How to Ask for Money Instead of Wedding Gifts (Tactfully)

According to the Globe and Mail and considering that the average wedding costs over $25,000 these days, it doesn’t make much sense at all to go into debt when you start your new life together.  After the lavish one day celebration together, there’s the rest of your life together that you need to work on… To me, starting your life together in consumer debt (not to mention student loan debt, or credit card debt from each individual) whilst at the same time trying to save up for a down payment for a home together doesn’t make much sense.

$25,000 is a LOT of money.  That is a 10% down payment on a $250K condo/house (depending on where you live).  That’s like an entire undergraduate degree in Canada (probably less in Quebec too!).

Many couples these days are shacking up prior to getting married.  For many, it makes sense to share the shelter costs and to “test the waters” out by cohabitating before marriage.  Therefore, many couples already have a toaster, a blender, sheets, delicate China (or maybe not), glassware, furniture, electronics… the list goes on.

The one thing that couples who already live together (and even those who don’t) really really want is money.

Money would help pay for the honey moon.  Money will help pay for the down payment.  Money will help offset the cost of the $25,000 wedding.

The tricky thing is how to ask for it in a tactful manner?

How do you ask for money without having to resort to the money dance (unless it’s an expected custom of your culture)?

How to Let Your Guests Know You Want Money, Honey

It’s a bit tacky to ask directly for money from your guests so use your beloved family, wedding party, and close friends to help spread the word.  Guests will likely be talking to other guests before the wedding to ask what you as a couple really want.  Tell them to tell your guests that you would really like cash or gift cards.

Money cards (you know, those elongated cards that have a little pocket for money or gift cards) make this process a lot easier these days.

If you have a website you can say that you prefer to have money in lieu of gifts and it will go towards your new life together, your down payment, your renovation.  I think that many guests these days agree that life is expensive and any amount helps!

Cash Wedding Registries

With the internet anything is possible!

There are a few sites that do cash wedding registries.  This means that your guests can pay for their wedding gift online and the money gets transferred to your bank account when you want to “cash out”.  For many of these sites, you can create a page where you could explain where their cash gift is going towards (e.g. a honeymoon, or a down payment on your new home,  a renovation).  You can even decorate it all nicely with your engagement photos and explain how you met etc. etc.

  •  Wedistry– Their slogan is “for wedding gifts outside the box.” They are Canadian based. You can personalize your website by adding details about the wedding day, add some photos… all the good stuff.  Of course they’re making money off you but how much?  They take 5% off the top from any gifts (but no extra charges to guests) to you and charge you $25 when you “cash out.”  So, let’s say you have 150 people and each gives $100 to Wedistry.  It will cost you $750 but you’ll have $14,250 instead of a toaster, a blender, an iron….

  • Cash Wedding Gift– has a slightly tackier title.  They’re seen on The Knot and are part of the Better Business Bureau (so they must be good).  The gift givers get charged $4.99 processing fee and an additional 3.9% of the gift they’re giving.  They use an example of it costing $108.89 for a $100 cash gift.  You can include a wedding registry video.  For this reason I don’t think I’ll be using it if I ever get married lol (the idea of talking in front of a camera scares me!)

  • Our Wishing Well– This website isn’t unique to weddings but can include other events like birthdays, babies, fundraisers, housewarmings.  The good thing is that the guests don’t have to pay a fee.  There is a “cash out” fee when you withdraw and it’s a tiered system depending on how much money you withdraw.  The unique thing about Our Wishing Well is that its not money specific and has gift cards etc. that you can ask for.  The other “plus” of this company is that they accept most major currencies.

Here’s the fee structure for Our Wishing Well:

I know it’s a delicate subject, but sometimes a couple’s gotta do what a couple’s gotta do!  Any gift from a guest is appreciated (even if its a toaster because really its the thought that counts).  A guest’s presence is appreciated as well!  Life is expensive and weddings are even more expensive.  Why bother with the hassle of receiving a toaster, writing a thank you note to the guest for that toaster, and returning the toaster for money?

Readers, do you think asking for money is tacky or do you think its a “do” in this day and age?



Young is a writer and former owner of Young and Thrifty and the main "twitter' behind Young and Thrifty's twitter account. She lives in Vancouver, BC and enjoys long walks on the beach, spending time with her anxious dog, and finding good deals. If you like what you read, consider signing up for email updates.

47 Responses to How to Ask for Money Instead of Wedding Gifts (Tactfully)

  1. Personally, our wedding was incredible at a winery. We even had an open bar.

    In saying that I am not sure what else we would cut to reduce the cost. It was worth every penny to marry to woman of my dreams!

    I think all or most of these registries are a waste of time.

    At our wedding (3 years ago), we mostly received cash but whenever a gift is given it should not be expected.

  2. Fascinating! All the more reason to keep weddings small and intimate. Less hassle, planning-wise, less cost (obviously!) and more time to spend quality time with people you really care about, rather than flitting from table to table after dinner, spending 2 minutes at each one.

    I don’t think that preferring cash gifts instead of useless household items is tacky itself, but I do think you have to be careful about how you present it, ’cause it’s really easy to sound tacky.

    That Wedistry site sounds pretty cool. I’d much rather they take out the money from the recipient instead of the giver, like the other site. I know that as a giver I’d feel a bit put off if they charged me fees AND a fixed percent overhead charge. Double whammy! Yes, I am aware that I pay that same amount extra in sales tax when I buy regular items, but this is just… I dunno, it would feel “scammy” to me as a gift-giver.

    I have friends who got married a few years ago and set up a really tiny wedding gift registry, since they lived in a studio in NYC and didn’t have room for many household goods. But parallel to that, they set up a “honeymoon” registry — I REALLY liked the idea of buying them special things (like a snorkeling adventure, or even basic things like a nice dinner) to help them create treasured memories. I’m definitely a fan of said “honeymoon registries”!

    • Yes! Not that I’m engaged or anything, but my crazy long-term girlfriend alter ego has been thinking about what kind of wedding I want.

      I hated the flitting from table to table spending 2 minutes at each one! I went to a large wedding last year 200+ people? And the bride talked to my table for 30 seconds.

      I felt kind of rejected even though I was just a lowly guest haha. But it was a fun wedding because it was open bar.

      Yeah totally agree- the $100 a guest gives shouldn’t be $104.95! It doesn’t look as “clean” and is certainly very off putting.

  3. My fiance and I are asking for cash, I looked at these sites but chose Honeyfund because the money goes directly from your guests to you so there are absolutely NO FEES. Basically, you “register” for cash in various denominations (say, 20 gifts of $50), say what it’s for (“down payment on a house”) and when the guest clicks on it, they print a nifty little free certificate to include with the check. That way you know what everyone’s doing, the guest knows what they are contributing toward, and you keep all the cash. They do have a premium service with a monthly charge if you want no ads on your Honeyfund site, but it didn’t bother me (the ads aren’t super intrusive).

  4. I could see some guests being a little put off by the idea, but it is a real need in today’s world. People just don’t need a whole bunch of new possessions, often just to replace the ones they already have. If guests really care about the couple’s future, they would see that money would help them much more. I think the problem guests have with giving money is that it really sets an exact price on what they’re giving, whereas with a physical gift they can try to save a bit of money by buying a lower end brand name or shopping at a discount store.

  5. Well, you could just not have a $25,000 wedding. Going into debt for one special day is something that my sweetie and I feel very strongly about avoiding. We’ve been saving up since the engagement, and feel confident about our ability to pay for a small, simple ceremony and reception with our immediate family and closest friends, followed by a punch and cake church reception the next day, and a brief in-state honeymoon — by ourselves, in cash. If folks are generous enough to give us items from our registry or money, of course we’ll be grateful. But planning to hold a wedding that will be financed by anticipated cash gifts isn’t a plan.

    • @Remy- Good for you! Yes, that’s true- you don’t want to take a loan out for your wedding. Ideally it should be paid for in cash, and if cash gifts are given then it’s great to have that offset. However, taking a loan out for the wedding isn’t ideal… but I’m not sure how these people are paying for their $25K weddings. Many people don’t have that kind of money lying around I don’t think.

  6. I like this idea! It’s a very touchy subject especially for people who insist on getting gifts from a registry, but to be honest – I just want cash!!! I don’t intend to spend a lot on the wedding itself, a MAX of $10k, IF THAT! I just want it to be a special day, and I want to be married to the one I love. Can’t get any better than that. Oh wait, yeah it can – if we manage to keep our debt under control.

    • Yeah me too! $10K max for a wedding. $25K sounds way too excessive! And really, it’s just ONE day. It doesn’t matter. It’s the union and the partnership of the couple that counts- no point wasting $25K and then divorcing 1 year later (because many couples are now divorcing within 1 year)

      I have some posts coming up on how to save money for a wedding dress and other wedding stuff.

      Inspired by a friend’s experience (haha not mine!)

      So stay tuned!

  7. I’ve only been invited to two weddings. Both asked for money on the invite. One said “no boxed gifts preferred” and the other – a very casual affair – worded it something like “cash preferred”.

    I’m not sure how I’ll word it on mine, but I’m definitely not worried about offending anyone’s sensibilities. They all know us better than that.

    • Thanks for the tips- I like the “no boxed gifts preferred” that’s pretty tactful but the ‘cash preferred’ sounds a bit off putting.

      I’m taking that you prefer cash instead of gifts too for your future wedding?

  8. We asked our family to spread the news about our cash preferences and didn’t register anywhere. Still there were still some family members that insisted on a registry so that they could buy us something tangible.

    There is a French Northern Ontario tradition called the “sock dance” where if the oldest son is unmarried at the time of his younger sibling’s wedding then he has to dance in funny bright socks (with pom poms) and the family throws money at him. We didn’t have a dance at our wedding but we still got my brother-in-law to do this – it was hilarious! And we made $20!

  9. For our wedding this summer, because its a potluck wedding, we’re actually having a no gift policy. If people supply the food for the wedding, that saves us a TON of money, we don’t end up with a TON of stuff we don’t know, want or have room for, and no one has to feel bad about it. Win-win!
    And even with that, I will not be surprised if people do bring us money anyway. But we have made it very clear that we don’t want material gifts unless someone is buying us a condo to put it all in. 😀

  10. Tough call. I think it’s nice if you can spread the word informally. We got half gifts and half cash – and both were great. My brother lived in a small place, and really tried to avoid getting gifts. I think as long as you don’t expect a “set amount” (say, enough to cover the guest’s dinner), than asking for cash (tactfully!) is fine.

    • @MCB- Yes of course- I think most hosts are happy that their guests are able to attend and don’t want to push it upon their guests a “set amount”. However as a guest, I always try and make sure I cover my own plate (I know it’s tacky I do that but that’s me! lol).

  11. I wish they’d had those gift registry sites around when I got married :) We also struggled with just how to ask people for money, but since we got married in my home province, fortunately most people understood that it would have been difficult to lug a bunch of stuff back home on the plane. Also, many guests called my mother to ask what we needed and she tactfully told them money was preferred.

  12. I think it is more normal as I have been receiving more invites where cash is preferred as they are saving up for furniture or a down payment. I personally prefer giving cash as I know that it would definitely be used, rather than an item that may end up in storage. In the past, if I know where they are heading for their honeymoon, I would give them cash in that currency.

    Personally, I’m a bit fortunate in the sense that giving cash for weddings is more traditional anyways. :)

  13. It’s tacky, tacky, tacky! There is no gracious way to ask for it. And if you”ve got the credit card debt, student loan debt. etc. you have no business having the fancy wedding at $25K/honeymoon and then asking your family & friends to bail you out!

    • That’s a little harsh isn’t it CMV? Social norms are such weird things to think about rationally. When you really stop and look at the whole forest why are we all ok with giving presents the person probably doesn’t need, yet asking for money is such a moral travesty?

  14. This can be a touchy situation. In certain cultures a monetary gift is the traditional wedding gift, but other cultures frown on this and want to buy the couple something to remember them by. In our family the older generation always does monetary gifts for two reasons – they understand how much a wedding can cost, and they simply do not want to go shopping. :-)

  15. Great post! I didn’t know those online options was available. Getting married is definitely expensive and I think this is a great option for couples who are going to be hit with a lot of expenses in a short period of time. I am definitely going to consider it for my wedding!

  16. These are all great tips. But, the vast majority of people will not like the idea of the bride and groom asking for money. It makes them feel obligated to give more, otherwise they may look cheap.

  17. Anyone not wanting to take on debt should not have a $25K wedding. Spreading the word on the cash preference to close family members is OK, letting the guests know you prefer cash is still tacky.

    I liked your article either way YT, asking for cash is just something I wouldn’t do personally, but that’s just me.

  18. I’m not opposed to people asking for cash gifts. In fact, I’d rather give cash than pick a gift off a registry that is just full of items meant to fill a house. One would hope. Cash gift is going towards he cost of the wedding as opposed to a new wardrobe or something like that.

  19. So this is kinda off-topic, but I’m curious as to what your “alter ego” thinks, especially as it relates to the cost factor:

    What do you make of matching bridesmaid dresses?

    I’ve always personally been a fan of the rare bride who lets her bridesmaids pick their own dresses, so long as they conform to a set color scheme. It has so many advantages: 1) the bridesmaids can better control the cost of the dress, 2) they can pick something they KNOW will fit their body type (why does everything have to be strapless these days!?!?) and 3) they can pick something they will like and possibly reuse at some other event.

    The only disadvantage I could envision is that maybe the bridal party will look a little haphazard, but honestly? The main focus should be on the bride anyway, and so long as the party is somewhat uniform (i.e. same colors), what should the style matter?

    I am actually sort of grateful that I’ve never been asked to be a bridesmaid. I don’t know how I would react if I were expected to shell out money for a dress that doesn’t suit me. I know I’d balk at the strapless varieties that are popular these days– I just don’t have the body for it!

    • @Helly- I like the idea of matching bridesmaid dresses, or even the same fabric but maybe in different designs depending on the personality/ body shape of the bridesmaids. LOL strapless is okay with me- it’s the halter style or one shoulders that get me. I end up looking like a quarterback hahaha. In the last wedding I was at (bridesmaid), I had this grecian type dress with a one shoulder style. Everyone matched and the pics looked fantastic!

  20. Tacky to put on invitations. Okay to have family and close friends hint. No gift at all should be expected when you invite guests to celebrate a special occasion. Plan a wedding/honeymoon/reno you can afford (my husband and I worked extra shifts to cover cost of our wedding) – any money you receive from guests will feel like a bonus!

  21. ALL the GIFT registry sites charge the bride and groom a % of the money ocllected on the website, including honeyfund!! there fees are hidding in the pages you have to fine them. it ranges from 3%-10%

    I am getting married in August and like others my Fiance and i have an 7 year old daughter we own our house and have everythign we need. Only think we really want is a nice honeymoon and maybe money for debt or basement renos. Its hard, because i as a guest always give cash its just easier. but i dont want to ask or it as a Bride. The cash resgistries are a good idea, just sucks they take some of your money.

  22. My fiance and I are getting married in 3 months. We just handed our invite to his mother and she’s appalled that we put “monetary gifts preferred” in super tiny font at the bottom of the card. *sigh*. In my culture/tradition, you don’t even have a gift table at the wedding. From the 50+ family weddings I have been to (extremely large family), I have never seen a single gift brought or a gift table. You always see money/card cages or something of that sort. In his culture/tradition, you register for gifts and that’s what people bring you. Apparently, giving money is frowned upon at a wedding. I registered for my bridal shower, and people from his side STILL got me things off of the registry. What is the point of that?? Thanks for something I don’t need or already have. There’s a reason I didn’t register for it. Back to the wedding cards… MIL refuses to send out my cards because it’s rude. Seriously though.. is it THAT big of a deal???? From everything I’m reading from different sites, it’s 50/50 of people thinking it’s OK and others thinking it’s rude. If people still bring gifts, I’ll accept with a smile.. but if someone isn’t sure, then heck, my note will help them! 😉

    • I think it’s perfectly acceptable Vee. Here’s what I don’t get about how weird humans are. So, we’re all cool with “registering” and essentially telling people what gifts to buy us – but we’re not cool with a simple money transfer. What a ridiculous world we live in!

  23. I love the idea of letting people know what you would like to be gifted. Although letting it be known gifts are not expected is important too. I wrote the following poem:

    We hope you will come to our wedding
    and your presence is all we need
    but if a gift is what you are planning
    Contributions to our honeymoon would help indeed

    Hope you like it.

  24. Even though the idea of cash wedding registries seem to be catching on, there are still a lot of people who think it’s tacky to ask for cash. I think new sites like Envelope Registry are a great workaround as they seem to handle the issue of “tackiness” with tact. They have a variety of items and experiences you can add to your registry that guest’s can contribute towards. It’s a lot better than saying, “Hey, just give us cash!”. The total money that comes in is transferred directly to your bank account so you eventually end up with cash. It’s a win-win.

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