How to Write a Check for a Wedding Gift

Make sure the newlyweds are able to make use of your thoughtful gift.

A person hands a red envelope to a woman wearing a long-sleeved wedding gown.
(Image credit: Getty Images)

When I was preparing to get married, I thought about whether we should use separate or joint accounts, how to manage expenses and the best high-yield savings account to store any cash we received at the wedding. But I didn't think about how to write a check to give as a wedding gift until I became a bride myself. In fact, it never even occurred to me to think there might be a "right" and "wrong" way to write that check.

My husband and I were exceedingly lucky to have guests who shared their generosity with us when we got married. But once we excitedly started trying to deposit our checks, we ran into snags that ranged from requiring us both to be present at the bank to crossing our fingers and hoping we wouldn't get arrested for attempted identity theft. 

Thankfully, we were able to pass the barriers without facing security or having to make a dreaded phone call asking a guest to send a newly written check, and now I'm ultra-aware of the importance of getting a check right when I'm giving one as a gift to my friends and family. 

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So, as wedding season is upon as again, I'm sharing the knowledge with you on how to write a check for newlyweds, by following these guidelines:

Beware of writing 'and' on a wedding check

In my professional life as an editor, I pay careful attention to word choice. When I'm writing a check to shove into an envelope on the shuttle on the way to a wedding venue, though, I'm not that attentive. 

As it turns out, much like in literature, there's a huge difference between using the words "and" and "or" on a check. If you write a check to newlyweds using both their names with an "and" between them (i.e. "John Smith and Jane Pierce"), they will both likely need to endorse the check in order to deposit it — and their particular banking institution may be more stringent in checking identities or requesting a joint account to deposit it. 

However, if you write their names with an "or" between them ("John Smith or Jane Pierce"), "either could deposit it," confirms Maribel Ferrer, a spokesperson for Chase

Check what name(s) you're putting on a wedding check

Only a third of women who have never been married say they would take their spouse's last name, according to Pew Research Center, but it's still common to celebrate a wedding by congratulating "Mr. and Mrs. Smith."

You may want to avoid that celebration on a check, though. First, it's possible the newlyweds have no intention of sharing a last name in marriage, and of course, the heteronormative tradition doesn't apply to same-sex marriages. Second, even if one newlywed does take the other's last name, the timing of getting legal documents and bank accounts updated may not align with the timing of your check. 

"If you know the couple has a strong preference one way or the other, the basic tenet of good etiquette is to address people how they want to be addressed," Daniel Post Senning of the Emily Post Institute tells Kiplinger. So, if you know what they want to do with their names — or are familiar enough to ask the couple or someone close to them — etiquette dictates that's what you can use on a check. 

And one more basic point that's true for writing a check for anything, really: Make sure you get the names right.

That means check the spelling, and also check the names themselves. Many designed wedding invitations and websites use first and middle names — which could be misleading or unhelpful if you're not familiar with both spouses. When in doubt, use the first and last names you know best for a check. 

You can write a wedding check with one name

Rather than addressing a check to both newlyweds and trying to navigate getting both names right and making sure to clearly write "or," a simple solution is to address a check to only one of the newlyweds. 

"People don’t always have joint bank accounts or the same or new last names, so often structurally it’s easier to make it out to one person," says Senning. 

Ferrer at Chase has one more suggestion for this method: "Use the memo line to indicate it is a wedding present."

But how do you choose which name to use? You can follow an etiquette path of your choosing, Senning says. "The very traditional orientation is that gifts are sent to the bride," he explains. 

However, he says, another perfectly valid modern option is that "you might think of the person you were the most connected to," so if you're a cousin to one of the newlyweds, for example, you can make it out to that one. 

You could also write a check out to "cash," just remember it's a potential security issue, as anyone could deposit it. 

Basic check-writing tips

An infographic explaining the proper way to write a check.

(Image credit: Courtesy of Chase)

Any time you write a check, you should follow some basic guidelines, many of which are outlined in the above graphic from Chase, including:

  • Use permanent ink when you write a check
  • "Make sure that the words and numbers match the written amount. For example, One hundred dollars, $100.00," Ferrer says
  • Either use the entire payee line when you write the recipient's name or draw a line to fill the space so that someone who finds the check can't add anything to it 

How to give money as a wedding gift

If you have concerns about using paper checks, many brides and grooms these days also use electronic methods, like a "fund" you can contribute to on a wedding website. While the Emily Post Institute OK'd online "funds," like for a honeymoon, in its wedding registry etiquette guide, Senning points out that some guests don't like that they can have fees, which is why people may opt instead for giving in the form of cash or a check.

You can also ask the couple if they'd accept gifts in other electronic forms, like Venmo or Zelle, or, as Knight Kiplinger suggested, give a gift certificate to a place they're likely to frequent. Kiplinger's advice is also useful if you're not comfortable giving cash as a gift. That's understandable: Like with so much around marriage, wedding gifting norms are changing, including that registries are becoming less prioritized. (Speaking for myself, we had a small registry — frankly, we just don't have enough space in our apartment for more objects, which may be a widespread issue for younger generations, given the realities of the housing market.) 

Senning has another recommendation: "A cash gift, depending on how it’s presented, can feel impersonal. So try making an effort to personalize the gift — to include a note with it or make something out of the exchange, even just tucking it into a card, look the person in the eye, smile, wish them the best on this next stage of their life."

Ultimately, it's not the end of the world if something is a little off with a check. As I said, my husband and I managed everything just fine in the end — and believe me, we appreciated every single one of those checks, as I'm sure every newlywed does. These tips could just give you some peace of mind for the next wedding you celebrate.

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Alexandra Svokos
Senior Digital Editor

Alexandra Svokos is the senior digital editor of Kiplinger. She holds an MBA from NYU Stern in finance and management and a BA in economics and creative writing from Columbia University. Alexandra has a decade of experience in journalism and previously served as the senior editor of digital for ABC News, where she directed daily news coverage across topics through major events of the early 2020s for the network's website, including stock market trends, the remote and return-to-work revolutions, and the national economy. Before that, she pioneered politics and election coverage for Elite Daily and went on to serve as the senior news editor for that group. 

Alexandra was recognized with an "Up & Comer" award at the 2018 Folio: Top Women in Media awards, and she was asked twice by the Nieman Journalism Lab to contribute to their annual journalism predictions feature. She has also been asked to speak on panels and give presentations on the future of media and on business and media, including by the Center for Communication and Twipe.