Wedding etiquette – am I alone in preferring to be told what gifts a couple wants?

Wedding etiquette – am I alone in preferring to be told what gifts a couple wants?

Wedding etiquette – am I alone in preferring to be told what gifts a couple wants?

On Tuesday I wrote my ask for wedding cash not gifts blog – exploring how gift giving as a form of social banking. I was surprised by how partisan the responses were – many people supported my idea, yet some deemed it near blasphemous. Yet it was the "you shouldn’t give any indication" comments that most intrigued me.

Much of this is culturally driven. There are many cultures when giving anything other than cash would be bizarre, (ever seen the Sopranos?) of course then there is no need to request anything as the convention is settled. Yet in the UK we have a different tradition, which is why I was surprised by comments like these two…

One shouldn’t "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."

I 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. 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. Requests for cash are just plain offensive.

I simply disagree. We live in a world where giving a gift at a wedding is a cultural convention and most people want to give gifts. It’s important the couple don’t demand gifts, but whether you want cash, vouchers or have a wedding list, to give an indication for those who’d like to give of what would be preferred, is the right thing to do in my book – even if that is "no gifts please".  

I’ve two main reasons for this…

  • The gift will be appreciated and valued.

    Wedding presents can be worth a significant amount of cash, therefore I’d like a legitimate expectation that what I spend will give joy or utility to the couple. To help this there needs to be an indication and co-ordination of gifts. Co-ordination is necessary because there are a large group of people who often won’t know each other – as by definition you’re bringing two different family and friend units together.

    Doing this helps ensure that you get the couple something desired and it avoids unnecessary duplication (22 toasters really aren’t good for anyone). Also remember, by law unless it’s specified as a gift, the couple have no legal right to return it (see the consumer rights guide).

  • It’s less hassle.   

    This is a much less worthy point and I know some will say the effort is what counts. Maybe this is just the ramblings of a workaholic with little time on his hands, yet the truth is it can be a nightmare buying gifts that are suitable, especially when you are friends rather than bosom buddies (or even worse sometimes with extended family it may be someone who you actually don’t know too well).

So while some think it’s rude to give any indication of what gifts they want, in my book it’s rather thoughtless not to. Unfortunately that means it’s a Catch 22 for most couples getting married – you can’t please everyone – so do whatever makes you feel happiest, it’s your day.


  • http://profiles.google.com/ashleypride Ashley Pride

    Personally, I’d make it clear that only presence not presents were the thing I wanted. But offer a gift list aswell.

    I’d never ask for cash outright. My friend recently got married and wanted cash, instead of just asking outright he setup a website where people could gift money for particular things. He had links for things like “Donate £20 to our local charity”, “Donate £50 for a honeymoon gift experience – swimming with dolphins”, “Donate £30 for a meal at the best restaurant in town”.

  • Freya Eden

    I still struggle to ask for specific birthday presents for myself, and often opt for cash. The main reason is that I find it hard to ask for things. However, saying that I always buy presents for others, as I dont like to give cash (I see it as thoughtless). Plus it raises the uncomfortable question – how much should i give? I have lots of family members and friends who i struggle to shop for, so a list is a great help! It prevents people from buying something that the couple may not like, or doubling up on gifts. Not to mention, everyone enjoys unwrapping presents they probably wouldn’t have bought for themselves. If friends asked for only cash, then I would happly give them money. Just because I am not sure I would feel comfortable asking myself, doesn’t mean that its not a good idea. Infact while writing this i can think of many reasons cash could help a newely wed couple – saving for a deposit for a house, kids, paying off debts, etc. Perhaps when my time comes, I may well consider asking for cash.

  • http://twitter.com/pooklexiandbump Nicola Jenkinson

    When I got married me and my husband had a very low cost wedding and we didnt want guests spending lots either. We simply stated we didnt expect gifts but if any one wished to buy something to get us a lotto ticket! We ended up with 43 tickets and had fun checking them – no jackpot but we did get just under £200 :-) Most people ignored our request though we also ended up with a set of glasses some awesome pans a toaster (we did actually need that) a lot of wine and lots of other items and a whopping £500 of argos vouchers!

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_GN72YIDBULRRZBFZXOUMQMDNZI A

    At my wedding, we had several elderly and distant relatives attending, as well as friends of my parents. My hesitated in starting a wedding list, even though we (unlike most people) were starting out with nothing and genuinely needed all the typical household stuff. My mum hinted to me that the elderly/distant relatives would OF COURSE expect to bring a present but because they don’t know me well, it would actually cause them some hassle and worry to choose something for me and welcomed the wedding list idea. So we did provide a list, with not many things on and at varying prices, along with a message of ‘please don’t give a present if you don’t want to!’.

    Some people still ignored us and we ended up with a few giant casserole dishes and things which we had no use for, so it kind of highlighted the need for a list of some kind.
    BTW, been married 7 years now and the higher-quality plates etc we received from our generous relatives are the only things that remain in great condition, unchipped, etc – unlike the cheap stuff we could afford!

  • Anonymous

    My pet hate is being given a wedding present list ID for the couple at a particular store, instead of feeling able to choose where you buy the items. I understand that they may be collecting “Rabino Double Millenium” dinnerware but surely we should be able to shop around and get it where we want, wrap it how we want and personally deliver it with a card chosen by us?
    If they have a gift list, please circulate it amongst the prospective givers, who can then cross out what they choose to give. Their names do not have to appear on “who is buying what”, which can be judged.
    If they want cash, they have to accept that it is what it is and not judge the giver, who may have very little money him/herself.
    The idea of an optional charity donation is a good one, especially if the couple is either quite well off or they have been living together for some time and have most things they want/need.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_NNJKF6VYZJPGPYMXVIYOCXMU6Y Clare

    I get married in 3 weeks. I must admit I was quite uncomfortable specifying cash as our gift option and put it across by saying we’d like to do these activities & excursions on honeymoon & we’d l’ve it if you’d like to contribute to some of them. But that is what we did. We have been living together for 4 years. I have had a house of my own for 7. Pretty much, if I need it, I’ve probably got it. We shied away from asking for vouchers because although we could do with a new washing machine I didn’t want to risk ending up with £1000 worth of comet vouchers & then having to buy things just for the sake of it. I also don’t want to end up with hundreds of vases or knick knacks that will clutter our house up & that I’m going to have to spend the next 10 years surreptitiously selling at car boot sales.

    Old fashioned gift lists would have been useful in times when a new couple were also just ‘setting up home’ together for the first time & needed a helping hand. But times have changed and things aren’t like that any more. Why is it so bad to help people enjoy the start to married life by contributing to their honeymoon?

    What I don’t like is hundreds of bits of card & paper falling out of a wedding invite when I open it. We set up a website & the ‘gift list’ was a page on that. If people didn’t want to look at that particular page, they won’t have done.

    The people who are attending our wedding are 120 of our closest friends and family. If they can’t respect our wishes, they probably aren’t on that list in the first place.

  • Anonymous

    This is an age old problem no matter if you are starting out broke or have just divorced your last millionaire and are about to many the next billionaire.
    If it has to be monetary gifts why not start a joint deposit only account ( most banks will be willing to set this up) and inform guests that if they really feel that they must give you something to deposit the amount into said account; the condition to accepting this gift is that no one is allowed to tell how much they gave but give a simple gift card.(Account number details can be given to all invited – remember no one can touch the money other than the two partners marrying).Whether you are keeping the money or donating it all to charity at least this way there is no division to between the haves and the have-nots, also groups can band together.
    I wish someone had thought of this for me 30+ years ago I had no list, didn’t dare ask for money and was amazed at the number of pryex dishes I got….still got!

  • http://www.seekingserenity.co.uk Jo Boswell

     We’re getting married in a few weeks, and have our own website for it, we have a ‘Gift list’ page and have actually said:

    “We do not expect anyone to buy us a gift, however if you choose to….”

    We have asked for Egyptian pounds as this is where we are going on honeymoon, and have said the money with pay for us to do the ‘extra activities’ in resort, such as a spa day, scuba diving etc.

    We have also linked to 2 of our charities and asked that if people are spending money on a gift, maybe they could reduce the amount we’re getting and they could donate some.

    We’re in our mid 30′s and have been together a while, we have 3 children, and don’t really wish for anything for our home.