Ask the Experts

Cash (In)consideration

My sister and my (soon-to-be) brother-in-law are getting married soon–but they don’t have a gift registry. Instead, they’ve chosen to ask everyone for cash. Worse yet, the groom is busy telling people that he plans to use the money to invest in his business (he owns several small convenience stores). My parents wanted to get something like a nice china set or a set of fine silverware, so they’re beside themselves to hear that their future son-in-law is telling everyone their cash will help him buy new drink coolers. I’m not usually much for etiquette, but I’m not thrilled either, to tell the truth. To the extent that we’ve talked about it (not much), my sister seems to think it’s a normal, modern thing. Settle this for us: is this rude, or not?

While your future brother-in-law would no doubt like to get a display cooler as a wedding gift (experts do say that display coolers improve sales!!), you are correct that it would make a pretty uncommon choice for a wedding gift. But, of course, your sister and her future husband are not asking for a walk-in cooler (at least not in so many words); they’re asking for cash. So how common is that?

Fairly common, as it turns out–though that may be changing. Nearly half (46 percent) the members of the Silent Generation and 33 percent of Baby Boomers prefer to give cash as a gift, but only 20 percent of Millennials feel the same way..

Millennials might be onto something here, because nearly 85 percent of brides say they would rather get a gift off of their registry. That may seem surprising at a time when the number of couples living together before marriage is up 900 percent compared to 50 years ago, but wedding registries have changed with the times. Once the domain of home goods stores and department stores, registries are more democratic these days, with things like Amazon gift registries allowing for a broader range of options (walk-in coolers, however, are still discouraged).

Still, plenty of brides and grooms would prefer cash. There’s not wrong with that, and while etiquette rules have traditionally frowned upon requesting cash specifically, modern etiquette experts are revising that rule–with the important caveat that the request must be made politely.

Wedding etiquette is complicated and ever-evolving, but most modern experts would say that–on the surface, at least–it is alright for your sister and her soon-to-be husband to ask for cash. No experts in etiquette could be found, however, to support your future brother-in-law’s poor choice to publicly plan the use of money he has not yet received.

On this point, however, you may also want to consider your relationship with your sister and her intended. Weddings put a lot of strain on families–so much so, experts say, that more and more couples are choosing to elope!! Anything you can do to ameliorate this stress will likely be a benefit to your long-term relationship with your sister and your brother-in-law.

“To learn etiquette is actually to learn how to see others and respect them.” — Yixing Zhang

Nancy Pearson is the President of Nancy Pearson Design.