According to the Globe and Mail the average wedding costs over $25,000 these days.  It doesn’t make much sense to go into debt when you’re just beginning your new life together (especially considering that financial stress can be so destructive to relationships).  After the lavish one-day celebration, there’s the rest of your life that needs to happen!  To me, starting your life together in consumer debt (not to mention student loan debt, and/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.  Doing this while having 3 toasters, 2 blenders, and a partridge in a pear tree that you received as wedding gifts, makes even less rational sense. 

Wedding Cash Rules Everything Around Me

Now, before some of the easily-offended traditional types out there start spamming our Twitter feed with posts that included the words “entitled, snotty, ungrateful, Millennials” hear me out.  This whole wedding gift scenario is really the perfect example of opportunity cost, overall utility, and basic economic thought. 

Let me put it this way, is there any way that one of your friends and family could possibly know EXACTLY what you want to do with the money they are spending on a gift?  In other words, can anyone spend money on your behalf better and more efficiently than you could? 

Obviously not – you have the best idea of what you want or need, so at best, your friends and family might hit 70-80% right?  You’ll likely get several of some gifts, other gifts you’ll never really use at all, and even the gifts that are purchased off your wedding registry might have only been listed because you felt pressured to make a registry in the first place!  This doesn’t mean you are ungrateful for the heartfelt sentiments behind the gifts, it simply means that in an absolute economic sense, if people want others to get as much utility and enjoyment out of their gift as possible, then we should simply give cash.  The other alternative would be to simply do away with the social convention of giving wedding gifts all together – but I doubt this will happen any time soon.

All this to say, please don’t automatically label me a thoughtless jerk!  I’m just saying what most young couples are thinking when it comes to opening wedding gifts!

A Whole New World

Many couples these days are shacking up prior to getting married.  For these folks, 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, linens, silverware, glassware, furniture, electronics, etc.  This is quite a change from 1-2 generations ago when most couples did not live together before marriage, (or at least felt a lot of social pressure not to admit this was the case) got married at a younger age, and consequently could really use a lot of these life-starter items.

The one thing that young couples who already live together (and even those who don’t) often don’t have, and really, really need: money.

Cash money guarantees that you will give a happy couple the most bang for your buck.  The newlyweds can use that gift for wherever the need is greatest.  Perhaps it can help pay for a honeymoon.  Responsible young folks might use it to jump start a housing down payment or just store in their high interest savings account.  (I prefer those at online banks – see our Tangerine review and promo code article for more details.)  At the very least it can offset the costs of a wedding.  (Although your wedding costs and honeymoon will be well within your budget after you read the rest of our wedding articles right?)

How to Remain Tactful While Asking for Money as a Preferred Wedding Gift

It’s weird how the same culture that came up with the money dance considers it a social faux pas to communicate to guests that you would prefer money if they wish to give a gift.  While most people I talk to that are under 35 sort of get “it” when it comes to modern wedding gift giving, I think it’s fair to say the most popular belief or social norm out there is that asking directly for money from your guests is tacky. 

So, like so many weird conventions these days, you need to be particularly tactful navigating this potential minefield.  The last thing you want to do is offend your great aunt right?  The strategy I’ve seen used the most effectively is to shamelessly use your wedding party and maybe sympathetic immediate family (feel out where your parents and siblings stand on this) to quietly disperse the information that you’d really prefer cash to another set of towels.

Then you can use your official wedding invitation to say something along the lines of “no gift needed – your presence is your gift”.  Truthfully, because I’m a super weird economics geek I don’t mind people not giving me a gift one bit!  After all, I invited you to my wedding as a guest, there should be absolutely zero expectation of a gift.  However, if you are going to use your hard-earned money to give me a gift, I want it to generate the most amount of good possible!

Cash Wedding Registries

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.  Again, I’ve noticed a bit of a generational divide here where young people think this is a great idea (who doesn’t want to feel like they were part of sending the happy couple on a great honeymoon?) but it can rub some of the more traditional crowd the wrong way.

  •  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 Gifthas 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 WellPerhaps the most tactful name -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 it’s 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.

I’d like to reiterate that the goal of asking for money as a wedding gift shouldn’t be to soak your guests for as much as you can, or to convey you don’t appreciate the thought behind another gift if they choose to go that route.  It’s more about communicating the reality of most weddings and marriages today.  Young adults have towels, pots & pans, and a TV.  Want they don’t have (but likely really want) is money for a down payment, or to help make student debt disappear.  At the end of the day, couples shouldn’t demand a gift of any kind – that’s the truly tacky part!  However, if you do wish to give a gift, the aim is likely to give as much happiness to your loved ones as possible right?  If the most efficient way to do that is currency, why should that carry such a stigma?

Readers, do you think asking for money is tacky or do you think it’s just common sense in the face of a rapidly changing tradition?