Cash-strapped brides and grooms are requesting checks now.
Apparently silver and china are going the way of the Christmas bonus as openly acquisitive young marrieds ask their guests to cut the crap, make with the cash. Or, as the Wall Street Journal puts it, "new economic realities are now further shaping couples' priorities." Online registries have taken some of the gaucherie out of this approach; people were eased into the "cash" idea by making monetary contributions to the couple's honeymoons and paintings. Obviously, mortgages and 401Ks weren't far behind.Says one groomski,
"What the hell are we going to do with a $400 stand-up mixer?" he asks. Because the couple lives in a small one-bedroom apartment in New York, "everything we get for our wedding is doomed to spend at least three years in her parents' garage," he says.
Okay, spoken like a man who's never tried to make an angle food the old-fashioned way and so doesn't appreciate a KitchenAid (and apparently one with splatter guard, custom color and other bells for that price) but yes, nowadays couples tend to have tiny places and, more to the point, since we're marrying later, have been living alone long enough to have most of the basics.
The thing is, the happy couple aren't the only ones feeling the pinch anymore, and lots of guests would rather give a modest gift with some emotional significance than the equivalent, unimpressive amount in cash. Then too, to some this kind of open discussion of moolah is just plain distasteful. According to the piece, a lot of this comes down to geography: while the vulgarians in "New York and Los Angeles " might find it a pleasure doing business with you, Georgia traditionalists and those of "another generation" may balk. In any event, they advise discretion, sensitivity, tact and putting the dosh towards some tangible goal, so as not to give the impression that one is merely rolling around in money like a low-rent cartoon Midas.
If the suggestion that people contribute towards a car or a house reno is too romantic, check this out:
Scores of banks offer bridal savings accounts, which collect contributions toward dream homes — or other dreams. Some banks restrict the use of funds to down payments on a house as a way to bring in business to their mortgage arms. But institutions as wide-ranging as SunTrust Banks Inc., Bank of Utah, Community Financial Services Bank in Kentucky and Mercantile Bank in Illinois, Indiana and Missouri place no restrictions on how the funds can be used. Most charge no fees. Bank of Utah charges a $10 fee to open a bridal account, but it also offers matching funds of up to $300 for each account if the money is used for a house down payment...Another option: At least 19 credit unions currently offer accounts for accepting cash wedding gifts, according to the Filene Research Institute, a Madison, Wis.-based researcher of consumer-finance issues and the credit-union industry. These institutions market their service as MatriMoney, a name licensed by North Island Credit Union in San Diego. The credit-union accounts typically offer an annual interest rate and have no fees.
The philosophical questions can't help but intrude: are we getting more materialistic, or less? Is this the end of the "bridezilla" era, or just a craven permutation? A lot of people think of registries as a way of building a new life together, after all, acquiring future heirlooms, and there's a lot to be said for tradition in its place. But, really, maybe the gifts thing needs to be re-thought. After all, why should your guests have to finance your life? The wedding gift is really just a leftover from the days of dowries, except now your guests are expected to furnish your house and like it. Like so many wedding customs it's a relatively recent "tradition" that's come to be seen as inviolate. Sure, the altruistic among us might ask for a donation to a good cause, but the message is still clear: you will pay to attend our marriage, and you are not getting off cheap. If money's a measure of time, and economists tell me it is, we want to make people trade for the time we've invested, and this is philosophically dicey. Speaking as a guest, yes, I would resent giving a check, even as I'd understand the cut-the-pork practicalities behind it. And as a bride, I will be thrilled to get money. Which is a good argument against gifts. All this reminds me of the time my brother was doing volunteer work with some first-graders, each of whom was asked to write a poem about something he loved. Wrote my brother's assigned kid:
"I like money.
Money is green.
I can buy a machine.
I like money."