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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 a wedding gift card survey that’s still relevant today.

gift card girlfriend putting gift card into wedding gift box  
valentine gift cards in a row

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. This makes sense, of course, when you consider that brides and grooms register for merchandise–everything from toasters and vacuum cleaners to more modern electronics such as charging stations and wireless speakers–but receive gift cards anyway. In fact, bridal registry hosts often place gift cards on the list by default.

So what do you need to know 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 thoughts on these questions (and more), I did an online survey in 2020 (see details at the end of this post) to get feedback from other gifters and giftees.

Below you will find answers to the survey questions and the top wedding gift card etiquette questions I’ve been asked to answer.

1. Can You Ask for Gift Cards 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. I thought the request would be acceptable if she worded it politely, but I was unsure. That question prompted 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 okay to ask for gift cards instead of gifts. While some people said that asking is “tacky and presumptuous,” many more said, “It’s the same as using a registry to request gifts.” Others said, “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.”

2. Can You Ask for Cash for Your Wedding?

recipe box with happy bites gift card for wedding gift

Answer: Yes.

Since cash and gift cards are both practical (and sometimes considered less personal gifts), I thought it crucial to ask if it is okay to request cash for a wedding. To this question, 77% said it is acceptable to ask for money 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 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, how you ask for cash or gift cards is the more important thing to consider.

3. How Can I Ask for Cash or Gift Cards for My Wedding?

happy bride gift card with wedding gift

Answer: From using a registry to word-of-mouth communication, there are many ways to let wedding guests know what you want (or need) to start your new life together.

In the survey, 24% of the respondents said to register on traditional sites (namely, department stores) but to select very few items other than gift cards. 13% said it is okay to just list your Venmo or PayPal account on invitations. 11% clung to the idea that asking for cash or gift cards is simply impolite. I think there is a middle ground here.

I suggest listing both options (a Venmo account plus a department store registry) so guests can choose the type of gift they want to give. You can also ask the wedding party to communicate your wishes as needed. For example, Mom may respond to inquirers with, “Anna is registered at Target, but since they will be relocating after the wedding, cash or gift cards would be appreciated.”

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

4. How Should I Tell Guests I Want Cash or Gift Cards for My Wedding?

wedding invitation with gift registry info

Answer: Add a note to the wedding invitation, put it on your registry, or simply tell people directly.

To let people know where you are registered, add a note card to the wedding invitation packet (29%), list registry details on the invitation (23%) or write the registry information on the wedding website (20%). 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 any gift would do). In contrast, others notified guests that “Honeymoon Fund Jars,” “Dollar Dances” or “Wedding Wishing Wells” would be at the reception so they could just bring money to the festivities instead. 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.

5. Will I get Cash or Gift Cards For My Wedding (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 survey, we asked how many people would give cash if not explicitly requested 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.

Visa gift card option

6. 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 gift cards are acceptable wedding gifts. Since gift cards top holiday wish lists, it is no surprise that the flexibility and convenience afforded by gift cards make them perfect wedding presents.

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, “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.

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

a wedding gift table

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 and Target give newlyweds a discount when they buy items off their own registry, a gift card to one of those stores can be used to save the couple money.

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

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

purchase price of Visa gift card

Answer: Let your budget be your guide.

Never overspend on a wedding gift. The only dollar value that matters is the one you can afford.

However, remember 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 they’ll get several gift cards to the same place and can combine the values.

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

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

writing on a wedding gift card

Answer: Yes.

Knowing the dollar value of the card will help the married couple plan how to spend it, and having this information could prove helpful if there is an issue with the card. Make a copy of the activation receipt for your 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.

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

presents on wedding table

Answer: Put a trusted friend in charge and move the gift cards to a secure location after most guests have arrived.

With a bunch of gift boxes and bags piled high on a wedding reception table, it’s easy to see how a small gift card envelope could get lost among the bigger presents. As hostesses look for creativeways 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 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 safer location after the bulk of the gifts have been deposited. Here are more tips on how to prevent wedding gift cards from being stolen.

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

wedding date written on a calendar

Answer: Traditional wedding presents can be sent a couple of months to a year after the wedding, 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 being assessed non-use fees within a year, other things could impact the value of a gift card held 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 newlyweds have as much time as possible to get the card’s full value.

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 no need to wait.

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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