Couples who are engaged are talking all about it and it is the most popular topic when it comes to etiquette — how to ask for cash gifts. With many couples paying out of their own pockets for wedding expenses and many already owning a house prior to the wedding, it makes sense that many now prefer cash gifts over a traditional gift. Here, I answer this common question and other FAQs regarding giving gifts, money and asking for cash gifts.

Chinese tea ceremony - Romantic blush pink wedding at Ritz-Carlton Hotel Toronto
Photo credit: Joee Wong Photography

Question: “How do we politely ask for cash gifts in the wedding invitation?”

The short answer is, well, there is no polite way! Any attempt to word such a request will sound rude or tacky. I’ve even seen some websites dedicated to giving people poems that are apparently tasteful in saying that a couple prefers gifts. Here is one:

Therefore there’s no wedding list
The household things we need are few
So if you’re thinking of a wedding gift
Money’s the practical thing to do

Asking for money on the invitation is tacky enough, but then adding a poem to the mixture… my recommendation would be to keep it out. There honestly is no polite way to asking for money on an invitation and most friends/family know young couples prefer cash these days. Afterall, the purpose of the invite is to invite a guest to the most special day of your life; not to ask for gifts!

Question: What is another option to let guests know that I prefer a monetary gift instead?

I always suggest to couples that if they prefer to receive monetary gifts, the best way to do this is to let your family, close friends and/or bridal party spread the word.

Trust them to tastefully communicate the message to guests who ask. It doesn’t have to be a big public service announcement either. It can be as easy as saying, “I know they are looking to save for a down payment or are looking to furnish their new home, so they would really appreciate a monetary gift if you are thinking of giving something.” This way, guests who inquire will find out without having you sound rude on the invitation. Even if a guest asks you personally, tell them the truth about what you might be spending it on (honeymoon, house, new furniture, etc) and thank them for their thoughtfulness.

Are guests expecting to give a monetary gift that is equivalent to the cost of their plate?

I have heard the term “paying for your plate” many times, and I do not agree with this mentality.

One, it is hard to determine the real cost of one’s dinner meal to accurately give the equivalent, especially to determine this amount prior to coming to a wedding. So much goes into the cost of dinner—Food, staffing, venue rental, DJ/band, dessert, rentals, etc—that if a guest truly were to pay for their plate, it would be very expensive! Not to mention, it is impossible to really know how much a dinner plate costs as a guest.

Two, it is difficult to come to terms with this rule of thumb when a couple has expensive taste and has invited a guest to, say, the Four Seasons Hotel (beautiful venue!), for a 5-Star meal and has not held back on the best vendors in town. Is a guest expected to pay $300+ a head for a family of 5 because the couple has chosen to embellish their wedding with the works? It is the couple’s choice to host an extravagant party and it is, by no means, a guest’s responsibility to pay for it.

When I am giving a gift, I always give what I can, depending on what I can afford and how well I know the couple. At the end of the day, any gift will be appreciated and it is a symbolic gesture to bless them as they start their journey together.

As a couple, do not expect gifts either but be gracious when receiving them, as it is not to be an expectation or obligation of guests to give.

Should we open a gift registry anyway?

There may be some guests, especially the older generation, who are not comfortable giving cash and would prefer to give a tangible gift. For this reason, it is always good to open some sort of traditional gift registry, even if it is small. This will give them an idea of what you like, and you can always return or exchange the gifts after the fact if needed. Even then, the registry does not need to be announced in the invitation. A more appropriate place to put it is on the wedding website where more details are given or, again, let those closest to you spread the word.

What are some tips on thanking guests for their gifts?

Make sure to send personalized thank you notes to all guests who gave a gift after the wedding. It is best to send these shortly after your wedding (within the first two months is great) and it is a nice touch to let them know what the money is being used for. As a guest, it is always nice to know that the monetary gift I gave the couple is being used for something useful. Select a weekend, or a week, and make an activity out of it with your new spouse and it is a good way to reminisce on your wedding day too.

Rebecca Chan is a Toronto event designer and event planner. If you have a brand activation, media launch event, design project, trade show or a special event, connect with her today to see how we can collaborate on your next project.