Do or Don’t: Cash Wedding Registry


Recently, a few days before my friend’s wedding, I decided it was time to pick out a gift from their online registry. When I got there, the only things left were a blender attachment, a bath mat and one lonely coffee mug. From three different stores.

At that point, I just wanted to forget the registry and give them a (heartfelt) cash gift.

So, I’m curious, what do you guys think about a cash registry? The site Tendr lets couples register for cash in a surprisingly sweet and personal way: Couples can write a note, and guests send money along with a pretty e-card. As a wedding guest, I’d be psyched to do this instead of going through the rigamarole of a household registry (shipping, addresses, etc.). And isn’t money what most newlyweds secretly want anyway?

In some cultures, cash is already the go-to wedding gift. For example, my Indian-American friend told me that couples sometimes write “no boxed gifts, please” on their invitations, which, she joked, basically translates to “give us money.” Fascinatingly, she also said people in her culture often prefer giving uneven cash gift amounts — say, $51, $101 or $201 — for good luck.

What do you think? I’m into it.

P.S. Honeymoon registries, house registries and even restaurant registries.

  1. Cynthia says...

    I always give cash as a gift (that’s what everyone really wants anyway) but it is beyond tacky to ask.

  2. My husband and I got married just before moving to London for his Masters Degree program. We semi-eloped to Mexico (for the intimacy AND the savings) and threw a combined wedding reception-farewell party. Because we were moving with only suitcases in tow, we told our loved ones that we literally couldn’t bring any more belongings with us, so we preferred money or “travel contributions” as our parents put it. :) It worked perfectly!

    I’m sure the situation would have been completely different had we not been planning to move to another continent straight-away. But I wonder… Why can’t two grown adults, who have likely both accumulated so much STUFF already, ask for a financial contribution to their new home or next endeavor together as a married couple? It makes so much sense to me and would cut down on the clutter and unused items in so many peoples’ homes/lives.

  3. Alex says...

    Anyone have any tips about bridal shower gifts? I’m thinking it’s appropriate to bring a gift from the registry to the shower, and then a card with cash to the wedding…

  4. June says...

    I’m from the Maldives, and cash gifts have fast become the norm at weddings. We requested for cash gifts for our own wedding (“gifts in envelopes would be most appreciated ;) )

  5. Vic says...

    In Colombia we have an expresion that translates something like “shower of envelopes” which is meant for cash gifts to be given at the party. Well, 5 years ago at my wedding, my uncle literally thought we were going to get together and trow all the envelopes up in the air, so not to appear cheap he filled the envelope with the lowest denomination bills. End of story: 20 bills for like a 5 dollar gift and no trowing envelopes at the couple… It was really funny to hear him tell the story (all shy and embarrased) ;)

  6. Tuuli says...

    In Finland it is very common to ask for money, which is said to be used specifically for the honeymoon. In all wedding invitations I have received, the couple has said it very nicely: instead of material things, once-in-a-lifetime experiences are wanted. Whether the couple uses all of the money for the honeymoon is not important. Most if not all couples have anyway already lived together before getting married, so they most likely have most of the household items they need (many times even two same items since two adults have joined households). A nice card or even a bottle of champagne are nice to add though :)

  7. In Spain we also give money, sometimes with a nice card, and more often we just make a bank transfer!! If the couple is very close to you (sister, best friend, etc), you may give something more special, or even buy the bouquet, the shoes, the rings…

  8. Kirsten says...

    I just married into an Indian family last weekend, and they were all about the cash gifts. I still made a registry for my Minnesota family and our friends, but people bought almost nothing off of it! Instead we ended up with a small treasure chest of cash and checks (all with that infamous +$1). Honestly, we’re moving into a new house, and the cash we got for our wedding has been SUUUUPER helpful in helping us get settled. We needed some new furniture that was too expensive for one person to buy, and lots of little things that nobody wants to buy off of a registry that really add up (examples: paint. weed puller. buckets. a fence.)

    Given that the registry is intended to help a couple start their life together, in this day and age cash or gift cards make a lot of sense to me.

  9. S says...

    I think cash is certainly a lot easier too, but it doesn’t involve much thought. Part of gift giving for me is to think about the person and what would be a heartfelt gift for them, rather than just being a sort of ATM machine. But I guess it differs by culture too. I personally believe it’s rude to write any requests pertaining to gifts on an invitation.

  10. Hattie says...

    I’m all about this. My husband and I had our wedding back in December and we used for our registry. It allowed us to pick some things from multiple websites, but also just create “funds” for people to contribute to. One drawback to the cold-hard-cash gift, though, is that I now feel guilty spending it on things that aren’t absolute necessities. Like, we now have a somewhat decent savings account that we intend to use for future education and things of that sort. I might have registered for a rug and a nice storage basket, but didn’t. And now that we have some money we could use to spend on those things, we feel like we can’t. Moral of the story: cash is the best, but a few gift cards here and there are nice as well.

  11. Emily says...

    In Cambodia we always give money! That’s how couples pay for their wedding. There usually isn’t anything left over for them to spend on household items. Most don’t need it anyway since they continue living with their parents.

  12. I’m in between on this. I have no problem giving a couple cash as a gift, and certainly wouldn’t be offended if that’s what they asked for (as long as there wasn’t just CASH ONLY!!! on the invites or something haha :)) But I think I would personally feel awkward asking for money at my own wedding, even if it’s what I needed. I think this comes from my mom’s side of the family, who tend to be very traditional about these things.

    It’s so interesting to read about the tradition of cash gifting around the world in these comments, though!

    Natalie | Intrusions of Beauty

  13. kristen says...

    yes! i am all for it too. and i will encourage each of my own kids to do it this way rather than the traditional registry then they get married. when i was married, we got a load of horrible and rather ugly things (not on our registry) so i even wonder if registering is worth it, when people don’t take the time to check it! (isn’t registering supposed to make it easier for guests to know what to get you?? you’d think!) cash is most definitely best. the bride and groom can go shopping together and start their marriage off both deciding what to get for their home, rather than let someone else (not use their registry) and decide for them. (some times they aren’t returnable either.)

  14. Kamila says...

    I live in Toronto but am originally from Poland. In Poland (and likely most of Europe) it is certainly the norm to give cash to newlyweds. I think this custom has started to spill over into N.A as well.
    I personally feel that these days when many couples have been living together for a number of years before marriage, household items have already been acquired and therefore a monetary gift is likely more appreciated.

  15. I always go back and forth on this. I love giving people tangible presents because I think it’s fun and celebratory (and my favorite excuse to use washi tape), yet I know as a semi-newlywed that money is nice.

    So I usually combine the two. I get something small, either on their registry or just everyday useful, and then I put with it either a gift card to the store they registered at, or a card with cash. It’s like a gifting win-win!

    Also, when we got married we had family flying in from all over the country, and many who couldn’t come – so we set up a registry that was all online and aggregated any store we wanted. Plus we had an option where people could choose to give money toward a bigger purchase (like we needed a new wardrobe and a rug). I can’t say one was used overwhelmingly more than the other, but our guests did take advantage of both options.

  16. Ayush says...

    I don’t know why but the whole digital process in the way of feelings such as e-invites and e-gifts seem to insensitive to me.

    It feels like the person giving the gift is saying that you are not even this important that I would get out of my bed and go get a wedding gift for you.

    Just what I feel.

  17. I am from Romania and people there always give cash in an envelope as wedding gifts. Actual “boxed” gifts never happen and can be even badly interpreted. I am getting married in September and I personnally LOVE the american idea of gift registry, but there is absolutely no chance that would happen, because people would find it very weird and would be reserved to buy them.
    The general idea is that each person pays what he/she estimates is the cost of the menu/band/location relative to one person, plus a little bit more for the married couple. This way, at the end, the wedding costs should be covered and ideally, the couple would also keep a little bit of the money. Wedding services don’t even collect their full fee until the wedding gift hasn’t been received and counted. Also, big weddings with several hundreds of people can be seen as a good deal (the more, the merrier), since there might be more money to collect in the end.

    In my opinion, this cash gift, while being practical, is very impersonal and ruins the possibility of your friends giving you a heartfelt present… Now that I’m getting married, I really start thinking that weddings should be more about the love, and less about the money…

  18. I’m all for cash registry! Just makes things a whole lot easier… and it’s a norm in the Chinese culture. I prefer that really :)

  19. In Japan giving/recieving cash is the norm. The first number of the amount you give at weddings must be an odd number as they are “undividable”. It’s usually $300 as a friend, $500 as a couple, and so on. The cash is wrapped in extravagant “celebration envelopes” (google SHUGI BUKURO) which is handed in at reception.
    Also for celebrations we give fresh new bills as a sign of “i have been waiting for this day for you in preparation with new bills”, on the contrary for funerals used bills are used to mourn the sudden loss.

    • C says...

      That’s so interesting! And inspiring… I think a Weddings Around the World feature could be a cool addition to Cup of Jo!

  20. Trang says...

    It is a very common thing to do money registry for wedding in Vietnam and other Asia countries (Japan, Taiwan…).
    In Vietnam, it’s very rare to give household gift for a wedding as the set up of family here is very different to Western countries. It’s a multi-generation family in which the newly wed will live with their in-law so all the household items were already existed in their house.
    In Japan, they do money registry in an odd number: 15.000 yen, 30.000 yen… with the meaning the it can’t be break even so that the couple will have a long happy marriage : )

  21. Lisa says...

    That photo of newlywed Mick & Bianca Jagger is amazing!

  22. Jessica says...

    I live in Winnipeg, Canada and we have a common practice here with wedding gifts. Most often, on a wedding invitation it will state “Presentation” at the bottom. This means that the couple would like to receive cash only. No presents. I didn’t realize this wasn’t a common thing in North America until I read your post, Joanna!

    We also have something called a “social” that is common before the wedding. It is essentially a fundraising event with dancing and food, often at a community center or legion, for the couple to pay for a trip, the wedding, new furnishings … Whatever they need.

    Here’s a link that describes it all:

  23. Anna says...

    I’m fine with giving cash, even though sometimes it’s not seen as traditional here in the Midwest. I usually give a physical gift, but if there’s not much left on the registry I’ll do money. I don’t like giving cash through registries or honeymoon funds, though. Usually those website charge a fee, so while I understand the convenience (and the subtle pro-cash gifts message), I’d rather the couple have all the money I give. So if they’ve done some sort of registry for house, trip, etc., I’ll usually check it out, and give them a check with a nice note about their plans (Have a delicious dinner on the beach! Enjoy that new patio furniture!).

  24. Stacy says...

    I think most people getting married like the idea of receiving cash–most newly married couples can think of plenty of things that they could buy that they might otherwise not. Most people don’t have a problem giving money when it’s their own idea. What’s is very tacky is asking for money instead–or anything else, for that matter. Registry information isn’t supposed to be included on an invitation anyway, but rather provided at the guest’s request. Any blatant request for a gift is a no-no in my opinion.

  25. Trish O says...

    i really think the part that bothers me is people registering for money. It is one thing for a guest to give money…it is another to ASK for it.

  26. laura says...

    My husband and I had already lived together for 4 years when we got married, so a gift registry didn’t make sense for us. We did a registry site where you assigned a money value to items or experiences you wanted to have. So we asked for money towards a new couch and then for things like a nice dinner on our honeymoon or a fun adventure. That way anyone who didn’t want to just give cash, felt like they were paying for “something”, though honestly most people still just wrote us checks!

  27. I’m 100% down with a cash registry. To be honest, many of the gifts I was given at my own wedding 10 years ago are worn out, broken, or already gone.

  28. I grew up in the northeast and for me, giving money at a wedding is the norm. I would never give an actual “gift” for a wedding present (though I understand that people do), because (from my experiences) gift registries are for bridal showers. I know this differs through regions of the country though, and I’m sure giving cash is seen as a “no no” elsewhere! I think as long as you’re comfortable gifting it, that’s what matters most!

  29. Anna says...

    I got mostly money for wedding gifts b/c that is traditional in my family’s culture. But I really treasured the physical gifts ~ I think of the giver every time I use them and it seems so much more personal. I would rather get a nice heartfelt gift than money.

  30. We loved receiving money as a wedding gift. We used some of it for our honeymoon and the rest of it to purchase items from our registry that we weren’t gifted. The best part is that some stores give newlyweds a discount for any item they registered for but didn’t receive.

  31. Sneha says...

    You are 100 percent correct on the uneven cash amount that we Indian Americans give… it is superstitiously known as a sign of good luck.

    I recently gave cash to a couple who’s reception I attended. I didn’t buy the gift until later, and I didn’t want to pair the remaining gifts on the registry ( e/g dishware and bath towels) because it would be odd. Instead I gave them a cash gift card to the place they had registered so they could buy whatever their heart desired. With long time friends I usually give good ol’ cash so that gives them the freedom to shop wherever. Usually in the Indian weddings, yes we do say no boxed gifts usually because our weddings are large or because we’re not sure of joint living location( the weddings can range from as small as 50 to as large as 500 people –imagine hauling 50-500 gift boxes home in your car ;) ).

    Lately , regardless of the culture, new trends I’ve seen are

    1) “we already have everything we need, so please donate to ABCD charity”
    2) “we have everything we need/ these are the items we want , but feel free to contribute to our honeymoon fund”

  32. As someone who got married last June in Brooklyn, I will have to say cash was better for us personally. I was 28, my husband 33 when we married, so we had a lot of household already. We did register and receive a large majority of gifted items, which were lovely and appreciated. But I will have to say the cash received helped my fiance and I come out of our wedding debt free and save a large chunk of change for our future life together. This was amazing to us since we paid for about 3/4 of the wedding ourselves. After our wedding, my husband and I were so amazed at the generosity of people as well as the cheapness of people. Some family/friends gave generous gifts of cash, and some people didn’t even give us a card!

  33. Jasmine says...

    I think a huge reason that cash gifts are a standard in the Indian/Pakistani (desi) community is because of the vast size of the gathering. A small intimate wedding for us would be one with 200 people. The majority weddings run upwards of 300 people, with the average probably hosting 500/600 guests. That being said, it would be hard to create a registry for that many people. I imagine it’d include items for your current and future houses to accommodate gifts from that many people! Also, it is very much in our custom that the bride’s side of the family, if monetarily possible, provide the furniture and houseware. There’s no need for a registry, then.
    However, what I see a lot of desi brides doing now is having a small registry for their bridal shower.