Discuss: The New Wedding Registries

Jun 15, 2012

Last month, a friend and I were discussing appropriate wedding registry requests when she brought up something called Hatch My House.  The premise is simple: instead of buying a set of salad tongs or a Kitchen Aid stand mixer, you give the couple money via PayPal which they then use to buy or remodel a home. 

In my friend’s case, the couple in question already owned two homes between them and intended to use the funds to buy a bigger “Family Dream Home.”  They also set aside a pseudo-registry where people could send money for the cost of new furnishings for the home.  But all the money was simply transmitted into their PayPal account.

I find the idea of requesting that guests send cash to buy a home a bit tacky.  Especially if some of the guests in attendance don’t own homes themselves, and this couple already owns two.  This variation from normal protocol strikes me as a bridge too far.

On a related note, Joanna Goddard at Cup of Jo recently brought up the topic of Honeymoon registries, where you donate money to send the couple on a nice honeymoon.  She and her husband had one, and she wanted to know if her readers thought that such registries were a do or a don’t.

Strangely, I don’t find the concept of a honeymoon registry upsetting at all.  I think it’s a nice alternative for people who don’t want or need piles of kitchen appliances that they’ll never use.  Especially the way Jo did it where guests paid for certain things like a dinner at a particular restaurant or a Vespa ride through Rome. 

I can’t put my finger on why I think sending money for a honeymoon and sending money for a home are two different things.  One seems creative and fun and the other seems to be taking advantage of people’s generosity.  I suppose it has to do with the fact that a honeymoon has no long term value beyond the memories it creates, while asking someone to buy your home for you is like asking them to make an investment in your long term financial security. 

Our generation is certainly writing its own wedding traditions, and I think we’re all trying to decide which ones are acceptable and which are not. Last month, I received an invite that specified that in place of gifts the couple asked guests just to give cash.  No specified purpose listed, just a request for greenbacks. 

Other friends, usually older ones, have asked for donations to charity in lieu of gifts.  And I’ve heard that some couples are also asking guests to donate to 529 accounts so they can save for their future children’s college education.

Maybe I’m overthinking this, but I’d love to hear your opinions. Is skipping the normal wedding registry okay?  And if you do decide to choose a different path, does the appropriateness of the request for money change based on what they intend to use it for? 


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  1. HH says:

    MK: loved your “essay.”

    DG and Jes: Great reference. I was an econ major, so maybe that's why I like to give cash?

    From reading the comments here, I'm definitely in the minority in my opinion: I think non-traditional registries are fine. Just recently, hubs and I attended the wedding of good friends of ours who had a honeymoon registry, and it was very well done. They're on a cross country road trip and their registry had specific restaurants, destinations, activities, etc that you could pick from. I loved knowing that our monetary gift helped them to have the honeymoon they wanted.

    This being said, if you're already a home-owner, don't expect me pony up cash for you to buy ANOTHER house. And try to make your request for cash classy,

    And for the record, we didn't have registry….we had a very small wedding (immediate family only), so we didn't see a reason to register, especially considering we had already lived together for a year or so prior to our wedding. I was tempted to register, but my (very smart) husband said that there was not a reason to register and that we shouldn't be greedy. I was a bit bummed at the time, but it was a good decision.

  2. CH says:

    The problem with the honeymoon “registry” is that you aren't actually buying the couple sun hats or dinners out or plane tickets – your money just gets dumped into an account and the website takes a cut.

    My personal opinion, and I realize it's old fashioned, is that a honeymoon or house-fund registry is akin to printing GIVE US CASH in big letters on your wedding invitation. Cringe.

  3. KC says:

    I am all about he cash registries. More and more people are getting married while they are already established and have homes. Therefore, the money can be used for their disgression.
    However, the home fund I think just sounds tacky. Like Belle said, they already have 2 homes between them, don't get greedy!

  4. We ended up not doing a honeymoon registry beucase we thought it might look tacky. But normally when I give a gift, I'd really rather just get people what they really want/need so have no problem with the non-trad registries. Also, in certain cultures it's pretty normal to give cash at weddings and not at all tacky.

  5. Theresa says:

    There should never be a directive on invitations to donate, give, etc. as it implies that you're expecting gifts. Granted, most guests attending a wedding know that gift giving is a part of wedding tradition, but asking for anything (especially cash) seems in bad taste. I feel as if a wedding website or simply word of mouth would be a far more appropriate venue for registry information.

    Personally, I think honeymoon registries make sense in today's world. With many couples living together before marriage, they most likely have kitchen appliances, linens, and other home goods.

  6. Shannon says:

    When asked, we told guests that their presence at our wedding was the biggest gift we could receive. Our invitations made no mention of gifts whatsoever – because a registry card in an invite is hella tacky. I declined to have a shower, nor did we have an engagement party with gifts. Some (especially my husband's relatives) gave us checks. We also had a (very, very small) Target registry for people who simply had to buy us a physical object.

    In our case, it was less about being older and established and more about the fact that there is absolutely no room in our apartment for any more stuff. We have a 670 sq foot, one bedroom apartment and we are stuffed to the gills as it is. An influx of KitchenAid mixers, toasters and waffle irons would have sunk us completely.

  7. L says:

    I totally agree that asking guests to help buy a home is tacky! Not only would it be uncomfortable for guests who do not own homes (especially considering the particular couple already owned TWO), it's no fun.

    Wedding gift-giving is nice for the giver, too. You think the couple will remember you and the wedding while enjoying their espresso cups, French press, VitaMix (a girl can dream), etc. There's none of that with giving money for a house–your $X won't even make a dent in the down payment.

    As for honeymoon registries, I think they're a good alternative for the couple that already has a ton of household items, and the one Jo used looks really cute. I like how guests could give individual items like sun hats, pizza, or really great books, making the gift a lot more personal than just money.

    My SO's brother was married two years ago, and he and his now-wife registered for nontraditional things like camping gear and bike equipment. Choosing from their list was a lot easier than picking between some boring silverware and plates, and I know they'll be enjoying their wedding gifts for years to come!

  8. Virginia says:

    I've discussed this with Belle and am not a fan of the “Hatch my House”-type registries. There is just something about the idea of someone saying to you, “I know you are going to give us a gift and we'd like it to be cash” that really annoys me. A lot of times if the people getting married are close friends and we know they're saving up for their house or honeymoon, we will give them cash anyway. But that's our choice and those friends haven't said to us, “We really just want cash.” And – not sure if I am going to get beat up for saying this or not – but I don't really think you should be relying on your friends to save up for a downpayment or for your honeymoon. I know that a downpayment isn't easy no matter where you live, but that's between you and your spouse. Not between you, your spouse, and everyone coming to your wedding. Same goes for your honeymoon – you should be grateful that you receive cash from some guests and family members and it's great if you have some to apply toward your honeymoon. But expecting people to cover it is ridiculous. Pick a location you can afford and save up for it.

  9. EK says:

    I think I'd be comfortable contributing towards a honeymoon (treating the couple to something memorable and luxurious they may otherwise not do for themselves), uncomfortable contributing towards a house, and most comfortable buying an old-fashioned gift. Requests for cash, especially when explicitly stated (as opposed to word of mouth) just rub me the wrong way. I enjoy giving thoughtful and personal gifts, so perhaps I'm just reacting to the implication that guests can't be trusted to purchase something the couple would actually want or need.

  10. Michelle says:

    I think the best way to get cash if that is what you intend is to keep your registry very small. There are probably a few items that you could use, so register for those things that you may want, then otherwise people will turn to a cash gift. People that go overboard with the registries usually end up getting random items and still lack the basic things you actually wanted. Plus the older you are the more likely you are to have nice kitchen and other home items that you would want. By the time you reach you thirties you likely will already have a toaster, nice dishes and pots and pans. Unless you are dying for some sort of mega upgrade, you would probably prefer to have money, so keep the registry small. When I see smaller registries that is always will send for a wedding gift.

    I definitely think the honeymoon fund is tacky…that is something that the couple should plan to pay for themselves. They can take a honeymoon when they can afford it and should not request their friends and family to fund their getaway. I definitely agree with Belle that the home fund is tacky.

    Biggest pet peeve of all time is when shower and wedding invites list registry information. That information is supposed to spread by word of mouth not printed on an invite. I suppose wedding websites are okay…but nothing official.

  11. Anita says:

    I have seen more and more couples write 'no boxed gifts' on their invitations or wedding website (ie, money only). Yes, this is inappropriate, but I also think it's inappropriate when I see people register for 200+ items and include superfluous things like a $50 fragrance diffuser. I've also heard couples admit that they just registered for a bunch of things with Bed, Bath and Beyond because they can just return the extra things for cash. Generally I just write a check anyway.

  12. Clare says:

    Perhaps slightly off topic, but there seeems to be a consensus that wedding registry information printed on invites is tacky… but what are your thoughts on this same info provided on a wedding website and including the website on the save the date or shower invitation?

  13. R says:

    This is the same to me as the invitation I received with “cash only gifts please”. We obliged but is that ever tacky! I understand in today's modern world that we don't need the household goods anymore, which is why I aim for “non-traditional” gifts couples might like – bocce ball set, board games (settlers of cataan, carcassone), etc. Honestly, this post reminds me of the post on whether you can ask wedding guests to only wear specific colored dress, which I found equally appalling. Am I really that old-fashioned? As someone who didn't change her name when she got married, I consider myself usually pretty forward thinking. However, since when did being a GUEST come with so many conditions?

  14. KS says:

    My go-to wedding present is to have the announcement/invitation matted and framed. It's a special piece of artwork that you know they'll like (they designed it, after all) and will forever remind them of their wedding day. It avoids the issue of cash/checks altogether, no matter what it's for.

  15. Emily says:

    I don't have a problem with registry information being included with the invite. If it's not there, you're going to be asked about it. My husband and I registered for a few things that we really wanted and nothing more because we don't have the space for it. This resulted in various relatives being remarkably persistent in the belief that we should register for more items (But don't you want fancy china?!? What about new silverware?!? Think of your future!!!).

    We also had a honeymoon registry online on which people could mark items as “bought”, though the payment was by check so there were no transaction fees.

  16. Nikki says:

    All alternative registries are not registries, they are just a way to collect money before the wedding. As much as I would have loved to do a honeymoon registry since we really didn't need anything I find alternative registries inappropriate and trashy.

    A couple only has 3 real options that won't make them look classless and unappreciative.
    1) Create a traditional registry
    2) Don't make a registry and hope that will encourage more cash gifts
    3) Ask for money to be donated in the couples name

    Printing registry information on the invite is inappropriate. The best is if you have a wedding website you can list the registry information there. I've seen inserts which are ok. I had a wedding website with my registry information listed, but even if I didn't have a website I don't think I would have included a registry insert in my invite. Older guests will ask the parents of the couple for registry info and friends are savvy enough to figure the registries out online if they want to.

  17. Meg says:

    Oh my, asking for money for presents is tacky, tacky, tacky! It doesn't matter if it's for a wedding, graduation, birthday, etc., it's a backhanded slap and makes one look downright money grubbing. It's almost like saying “I don't want the thought and care that you might put into a gift for me no matter the price, just show me the money.” Ugh, this just really hits a nerve. Asking for no gifts is fine, and suggesting that someone donate to a cause in lieu of presents is perfectly fine, but “Hey, pay for my honeymoon, will ya?” – beyond the pale tacky.

  18. @ KS that's very thoughtful and but to be honest I would never hang my framed wedding invite in my home.

  19. MOR says:

    I think that cash is a great gift, and I love getting it, but asking for it is almost always tacky.

  20. Katy says:

    To me, registering for your house or vacation is just the same as asking for cash. you register for gifts to avoid duplication and let people know your style, but money can always be duplicated and green goes with everything. I often give cash, but I'd rather a couple signal this preference by not registering at all, or discreetly asking the bridal party and family to respond to requests for present info with “they're just so happy you can come, but I know they're saving up for a house/honeymoon”.

  21. KC says:

    I think asking for money for a vacation is no less tacky than asking for money for a house. Between the two, my feelings would be opposite of Belle. I would rather put money towards a home that will help a couple's long-term financial security (though maybe not for a couple with 2 already) than put $50 toward a swimming-with-the-dolphins session that has no long-term value. It seems akin to the $50 fragrance diffuser.

  22. K says:

    Anything outside of a traditional registry bugs me. I feel like if you've gotten to a point in life where you don't need help buying your plates and linens, then you don't really need to ask for gifts at all. People can still choose to give you cash or random other gifts they think you'll like, but asking for cash you don't need is tacky.

  23. Mel says:

    @Clare – I think putting registry on the website is perfectly ok. We approached our website as being the more informal part of our wedding (putting up silly stories of our selves and wedding party), so it was sort of like telling a story to our guests. We just didn't make a huge deal out of it.

    On the asking for money as gifts thing, I am on the fence. I am dead-set against asking for money without some sort of face, like the Hatch My Home thing. I threw a shower for someone once who wasn't registered and wow, it was all sorts of awkward with the replies.

    I also have had the experience of getting married and family and friends constantly complaining that either we didn't registered for the right thing or friends complaining that there weren't any cheaper items on the registry (ironically because the same complaining family member bought lots of the small gifts instead of one big gift – I know, I shouldn't complain). So, I think in general, registries can be stress inducing since you can't please everyone.

    PS funny story about the complaining family member. She complained that we didn't register for steak knives and that our lives wouldn't be complete without them. She was fully aware of the fact that we were vegetarians.

  24. RAR says:

    I think asking for money straight out, regardless of what the intended end use is for, is 100% tacky tacky tacky!. First, I've never heard of a newly married couple who didn't receive large amounts of money following their wedding, even if they registered (and esp. if they kept the registery small, as somone mentioned above). It is a go-to gift for a lot of wedding guests. Second, I think that weddings/wedding showers/wedding registeries as a whole are SO out of control these days, regardless of whether you are asking for a Kitchen Aide or a $100 check. People are registered at 2 and 3 places these days, brides have multiple showers!!! In my experience, today many people are getting married at an older age — not the traditional young, 23 year old newly-married couple living together for the first time and just getting their lives started. Anyways, I got a little off track — asking for money is tacky and greedy and gives off an attitude of expectancy that is a huge turn-off.

  25. helixy says:

    I have recently been immersing myself in these matters in light of my recent engagement. I agree that Hatch a House is tacky. You really hit it on the head with the thought that their guests may not own their own home. It is especially inappropriate for the couple in question BECAUSE they already own real estate.

    I have mixed feelings on the Honeymoon registries…I like that it is a contribution to awesome memories. I do feel, however, that the bride and groom are responsible for the honeymoon. If you can't afford the honeymoon you want, save up and go later (maybe just have a weekend away now). I also don't like that the all the, “big,” honeymoon registry services take far too large a cut; so if you must go that route just use Paypal.

    Asking for cash is unbelievable. People totally lack manners nowadays. You do not ASK people for gifts, period; you do not include registry info with save-the-dates or invites. I think including wedding website info with either is OK, and then having a (SMALL, UNOBTRUSIVE) space with your registry info is acceptable. The only time speaking about your registry is OK is if you are asked about it; otherwise, the word will get around. In these times, you should be grateful that someone got you a gift, especially if they are traveling a great distance or taking much time off work. If you reeeally don't like or don't need the gift, discreetly return or exchange it.

    Gifting is a widely understood wedding custom, but asking (especially asking for cash) makes you look like an asshole and makes me less inclined to give anything. Be polite, and you shall receive.

    Related to weddings – I was in an Applebees recently for a quick, casual bite when a party of 20 arrived. Their behavior was slightly appalling, and they were, quite frankly, acting and appearing uncivilized. I'm sometime of a people-watcher, and I JOKINGLY made a quiet remark to my fiance and our table that they probably got, 'dressed up,' and were there for a fancy rehersal dinner. Can you imagine my expression when I heard one of the groomsmen stand up for an impromptu, slightly-intoxicated toast? It really was! The bride then said she would be asking for Applebees gift cards as gifts the next day because their steaks are, “so darn good.” hahaha.

  26. Ms. C says:

    “Hatch my house” and directives to “give cash” smack of entitlement. It's arrogant on two fronts: 1) you are expecting a gift. Weddings are expensive ventures for everyone involved and to expect your friend or relative who has traveled across the country to share your day with you to also help buy you a house is an indulgent and conceited expectation. And 2) it takes away the reciprocal enjoyment your friends and family members receive from contributing, in some small way, to your new life together.

    I understand that a request for money is practical and that paying 1/20th of one month's mortgage is actually a contribution but it deprives the gift giving experience of any personal meaning. Thanking your Aunt Sue for the amazing time you and your husband had scooting around Rome or for the cream and sugar dishes that always remind you of the ones grandma had is a genuine and thoughtful reciprocation for her kindness. Telling her that you will really enjoy that random Tuesday in your new house is not. Even if you end up returning some of the gifts for cash or gift cards, the sentiment is much more meaningful. So for all those folks looking to hatch their house, register at Crate and Barrel and take much of it back for a gift card…you'll need to furnish that big ole' dream house anyway.

  27. mk says:

    “I suppose it has to do with the fact that a honeymoon has no long term value beyond the memories it creates, while asking someone to buy your home for you is like asking them to make an investment in your long term financial security.”

    While wedding traditions vary from couple to couple, and family to family, every wedding ceremony I have attended has asked those present to recognize the importance of their presence — that they were asked to attend because the couple relies on their love and friendship, and are present to support the couple not just that day, but as a future promise, to support their marriage through all of its ups and downs.

    Ironically, despite what seems like obvious tackiness in asking for money, it seems like an even more wasteful sentiment to suggest we should buy people more “stuff” rather than “asking them to make an investment in your long term financial security.” To me, that is the best gift I can give a couple whom I love and care about. And I trust that the couple, most of the time, knows what those best interests are for their future security, and can be trusted to spend whatever cash/check I give them in the way that's best for them. Whether I see it as “best” is really a matter of my own opinions and judgment; for example, maybe they will wind up needing to spend it on a new furnace for their home, or something else seemingly “mundane” in comparison to exciting and fancy gifts, bought and sold at a huge mark-up.

    But really, the question to ask is: who am I to judge?

    My parents were gracious enough to want to spend a lot on my wedding; however, my husband and I also learned from that experience that a lot of my mom's insistence on spending was to ensure she could exert her ever-present desire to control. It's also easy, even for those without controlling family members involved, to get swept up in excitement and yes, even greed.

    In our case, now that we've been married a few years and just experienced the home-buying process for the first time (an interesting time was had trying to find something inexpensive in the 'burbs of what is a very expensive market in the D.C. area!), we realize that some of the piles of money that my mom insisted on spending on the wedding, could have been better offered in a check to us.

    I realize it's different for parents of a couple to want to offer larger sums for something like a home. And perhaps that is something couples should consider before asking ALL guests to invest in something like a home down payment, or a more “serious” long-term purchase that seems “untraditional” for wedding registries. Additionally, there are ways of asking that are less pushy or obnoxious, and I think the combination mentioned above — creating a small registry for truly needed items, and letting people “figure out the rest” — is probably the most common and tactful alternative (presuming you believe in a “tactful” alternative), practically speaking.

    Nevertheless, it strikes me as much more practical to consider the reality that finances play in marriage — and divorce. And so it is interesting that as guests who are presumably there to support the positive future of the couple and their marriage, we still feel so awkward about putting money toward something that in the grand scheme of things is likely more practical; or, that we can't put aside our judgments or personal choices/opinions to do something the couple really cares about (e.g., a couple who travels incessantly may prefer a honeymoon or travel registry).

    In sum, I'd rather pay for something truly meaningful or helpful to that couple, whatever that “thing” is. Moreover, the example provided here I think is a unique one; most couples I know do not own multiple properties and do not go overboard in their wedding registries. Those are great fodder for reality shows, but I think they are the exception, not the rule. As guests and adults, we can have some discretion in not taking a somewhat extreme although real example and applying it to everyone, just like we can decide how we choose to handle our gift giving, regardless of whether we think the couple is being “appropriate” in their choices — that's not under our control, and not really our problem 🙂

  28. BB says:

    I'm all about NO registries. The point of a wedding is to celebrate your love for each other, not requesting cash and gifts for things you can already afford. Personally, I don't even ask for gifts for my daughters' birthdays. The invites always read 'in lieu of gifts, please donate to your favorite charity'. That was the same thing we did for our wedding. What a novel concept, giving to others rather than always asking for something! It's only in our culture where we've become greedier and greedier!

  29. R says:

    I have had friends that asked for cash on their invitations. They had a great reason – they were about to move to India and had no way to transport a huge pile of wedding presents.

    I think everyone's situation is different, and honestly, cash means I don't have to go pick up a present. Cash all the way!

  30. Shannon says:

    Michelle, FYI, virtually any etiquette guide will say it's perfectly appropriate to include registry info with a shower invite. That is because the express purpose of the party is to “shower” the bride with gifts, and the hostess (not the bride) is making the request on the bride's behalf.

    That said, frankly, if you're planning a wedding you're damned if you do, damned if you don't. If you register for gifts, you're greedy, if you don't, you're a rude person who is not helping guests find the right gift for you. And in many cultures, cash gifts are considered appropriate (my in-laws are Italian-Americans from New York, and the envelope of cash is de rigeur for them). It seems like the backlash against weddings (and brides) has gotten so strong that anyone is willing to lob the words “tacky” and “rude” at you for virtually any reason. I was called “tacky” because I made my own decorations so I had more funds for food and booze (which are a higher priority for guests, and I wanted to be a gracious hostess). Maybe it's time for everyone to take a deep breath and remember that the average faux pas is due to a lack of knowledge, not a lack of character.

    Also, as much as it might give some people the warm fuzzies to picture the newlyweds making waffles on a Sunday morning, the typical urban resident does not have the space for a gourmet waffle iron. If we'd had a traditional registry, we would have had to take out a storage unit to hold all the tchotchkes until we could afford a bigger home (which will be years and years away). Does anyone really want the happy couple spending hundreds of dollars to store things they don't actually need? Nope. Didn't think so.

    Ultimately, gifts should be a “pull” not a “push.” As in, guests should “pull” the information out of the couple (via word of mouth, etc), vs. the couple “pushing” the information onto guests (via registry info on the invite, for example). If that standard is met, it's probably best for all mankind if we chill out, recognize our fellow humans are only doing their best, and being priggy and judgy just builds hostility and drama.

    Whew. Sorry for the essay. But I feel better.

  31. J says:

    I've contributed to honeymoon funds a few times for coworkers – it was an easy way for everyone in the office to see what kind of cool things the couple planned to do on their honeymoon and we all felt good donating to that experience. I actually think it's a cute and creative way to gift something to a couple who has lived together for several years and doesn't need any home goods. For very close friends, i've called the hotel where they are honeymooning and arranged for a couples massage or to have champagne and dessert sent to their room – it was a nice way to surprise them and know exactly what my money was being used for.

    I think if you're going to a shower you should give an actual gift that they can open. It's more fun that way.

    The house fund is definitely tacky. I'd prefer they just ask for cash, it can go to pay whatever bills they need to pay. Usually, the cash guests give just goes to pay for the cost of the wedding. With weddings costing upwards of 20K – if 100 guests give you $100 each, that only covers half the expense.

    And with the amount of money I pay for dresses, travel, etc to attend someone's wedding – i don't think I should be expected to give gift at all. But I always do, just to show that i'm happy for them and to participate in the celebration.

    Everyone should just elope and life would be so much easier!

  32. Serena says:

    Another vote for a very small registry or none at all if you are looking for cash, for whatever purpose. Registries are not commands — they're intended to make the gift-selecting easier for the guests. Guests don't have to follow them, and the ones who know you and your taste best probably won't (my favorite gifts were the ones I received from a few of my good friends who went off registry and clearly put some thought into them – so sweet of them), plus everyone has a crazy aunt or cousin who will gift you something odd. And even when you do have a registry, many people find it simpler to just write a check — it's really up to the guest. But “cash only” is a command, and no matter how you spin it or how practical your demand is, it's rude to demand something from a guest. When a couple doesn't have a registry, I know that they would prefer cash though they haven't said that, and I write a check. The honeymoon registries and Hatch My House definitely come accross leaps and bounds better than writing “cash only,” but I think they're essentially the same thing. You're expressly asking your guests for money, whereas if you don't have a registry, you're not asking for anything.

    Registry information under no circumstances should be on your wedding invitation. Yikes. I have never seen gifts referenced on a wedding invitation, unless it's to say no gifts. But I think it's okay to list the registry on the shower invitiation because the whole point of a shower is to “shower” the honoree with gifts.

  33. Shannon says:

    Can I say I loathe the “everyone should elope” routine? Personally, I think “everyone” should do what is right for them, that is also courteous and respectful of their loved ones. Since our family and friends are a huge part of our relationship, we could not have imagined having our wedding without them. So now we're bad people because we had a wedding? Of course, if we had eloped, folks would be clucking at us that we deprived our loved ones of the opportunity to see us marry.

    You really can't win.

  34. Kate says:

    I am from New York. I have always given cash (or a check) for a wedding gift. I always thought registries were more for the wedding shower, that is, until I met my friends from the South. They cannot believe that I would dare give the couple cash instead of a gift. They were also shocked at the amount that I believe to be acceptable (I do realized that this depends upon your financial situation, but even when I was a college student I gave more than what they thought was appropriate). So, perhaps wedding gift giving practices vary by region and culture?

    As for the honeymoon/house registry, I do not mind it. I would prefer to give the couple something that they want. A lot of older couples (myself included) have already acquired a lot of the traditional items that are on a registry (i.e., linens, kitchen appliances, etc.).

  35. K says:

    Perhaps I'll feel differently when / if I get married, but I can't get past the practicality of cash as a gift, in both forms (simply a check or through one of those honeymoon/house websites). All my friends are a few steps above broke and living in smaller spaces and I don't think that giving them housewares they didn't actually need would be a meaningful present. After all, if the point of giving a wedding gift is to set up the couple for their lives together, is a ornamental vase really the best means to that end? If people are still paying off student loans and haven't yet put a downpayment for property, upgrading the china seems like it can wait. This might be specific to my social circle at the moment, but if I even ask for gifts at my hypothetical wedding I'd prefer it to be cash and I don't think my friends/family would be offended by my decision.

    My (Korean) friend explained that they only give cash in their weddings as a form of cementing a social bond / investing in the couple's happiness. They see that as the best way to make sure the couple will be set up for the future and to maintain a connection with the family (because it's expected that they'll come to your wedding and similarly give $). So the cultural aspect could be another reason why some weddings request gifts in cash.

  36. Telisa says:

    I feel anything outside a traditional registry is tacky. As someone who can't afford my own home or vacations I have no desire to fund someone else's. Its almost like asking someone to pay for your wedding. No one would ever ask a guest to do that (unless perhaps they were the parent). If you don't need the things found on a traditional registry then donations in the couples name to a charity is a wonderful event.

  37. prettypuhleeeez says:

    Fundamentally, aren’t registries just a way to ask for gifts? I don’t see how a traditional registry is in any way more acceptable than a home fund/honeymoon fun/529k donation/etc. So I’m sort of surprised by all these “old-fashioned” sentiments. Because let’s be honest, America is the only place where couples actually list out the gifts they want to get. At least cash towards a home, for example, helps fulfills the couple’s goal. That’s more than what I can say about the 7qt. crock pot, which will remain in its original box until we move can into a bigger house — no thanks to our traditional registry.

    No matter how you slice it, the couple KNOWS how much the guest spent on their gift. Everyone should do married couples a huge favor and just give them cash 🙂

  38. Cat says:

    I think a lot of people have the wrong idea about honeymoon registries. Every time I have seen them, the couple has already paid for the honeymoon. Guests are given the option to gift them “add-ons” like dinner at a nice restaurant or upgrade their plane tickets, etc.
    I personally find this acceptable. If it was similar to the house fund and was “help send us to hawaii!” where the couple attempted to pass the bill to their guests, yes, completely unacceptable. They way I understand most however is even if the guests don't buy a thing off the honeymoon registry, they still go and have a complete trip, just without the luxe upgrades.

    Every time I have seen one of these the couple also offers a traditional registry as well.

  39. E says:

    I believe all registries are tacky…but they are also realistic. Asking for gifts, cash, money, trips, homes, etc. is so weird! But at the same time, I can't begin to count how much I've spent on other people's wedding presents so when I get married, I want some too! Once you get over the idea that weddings are bizarre and expensive events, the whole process can be quite fun. Let the couple “ask” for whatever they want and people can decide if they want to participate.

  40. Boston mama says:

    Love this post because I’ve been conflicted with some of the wedding invites these days…My sister married a nice man from Canada and during the wedding prep I learned that cash gifts are a must in his culture (Italian/Hungarian) and people don’t do registries. I was shocked but I was happy to know the customs before getting the wrong gift. Having said that my sister did not put in her invite or website “cash gift only” – that would have been very tacky indeed. I’ve also heard of brides asking for multiple showers, and “Jack and Jills” where the men attend as well and contribute to the gift giving…The list of tackiness goes on and on. Brides to be should remember that a wedding is celebration not a fundraiser. Most often than not guests have to incur significant expenses to just attend the wedding (plane tickets, accommodations, attire, babysitting, etc) and it’s rude to expect people to provide lavish contributions for houses/honeymoons where they themselves may not have had a good start in their first home or have had a honeymoon all together. Call me old fashion

  41. s says:

    One of my best friends recently got married to her long time boyfriend – they'd lived together for quite some time, but are also moving abroad due to her job in the very near future. They had two registries – one was for the more traditional gift givers (her family) and the other was the Honeyfund for her friends. They don't need any more things with the move, but they did an excellent job with the Honeyfund. They chose a whole bunch of different price ranges and even noted which things were more “for the bride” or “for the groom.” It made me feel like I contributed in a meaningful way to a great experience rather than giving them a set of sheets which may or may not make the move.

    A lot of it is about presentation – if you outright state that you have a registry….tacky. If it's on a wedding website or if your wedding party spreads the information, it's the way to go. I sent out an evite for the bridal shower (as a save the date, prior to a paper invitation), and had the registries on there.

  42. S says:

    I agree with Cat – I was actually thinking of doing the Honeymoon registry in addition to a small traditional registry. I see it more as, I'm going to go on that trip regardless, if you want to help upgrade you can and then I can take pictures doing those things and send them with the thank you note.

    I have been horrified by some of the registries I've seen lately – asking for every small kitchen appliance known to man, plus TWO toasters, etc, etc. I already live with my S.O. so I feel like I have everything I need to function in the kitchen. I plan on using my smaller traditional registry for people who feel more comfortable with guidance to get the nicer plate set and glasses that can be cherished throughout our marriage.

  43. This is so timely, because I read Joanna Goddard's post and, even though I like her, I haaaaatttttteeee honeymoon registries. I actually hate all non-traditional registries like the Hatch A House or even putting furniture on your Pottery Barn site. But they honeymoon ones really bug me.

    I agree with the earlier poster that the traditional gift at weddings we attend is cash. I'm a New Yorker and Jewish, that's how we roll. The registry of kitchen stuff is for the shower, and if you include china or crystal, that can be an acceptable gift at the wedding. Another faux pas…bringing the gift to the wedding if it's not in an envelope. Gift tables are a big no no. Plenty of friends had gifts sent, but all of my family just bring a check.

    I think what bothers me most about honeymoon registries is that the honeymoon is private. It's what you do after the wedding, something just for you and your new spouse. As a wedding guest, I don't want to know that I gave you a drink on the plane or an in-room massage (ick). If you want to go ziplining, awesome, but don't put it on a list and ask me to PayPal you the money. As a bride, I was lucky enough to go on an amazing trip and not have to write a thank you note to a guest saying, “Thank you for the wonderful red wine at dinner on our third night! We drank that bottle plus two more and dished about who hooked up at the bar after the reception. See you at cousin Jeff's bar mitzvah!”

    I know different regions, religions and cultures have their traditions, and I suggest sticking to them.

  44. MN says:

    I do not care for the non-traditional registries. What I find crazy is the etiquette behind whether or not to include registry information. I know it is very regional, but I kept reading DON’T INCLUDE it in the invitations… but speaking to people, many were UPSET when they couldn’t find the information with invitations they read. It makes them have to go through the extra work of asking your family and friends. While we most certainly not insisting all of our guests bring gifts, but those that want to know where to look. I most certainly not include it on the main part of the invitation where all the ceremony information is. Bottom line: don’t stick it with the ceremony info, because that’s the most important part. Ok to tastefully put it with the reception info because following that line of reasoning the reception is unimportant in comparison… but let’s face it, many would find it “tacky” if people invited you only to a ceremony but they didn’t get to go to a reception! So, they have no right to judge IMHO!

    I include a line of itty bitty text at the bottom of the directions/accommodations insert card that said “for your convenience the bride and groom are registered at…” Haven’t heard any complaints. Many of our guests were appreciative (especially those that did not know us well, or only knew one of us.) Truly the greatest gift was everyone coming to celebrate with us, whether or not they were able to give us a gift. Their presence was more than enough. The entire “put it on the website” thing is silly if people are kidding themselves that people read into that less than having it printed in tiny letters on an insert.

  45. KS says:

    Pandering disguised as a wedding request is still pandering. IMHO, requesting cash in lieu of wedding gifts is in poor taste regardless of the intent. It's a wedding ceremony – not a fundraiser.

  46. DG says:

    Somewhat random, but somewhat on topic. For anyone interested in the economics of gift giving, I suggest that you read Joel Waldfogel's paper, “The Deadweight Loss of Christmas” (American Economic Review 1993). It explains the deadweight loss associated with giving gifts versus giving cash. Cash makes more economic sense. I know more about what will maximize my utility than you do. So, giving me cash allows me to buy the items that maximize my utility. So why do people continue to give gifts if it is inefficient? Because gift giving is a signal (i.e., shows the recipient how much you care about them).

    That being said, I would still much rather have the cash. Must be the economist in me.

  47. Jes says:

    DG – i totally agree. when a fellow econ major classmate of mine was getting married she joked about how she wished she could forward that paper to her guests that wanted to buy gifts. haha!

  48. gingerr says:

    A lot depends on the circle you frequent. Some people are big cash givers and others prefer presents.

    Looking back on my wedding I remember specific gifts we received, but I don't remember cash or what happened to it.
    As a gift-giver that makes me prefer to give gifts. The couple may return them if they want.

  49. artemisia says:

    I adore Joanna Goddard – she does NOT seem like the greedy bridezilla type at all – so this one threw me. Worse, nearly every commenter there was on the GREAT IDEA bench. (fans self) I'm with most of you ijn the NOT A FUNDRAISER corner.

    Cash may be the best wedding gift but requesting it – in any form – is just gross.

    Once you request something, it's no longer a gift. Any sort of “contribute cash to my X” registry works on the underlying assumption that anyone invited to the wedding owes the couple a certain amount of money – and the couple should be able to dictate what that money buys, because after all, it's theirs. It puts the wedding in the realm of commercial transactions instead of personal celebration.

    Registries aren't gift requests, they're a courtesy to people who'd like to buy you something you need and want to make sure they aren't duplicating items.

    I'll cut some slack for couples that set up a honeymoon website and only mention it to their similarly-situated friends who ask, so that everyone who knows about it is 1) unlikely to be shocked or offended and 2) able to afford the same real estate and lavish trips for themselves that they are being asked to fund.

  50. B says:

    Wow, major culture shock right there! In most European countries, I think it's nowadays perfectly acceptable to tell your wedding guests that you'd like money. Until reading the comments on your post, I'd never heard the idea that this might be in any way inappropriate, especially because it avoids the problem of couples getting hideous gifts they hate and have no use for (although a sufficiently specific list also does that job). I think my parents, who got married in the early 80s when money-giving was less common, still have some ugly bedsheets from their wedding they haven't even opened.
    As a result, people ask for money for everything, ranging from charity to their honeymoon to simply money to help cover the expenses of the wedding.

    So while I do think asking for money is perfectly fine, I also find the Hatch my House idea a bit tacky, but this has a lot more to do with the fact that the couple already have two houses than with the actual asking for money to buy one. If they were a young couple, still renting and looking to buy a bigger place to start a family, I would be totally fine with it.

  51. AW says:

    I'm really glad I don't have to worry about this – I'm marrying into a culture where cash is the norm. My family (traditional Midwesterners) were thrilled at the prospect of not having to bother with a registry, but instead give cash. That said, we are still giving them the option to buy a gift from a very small, simple registry if they're more comfortable.

    As others have said, people are generally marrying after they already have everything they need, so I think the rules are changing. I'm personally glad – I don't need a waffle maker that will just gather dust. To me, cash is just easier and more practical.

  52. L says:

    I think there is a bit of a misconception about Honeymoon registries – one I definitely had until I got married a few years ago.

    You really AREN'T giving the couple the dolphin adventure, or the red wine with dinner, or the scooter ride throug the countryside. You are giving them cash. Couples can make up WHATEVER they want and put that on there, assign a random price to it, then write up a cutesy description. You might think you are getting them the luxury, pampering gift of an in-room massage for $100, but really, the registry website just cuts the couple a check for $100. They can use it to buy an in-room massage if they really want to, or use it for a home downpayment fund, or, heck, use it to pay their electric bill one month.

    So, even though they are set up to make it seem like you are buying experiences or memories, you are really only doing that if the couple chooses to use the check they are sent in that way.

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