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Cash Gifts at Weddings Are No Longer Taboo: Here’s How to Ask Graciously

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Bride and groom standing inside house outline
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Last summer, one of the writers here at The Penny Hoarder HQ built a shed.

Why, you ask?

Well, to store all the extra stuff — stuff that had no other place to go — that he and his wife received from well-meaning friends and family who attended their wedding.

Now don’t get me wrong: I’m sure they were thrilled to have a third toaster and a set of crystal goblets (I’m only making a few assumptions here). But even so, wouldn’t they have been better served with a cash payout equal to the cost of all those duplicate wedding gifts?

A few months later, in October, my sister got engaged.

Since then, most of our family conversations have been wedding related. At one point, I brought up the new(ish) trend of a “honeymoon fund,” where the couple asks friends and family to contribute to their honeymoon budget, in lieu of gifts.

While not opposed to the honeymoon fund per se, she was absolutely taken aback when I took it one step further and suggested they ask people to just give them money with no particular allocation in mind.

An hour-long debate over the social and ethical implications of asking for money (with any goal in mind) at your wedding ensued — and we never really came to a resolution.

Money in Lieu of Traditional Wedding Gifts

To be clear, I’m pro asking for money instead of gifts at your wedding.

And it’s not a totally absurd concept, according to the 2018 Wedding Trends forecast published by The Knot this week.

More and more couples are asking for financial gifts to cover a down payment on a home, the cost of an adoption, a honeymoon or even just to put away as a nest egg or rainy day fund.

No Longer a Taboo Subject

There was a time when giving a cash gift (or worse, asking for one) was considered bad etiquette — but that was also the time when money was considered a taboo subject in polite society.

These days, we’re relaxing when it comes to discussing finances. In fact, 79% of millennials say they’re comfortable discussing finances with a friend (as opposed to the not insignificant 51% of baby boomers who said the same).

But why? Because we’re all starting to realize exactly how important it is to be able to talk about money. If you can’t talk about it, you’re going to have a hard time doing things like asking for a raise or helping friends (or asking for help yourself) when needed.

The Argument for Cash Gifts

The long and short of it is this: We’re more comfortable talking about money than ever, and the trend is only going to continue as we work to instill financial awareness in future generations.

So why is it such a strange concept to some that two people who are at a critical (and not inexpensive) juncture in their lives ask for a little financial boost?

Listen, no one’s asking for any crazy sum of money.

In fact, a cash gift at a wedding really shouldn’t be any larger than the amount a guest was willing to plunk down for a blender or a nice set of bed sheets. If it’s all the same coming out of your budget, why not give the couple the chance to decide exactly how that money would best be spent?

And just imagine all the things a couple could do with that money! They could pay off student loans, take a vacation, adopt a dog, remodel their kitchen or even start planning for parenthood.

And if your gut reaction is, “Yeah, but I could do all of those things with that money, too!” then by all means, go ahead and put the cost of a set of IKEA dishes into your savings account.

Then, take the same amount (or whatever amount you were going to spend on the couple’s wedding present, anyway) and hand it to them in an envelope instead of in the form of a third Brita pitcher. (They both already have one, I promise.)

And that’s the thing: Most adults already have a fully stocked kitchen. They don’t need a set of pricy Turkish dish towels, but they might really appreciate a little help affording a new dishwasher. They wouldn’t have room to store another crystal vase, but they would be so grateful to receive enough money to paint the horrific, sunshine-yellow dining room in their starter home.

And if you have the funds, why not go in with the rest of the new couple’s friends and family to help them on their way to being a little more financially stable?

Wedding Registry Ideas: How to Tactfully Ask For (and Give) Cash

There are a lot of different options when it comes to asking for money in lieu of traditional wedding gifts.

A honeymoon fund was one of the first versions of cash gifts that rolled out onto the wedding scene. Guests can either give a general amount or sponsor individual activities, like zip-lining or swimming with dolphins.

Some people simply ask for their guests to contribute to a “newlywed fund,” a general cash registry people can access and pay into online.

If you’re not feeling all that bold, consider giving specific line items your friends and family can “sponsor.” A portion of a new washer/dryer combo, “cabinets in the new kitchen” or the foundation of an emergency savings account are all options your friends and family would feel confident contributing to.

If you still think you’ll encounter pushback from a few more traditional wedding guests, The Knot has a wedding registry platform that allows you to set up a newlywed fund alongside a more conventional registry. That way, you give guests who may not be comfortable giving a cash gift a graceful out.

If you have a fully stocked home and feel pretty confident in your financial situation, you might even consider encouraging your guests to contribute to a cause or charity you’re passionate about.

What’s important is how you present the idea to your guests. You don’t want to be rude, and certainly don’t want to tell them what they have to do. Anna Post, the great-great granddaughter of Emily Post (yes, that Emily Post) even offered up some tips on how to graciously ask for cash contributions.

If you’re a soon-to-be wedding guest, and you’ve been asked to gift cash instead of a toaster, don’t freak out.

The couple isn’t looking for a whopper of a check to land in their mailbox, and you’re not obligated to give them any more than you would have spent on a traditional wedding gift.

If you just can’t handle the thought of not giving them a physical gift topped with a flouncy bow, consider gifting them something thoughtful and personalized (and maybe even DIYd!). That way, you’re not just giving them another cookie jar, and you might even have some money left over to contribute to their nest egg savings fund.

Grace Schweizer is a junior writer at The Penny Hoarder.

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