Urban Etiquette: I do ... not want to gift cash to the happy couple
I’ve been invited to a niece’s wedding. She and her boyfriend are in their late 20s, and instead of presents, they’ve asked for financial contributions toward their honeymoon, which people can make online. I think this is very ill mannered. I myself treasure a number of beautiful things in my home that were wedding presents, and every time I use them, I think of the people who gave them to me. I don’t want to be lumped in with all the other “donors” who give money to my niece. Should I say something? — Auntie
“Should I say something?” is a question with many answers. Sometimes the answer is obviously a yes (“you have kale in your teeth”). Other times the answer is emphatically no (“your eyes are too close together”).
In your case, the answer depends on what you’re actually trying to achieve.
Will saying something help your niece? If the invite said something horribly discriminatory (certain groups not welcome) or illegal (certain drugs most welcome), you’d be doing your niece a favour by telling her it’s offensive and she should send out a revision immediately. But asking for, or expecting money is a longstanding tradition in many cultures, and popular with many who’d rather give cold hard cash to newlyweds than rack their brains coming up with a suitable gift. To tell your niece, on the eve of her very important day, that following this accepted practice is a sign she is an ill-mannered, money-grasping bride will only hurt, not help, her.
Will saying something help you? In some cases, it’s fine to pipe up when you’re offended. I’ve learned to tell a chronically late friend or colleague “I don’t appreciate being kept waiting” whenever they finally show up. This way, I don’t have to waste energy trying to hide my irritation for the entire meal or meeting. But, as we have established above, your opinion on cash gifts is highly subjective, and saying something will probably hurt your niece. It will also make her remember you as the person who made her feel bad about her wedding invitation. This is the opposite of what you want, ergo, it won’t help you to say anything.
This doesn’t mean you have to suck it up and give money. If you, as a close relative, really want to give her a personalized gift and be remembered fondly for the rest of her marriage, then go ahead and do it! Give her something she needs or loves, along with a note telling her how you’re reminded of friends and relatives who gave you gifts.
And if she’s offended, she can always say something — though my advice to her would be to send a thank you note instead.
Ellen Vanstone is a columnist based in Toronto covering issues around urban etiquette. Need advice? Email Ellen: