Dear Wedding Maven,
My fiancé and I have both been married before, and currently live together. We would prefer that our guests refrain from giving us gifts. We want our friends to come celebrate with us, but not feel required to spend money and effort on gift-giving. Since wedding gifts are traditionally meant to furnish a new couple's home, it just seems tacky to expect guests to give gifts under the circumstances. I know that it is considered to be in poor taste to state a gift preference on the wedding invitation. What is the best way to spread the word?
Dear Wedding Maven,
What is the proper way to let our guests know we are not registering for wedding gifts. My fiancé is in the military and we will be moving to Germany shortly after we are married. I live in another state from him. The wedding will also be in another state from our home. It will be very difficult for us to deal with gifts. It will be costly to transport anything back to our new home and we don't want to move to Germany with a lot of stuff. We both have everything we need for our home. We would like to have money instead for travel while we are living in Germany or for the honeymoon. Is there a way to word the preference of a monetary gift? Would this go in the invitation? Please advise on the proper etiquette. I know the Chinese have the "red envelope" at their weddings and we could really use that for ours.
Dear Second-Time Bride and Army Wife,
I hope you don’t mind me answering both your questions at once.
Second-Time, you are absolutely right that it isn’t proper to make any mention of wedding gifts or your wedding registry on the invitation, even to say “no gifts please.” This is because it assumes that people are in fact planning on getting you a gift. Putting information about gifts on your invitation makes it seem like you think a wedding gift is the price of admission, not a token of affection and good wishes.
There are two ways to let people know your preferences for wedding gifts. The first is old school, GOSSIP! Make sure your mother, future m-i-l, bridesmaids, best friends, and anyone else who likes to chat knows the answer to “Where are they registered?” If you or your fiancé are asked the question directly, you should answer it honestly and directly.
The second way is new school, your wedding website. This is the perfect place for any information about dress codes or gift giving. This allows your invitation to be purely an invitation, not an instruction manual.
Army Wife, you have the more difficult task because it isn’t that you don’t want gifts, it’s that you want gifts of money. It's generally considered tacky to ask people for money. As you mention, in some cultures giving money at weddings is the norm, but if you were part of one of those cultures, you wouldn't be writing me. So keep in mind, no matter how you do this, someone will be offended.
I would suggest something like this (again, on your website, not included with any invitation, even a bridal shower invitation) “Because we are moving overseas soon after the wedding, we respectfully request no gifts. If you feel that you’d like to honor us in some way, we would love a contribution to our honeymoon/travel fund, or we would be grateful for a donation to the XYZ foundation.”
Second Time, your wording would be something like, “Now that we have each other, we have everything we need. No gifts please, but if you feel that you’d like to honor us in some way, we would be grateful for a donation to the ABC foundation to help others who are not as lucky.”
Which brings me to my next point, for both of you, I strongly suggest that you think about coming up with one or two charities, or not-for-profit organizations (museums, zoos, schools, etc) to whom you could request donations be made in honor of the wedding. A lot of people really want to do something to honor your wedding and giving them a place to spend their money is helpful.
Make sure to contact the charity ahead of time and find out if they can send you notifications so that you can send thank you notes for any donations made in your name.
Finally, no matter what you do, people will ignore your requests and give you stuff. Some people just aren’t comfortable giving money, and others think they know best. Accept these gifts graciously, write thank you notes, and then donate the gifts to a charity. Army Bride, you might want to see if someone who lives in the city where you’re getting married would be willing to do that task for you.
Congratulations and good luck to you both!
Do you have a question about wedding related etiquette, manners or traditions? Write the Wedding Maven at firstname.lastname@example.org