Dear Penny: Is My Niece Tacky for Using GoFundMe to Pay for Her Wedding?

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Dear Penny,

My great niece is getting married in October. I live in New York City, and she lives in Indiana. I said I would go, although I only met her once.

Now she set up a GoFundMe page, asking for help with the wedding instead of a gift. Do you think I should contribute? I’ve never heard of such a request.


Dear C.,

I’ve never heard of using GoFundMe to pay for a wedding. But given the fact that people have used crowdfunding platforms to pay for everything from breast implants to their dream cars, I’m not particularly surprised.

Still, crowdfunding a wedding seems especially tacky. The couple is basically throwing themselves a party, then asking the guests to pay their own admission. I’d err on the side of setting up a GoFundMe when you’re struggling with a big but unavoidable expense, i.e., large medical bills or repairing your home after a fire. A wedding certainly doesn’t qualify since you can always have a cheaper wedding or have a longer engagement, giving you more time to save.

Dear Penny

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But the fact that this request is tasteless is on your great niece, not you. You asked me whether you should contribute. If anything, kicking in a small amount of cash instead of buying a gift makes things easier on you as a wedding guest. No need to scour her registry for a piece of houseware that will wind up collecting dust. Since you’ve only met her once, surely you weren’t planning on a highly personal gift.

I should note that traditions are always changing, and it’s becoming a lot more acceptable to ask for cash in lieu of physical gifts at a wedding. People are marrying later in life and often live together before they wed. Couples often already have all the household items that make for traditional wedding gifts. But presenting cash as one option for a gift — often to help out with a down payment or honeymoon expenses — is a lot different than asking guests to fund the wedding itself.

One thing I’m curious about is what happens if guests aren’t quite as generous as the couple hoped. I’m assuming that by the time invites have gone out, they’ve already booked a venue and paid lots of non-refundable deposits. Relying on a GoFundMe for a wedding you can’t afford could be a disaster.

But if you find this request truly outrageous, you’re under no obligation to contribute. Hopefully, the couple still created a registry for guests who prefer to give a physical gift.

Don’t feel pressure to make a large contribution if you choose to send cash. Presumably, you’ll also be paying for travel expenses. A modest gift is entirely appropriate, considering this is a distant relative you’ve only met once.

Robin Hartill is a certified financial planner and a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. Send your tricky money questions to  or chat with her in The Penny Hoarder Community.