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Don’t be afraid to request wedding cash instead of gifts

Don't be afraid to request wedding cash instead of gifts

Don't be afraid to ask for wedding cash instead of gifts

Wedding gifts aren’t just a pleasant way of wishing a new couple a great life together, historically they’re there as a form of social banking and before you decide what to ask for on the big day – it’s worth understanding the function this ‘ceremonial gift exchange’ performs.

Later this week, the most talked about UK wedding for thirty years will happen. This particular royal couple happily have finances strong enough to be able to ask their guests to give to charity, but most couples don’t. So I thought I’d speedily jot down some wedding gift thoughts.

Far too many think of wedding gifts as an added extra, yet financially it needs to play a core part in your plans. You’re likely to be shelling out a serious sum of cash for your wedding but lots of people are willing to effectively pay you back in return for going to the ceremony. In clinical terms you need to marry your expenditure with your one source of income on the big day.

Of course etiquette rightly suggests no one should ‘ask for gifts’ so what we’re really talking about here is whether you can express a preference for cash over presents for those who want to give.

Gift giving is a form of social banking

Wedding gifts have historically been an effective societal mechanism for directing cash in local or familial economies to where it’s needed. Try to think of it in terms of a flow of money.

Older generations would give gifts or money to younger ones to help them start off in life before they’d had time to build their own finances.

Then, once that couple was older they effectively gave back to others in the same community when they attended the weddings of younger couples (perhaps the children or grandchildren of those who originally gave to them) by giving them gifts.

However, the key here is that unlike Christmas gifts, (and for the reason I don’t like the latter see time to ban Christmas presents) in the short term it isn’t a zero sum game as there is a net flow of money to the younger couple to invest in their future. 

Of course over the long term all that money is likely to be returned. Although, the most affluent and successful members of the community are likely to give the most and probably over their lifetimes will have a net outflow. But, the short term cash flow boost to enable a couple to build a home together is a crucial function.

With our current life patterns, asking for cash is fine

In recent years things have changed radically, many couples already live together when they get married and have much of what is needed in their homes, whether it’s toasters, kettles or silverware. That means…

perversely the biggest cost of getting married for many couples isn’t setting up home, but the wedding day itself.

Therefore don’t be afraid to ask for cash on your wedding day, as it’s part of what a marriage is all about. Think about the common wedding ceremony – it asks others to "support the couple" and where needed that includes financially.

In truth many weddings entail paying £50-£100 per head, per guest and the gift giving is a way of people subsidising the cost of their own attendance.

In many ways it’s becoming an accepted logic for attendees to consider the cost of their presence when deciding the scale of their presents.

How to ask for cash

There are many ways this can be done: envelopes on the day, money into a special bank account, even perhaps a targeted ‘honeymoon’ fund, which many people find less clinical plus you don’t need to spend it all on the honeymoon.

As for how much guests should give, well that’s up to the individual as there are a number of factors involved – the closer they are to you the more they should give, the more expensive the wedding ceremony the more they should give, but if they’re struggling then the less you should expect.

Beware of wedding vouchers

Often couples prefer asking for indirect cash in the form of gift vouchers (and you could stretch this to wedding lists too). 

Yet do remember, if the company goes bust and your friends have bought vouchers or paid for goods from there, you just become a creditor and are unlikely to get much cash back. Money in the bank is a much safer option. If you are going to ask for vouchers or write a wedding list, at least consider the solvency of the company you’re putting the money in.


  • tommy tibbs

    At the moment I am in the throes of many of my friends’ expensive weddings and I have to say that by the time I’ve bought a new outfit, travelled and stayed in the (expensive) hotel rooms required, AND bought the presents, I’m not feeling full of the joys of weddings. In fact, in some cases the costs are prohibitive.
    in the above article it states: “perversely the biggest cost of getting married for many couples isn’t setting up home, but the wedding day itself.”
    Maybe I’m cynical, but I certainly don’t think that the big day needs to cost the earth, it shouldn’t be about one day anyway, it’s about the rest of your lives together, and I for one am just not as excited as my friends about their 3-year engagements (neccessary to pay off the wedding costs” and their extravagant weddings.

    What a scrooge, eh?

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_7IUFQOTJ6KX5GV2IJMEQHSRVXA Martha Mackenzie

    Erm is this for real? “request”, is that really what you meant? One shouldnt “request” presents at a wedding! I find the whole wedding list thing totally offensive and the notion of a couple actually asking for cash, totally wrong.

  • Anonymous

    I genuinely don’t agree with asking for any gifts or cash when you are getting married.

    I invited people to my wedding because I wanted them there to witness our commitment to each other, not to get a gift.

    We didn’t have a list and left it to people to decide what they wanted to do. Any gift we received was very well appreciated, especially the ones which had some thought behind them.

    I agree that requests for cash are just plain offensive.

  • Anonymous

    We had 7 guests at our wedding nothing was asked of them other than to attend and celebrate our commitment to one another – a perfect day and one I wouldn’t change for the world. By all means have your blow-out wedding that’s what floats yout boat but you shouldn’t expect family and friends to finance it by return of gifts

  • Anonymous

    I am getting married in 18 moths time and will be politely asking any guests that wish to give us a gift if they could give us money insted which we could put towards our honeymoon. I feel that it is totally acceptable to do this and was very pleased to see this article. I have spoken to many of my friends and family who will be attending the wedding and they all agree that this is better as they would rather know what we would like rather than get us something which we already have. I wil be asking by putting a little poem in the invite.

  • http://profiles.google.com/admin.spike Luke Pritchard

    Our invites read “because at first we lived in sin, we already have the kitchen bin, a gift from you would be swell, but we’d prefer a gift to our wishing well”

  • Anonymous

    I am mortified by this idea as we had a weekend in Wales which we paid for ourselves! We also bought a house the week before we got married. Again, deposit, mortgage, solicitors fees paid for by ourselves. Our home was furnished with furniture brought with us from our previous homes (nothing new, as we had no money left!) We paid for the wedding ceremony, all bridal party outfits,cake, flowers, cars, etc, ourselves. Our reception was a buffet with a disco. When we went to settle the bill for the buffet we were surprised and delighted to find that our families settled the bill. That was the only financial assistance we had. We did not ask for or expect anything, My husband was an extremely low paid driver at the time and I worked in an office. We were not millionaires but we saved, very hard! We had what we could afford! If I had an invite with a poem inside, asking for money I would just not bother to reply or maybe suggest that I brought my own sandwiches!

  • http://twitter.com/Al1cat66 Alison Campling

    At a wedding last year, the couple said they didn’t want gifts, just the pleasure of their guests’ company. Of course most of us wanted to give a little something so gave cash which they used to pay for a delayed honeymoon. Everyone was happy!

  • Anonymous

    The other day some colleagues and I were discussing the cost of attending weddings nowadays. One example was one of them had been asked to be an usher so was expected to attend the stag do in a foreigh country (£250 flights and hotel and at least £250 spending money), he then had to pay for suit hire (£140), he was expected to stay the night before the wedding and the night of the wedding (£240), his wife bought a new outfit as it was the same group of friends as previous weddings and there is a social expectation that the girls will wear something different so that was another £100. Drinks on the night at an expensive hotel were £50. The bill already £980 and no gift had been given yet. As he put it thank goodness his wife wasn’t invited to the hen week!

    I think its fine to state money is preferred but when you tot up the cost of attending, I personally would be grateful for people being there

  • Anonymous

    i asked for cash, but we still got gifts. guests just dont feel right giving cash/cheques/giving to a dedicated wedding account. We did get some cash, but most friends cant bare to come without a physical gift – we got sum really unwanted gifts that im going to have to try and sell on ebay!! it was really annoying – we couldnt understand why people cant follow our wishes

  • Anonymous

    Ditto.

    I just cannot believe there are people who actually think the request for a wedding gift is ‘expected’ and now requesting for cash is ‘okay’. Let me guess where is this going…..perhaps requesting cash for newborn babies?

  • Anonymous

    Ditto.

    Where are we going next? It’s okay to request for baby cash?

  • Anonymous

    I can totally understand what’s annoying you, however if you think again from another perspective – the whole point of gifting is for sentimental reasons i.e. things that especially chosen for you and your partner for your very special day. To think the gifts chosen for you and your partner is ‘unwanted’ and ‘annoying’ – I just think this thoughts is too self-centered.

  • Sara Doron

    Of course it’s OK to ask!

    In my rather extensive recent experience, the only way to keep costs down is to cut the number of guests and have a smaller capacity venue, fewer mouths to feed, fewer decorations to buy etc etc. Not an option if you have a big family and a wide circle of friends who would all be offended not to be invited.

    I’d say the cheapest you could possibly do a wedding of 150 is about £8k – which is a lot for most couples who also pay rent or a mortgage. I’m planning a wedding now on a budget and we’re already up to £12k with the costs of catering, venue, outfits and outfits for the bride and groom’s parties.

    I’d love to sympathise with the guest who has to travel and stay in a hotel (come on, a new outfit AND an expensive hotel room are luxuries, what’s wrong with recycling an older outfit and staying in an ordinary B&B?) but the couple is under a lot more pressure to deliver a day that everyone is happy with – at their own expense.

    Not everybody insists their friends cough up hundreds for extravagant and embarrassing weekends away – not everybody has their weddings in remote locations that people have to travel to and not everybody treats people like second class citizens if they (shock, horror) wear the same dress to two different events!

    Plus nobody’s DEMANDING money or gifts, but take my engagement party as an example. We told everyone that gifts weren’t necessary and then ended up with a bunch of very nice stuff, but stuff that we’ll probably never use.

    If people are planning to give a gift anyway, surely some direction is helpful to them? There are ways to ask. Saying that the pleasure of your company is enough and gifts aren’t expected but that, if they had intended to give a gift, a contribution to a honeymoon would be really welcome, is not rude or cheeky at all.

    The only thing wrong that I can see is people expecting others to pay hundreds to come to their wedding. I went to a friend’s wedding a few months ago. What did it cost me? £25. For petrol and drinks. I went home the same night and, if that hadn’t been an option, would have found a less expensive place to stay.

  • Anonymous

    I cannot believe that we are in the 21st century and people find this so offensive! come on, get real. how many people these days actually need things for their home when they get married? if they asked for gifts the majority would be household items which they probably already have a decent one already, this would just mean that all the good but old things would just go to landfill and of course that is a whole different issue. asking for a contribution towards a honeymoon is much better than asking for just cash as at least people know they are helping the couple out and its not just going to be wasted on something they don’t really need! People expect to give gifts to the newly married couple and most people want to as it has always been the case, if you didn’t inform your guests they would no doubt ask you anyway. People might not always agree with the way other people do things but we have to respect this as at the end of the day they are doing what is right for them at the time. However much money people pay for their weddings is entirely their own business and who are we to judge. If you really don’t agree with it then just don’t go.

  • Anonymous

    One of the items I referred to was given to us with a note to say “we may not like it!! and if so please get rid of it” !!!!!!! so im not being self centred – but it came from a person who had had a wedding a few months earlier and asked for money instead of gifts – which we did – it was a bit shocking for that particular guest to then ignore our request…besides most people get unwanted gifts – that’s why lists were created – even down to Christmas lists!!

    The point of this thread is that No-one should feel guilty about asking for money or specific things.

    BUT my point was to say that couples shouldn’t expect to actually get what you ask for – the list or request will be seen as a a guideline and not mandatory.

    PS. my wedding cost only £3,500 – we really took on board all the money saving tips out there and our guests said it was the best and most beautiful wedding they had ever been to :-)

  • Anonymous

    I managed to save LOADS on my wedding by going to a council owned venue…as they don’t aim to make profit. Our Wedding was in a medieval register office and the reception in an absolutely gorgeous medieval building next to a cathederal.

    We got friends to provide entertainment – anyone who had a talent was invited to the stage area – we had a band, singers, an adult storyteller, a hypnotist, a magician and a comic pick-pocket. It was an AMAZING evening and everyone said it was much better than a cheesy disco!

    Also, the venues were SO beautiful that I didnt need to provide extra flower arrangements. So the only flowers that I bought were the bouquets and button holes.

    I got my dress online which saved HUNDREDS and I didnt have favours AND table centre-pieces, I combined the two by buying a vase for £2 per table and filling them with sweets for everyone to snack on during the speeches and beyond! – it was fun finding sweets to match the colour scheme.

    Friends asked if their gifts could be things like the bouquet – which I was VERY pleased with, I designed my flowers and a friend paid for it – super:-) (although as I mention in a later post, we also got some things that weren’t so great!)

    The wedding was incredible and didn’t look cheap at all – it only cost £3,500 and the guests we amazed by the entire event-saying it was the most beautiful wedding they had ever been to…I was VERY HAPPY.