Forget the gift registry, nearly one in two ask for cash at wedding

If you thought it was taboo, it's customary in many countries around the world to give money.

We didn't really ask for cash for our wedding. We just didn't ask for anything… so everyone asked us.

Even then our replies went along the lines of: "Umm, we don't really need anything – we can't really carry anything." You see, not only did we have an apartment all set up, it was on the other side of the world.

Me being – well – me, we'd also saved every cent we needed for the wedding trip home and the honeymoon on our way back to London.

But judging by our guests' response, we had accidentally asked for cash. We were overwhelmed when, on our marriage 16 years ago now, our 55 closest family and friends gave us a total of $3,000.

And to honour that generosity, we still have every dollar – invested in our first property.

Well, our inadvertently audacious, etiquette-breaking move all those years ago is now mirrored by 44% of Australian couples, says a new survey by of more than 1000 couples married in the past five years.

That is a huge number of Australians cash-consciously coupling. And like us, brides and grooms apparently put the money towards a home deposit or sometimes the honeymoon.

If you think the whole thing is icky, remember it's customary in many countries around the world to give money at some stage of a wedding, China, Korea, Italy and Poland among them.

In Australia, the rise of the "cash please" plea from those tying the knot is an alternative to our long-standing gift registry tradition, chosen by only 15% of survey respondents. A large 18% asked for guests not to bring any gifts, however just 2% requested a donation to charity instead (missed opportunity!). One third didn't give gift guidelines and were happy with whatever they were given.

There are two factors behind Aussies asking for gifts of money. The first is that couples are getting married far later; while my parents were moving into their first home and aged 21, I was "shacked up" and older (if you think I'm going to tell you how old, you're dreaming).

Both genders are leaving it nearly three years later than just 20 years ago, getting hitched at an average 28.5 for women and 30.1 for men, says the Australian Bureau of Statistics. Meanwhile, co-habiting beforehand has jumped from 76% to 81% in just 10 years.

But the second factor behind cash requests is that times are tight – the OECD recently highlighted that Australian property prices have increased 250% since the 1990s, much of that growth in recent years. The average loan size is nearly $400,000, says the ABS, which requires about $45,000 as a deposit (at just 10%; 20% is better) plus costs.

Meanwhile, latest estimates of the cost of the average wedding run from $36,200 on the government's to more than $65,000 from Bride To Be magazine. Which is crazy, though possibly misleading.

So I applaud this move if starting solvent is what it's all about – I'd be a hypocrite not to. Sadly, says 41% of couples married in the past five years still have some wedding-related debt and one quarter of couples paid for their wedding on a credit card.

For imminent brides and grooms, the discreet way of asking for cash in many countries it to write "No boxed gifts" on the invitation. The whole thing will probably seem more palatable if you also tell your guests what you intend to do with their money.

For guests, how much do you give? Consider covering the expense of your evening, in the old-school price-per-plate guide.

I should confess my personal "money" move wasn't without controversy. There was one dear family friend who heartily disapproved of our lack of a gift list. And we did fancy a bar fridge. So she gave us cash, once we were back in the UK, specifically to buy that.

It – quite literally – served us well. But, unlike our investment property, it's long gone.


This article was originally published by the Sydney Morning Herald on 15 March 2017. It represents the views of the author only and does not necessarily reflect the views of AMP.

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