More and more couples are saying “show us the moolah!” Gone are the days when handing over an envelope of cash was considered a wedding gift faux pas. Now, couples everywhere are requesting cash in lieu of traditional gifts for one very apparent reason: it’s far more flexible.
Meet the Expert
Elizabeth Priya Kumar is the founder of Premini Events, an New York City-based event planning company that specializes in South Asian weddings.
“Every couple has different circumstances surrounding their events and in today’s uncertain climate, cash lends itself to having comfort and security for things that come up,” explains planner Elizabeth Priya Kumar, founder of Premini Events. “Whether it’s a new home, a baller honeymoon, or tackling leftover debt, this method of gifting benefits the couple in the way that they ultimately need it.”
Kumar is used to tracking dozens of envelopes of cash at a wedding. Her clients are often hosting South Asian affairs, a wedding culture in which, she says, cash reigns as a newlywed gift. In her decade of experience, she most commonly sees an envelope stuffed with bills handed over to the happy couple.
But there are plenty of other ways of giving away cash. “Getting creative and adding a layer of sentimental value is what will separate this everyday universal gift into being one that is personal and unique,” adds Kumar.
And it’s as simple as a thoughtful personal message. Below, eight unique ways to give cash at a wedding.
Pair With a Card
Rather than stuffing straight cash into a standard envelope, Kumar advises adding a card with a personal note to make your gift stand out. “Giving cash can come across as a little impersonal,” she says. “Technically, every single guest attending can essentially give the same gift, making it redundant.” One easy way to do that? Share your best wishes and words of advice to the couple with a card. Show that you care about the couple’s love story and how you support them with personal words, not just the ones printed on the inside of a greeting card. “When you add how you want to aid in their growth and mile markers, it becomes less about the cash and more about the love,” Kumar adds.
Go Though a Virtual Platform
Clutching an envelope with a hefty sum of cash and a drink isn’t the simplest maneuver during cocktail hour. (We’ve tried.) Instead, consider sending your cash gift virtually through any number of digital payment methods. You schedule a payment to arrive in a couple’s account via Zelle on the wedding day or set a reminder on your calendar to hit send on a Venmo. Paypal also works for gifting, and you can choose from their digital card designs to send along with the notification.
Send as a Gift Card
Since you know that couples will be setting up their new life together, gift cards are a great way to let them pick out exactly what they want. Even if a couple has a registry, gift cards are helpful for purchasing smaller goods, such as a shower curtain, organizing bins, or recycling containers—items they may not necessarily add to a formal registry. The best are gift cards from credit card companies, such as Visa and American Express. These can be used anywhere credit cards are taken for payment, giving the newlyweds the ultimate flexibility. Gift cards to specific stores can be great too, especially if a couple is a huge fan of the particular retailer. Just be sure the pair has a store nearby so they don’t have to pay extra shipping fees.
You can think beyond home goods and department stores too. Consider a gift card to their favorite local restaurant for a post-wedding date night or nearby spa for a day of relaxation after the craziness of the wedding. Or, think of retailers that support the couple’s biggest passions. If the couple is, say, outdoorsy, try a gift card to REI where they can stock up on gear.
Distribute Over the Course of Time
Surprise! Cash gifts don't have to be one lump sum. Kumar is an advocate for creative ways to offer money at different points in time. One way to do this is to attach the cash to a gift they must open at different milestones. She suggests vintage bottles of wine that are marked to be opened at the five, 10, and 15-year anniversaries. "Breaking it up to represent the years and pairing it with a reputable wine that the couple can open that day makes the toast all the more worthwhile,” she says. If waiting years seems long, you can make this idea into a more immediate gift: place different bills at the start of each chapter of a book you’d recommend they read together. As they begin each chapter, they’ll accumulate cash and wisdom.
Start a "Rainy Day" Fund
Gifting cash doesn’t have come with the assumption that the couple can do anything they want with it. You can direct how you’d like the couple to use the money you just handed them. Kumar recommends putting the bills in a bottle and labeling it as a “rainy day fund.” It comes with the idea that the couple should hold onto it until a serious need arises. Then, the couple can break it open, should one person lose a job, a pipe burst in the house or the world gets hit with a pandemic. “The act of having to break the bottle just to get the cash out provides another layer of reasoning: ‘Are we sure we really need this right now? Is this really an emergency,’” Kumar says. “A savings fund can really benefit in times of need.” In other words, they will really thank you.
Give to a Honeymoon/Pet/House/Baby Fund
You’d be hard-pressed to find a couple that doesn’t make a honeymoon fund part of their registry. Whether they are heading to Africa or a road trip to an Airbnb, honeymoon costs stack up. Consider giving “cash” toward the couple’s big trip. Registry sites like Zola offer honeymoon funds as an option on the registry and plenty of couples opt for the independent Honeyfund, which allows guests to give specific experiences, like skydiving or sunset sail, that is part of their destination.
A honeymoon fund isn’t the only way you can give cash to a couple’s larger goal. Today’s couples create funds for all sorts of big purchases, such as a down payment on a house. There’s no use for monogrammed towels if you don’t have a roof over your head! Even if a couple owns their home, they still might host a home fund for things like renovations or hiring an architect. Puppy funds are another big one, as adopting a pet can come with a hefty price tag for healthcare, food, and other supplies, and so is a general nest egg for future children and other life events. “People are thinking outside of the box and really digging into what their needs are versus their wants,” Kumar says. “Giving a couple the choice is the true form of love—it’s rooted in freedom.”
Donate to a Cause
The idea of donating to charity instead of handing the newlyweds a physical gift is becoming a more popular way of celebrating a couple’s nuptials. You can make your cash gift an in-kind donation to any number of nonprofits. Some couples make this straightforward by including charities they support on their registry. If they didn’t, here is a big tip: Instead of thinking of the causes you advocate for, think about the philanthropy of the to-be-weds. If they are big on animals, consider a donation to the ASPCA or local shelter. If they are all about world hunger, opt for a donation to World Central Kitchen or No Kid Hungry. For the arts, try a museum, ballet company, or philharmonic orchestra. And if either member is a board member or volunteer with an organization, they’ll sincerely appreciate what you give to that nonprofit’s annual fund.
Transfer Stocks and Bonds
Paper money comes in more forms than dollar bills—consider giving stock and bonds. Kumar says she typically sees this among immediate family members, with older generations opting to give stocks and other investment properties to newlyweds. “Participating in this kind of gesture is meant to create generational wealth for legacies to come,” Kumar says. Companies like Vanguard allow you to transfer mutual bonds to any recipient with a Vanguard account. Plus, anyone can give a savings bond as a way to support this idea of creating wealth. Savings bonds are issued by the U.S. Treasury Department and paid back with interest when the bond matures—meaning your gift gains value over time.