spending

Is Cash an Appropriate Wedding Gift?

If you're put off by a couple requesting money instead of traditional gifts, consider an alternative with which you'd be more comfortable.

Q. My husband and I have been invited to a wedding, and the couple’s gift registry has no merchandise—just lots of ideas of what they would do with cash gifts from their wedding guests. Call us old-fashioned, but we’re put off by this request for money. Any suggestions?

 

A. This is more a matter of etiquette than ethics. There is nothing unethical about the bridal couple making such a request (although it may be a little crass), and there is no moral dimension to your response. You have no obligation to give them anything if you’re not going to the wedding, and if you do go, you are free to send any kind of gift you wish.

A wedding gift is traditionally a way to congratulate the couple and help them get established in their new household. Alternatives to conventional gift registries (online or in a local store) are flourishing, and my favorites encourage donations to charities that the engaged couple supports, instead of (or in addition to) a gift to them. This works especially well for older couples who already have one or more households and probably don’t need more kitchen equipment.

As for cash gifts: If you were okay with spending a certain amount on a gift, why not send the couple the same amount in cash? Do you think this feels too impersonal because they’ll never think kindly of you each time they use the coffeemaker you sent? Or do you not want them to be tempted to blow their wedding cash on a trip to Vegas? I share your concerns on both fronts.

My wife and I recently received a wedding invitation from a young couple who were moving across the country, wanted to travel light and had no idea what they’d need in their new home, so they said they’d love to have cash instead. But we decided that, whenever they settle down somewhere, they’ll need useful things from a hardware or housewares store. So we gave them a gift certificate instead of cash.

Have a money-and-ethics question you'd like answered in this column? Write to editor in chief Knight Kiplinger at ethics@kiplinger.com.

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