Is happiness a luxe, vintage china set from your mother-in-law or something more experiential and intangible, like a vacation or charitable gesture?
If consumers today have anything in common with the Greek philosopher Aristotle, who believed that happiness could not be achieved through wealth or material goods but rather by “living virtuously, fulfilling your own potential as a human, and engaging with others—family, friends and fellow citizens—in mutually beneficial activities,” they tend to desire fewer possessions and more experiences, with millennials leading the pack.
In fact, 72% of millennials prefer to spend more money on experiences rather than things. Management consulting firm McKinsey & Company suggests that “a more holistic perspective on what leads to happiness, the growing importance of social media, and an increasing fear of missing out” are the key factors behind this high number—not only with millennials but with older generations, too.
This context is helpful in understanding cash registries, which is a way for couples to fund specific experiences—like a honeymoon vacation—or non-specific experiences—like the start of their lives together. Using an online tool, wedding guests can contribute to a fund, instead of giving traditional gifts like kitchen appliances.
In recent years, the cash gifting trend has grown increasingly popular—as more cash registry services have been introduced—making it easier for you to ask for money without really asking and easier for guests to give it without feeling awkward about it.
Why would couples prefer cash gifting?
If you’ve been with your partner for a while, and are already established domestically, you may not need another KitchenAid or toaster. Or, let’s say this is your second marriage, and there’s no need to accumulate more stuff when you’ve purged them once before. Or, say you’re like the majority of millennials these days who prefer to soak up as much experience as possible through travel. Better yet, maybe you’d like to fund that down payment on a new house—or some other important purchase.
These are all substantive reasons to include a cash registry on your wedding website—not as a replacement for the traditional registry but as an additional option.
Why? Turns out most people in the US still prefer giving traditional wedding gifts. According to a 2018 NerdWallet survey of 1,992 adults, 64 percent are more inclined to traditional store registries over contributing to a honeymoon fund, 59 percent prefer it over contributing to a home down payment fund, and 52 percent believe that asking for cash in lieu of gifts is tacky.
At the end of the day, though, it’s your wedding, and it’s important to ask yourself and your partner what do we need and what do we want. If you determine that a cash registry would be beneficial to your lives, don’t hesitate to include it, but also consider guests who may be unfamiliar or unappreciative of the concept by imbedding a traditional store registry on your website, as well.
It comes down to how you navigate and demonstrate your expectations. Make them clear on your wedding website, but also explicitly highlight that giving is not expected. After all, your guests’ presence should mean more to you than anything else. If you’re sincere, and you show respect across the board, noting that gifts are certainly appreciated though not expected, this will go a long way, and you can rest assured you won’t put a bad taste in anyone’s mouth.
How to use cash wedding registries
There are numerous cash registry services out there, ones dedicated to specific funding experiences and others that have more variety built into their platform. Though not an extensive list, we’ve outlined a few for common use cases.
If you’re dreaming about the memories you’ll make on your honeymoon to France, but aren’t too crazy about the cost, let your wedding guests contribute to it through Honeyfund, a trusted crowdfunding site for 12+ years.
Although the platform is useful for other kinds of funds, it’s primarily intended to help couples with their honeymoon—from airfare and hotel to dinner and fun activities, like a river cruise along the Seine. While digital gift cards, checks, and other custom payments are free, keep in mind that cash payments made through WePay or PayPal incur a fee of 2.8 percent of the balance, plus 30 cents.
Another well-reviewed honeymoon fund service is Traveler’s Joy, which has served 350,000+ people since 2004 and charges guests a processing fee of 2.95 percent and 99 cents at checkout.
Your dream home
Saving up for a down payment on a house is no small feat these days—and either impossible or delayed for many millennials. Student loan debt and rising rents are among the key reasons homeownership “among 24 to 34 is around 8 percentage points lower than Gen Xers and baby boomers” at that age. But this doesn’t mean millennials don’t want a house of their own.
In fact, according to the latest Country Financial Security Index, which measures Americans’ sentiments over their financial security, millennials consider buying a home a milestone they prioritize the most, even over getting married, having children, and retiring—with 46 percent of millennials and 40 percent of Americans citing “affording a down payment as the greatest financial barrier to homeownership.”
Given these stark economic realities, incorporating a home down payment fund as part of your wedding registry is not only understandable, but smart. Feather the Nest is one cash registry service solely intended to fund your dream home—whether that involves a down payment or home improvement, if you already have a house.
While there is a 5 percent transaction fee on every donation and Stripe, their credit card processing company, charges a fee of 2.9 percent and 30 cents, couples receive their cash gifts in their bank account within 10 minutes of a submitted donation. Simply share your nest URL on your wedding website, social networks, or email, and enable guests to contribute to an important milestone.
Fun hobby or special interest
We all have interests that don’t rise to the magnitude of taking a vacation or purchasing a home. Maybe you and your partner have been itching to take art, guitar, or dance lessons, or you want to try that awesome food delivery service so weeknight dinners are a little smoother for your first year of marriage, or perhaps you want to upgrade your camping gear from amateur to pro if you’re outdoorsy types.
While it’s true you’re in the driver’s seat and you can get as creative as you like, keep in mind that these “fun funds” may come across as a cash grab, so it’s important to be sincere and get your messaging right. For instance, if guests that know that you and your partner are movie buffs, you could entertain a fund for a Netflix subscription.
Try MyRegistry, where you can set up for a cash registry for pretty much anything your heart desires—big or small or silly—and guests can contribute using a credit card or PayPal account, which charges a 2.5 percent fee. The service also charges a small, non-refundable handling fee between $3.95 and $6.95, depending on the gift amount.
Returning to Aristotle’s belief that happiness comes from engaging with fellow citizens in mutually beneficial activities, it’s no surprise that more and more couples are making the selfless choice: encouraging guests to contribute to a charity in their name, in lieu of tangible or experiential gifts. In fact, the I Do Foundation, a division of JustGive, reports that there has been a 130 percent increase in charitable registry users since 2011 — and shifting demographics could be a key factor, with the average age of marriage now at 29 for women and 31 for men. There’s nothing more rewarding than making an impact on your global, national, or local community—depending on the charity you choose—and even famous couples like Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have done it.
So whether you’re a couple who has it all, or who has no desire for gifts of the traditional or cash variety, or who just wants to give back to their community, know that charitable registries are an option for you. If you and your partner are particularly passionate about curing cancer because someone close to you passed away from it, the Cancer Research Foundation could be an area you can direct your attention. But if you’re not sure where to start, you can research a plethora of reputable charities on sites like Charity Navigator and JustGiving.
Once you’ve settled on a charity, or however many you feel drawn to, registry services like The Good Beginning, which specializes in charitable giving, is an easy way to find your chosen charity, register, and express thanks to guests who give. About 30-45 days after your wedding, The Good Beginning sends 89 percent of those funds in one lump sum to your charity, with 3 percent going towards credit card processing fees and 8 percent toward administrative fees.
Blueprint Registry is another trusted—and versatile—option for couples who want to support charities within their communities, offering a way to create a cash registry on a more local scale. Plus, besides a 2.5 percent credit card processing fee (which is lower than most registries because Blueprint partly subsidizes the cost), the service is 100 percent free to use for you and your guests.
As you can see, there are various reasons—both sensible and selfless—to include a cash registry on your wedding website. But how do you go about navigating unspoken etiquette rules when it comes to a trend that is, indeed, growing in popularity but still falls behind the positive sentiments associated with traditional gift giving? We’ve compiled some helpful tips:
Pair your cash registry with a traditional gift registry
An easy way to strike a balance with guests who prefer traditional registries and those open to cash registries is by providing both as an option. By empathizing with your guests’ expectations and needs, you won’t risk turning them off, one way or the other.
Don’t make your cash registry mandatory
If you prefer that guests contribute to your cash registry, whether it’s for a vacation, house, hobby, or charity, it’s okay to note your preference, but make it clear that it’s not mandatory (more on that, below). Otherwise, this could come off like you’re only after the cash, which is an etiquette no-no.
Link your cash registry on your wedding website—not your formal invitation
Formal invitations, whether paper or digital, should only include key details like names, date, time, location, and RSVP. While it’s acceptable, and smart, to include a link to your wedding website on your invitation, don’t include the registry link(s). It gives the impression that you’re prodding your guests for gifts. Not the best look.
Inform guests about cash registry processing fees
Expect your guests to pay a credit card processing fee for the cash registry service you choose to partner with. It’s best to notify them upfront, on your registry landing page, instead of surprising them at checkout. It’ll also make you appear honest and transparent, allowing them to determine which registry—traditional or cash—works best for them.
Understand that guests have different budgets
When you set up your cash registry, be sure to offer funding options at a range of levels. Not everyone will find it easy to contribute (think: younger guests), especially if they have to travel far for your wedding. Providing budget-friendly options, but also noting that gifts aren’t expected, is the courteous way to approach your registry. When all is said and done, your guests’ presence at your wedding—one of the happiest days of your life—should matter the most.
Explaining your cash registry
Though the cash registry trend has become more and more popular in recent years, the reality is that most guests still prefer the traditional gifting method—so getting your messaging just right is of utmost importance. Here are some tips to help you strategize your narrative so that you can inform, inspire, and delight guests behind your reasoning—without writing an essay or overthinking it either.
Be honest and add context
Whether your cash registry is for a vacation, house, hobby, charity, or other uses, be transparent with your intentions. After all, it won’t bode well if it seems like you’re trying to hide something—plus, guests will appreciate your candor.
“Dear loved ones:
Many of you know that one of our greatest dreams has been to own a house. While your presence on our wedding day is the greatest gift we could ever ask for, it would also mean the world if—in lieu of gifts—you can contribute to our down payment and help us edge closer to a life milestone: a house we can call our own.
[first names of the happy couple]
Stay true to your voice
Whatever your disposition as a couple, make sure that your voice reflects how your guests have come to know you. Otherwise, it may come across as inauthentic at worst, or strange at best. For instance, you don’t want to end up sounding too academic or serious if you’re an easygoing couple. As you describe your reasoning for including a cash registry, be brief and be you.
We’re so excited to see all your lovely faces at our wedding. We’re also excited to go to Italy in a few short months! As a result, we’ve created our own little honeymoon registry if you’re able to contribute to our lifelong dream of eating pasta and drinking wine next to the Pantheon. If not, that’s totally okay, too. Your presence on our big day will mean more to us than anything else ever could!
[first names of the happy couple]”
Express your gratitude
While you should know that it’s poor etiquette to expect any gifts, it’s also important to acknowledge on your registry page that gifting isn’t mandatory. On the other hand, note that it’s generally discourteous if guests don’t give a little something. In any event, whether a guest does or does not gift, make sure that you express your gratitude — for their presence at your wedding and in your life.
“Dear family and friends,
For our wedding, we’ve decided to create a cash registry for a charity that is near and dear to our heart. While by no means necessary, we would so appreciate it—and you!—if you’re able to make a contribution to an important cause. With your kindness and generosity, maybe can make the world a better place than it was yesterday.
[first names of the happy couple]”
If you can think of cash gifting and cash registries through the lens of happiness and freedom, you’re on your way to building a case for your and your partner’s truest needs and desires—as human beings who want to live enriching lives within and outside of your partnership.
By pushing back on the status quo—traditional registries that focus on material goods—and incorporating cash gifting into your wedding equation, you’re doing your part to promote transformative bonding experiences, like travel, and mutually beneficial activities, like saving for a house or giving back to your community.
If you decide that a cash registry is right for you, who knows what power you can wield, in the hearts and minds of your guests, and on the world?
Amanda Hanna is a fictionist, non-fictionist, poet, and Chicago native. A flâneuse who loves to wander, Amanda has explored nine cities in Europe, lived in four cities in the United States, and daydreams about making San Francisco her next home. Follow her at theamandahanna.com.