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The No-Registry Conundrum

By Amalah

Dear Amalah,

First I want to fawn a little bit and say I love the column! I’ve been a huge fan for over a year now.

Secondly– help! I am getting married in six months. My fiance and I reside in Florida, but our families and friends are scattered throughout the country and world. We have a teeny-tiny wedding budget, so we are just doing a civil ceremony with a small (20 person) dinner party after for immediate family and a few friends. After the wedding we were planning on sending announcements to our 200-plus friends and family that will not be invited to the wedding. (We would love to have them there, but we honestly just cannot afford to throw a party that big.)

We also are not doing a gift registry because we’ve been living together for two years and do not need anymore linens or kitchen gadgets (he’s a chef, we already have too many gadgets.) What we really want is a honeymoon. In fact we have one planned to Buenos Aires (airfare supplied through a gift from his grandmother), but we can’t foot the bill all ourselves.

How do we ask for cash gifts without being completely tacky? I know you can register for honeymoons online, but those websites take 7-10% off the top, which seems a little ridiculous to me. Is there any way around this? I know by not registering for anything I run the risk of getting some really weird presents, but I wish there was a way to just let everyone know they can give us money for the honeymoon. Or money for a new refrigerator, we need one of those, too. I’d rather that then receive tupperware or coolers or other household gifts that we do not need, nor do we have the room for in our small house.
I hope I am not sounding completely ungrateful. The practical side of me just can’t justify using a website registry that takes 10% of our friends and families’ money.

Dreaming of a honeymoon that isn’t charged to the Visa,
M

Is there a non-tacky way to ask for cash instead of gifts? No. No, there is not. I’m sorry.

That said, we also did not register before our wedding, despite being young and moving into our very first unfurnished apartment ever. We probably owned six dishes and two pots between us, but we still did not register because we were only going to live in that apartment for one college semester before moving again. And at the time we were unsure of whether that move would be across the state or across the country, and how long we’d be in THAT apartment either. (Jason was about to graduate and was contemplating several job offers.) (Oh, the early days of the dot-com boom! If you knew how to turn a computer on, you were money.) (Of course we ended up moving to an area with an insanely high cost of living, so we’re still using dishes from Ikea.)

So…we just admitted that the timing was off for a lot of breakable, heavy, pain-in-the-butt-to-unwrap-and-rewrap wedding gifts. We quietly hoped for some starting-out money, but never, ever said so. When people contacted our mothers to ask about a registry, they simply explained the moving situation and left it at that. Most people understood, read between the (broke-ass college student) lines, and gave us gift cards and checks. Other people still sent us crystal candlesticks and serving trays shaped like turkeys. We did indeed end up with a LOT of identical casserole dish sets. We returned what we could, re-gifted the nicer stuff to our fellow just-starting-out college friends and donated a lot of the useless/weirder things to charities that ran thrift stores (Lupus Foundation, Salvation Army, etc.) I think my brother got the turkey platter as a gag gift that Christmas. And you know what? All those extra casserole dishes are still a really handy thing to have.

But everybody got a heartfelt thank-you for everything, because registry or not, you cannot dictate to guests what they are *supposed* to get you. I once had a recently-married friend go off on a TIRADE because a number of her guests had bought “off-registry” gifts that she disliked. I was like, duuuude. Most guests just want to buy you something that you will like and find useful. Sometimes they miss the mark, but duuuude. You are not entitled to something just because you zapped it with a scanner at Crate & Barrel.

So. You have two choices. One, you stick with the no-registry plan, and have your families or another point-of-contact friend explain to anyone who asks that you simply have everything you need for your household. They could, possibly, tell really really REALLY close friends and family about the honeymoon thing at their discretion, or they could organize some kind of (optional) group gift. “They really don’t want anything but your congratulations, thank you! However, if you’re interested, the bridal party and some family members plan to help them out with their honeymoon. We’d love to include you in the gift!”

Of course, not everyone will call once they notice the lack of registry info. Which…I know a lot of people now include in the invitations, but I personally still find that inappropriate. Showers are one thing, wedding invitations are another, and considering you’re just sending announcements, you should leave off any registry info ANYWAY. Even invited wedding guests should not be thought of as “obligated” to bring a gift. People who are getting announcements after the fact even less so. Chances are, some people will still want to give you something, and will send a check, gift card or cash. (We got a surprisingly high amount of cash at our wedding, from people who specifically wanted to give us some money to spend on our honeymoon.) Giving money as a gift is no longer considered tacky, but expressly requesting it sure as hell is. Thus, the crapshoot side of this option: you may get some of the money you want, along with stuff you don’t.

Your other choice is to go with the honeymoon registry website. Instead of being concerned about the commission charges coming from your friends and families’ money, look at it as making sure they aren’t just flat-out wasting their money on “stuff” that you don’t want or need. People WANT to make you happy, and if the honeymoon is it, a registry is a slightly more socially acceptable way to let them know. (Devil’s advocate moment on that in a bit, though.) Disregard any needling selfish urges that really just want to “keep” that 7% to 10% , because I promise you: it’s probably worth the cost to keep an older relative on a limited budget from buying you a really ugly vase at a store with a no-returns policy, and you just KNOW she spent too much on it and it kind of breaks your heart to look at it, and of course you can’t get rid of it while Nana is alive and even after that…oh, Nana, her intentions were so good, if her taste more than a little questionable.
However, take note: Many people consider registering for a honeymoon tacky in and of itself. (Check out the comments.) A further sign of registries gone mad and couples looking at their weddings as a cash-machine-fairy-godmother. If you don’t really know those 200 announcement-receiving people that well, be aware that you may offend some people. Others might think it’s a terrific idea. Personally, I would be grossed out by any registry info — kitchen gadgets or otherwise — included on an announcement of a wedding that I was not invited to, so if you do go with the registry, keep in mind that it should be shared only with anyone who specifically calls and asks.

Photo by goat_girl_photos

Amalah
About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch

Amalah

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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MsTeb
Guest
MsTeb

You should never RELY on people to send you on your honeymoon. If you can’t afford it, you don’t go. Those 20 people you pay for/invite to the wedding-those you can ask them for the money (in THE nicest way possible, aka via your mothers), but the other 200? Any gift you get from them is gravy. One should never send a registry suggestion in an announcement. Ever.

Kate B.
Guest
Kate B.

I agree with the comment above. People receiving wedding announcements are not obligated to give gifts, period. (I suggest “Miss Manners on Painfully Proper Weddings” for further reading.)
Some receivers-of-announcements MAY choose to give a gift, but do not rely on others to bankroll your honeymoon.

www.google.com/accounts/o8/id?id=AItOawmah-3jsS1Zp
Guest

I’m a stationery designer and I come across this often. Any “special requests” that may come across offensive (examples: no children requests, cash gifts and honeymoon funds) are best spread by word of mouth. If you feel you really want to drive it home in a more presentable manner I usually recommend setting up a wedding website and outlining those details there. You can put the url of your wedding website on the direction card under “additional information” in your wedding invitations so the info is there if guests want to search it out and it seems less pushy. Best… Read more »

Stephanie
Guest

Honeyfund.com doesn’t skim off that percentage that most other sites do, I know a friend of mine used that for her recent wedding.

Jessica in SC
Guest

I think the 20 people who are coming to the wedding can be told, via word of mouth, that you would like cash, but the 200 people that you are sending announcements to? I would not expect gifts from them. I would likely not send a gift to a wedding that I was not invited to, no matter what the situation. And please, do not, under ANY circumstances, invite people to a shower but not to the wedding. I have seen this happen, and it is Not Good. I would not send registry information in a wedding announcement. I’ve gotten… Read more »

Jenny
Guest
Jenny

Just my opinion, but if I received a wedding announcement and not an invitation, I would not feel real compelled to get a gift, at all. I might give cash if I knew the person really, really well or if it was close family. But otherwise, I would just probably send a card. I would be more than irritated if I got a wedding announcement with a registration listing in it.

Possibly Tacky Information
Guest
Possibly Tacky Information

If you register at Bed, Bath and Beyond, they will let you return gifts for cash. Possibly tacky, but true.

Cledbo
Guest
Cledbo

Apart from totally agreeing with those above that you never ask anyone you didn’t invite to your wedding for anything, I personally don’t like the fact that asking for money is still considered tacky. It’s a bit of a cultural thing I think. When I was living in Japan I was invited to one of the teacher’s at my school’s wedding. Japanese weddings are massive affairs, even for those who aren’t well off. There is indeed 3 costume changes (for both bride and groom), and guests are only invited to the (lavish) reception – the ceremony is private usually. You… Read more »

Marianne
Guest
Marianne

It wouldn’t even cross my mind to send you a gift. I’d write a card. And wonder what’s with the announcement anyway. Either invite me for the party, or don’t. But then we’re probably not that close and I wouldn’t care for an announcement either.

John Underwood
Guest

Congrats, Margo.
I’m a founder of Rainfall of Envelopes. We’re a money gift registry but our messaging focuses on “meaningful gifts”, which is what most couples use the funds for (honeymoons, new home, college fund, etc.)
Also, I agree with not mentioning gifts with the invitations.

cagey
Guest

My mom recently received the registry info in a wedding invitation. And yes, we totally cackled like two fat hens over the rudeness. Particularly since said couple has been living together and have a BABY. Good grief. Personally, I did the “small wedding in New Hampshire” thing and I did not send out wedding announcements. I did send a picture to close relatives, but did not feel comfortable sending an announcement because I could never really figure out the purpose for it other than silently begging for gifts. After all, everyone knew I had gotten married, what is the reason… Read more »

olivia
Guest
olivia

We did something similar to Amy. We had a teeny, tiny wedding and invited everyone to a reception later. We didn’t do a registry and since our friends knew we would be moving in a few months, we received a fair amount of cash and gift cards. We also got a couple of weird things, but overall people saw our need as newlyweds would be more about money and less about sheets.

Daisy
Guest

I’m getting married in a month and put a registry link on my wedding website but not on any save the date or invitation. (The wedding website was on the save-the-date as it contained travel & hotel info for the destination wedding.) I’m of the firm, FIRM opinion that asking for anything is tacky. Even writing “no gifts” is tacky because it indicates that without your “sweet” request for no gifts they would be expected. A gift is just that- a gift- and the giver gets to choose what you get. Hopefully it is something useful or utilitarian like cash,… Read more »

Melissa
Guest
Melissa

I agree w/ PPs that a lot of people that receive an announcement are not likely to send gifts. Some it just won’t occur to, and others may see the announcement as a gift grab. (Etiquette-wise, it is appropriate to send announcements after a small wedding, but because many people are not well-versed in strict etiquette, even following strict etiquette can still get you in trouble.) The best way, and really, the only way, to inform people of the preference for cash is word-of-mouth, and then I’d limit it to moms and siblings. If invited people ask say, “we’re not… Read more »

Margo
Guest

Thanks for all the suggestions. We were never planning on putting any registry information in the announcement. I was mostly inquiring for the wedding website I set up for the far-away family. This confirms my fears on the Honeymoon registry. Ya’ll are the best!

MaryBeth
Guest
MaryBeth

I guess I do not understand the point of the announcements. If they are close to you, they will know you got married. I think it seems like a coy way of begging for gifts. Sorry, just my opinion.

marit
Guest
marit

My husband and I eloped. And after we sent out announcements to our family and friends with a picture from the day. We did not receive one card or gift from the announcements (besides from my family who sent things before the cards went out). Actually come to think of it, the only place we actually got congratulations was when we changed our Facebook status. The announcements were 100% not a grab or gifts but simply to share our joy. It still breaks my heart that we heard from no one, not my friends who we as a couple have… Read more »

Amy
Guest
Amy

Maybe it is because I was raised in a generation that is not as concerned with etiquette, but I don’t find the notion of asking for money only tacky per se, depending on how the request is phrased. When one of my best high school friends got married, her parents sent out announcements explaining that the two of them were moving to Japan shortly after their wedding, and so money was preferable to physical gifts. I was in no way offended, but only too happy to give them just what they needed. Of course, I was invited to the wedding.… Read more »

Kathryn
Guest
Kathryn

My husband and I eloped, but we didn’t send out announcements. News of our marriage spread via word-of-mouth or just us telling those with whom we’re close. Even without sending announcements or invites, however, many people still sent cards and gifts. Because we hadn’t registered, the vast majority of the gifts were cash (a few gift cards and a set of dishes from my parents were the exceptions). I don’t think you need to worry about it so much–those people who are inclined to give a gift will check to see if you’re registered somewhere, and when they see you’re… Read more »

ms martyr
Guest
ms martyr

I am not positive, but I think when I got married 34 years ago the only things you registered for were china, silver and crystal. Even then it was only so people knew what patterns you’d chosen. Personally, I like gift registries. I was able to order two place settings of flatware for a couple and received the nicest thank-you note indicating they’d used my gift more than any other. I also gave a check to a couple that did not have a registry and I knew were going to honeymoon in Australia. So I’m flexible and not too concerned… Read more »

jcg
Guest
jcg

Wow.
Some of these comments really have me wondering about people!
Selfish gift giving? Really? Although Emily Post would say it’s proper to do so, no one is required to give a gift at all. The receiver should be thankful regardless of whether or not it fits their taste. Perhaps I’m old for my 30 years but what your mama said when you were little still rings true… “it’s the thought that counts.” Generally if one goes off a registry for a gift, they are choosing something they feel confidant you will like or need. I hardly consider that selfish.

kat
Guest
kat

The postage alone on 200 announcements is $100 – why are they spending money on that! Send an email – update your facebook, let you parents tell their friends and that should cover it.
Also, there is a life-lesson here and one that will save your marriage and make your life happier. Don’t go on the trip unless you can afford it. Don’t buy the bigger house unless you can afford it. Don’t buy a fancy car unless you can afford it. Just don’t start your marriage off that way.

christina
Guest
christina

I think I’ve seen it all in the past 2 years…outright pleas for cash on the invite (from an established couple who owned 2 homes already), begging for honeymoon $ through a website (also on the invitation), and bridezilla-esque tantrums when she received gifts not on the registry. Oh, and I’ve seen registries listed on the invitation more times than I can count.
It is ALWAYS poor manners to do any of those things, and it ALWAYS leaves a sour taste in my mouth, and leads to quite a bit of gabbing behind the scenes (about the poor manners). ugh!

umi
Guest

I had a friend register for a Honeymoon, as well as, traditional gifts. The honeymoon itself, which was a cruise, was paid for, but you could buy the couple things… from chocolate covered strawberries, spa things, to just spending money on the cruise (I got them money for drinks). That was fine and I was glad that I could give them something to make their trip that much more enjoyable. (The couple also have been together for a number of years, so they didn’t need much) The same said couple also threw themselves a co-ed bridal shower, called it a… Read more »

Missie
Guest

I know that Margo would never do the following, but her question and the resulting comments reminded me of a wedding invitation we received last summer. Here is the actual wording: “We will not be registering Money will be appreciated to help us Along are way on are homeymoon” We sent them nothing. Thought about sending them Hooked on Phonics, but didn’t. My son was invited to another boy’s birthday party around the same time. I called the boy’s mom to RSVP and to ask what her son was into, ie Legos, games, etc. She said, “Oh, all he really… Read more »

akari
Guest
akari

to Cledbo about your comments on Japanese weddings….. please. You got it all wrong, dude. Please don’t write about a ceremony you don’t completely understand. There’s tons of cultural reasons for how a Japanese ceremony works, and I’m not going to put up with a comment that not only gets it wrong, but also puts it in comparison with a wedding registry.
from a avid Japanese reader in Tokyo, Japan (love ya, Amalah!)

Bitts
Guest
Bitts

Here’s what we did: private wedding ceremony (immediate family only), large reception a month later (200 people), invitation to reception combined with wedding announcement, regular bridal shower prior to wedding with everyone at shower invited to reception.
No registry. Word-of-mouth about gift preferences only. We got lots of presents that I did not anticipate and WE WERE UTTERLY GRATEFUL FOR THEM ALL.
We prepaid for our own honeymoon (BECAUSE WE COULD AFFORD IT), but mentioned it in the thank-yous to those who gave us cash.
IMO, ANY mention of a registry or desire for cash is TACKY. ANY mention.

Bethany
Guest
Bethany

To Umi:
My sister and her husband did something similar but way more friendly. They decided to skip bachelor/bachelorette parties and buy a happy hour for all their friends at a local pub. We all got free drinks and they made sure they got to hang out with their friends from across the country without the pressure of relatives at their “real” reception.
My boyfriend and I decided that we want to do that if we ever get married. Too many of my friends have spent way too much money on bachelorette parties they didn’t want to attend.

GAP
Guest
GAP

It would be tacky to ask for money, but since you’ve been living together for two years, you are already used to being tacky, so why not go for it? Incidentally, why bother getting married? The divorce rate for couples who live together prior to marriage is 80 to 85 per cent, depending upon which study you look at. For couples who live together for three years or less prior to marriage, the failure rate is nearly 100 per cent. For couples who live together seven years or more prior to marriage, the divorce rate is about the same as… Read more »

Possibly Tacky Information II
Guest
Possibly Tacky Information II

Crate and Barrel also refunds in cash!

Sara
Guest
Sara

We had a small, immediate family only wedding, with a party for all family and friends (invited 200) later in the summer. We did register, but only because my mom INSISTED on throwing me a shower, even though I said it was tacky since no one was invited to the actual ceremony. I hope no one minded…everyone was invited to the reception later. For the reception, we didn’t register for anything and mostly got a lot of cash. There were a few gifts like a bird feeder, frames and a vase that I have actually really enjoyed! I would go… Read more »

Lauren
Guest
Lauren

I feel bad but…yeah. Can’t ask for a honeymoon. Sorry.
Congratulations, though! (And I meant that sincerely, not trying to be nasty.)

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous

People seriously need to get off their high horses on this subject! In this day and age a lot of the old wedding “rules” just don’t apply anymore. I say do what works for you. Trust me, if people want to gossip behind your back they will find a reason! Don’t sweat it. And to all the people on here saying or hinting that the OP is being “tacky” to request or hint for cash? I think some of your rude comments are far tackier.

kari
Guest
kari

I like probably EVERY married person, received MANY a odd gift. Some I was genuinely perplexed by (what IS that used for?!) and others I just felt sad that I knew that person had spent money on something I couldn’t use, or already had. BUT every person got a beautiful thank you. We didn’t announce where we were registered (not even on shower invites). These days, if someone goes online, they can usually figure out where someone is registered easily. If they can’t find one, then they can make up their OWN minds about there gift options. In these times,… Read more »

Kimmers
Guest

Yeah I’m not even the OP and I’M offended by GAP’s comment.

Natalie
Guest
Natalie

We found out we were pregnant right after we got engaged, so our wedding waited two years while we saved for a house and had a baby instead. When we finally did get married, we had a small wedding at our house and didn’t even mention gifts. that being said my aunts wonderfully donated food to the wedding and a co-worker made my dress! Anyone else who wanted to give us a gift just gave us a card with some money. It leaves a little bit of a bad taste in my mouth that the whole idea was to send… Read more »

Jill
Guest
Jill

In Utah it seems it has become custom for couples to include gift registry information with the wedding invitation. Personally, I find it as an obligation to buy what they want. I do not like the whole registry thing. When I get married I will not be following this custom. My fear is that I will be considered rude for not informing guests what we want because it has become the norm in these here parts. Now what???