Is it okay to specify that you want cash gifts on your wedding invitations?
Traditional etiquette – No. Modern etiquette – No. In a word – NO.
This has been a hot topic for a while in the wedding world. Here’s some numbers – according to EmilyPost.com during a survey carried out by WeddingChannel.com in 2001 “42% of brides and grooms-to-be said that “how to request money as a wedding gift” is the most challenging etiquette issue they face as they plan their weddings”. Then years later and I’m guessing it may be even more than that. But, notice the wording – not “whether” to request money as a gift, but “how”.
A little background – pretty much every etiquette expert out there will tell you that it is not acceptable to ask for cash as a gift, or in fact to mention gifts at all on an invitation. Even saying “no gifts please”.
Why? So many answers to be honest, but technically speaking…
The definition of gift is actually “something voluntarily transferred by one person to another”. Notice the voluntary part. That means that gift is given by the giver of their own choice, and the gift itself is of their own choosing. You should never assume that someone will give a gift – a gift is always optional, so any hint that you are expecting gifts can be seen as greedy.
While I’m sure there are many people who aren’t necessarily offended by a couple asking them for money (and no, I don’t think it really matters how it’s done – whether it’s with a cute poem or saying “no gifts please” or writing “monetary wedding” on your invitation – it all boils down to the same thing), there are likely just as many who are.
Why would couples consider alluding to cash gifts on their invitations? There are a number of reasons; however, I think that there are two that most likely are causing a rise in these sorts of requests. First, many couples are footing some or all of the bill for their wedding, and realistically feel that a cash gift will help them recoup the cost of their wedding. Second, many couples these days are living together before they are married, or are well established on their own, and have many of the traditional wedding gifts already (china, flatware, appliances, linens etc.).
Interestingly, a nationwide survey proved that 78% of consumers prefer to give cash as a wedding gift. I think that’s extremely significant, because one of the reasons that I oppose the concept of asking for cash as a gift is that most of your guests *will* give you money. Yes, I realize that this varies geographically and culturally etc., but what I often tell my clients is that most of their guests will likely give them money anyway, so they really don’t need to be told to. Those that don’t plan on giving money as a gift, will likely be the ones who *are* offended by their request. So there really isn’t much to gain by asking for a monetary gift, but quite a bit to lose – at least in the tact department.
Taking all of the above into consideration, of course many couples would prefer to receive cash gifts, for one reason or another. So is there a tactful way of spreading the word?
Let’s start with what isn’t tactful: mentioning gifts directly on your invitation. If you feel you must put it in writing, please PLEASE do NOT include in on the main part of your invitation. I wish there was a gentler way of saying this, but asking for cash gifts directly on your wedding invitation itself is just plain wrong for so many reasons. Do not put your guests in the uncomfortable position of receiving an invite that invites them to share your joyful day and two lines later let’s them know you’d like cold hard cash please.
A related note: While adding a registry card is common for bridal shower invitations, it is really not appropriate to include with your wedding invitation. The point of a shower is to “shower” the bride with gifts, so it’s a different situation entirely. It’s not cool to ask for cash, and it’s still not cool to use your wedding invitation to tell your guests what to buy you.
How can you let your wishes be known, without ending up in the etiquette doghouse? There are really two good ways that I would suggest, if you feel that it’s absolutely necessary.
First, the traditional way is to spread the word amongst your immediate family and bridal party, and let them spread the word amongst your guests, discreetly of course. Guest who are curious will ask what you might like or where you are registered – those who have already made up their mind will not, but they will also not find themselves in the awkward situation of feeling they have to give a specific gift of cash.
The modern way is to add the information to your wedding website – in fact, the purpose of your wedding site is to let your guests know any additional information that they might need. If you absolutely have to, this would be the place for a discreet note about your gift preferences or a link to your registry.
In the final analysis, I think this issue is really less about adhering to traditional etiquette and more about being respectful toward your guests. Yes, they will almost certainly give you a gift. Yes, it will probably be a cash. Yes, it may be a hideous quilt, but that always makes for a great story 20 years from now.
Don’t lose sight of what your wedding is really about – sharing one of life’s most special moments with the people who love and care for you. Not whether or not they open their pocketbook and how wide.