Rules for Gifting Money at a Wedding

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Geez, I never would have thought of the rules for writing checks to newlyweds! Important read for all wedding guests: rules of etiquette for gifting money.

Today’s couple is less likely to want consumer goods as wedding gifts. Millennials are getting married at an older age, and have often established households prior to the wedding–whether that be on their own as individuals, or as a couple.

That means as you attend weddings, you’re more likely to catch a hint that the couple is looking for something else in lieu of that department store registry. That “something else” is cash.

Gifting money for a wedding can be a touchy subject, though.

How much do you give?

Do you make the check out to her maiden or married name?

Wait, is she even taking her fiance(e)’s last name?

How much money should I give as a wedding gift?

Many couples today have cash registries. You may get a URL in your wedding invitation. Once your on the site, there will likely be cutsie things you can “pay” for like the honeymoon suite, airline miles or dinner at a nice restaurant.

These are things the couple has likely already paid for, but it’s a polite way of asking you for cash.

These registries give you an idea of what is appropriate to spend in the couple’s eyes.

What’s the etiquette if there is no registry?

The old rule of thumb was to pay for your plate. Consider the venue, price point, and how much the couple paid to entertain you at the reception.

Generally, though, $100 is a good gift if you’re a family member or close friend. If you are bringing a large immediate family to the reception and have the means, giving up to $200 would not be inappropriate.

Co-workers can probably get away with less, but don’t dip below $50 if at all possible.

If your finances are tight, don’t overspend just to impress. If this is a good friend or family member, they’ll be grateful for the gift and understand your situation. If not, they might not be as good of a friend as you imagined.

When your money’s tight, check out their department store or other registry if they have one. Often there are smaller ticket items on there that look better wrapped up than a small-ish check. Fifty dollars is still a good threshold, but again, do what you can afford.

How to Write a Check as a Wedding Gift

Writing checks to and from couples is an aspect of personal finance that can be pretty confusing. Nine times out of ten a bank clerk, in person or remote, will let errors slide. But if you catch that one ultra-scrupulous teller, your check is worthless.

Unless the bride and groom are incredibly close with you, it can be tremendously uncomfortable for them to ask you to rewrite the check, making your gift null and void. Here’s a list of to-dos and to-don’ts to make sure everything goes smoothly.

Writing Checks to Newlyweds

Don’t:

  • Write “Mr. & Mrs. Smith.”  You need to use first names. You don’t need to write any titles such as Mr., Mrs., Ms., etc.
  • Write “and.”  For example, you shouldn’t write: “Mary and John Smith.”  This is only appropriate if they have a joint bank account, and that’s most likely information you’re not privy to.
  • If it’s a check for a wedding, don’t write it out to the bride’s new name; she can’t change the name on her accounts until after the wedding, so this may delay or even prevent her from depositing the check. She may not even take her partners’ name at all.

Do:

  • Instead of writing “Mary and John Smith,” write “Mary or John Smith.” By writing “or,” either Mary or John can deposit it, regardless of whether they have joint or separate accounts.
  • Write checks out to the bride’s maiden name. You can include a note on the memo line to clarify the gift is for both of them if you feel it necessary.

Writing Checks from Couples

Don’t:
  • Print your name on the signature line.
  • Sign both your names on the signature line.  It’s unnecessary, and is likely to get the check turned down at the bank when they try to cash it.
Do:
  • Sign your name. In cursive. Even if it looks like a six-year-old did it.
  • Sign ONLY ONE of your names. It doesn’t matter if you share a bank account or not.  If you are trying to make it clear that the gift is from both of you, include a card with both your names on it.  If you really want to emphasize the point, put something like “From Brooke and Nina” on the memo line.

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13 thoughts on “Rules for Gifting Money at a Wedding

  1. Elle Sees

    this is something i never considered. unique!
    and i had to look up what your comment meant–Yes Man much? The only reference I could find was a movie. now i’ll have to check it out, thanks.

    Reply
  2. Matt @ Optimize Your Life

    “Instead of writing “Mary and John Smith,” write “Mary or John Smith.” By writing “or,” either Mary or John can deposit it, regardless of whether they have joint or separate accounts.” Oh, man…I wish people had read this before coming to our wedding. Some people wrote checks to one or the other of us rather than both, but most people used “and.” We couldn’t actually cash the checks until we were both able to go to the bank in person together. This ended up being on a Saturday when the bank was most crowded and cost us hours of waiting in line.

    Reply
  3. Penny deSaver

    These are good tips. I’ve been writing checks just to either the bride or the groom (whichever one is the reason why I’m there), but, in hindsight, that does seem rude and not in the spirit of the union. I really appreciate your advice.

    Reply
  4. Sylvia @Professional Girl on the Go

    When asked where we were registered I told everyone that “we didn’t have one and would prefer cash because we wanted to start out with a small emergency fund.” I got some weird looks but ultimately everyone understood the reasoning.

    Also I know a lady who couldn’t cash a check because her M-I-L wrote her married name on the check. So she had to received her Marriage Certificate and change her name on her ID before she could cash the check.

    Reply
  5. Gary @ Super Saving Tips

    Great tips on writing out the check. As for the “pay for your plate” rule, I know that’s a thing, but I think it’s much more important to give based on what you can afford and your relationship to the couple. Some couples will have extravagant weddings where you may not be able to afford your plate, while others may have frugal parties but can still use and appreciate that extra cash.

    Reply
  6. Mel @ brokeGIRLrich

    “Sign your name. In cursive. Even if it looks like a six-year-old did it.” LOL.

    I’m all for paying what you can, but going to some of the venues with my best friend when she was engaged was eye opening. Her wedding was a little nicer than most, but the plates were around $175 each. The “average” places were $125-150. I was shocked. Maybe it was because it was NJ though.

    Reply
  7. Mustard Seed Money

    I normally just give cash. That way I don’t have to worry about them having to cash checks. I know it was a bit of a hassle when I first got married to deposit all of those checks and I quickly hit my limit on electronic deposits. So since then I’ve moved to cash in an envelope 🙂

    Reply
  8. Done by Forty

    I know weddings are crazy expensive for the couple, so I’m fine giving money. Plain old cash is our trick: we’ll just ask for a crisp bill at the bank, and plop it in a card.

    Reply

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