Should couples ask for cash as a wedding present?

Even a basic simple wedding is an expensive affair, a standard wedding with reception, cake, wedding car, wedding video, wedding photographer, wedding dress, Wedding band, honeymoon etc. costs a small fortune a lavish affair in a five star hotel with fireworks display and an open bar for the night would buy you a nice apartment in most Irish cities. So how are you going to pay for it?

There was a time when humble weddings were the norm, then, for a few years the entire country lost the run of itself and not only were lavish receptions being thrown with all in sundry on the guest list, but said guests were also expected to cough up with an appropriately extravagant gift.

Then came ‘The Downturn’ and we were all back to basics with thoughtful presents the order of the day. However, ifreports are to be believed, expensive gestures are on the rise again and anyone receiving an invite to a wedding this year, should get ready to splash out on a costly gift or a cash donation for the happy couple.

“Like most couples nowadays, Les and I were living together long before we got married and as we are both working, had everything we needed for the house,” says the 35-year-old project specialist.

“We didn’t put a list out there as personally I think it is a bit presumptuous so we decided to just leave it up to the guests to decide what to give us to celebrate our big day.

“About 80% of them decided to give us money which was really great and I think this is what the majority of people want as a wedding gift. I’m not a person who puts any great value on a designer set of pots or a fancy vase so the fact that the majority of our guests recognised our preference towards a monetary gift, was brilliant and we will use it to help pay for the wedding.”

According to the Dublin woman, receiving cash gifts of around €150 per couple is commonplacenowadays. But while she says she can’t imagine how anyone would want anything other than money, it isn’t the done thing to actually ask for it.

“Weddings are very expensive and being given cash as a present is really preferable, but I think it is something you should leave up to the individual guest,” she says. “I know of people who have created poems in their invitation which include the request for cash and I find that quite rude. Other weddings we’ve been to have something called a ‘Wishing Well’ where people can drop envelopes with money in, but even though I thought about that for a while, Les put his foot down as he said it wasn’t a nice thing to do.”

But while Geraldine says most Irish newlyweds are enjoying a cash windfall after their nuptials, retailing giant, John Lewis says many engaged couples in the UK are still compiling wedding lists and harking after items with exorbitant price tags.

According to a spokesperson, wedding registers are still as popular as ever with many couples compiling lists which tot up to an eye-watering €25,000. Times have changed however, and many lists now feature a ‘honeymoon package’ where guests can donate cash to help pay for the newly-married couple’s sunshine break after the big day is over.

The Maldives, Mauritius and Sri Lanka are the top three destinations of choice for John Lewis customers, with most booking their holiday 10 months before their nuptials.

But rewind a few decades to when Geraldine’s mother Elsa Kelly got married in 1978 and you will find that expectations were a lot lower than many of the young women getting married today.

She was delighted to receive household items from friends and relatives as she and her new husband prepared to set up home together.

“I didn’t have a wedding list when I got married to Gerry in February 1978,” says the 60-year-old creche manager. “The idea of having a list didn’t occur to us as it wasn’t the done thing back in the 1970s — in fact, I would still consider it quite presumptuous to have a list now.

“We received lots of lovely presents from people including bed linen, cookware and china sets. No-one would have thought of giving cash and I think the idea of asking for donations of money is also quite forward and to be honest, a little rude — unless of course, you have been asked directly by a wedding guest if that is what you would prefer.”

Etiquette expert, Tina Koumarianos agrees but says expecting expensive presents or a monetary donation is something which seems to be on the rise.

“Unfortunately cash as a wedding gift is becoming more and more the norm and I think it is tacky,” she says. “Your wedding should be a day of unequalled happiness shared with the people who mean the most to you, not a money-making scheme.

“Speaking to a recent bride was quite an eye-opener for me as she was incensed that having spent an extraordinary amount on the day in question, not to mention the multiple honeymoon destinations, the gift given should reflect the cost of the guest’s seat at the wedding plus a substantial something extra towards the rather large debt she was accumulating for her big day.”

Koumarianos, who is also a panelist on Midday on TV3, says weddings have become competitive:

“It seems that today people just want to outdo what they experienced at their friend’s wedding, because there will be recriminations if they don’t,” she says.

“It’s all about how much it cost for the outfit, the present, not to mention accommodation for the two-to-three-day extravaganza in some back of beyond destination.

“I feel it is in bad taste to extend your desire for cash or particularly large items as wedding gifts beyond immediate family.

“On the other hand, it is polite to have your list cover everything from tea towels to the dinner service so that everyone can afford something without being made to feel inadequate. Although, a wedding list I recently came across had only the less expensive items left as guests were obviously too embarrassed to purchase them.”

Arlene Harris Irish Examiner

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