amnesty or Greenpeace. I seriously doubt that tax deductions ever entered their thoughts.

Asking for gifts is tacky, asking for cash is so far beyond tackiness I guess it might eventually become acceptable in some perverse way.
posted by squealy at 5:47 PM on July 8, 2004

My neice got married and got no gift from me. I did not even go, being unwilling to travel that far at that time. If I had been told of a registry, I would have picked something nice from it. It never occured to me to ask, having forgotten that such things even existed.

The result? I feel guilty. I think registries are a great idea, especially anything that makes the effort only an issue of spending the money. And it makes it possible to buy part of a set of something, which is even more cool.

I'm no person to say what the prevailing notions of correctness are. I only comment from the view of the middle aged gay uncle who hasn't been to a wedding since his sister got married some 25 years ago.
posted by Goofyy at 11:47 PM on July 8, 2004

We're getting married in one month and put some thought into this as well. I'm not from the US and it took me a while to get used to the idea of a registry (it felt too much like asking for presents), but in the end realized it just made life simpler.

To confirm what everybody said above - do not mention gifts in your invite. Let people come to you.

We decided to register for a few things that we would like but wouldn't necessarily spend the money on ourselves - excellent cookware and tableware for special occasions. We deliberately did not mention the registry in the invite, which has had the desired effect of most people asking us if we're registered and whether we'd prefer gifts or cash. We generally respond with a 'it's very nice of you to want to get us something - cash (or whatever word they use) is always welcome, and for those who want to get us a gift, we're registered at ___.'

Although we are not getting married in another country like you, a number of guests are traveling internationally to our wedding, and they have all been really happy to not have to lug presents in their luggage or worrying about obtaining enough local currency for a gift present. So it seems to have worked out really well.

Congratulations and good luck!
posted by widdershins at 10:32 AM on July 9, 2004

Response by poster: This has just spiralled into the archives black hole, so once again, thanks y'all, very useful as always! :)
posted by carter at 11:08 AM on July 9, 2004

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