While Vitamixes, roasting pans, and other registry essentials are all wonderful wedding gifts in their own right, there’s something particularly gratitude-inducing about a good ol’ fashioned check. While it might sometimes feel like an uncreative gesture for the giver, it’s actually deeply appreciated by the recipient.
“Money is a great wedding gift because it gives a couple starting their lives together an opportunity to get closer to their financial goals,” says financial educator Bola Sokunbi. “It can help them further their goals of debt freedom, building emergency savings, buying a home, or saving for long-term goals like retirement.”
If you’re planning to give or receive a check as a wedding gift in the near future, there are a few tips and tricks to know that will make everyone’s lives easier in the process. Ahead, Sokunbi and fellow expert Jamésa Adams answer the most commonly asked questions in this realm—including what to do if a check bounces and how to deposit a check with two names.
Meet the Expert
- Bola Sokunbi is a certified financial education instructor, author, and founder/CEO of Clever Girl Finance, a financial empowerment platform dedicated to providing women with the right financial products, services, and guidance. She is based in New Jersey.
- Jamésa Adams is the founder of Jayne Heir Weddings and Events, an event planning and design firm based in the Washington, DC area.
Should we set up a joint bank account before the wedding?
How, when and if you’ll combine finances with your future spouse is a personal decision, and not entirely necessary in order to cash the checks you receive as a wedding gift. (More on that in a sec.) What’s most important is that you and your fiancé(e) talk about and agree upon a plan for depositing and tracking the monetary gifts you do receive, so that you have an accurate understanding of the funds and are able to send thank you notes in an organized manner after the fact. This is also a great jumping-off point for conversations about how you’d like to spend the money.
How soon after the wedding can we deposit a check?
A check can be deposited when it is signed and dated by the account holder who wrote the check. Most people date their checks for the day they write them. If they write the check on or before your wedding day, then you can and should deposit it within a few weeks after your wedding. (This is especially important if you plan to use those funds for a honeymoon happening shortly after your wedding but won’t be paying with a credit card.)
Depositing a check shortly after your wedding is also important because you don’t know how funds may fluctuate in a giver’s account. While they may have enough in their account to cover your wedding gift on the date of the celebration, things could change a few months down the line. If you wait too long, they could also assume that you’ve cashed the check when you haven’t, and therefore not stop to think about reserving those funds for you in their account while they budget their spending for that time.
How long can we wait after the wedding to deposit a check?
Per Investopedia, banks are only legally required to honor a check for six months after the date of issuance. That said, most do allow for flexibility with that timeline.
How should I address the check if I’m the one giving it?
There are a couple of options here, as well as one thing you should definitely *not* do. If you don’t think it will offend the couple, the safest option is to address the check to the member of the couple you feel closest to. If you’re unsure of whether or not that person will be changing their last name, use their maiden name, or the last name they had before the wedding. (It will likely take some time after the wedding to get all the paperwork in order for a legal name change, and this way they don’t also have to wait on using your gift.)
When addressing the check to just one member of the couple, Adams suggests referencing the couple together in the memo portion of the check by writing “To the newlyweds.”
If you want to make the check out to both members of the couple, Sokunbi says to be sure to use “OR” between their names (i.e. Stella Whitbey or Alex Umar). This allows for either person listed on the check to deposit it. If you use “AND” (i.e. Stella Whitbey and Alex Umar), the couple will likely need to deposit the check into an account bearing both their names, which could make things difficult if they don’t have one. Even if the couple plans to share a last name post-wedding, it’s best to write the names they used before getting married, so they can deposit the check as soon as possible.
If you know the couple plans to share the same last name, you can address them as such on the check (i.e. Stella or Alex Umar), but know that Stella would likely not have the option of cashing it until her legal name change has cleared with her bank. If your goal is maximum flexibility for the couple (which it should be), it’s best to stick with their pre-wedding names.
How do I deposit a check with two names?
If you’re given a check with your names conjoined by AND, head to your local bank branch. You and your spouse should both go, and come prepared with your photo ID and your marriage certificate. These materials will go a long way in assuring your bank that you are the right people for the check. If your bank still does not let you deposit the check, get back in touch with the giver and explain the situation. They’ll likely be more than happy to send a fresh check with the correct wording.
How do I deposit a check if my name is misspelled?
It’s a shame if this happens, because the wedding invitation and wedding website is any easy reference for a guest to double-check that they’ve gotten it right. That said, mistakes do happen. In the event of this one, follow the same protocol—head to your local branch, ID in hand, and explain the situation. If it’s off by a few letters (i.e. Elizabeth instead of Elisabeth) or a widely used but different variant of a name (Stephen instead of Steven), your bank may give you a pass. If your bank doesn’t go for it, get back in touch with the giver. Thank them for their gift, and ask them if they might reissue a second check with the correct spelling.
What do I do if a check bounces?
First things first: Know that it’s the thought that counts. “Be gracious with the person who provided the gift,” says Adams. “Allow them to reach out or notify you regarding the dilemma.” (In these tech-driven times, many people have digital or app-based banking methods that will automatically notify them if a check is returned due to insufficient funds.) “To avoid an awkward conversation, most people will likely resend a new check or provide a different form of payment to compensate for the inconvenience,” Adams adds. No matter what happens, remember that a guest doesn’t “owe” you a wedding present, so don’t chase them down for one. And be sure to send a thank you note regardless, as it’s not just a gift a guest should be thanked for, but for their presence at your wedding as well.
What’s the best way to track the checks we receive as wedding gifts?
“A great way to track the money you receive is with a simple spreadsheet,” says Sokunbi. “Include columns for who gave you the gift, how much it was for, if the check has cleared, and if you’ve sent a thank you acknowledgement.”
How do I write a thank-you note for a check?
There are two schools of thought on whether or not you should include the check amount in your thank you note. On one hand, it confirms for the issuer that you’ve received their check and there weren’t any issues or confusion surrounding the amount. On the other hand, with so much banking happening digitally these days, the giver can double-check that everything went according to plan in their online banking records, and some believe it feels a little too transactional to include the amount.
In either case, Adams does recommend including details on how you plan to spend their monetary gesture. “Whether it’s a down payment for a home or household items, please share,” she says. “It would bring great joy to the gifter knowing that their contribution enabled you to do something amazing in your marital journey.”