Written by Michael Weissman
Monday, May 29th, 2023
Whether you're attending a wedding or celebrating your own, finding a gift that is both practical and sentimental is something of an art form. This is especially true given the very real challenges of today's economy, where newlyweds are forced to grapple with the hard questions:
“Do we save more money and do a smaller wedding?"
"Do we make a registry of things we want but don't necessarily need?"
“Do we use the cash gifts towards a down payment or a honeymoon?"
“Can't we just ask everyone for cash?"
As a newlywed who has received gifts and given gifts to others in the past few years, there's a fine line between taking a creative approach and a purely practical one — manifesting a gift that everyone (both giver and receiver) can feel good about. Let's explore some of those approaches, shall we?
Saving for something big
Getting your guests to pool their funds together for a big purchase may seem like a transactional way to host a wedding, but it doesn't have to be that way.
“I did have one couple that was in the process of buying their first home together," recalls Bar Belopolski, a wedding planner in the Greater Toronto Area. “Instead of hiring a moving company, a group of their closest friends arranged everything the couple needed for this big move."
Others might opt for a site like Honeyfund, where guests contribute to a dream honeymoon for the soon-to-be happily married couple.
But those approaches are still less common than the tried and true...
Asking for cash
“My advice for my couples when they prefer monetary gifts is to be honest about it and be very clear with their guests. In my opinion, cash gifts are usually the more wanted gift as that gives the couples the freedom to do what they truly want with that money," says Belopolski.
The key to making the giver still feel good about their decision is communicating your needs, sincerely and clearly. That could very well be the difference between being ungrateful and offensive or building genuine connection and empathy with your guests.
“I suggest using wording like: 'Thank you for being part of our special day. Your presence means the world to us. If you are thinking of a gift, a monetary gift to help us on our way to married life would be very much appreciated.'"
The registry and other gifts
A wedding registry may be the next best thing to getting cold hard cash (or a gift card) — as long as you and your soon-to-be-spouse take the time to craft a registry of items you actually need.
"Creating a registry is also a lovely way to gift something to the couple that they truly want and need," says Belopolski.
But even being able to have a wedding can seem like a luxury nowadays, with many couples holding off until they can afford the expense. This is making registries a thing of the past, says Erica Irwin, a wedding planner based in Montreal.
“Since most couples these days already either live together or on their own, I am seeing less gift registries resulting in barely any gifts at a wedding," she says. "It's rare that my couples are starting from scratch, moving out of their parents' homes and into a place as newlyweds. On a wedding day, the most boxed gifts I see is maybe three on the gift table and then it's all cards containing a monetary gift in a card box."
Some couples, she adds, "ask for donations to specific charities in lieu of gifts."
So here's the good news. Most people give cash gifts anyway.
How much money should we gift and how do we go about it as guests?
“The general consensus is that you are to cover the cost of your meal," Irwin explains. “These days, depending on where you are attending a wedding, that is a big range. Most venues that my couples would choose would be in the $200 to $300 per guest price point. It also depends on your connection to the couple and what you're personally comfortable giving.
“At the end of the day, wedding gifts are meant to honour the couple and thank them for including you — not leave you refusing wedding invitations!"
A sentimental bonus
Just because you gave cash doesn't mean you can't also give something meaningful, says Belopolski.
“I think couples love to have a sentimental gift from their family and close friends. Custom cards, albums, scrapbooks or even slideshows or videos from loved ones are all unique and beautiful gifts to give to a couple on their wedding day."
Wondering how to plan a beautiful wedding without breaking the bank? These tips from what Paul and Rebecca did for their wedding could help.