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Your Guide to Wedding Gift Card Etiquette

Get the best advice on giving (and receiving!) gift cards during wedding season plus results of our new wedding gift card survey.

gift card girlfriend putting gift card into wedding gift box  

With gift cards topping holiday and birthday wish lists year after year, it’s no wonder the little plastic powerhouse is a favorite on wedding and bridal registries as well. This makes sense, of course, when you consider that although brides and grooms register for a wide variety of merchandise–everything from the traditional toasters and vacuum cleaners to more modern electronics such as charging stations and wireless speakers–all typically end up receiving at least a few gift cards anyway. In fact, bridal registry hosts often place gift cards on the list by default. So what do you need to know in order to properly give someone a gift card for their wedding? And if you’re the person getting married, what are the rules around registering for gift cards, asking for gift cards and letting people know you’d rather have gift cards?

In addition to my own thoughts on these questions (and more), I put out an online survey (see details at the end of this post) to get feedback from other gifters and giftees as well. Below you will find answers to the survey questions along with the top wedding gift card etiquette questions I’ve been asked to answer.

Etiquette Questions on GIVING Wedding Gift Cards

1. Is it Okay to Give Gift Cards as Wedding Gifts?

Putting a gift card into the wedding gift card box

Answer: Yes. According to the survey, more than 92% of respondents said that gift cards are acceptable wedding gifts. Since gift cards have topped holiday wish lists for more than a decade, it is no surprise to me that the flexibility and convenience afforded by gift cards makes them perfect wedding presents as well.

In response to this question, one survey taker said, “You should pick a card from the wedding registry and not just choose any card.” Another responded with, “Gift cards help the couple avoid duplicate gifts and can also help them financially.” And my favorite response is this one: “Gift cards are so much easier to deal with on both ends. Do I love Target? Heck yes! Do I want to spend 2 hours making sure my registry is perfect? Nope.”

So there you have it.

2. What is the Best Wedding Gift Card to Buy?

Answer: The best gift card to buy for a wedding, bridal shower or engagement party is a gift card on the couple’s wedding registry. Since stores like Bed Bath & Beyond, JCPenney and Target all give newlyweds a discount when they buy items off their own registry, a gift card to one of those stores can actually be used to save the couple money.

This list of Top 10 Wedding Gift Cards will help you get it right.

3. How Much Money Should I Put on a Wedding Gift Card?

purchase price of Visa<sup>®</sup> gift card

Answer: Let your budget be your guide. Never overspend on a wedding gift, no matter how much the person means to you, how much you think others are spending on gifts or how much the bride and groom collectively paid for the wedding. The only dollar value that matters is the one you can afford.

Keep in mind, however, that a gift card should be redeemable without requiring the newlyweds to spend their own money. For example, if your budget says 25 dollars is the amount you can give, then the gift card should be redeemable for food or merchandise within that price range. Gift cards to the couple’s registry can be in any denomination because chances are good they’ll get several gift cards to the same place and can put the gift cards collectively to good use.

Read more on how much to spend on a gift card.

4. Should I Tell the Couple How Much Money is on the Gift Card?

writing on a wedding gift card

Answer: Yes. Not only will knowing the dollar value of the card help the married couple plan how to spend it, but having this information could prove useful if there is an issue with the card. Make a copy of the activation receipt for your own records and tuck the original in with the gift card packaging. With so many gifts to open and presumably so many gift cards to use, it could be a while before they get to your gift card. This way, both of you have a record of the dollar value loaded onto the card.

Read more on what to do with a zero-balance gift card.

5. How Can I Make Sure My Gift Card Isn’t Lost or Stolen at the Wedding?

presents on wedding table

Answer: With a bunch of gift boxes and gift bags piled high on a wedding reception table, it’s easy to see how a small gift card envelope could get lost amongst the bigger-sized presents. As hostesses increasingly look for creative ways to collect gift cards at the wedding such as hat boxes, bird cages and baskets, a new problem has arisen–gift card theft.

Though not a widespread issue, protecting gift cards is certainly on most wedding planner radars. To make sure the gift you send doesn’t fall into the wrong hands, deliver it to the couple’s home before or after the wedding or send a digital gift card instead.

A note to wedding planners: If you have a gift table at the wedding reception, make sure gift cards are dropped into a secure container, the table is monitored by someone the couple can trust and that gift cards are moved to a more secure location after the bulk of the gifts have been deposited. Here are more tips on how to prevent wedding gift cards from being stolen.

6. How Long Do I Have to Send a Wedding Gift Card After the Wedding?

wedding date written on a calendar

Answer: Traditional wedding gift etiquette says you have anywhere from a couple of months to a year to send a wedding present, but a gift card should be sent as soon as it is activated.

While gift card laws prevent merchant gift cards from expiring in less than five years or from being assessed non-use fees within a year, there are other things that could impact the value of a gift card that is held onto for too long. For example, bank-issued gift cards expire or lose value via inactivity fees, promotional gift cards expire, stores go out of business and so forth. Send a gift card quickly so the newlyweds have as much time as possible to get the full value of the card.

Thanks to digital gift cards, you can conveniently send an egift card straight to the couple’s email address, smartphone or social media account. Waiting for the bride to walk down the aisle? Pull out your smartphone and send an egift card on the spot. Sending gift cards quickly has never been easier so there is really no need to wait.

Etiquette Questions on REGISTERING for Wedding Gift Cards

7. Is it Okay to Ask for Gift Cards Instead of Gifts for a Wedding?

spafinder gift card for a wedding gift

Answer: Yes. A young friend of mine recently got married. Because the couple planned to move a few days after the wedding and wouldn’t have much time to pack, she asked me if it would be okay to register for wedding gift cards instead of gifts for convenience sake. I thought the request would be acceptable if she worded it politely, but I was not entirely sure. That question is really what prompted creating the wedding gift card etiquette survey in the first place. Below is the consensus on this question.

Of the more than 1,000 people surveyed, 86% said it is totally okay to ask for gift cards instead of gifts. While a couple of people said that asking is “tacky and presumptuous,” a good many more said things like, “It’s the same as using a registry to request gifts,” “Then people get what they want and money isn’t wasted on unwanted or unneeded gifts” and “It saves time and frustration with returning things. And it’s more convenient and easier to pack up and carry from venues.”

8. Is it Okay to Ask for Cash Instead of Gifts for a Wedding?

recipe box with happy bites gift card for wedding gift

Answer: Yes. Since many people feel that cash and gift cards are nearly synonymous (both are practical and sometimes considered less personal gifts), I thought it would be important to additionally ask if it is okay to request cash instead of gifts for a wedding. To this survey question, 77% said that it is acceptable to ask for cash instead of traditional wedding presents–about 10% less than the number of people who said it is okay to request gift cards. Reasons for saying it is okay to ask for cash included things like offsetting the cost of the wedding, contributing to a honeymoon or saving the couple from having to return duplicate or unneeded gifts. Still, not everybody thinks asking for money is the polite thing to do.

So, for me, the way in which you ask for cash or gift cards is the more important thing to consider.

9. What is the Best Way to Ask for Cash or Gift Cards for My Wedding?

happy bride gift card with wedding gift

Answer: From using a registry site to relying on word-of-mouth communication, there are many ways to let wedding guests know what you want (or need) as you start your new life together. In the survey, 36% said the best way to ask for cash or gift cards is to use a registry site like Honeyfund, Zola or MyRegistry.com because you can register for cash on all three sites plus gift cards and traditional presents on Zola and MyRegistry.com.

24% of the people who responded said to register on traditional sites (namely, department stores), but to select very few items other than gift cards. Surprisingly, a full 13% said it is okay to just list your Venmo or PayPal account on invitations.

To be clear, 11% clung to the idea that asking for cash or gift cards is simply impolite. I think there is a middle ground here.

My suggestion is to register for a few items so more traditional guests will not be offended. Then have the wedding party communicate your situation as needed. For example, Mom may respond to inquirers with, “Anna is registered at Target, but since the couple will be relocating shortly after the wedding, cash or gift cards would be much appreciated.”

Some of the most popular gift cards requested on registry sites include the following:

The Home Depot gift cardHappy Guy gift cardHappy Lady gift cardTarget gift cardLowe’s gift cardVisa gift card.

10. How Should a Couple Publicize a Request for Cash or Gift Cards?

wedding invitation with gift registry info

Answer: The general consensus is to let people know where you are registered by adding a note card to the wedding invitation packet (29%), listing registry details directly on the invitation (23%) or writing the registry information on the wedding website (20%), if one exists. Nearly 25%, however, still believe it is best to strictly let gift information be passed around word of mouth or be omitted from wedding conversations entirely. This feedback, however, does not address how to word the request.

In my opinion, it is best to simply write, “The couple is registered at Amazon.com,” “The couple is registered at HoneyFund.com” and so forth. I would not be inclined to write anything further, but I have seen invitations to the contrary.

One couple wrote, “Your presence is the best present” (implying that no gift is needed or that any gift would do), while others notified guests that “Honeymoon Fund Jars,” “Dollar Dances” or “Wedding Wishing Wells” would be set up at the reception so they could skip buying a present and just bring money to the festivities. That’s not my style, but many people who responded to the survey said that doing so is on trend with weddings these days.

Bottom line: You know your guests best, so do what makes sense for your friends and family members.

11. How Likely Am I to Get Cash or Gift Cards If I Don’t Ask?

happy couple on wedding day

Answer: Very likely. Many gift-givers plan on giving cash or gift cards without being prompted. In the last couple of questions on the survey, we asked how many people would give cash if not specifically asked and if they would give gift cards without being prompted. (To be clear, these were two different questions.) To the first question, 39% said they would likely give a gift card without being asked. To the second question, 41% said they would give cash without seeing a formal request. Adding gift cards to the top of your traditional registry should increase the likelihood even more.

So, perhaps the best way to get what you most want (cash and gift cards) is to say nothing at all.

About the Wedding Gift Card Etiquette Survey

An online survey of 1,002 US adults ages 25-50 was conducted on April 4-5, 2019 using SurveyMonkey Audience.

Other Wedding Gift Card Etiquette Questions?

What other wedding gift card etiquette questions or general gift card questions do you have? Let me know in the comments below or reach out to me on Twitter (@GCGirlfriend) or Instagram (@Gift.Card.Girlfriend). I would be happy to answer those questions.

Happy Gift Carding!

~Shelley Hunter, Gift Card Girlfriend

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