For Wedding Gifts, More Couples Are Asking For Cash

Catherine Howe and Patrick Walsh had postponed their nuptials three times before they finally wed on April 17.

By then, they had already traveled to their dream honeymoon destination, Greece, where they spent two weeks in September. They had also accumulated plenty of furnishings for their apartment in Queens, where they had been living for almost four years.

What Ms. Howe, who works in project management at a creative agency, and Mr. Walsh, the chief commercial officer at a technology training company, did not have, though, was all the money they would need to purchase a home, something they expect to do in the future.

So on their wedding invitations, Ms. Howe, 36, and Mr. Walsh, 38, requested that their 65 guests “hug, kiss, high five, share a dessert … and if feeling particularly generous,” donate money that the newlyweds could put toward a first home. In other words: They just wanted cash and were not shy about asking for it.

“Instead of feeling pressured to put a load of stuff on there that we may or may not want, we put this on there,” Mr. Walsh said.

Though money has long been an acceptable wedding gift, asking for it outright hasn’t always been viewed as proper etiquette. But attitudes have shifted. Keeping in mind that invitations are not invoices and gifts are not obligatory, as long as requests for money are made tactfully, they are now seen as perfectly fine, said Jodi Smith, an author and the founder of Mannersmith, an etiquette consulting company in Marblehead, Mass.

“While specifically requesting cash is quite gauche,” Ms. Smith said, “the savvy couple can gently direct guests toward a monetary gift.” If anyone invited has questions about the absence of items from a registry, she added that couples should craft a thoughtful answer that explains they already have all the stuff they need.

Catherine Windorf, 28, a content marketing manager, was initially nervous about requesting monetary gifts at her September 2021 wedding to Kevin Windorf, a 31-year-old firefighter, in Knoxville, Tenn.

Though the couple now lives in Berlin, Ms. Windorf grew up in Knoxville, where proper manners are part of the area’s Southern culture. She had heard people make comments such as “asking for cash is crass” when other couples requested monetary gifts at their weddings.

But the two were saving to buy a home, and needed money more than material items. Instead of outright requesting cash, they made no mention of a registry in their invitations and waited until their 25 guests noticed and asked about it. In response, “we said that cash would be very appreciated,” Ms. Windorf said.

“I think it was actually a relief for most people,” she added. “Writing a check or sticking cash in an envelope is much easier than going out and trying to buy a gift.”

On the wedding planning and registry website the Knot, the amount of couples requesting cash on registries created in the first quarter of 2022 increased by 10 percent compared with the same period in 2021, said Melissa Bach, its senior director of brand communications, who noted that some of the registries from both time frames also included physical gifts.

Emily Skurnik, a spokeswoman for Zola, another wedding planning and registry website, said that, “Over all, the trend is definitely that many couples are becoming more interested in choosing cash funds that fit their relationship and weddings.”

In 2020, Zola added the option for couples to create registries with cash funds, which Ms. Skurnik said have since been used to request money for anything from home renovations, pet adoptions and even world tours of Michelin-star restaurants.

The emergence of mobile payment apps has also made it easier for couples to request and receive monetary gifts.

On their wedding website, Rachel Wahba-Dunkley, 31, a certified life coach, and Brandon Dunkley, 30, a higher education administrator, told the 185 guests attending their November 2021 nuptials on Long Island that they would prefer cash gifts to use on date nights, travel and other aspects of married life.

The couple, who live in Manhattan, gave attendees the option of sending gifts directly to their bank account via Cash App, Venmo or Zelle.

“Our guests thought this was unique,” Ms. Wahba-Dunkley said. Specifying what the money would go to “gave them good insight into our priorities as a couple,” she added, “and they liked thinking about what specific” things their gifts would help fund.

The entrepreneurs behind Birdie, a mobile payment app that is now in beta testing and slated to officially debut in June, developed it with monetary gifting in mind. Users can create cash registries for weddings (or other life events) and once guests decide on an amount they’d like to give, they can send funds along with a digital card containing a personalized note to make the gift feel more heartfelt.

“Our goal here was to build a product that made people feel comfortable asking for the gifts they really want — cash,” said Candace Ravan, the chief executive of Birdie in Los Angeles, who added the ability to digitally “send $100 with a beautiful card” is “a true gift.”

Thomas Farley, who lives in New York and writes a column called Ask Mister Manners that has been nationally syndicated, says the preference for cash gifts over stuff has grown because modern couples are generally marrying later than they did in the past or living together before they wed, and have already collected the home goods they need by the time of their nuptials.

But echoing Ms. Smith, he added that, if asking for money, “Couples must remember a wedding is not a fund-raiser: It is a celebration that does not come with a price of admission.”

Should cash be the sole gift a couple desires, Mr. Farley recommends telling guests how they plan to use it. As in the case of Ms. Wahba-Dunkley and Mr. Dunkley, this can help attendees feel like they are giving something meaningful, even if that thing isn’t immediately tangible.

When Michael Campbell, 27, a marketing director, and Alexis Campbell, 28, a certified nursing assistant, received the RSVPs to their June 2020 wedding in Bayfield, Wis., Mr. Campbell sent the 200-person guest list a separate letter thanking them for making time to attend. In it, he also explained that rather than requesting physical gifts, they hoped their guests would instead give money the newlyweds could use as they transitioned into married life.

At their venue, the couple, who live in Madison, Wis., set up a gift table with boxes labeled with various things they could put cash gifts toward, including living necessities, furniture, appliances and a future home.

“As each guest walked in, they could just drop off their gift into the area they wanted to contribute to, and this way they still had some say in how the money was spent,” Mr. Campbell said. “The goal was to make gift giving as simple for the guests as possible, and to help us get started with our lives as a married couple.”