Is Asking For Cash Tacky?

steven petrowQuestion for Steven: My fiancee and I recently got engaged (which as lesbians still feels new to us). Since we’ve been living together for more than a decade, we have what we need for our home. Frankly, we would much prefer that our wedding guests give us cash, but we can’t figure out if that’s going to be considered uncouth in our crowd. What do you think?

Steven Answers:: Ah ha! Straight couples have been wondering how to get away with this form of payola for decades. And curiously, this has become a more pressing issue among gay and lesbian couples than our straight friends because so many of us marry (or otherwise partner) after co-habitating for a number of years. But then, who needs another toaster, microwave, or crystal wineglasses? Maybe, you’re thinking, you’d like some help with a down payment on a house, to retire a loan, or to take off on a fab honeymoon?

The good news is that there’s room for invention to get your wishes out there. Start by telling your closest friends and family members that you’d prefer cash gifts and that it’s fine for them to tell others—although only if they are asked. If you yourself are asked directly, be honest. For instance, you could say “We already have enough stuff since we already combined two households, but we’re saving for a new bedroom set. If you can help us with that, great. But anything you decide will make us happy.” Often it does help to have a specific item in mind so that guests don’t think they’re simply defraying your ceremony and reception costs — and that they’re making a contribution to a tangible item. I’ve had friends who had a specific piece of art in mind, even a gas grill, that they’ve applied their “gifts” towards.

Also consider a honeymoon registry—especially if the cash you’re hoping for is going to a trip anyway. While there’s still some controversy about whether or not using a honeymoon registry is “appropriate,” the tide is definitely moving in that direction.

If you take the honeymoon registry route, make the extra effort when you’re setting it up to say exactly what the registry will pay for, whether it’s skiing in the Tetons, swimming with the dolphins, or a grand tour of Europe’s museums. On the registry itself, your guests can choose which activities they’d like to give you as a gift. When things are costly, ask for multiple contributions, much as you would when listing a silver service (or anything special and expensive) in a regular gift registry.

Buyer beware:

Make sure your honeymoon registry is legitimate by checking it out with the Better Business Bureau. And take note that nearly all of these registries charge a hefty fee (7 to 10 percent) either to you or your gift-giving family, friends, and coworkers. You’ll need to decide whether that service is worth it to you.

However you decide to let others know of your preference for cash, remember that the main thing you need to beware of is coming across as though you are expecting a gift.

Now that’s uncouth.


Steven Petrow is the go-to source on contemporary etiquette, as cited by The New York Times, People, Time, and NPR. His sometimes gentle, sometimes snarky, always insightful advice has made him a nationally recognized expert on modern manners. In addition to his three prize-winning etiquette books, Steven writes the “Civil Behavior” column for The New York Times and is a sought-after speaker on all matters of civilized living in the 21st century.