10/09/2013 12:42 EDT | Updated 01/23/2014 06:58 EST

Sticky Situation: If I Donate to a Wedding, Do I Need to Give a Gift?

Sticky situation:

Our daughter just told us that she is getting married this holiday season. The reception will be in a chic downtown Toronto hotel. It will be a very intimate civil wedding with about 30 guests. She and her future husband have been living together for two years now. They have an adorable one-year-old son, my grandson.

They have informed me that they will be requesting a $150 donation per adult. I am told that this is the new modern way of getting married...

I am wondering if a gift needs to accompany our payment. Some of my friends say no and some say yes.

Please Julie, what is the correct behaviour?

Thank you for enlightening me.


Thank you for the trust that you have confided in me. I admit that this is a Sticky Situation, especially as it involves your daughter.

In general, when you invite guests, you take care of them and all of the fees associated with the activity. In other words: when you invite, you pay.

In your daughter's case, it appears to me, that she more accurately is asking guests to "join them" to celebrate their wedding. Note that the choice of words conveys different guest expectations, especially on a wedding invitation.

While in some cultures the gift of money is the norm, when inviting, it is never appropriate to directly ask for a monetary contribution from guests. It is also never appropriate to mention gifts in an invitation. It's just plain rude.

Even the cute and clever phrase "Your presence is present enough," should be avoided. This mention shifts the focus from the request of presence to the request of a present.

On the other hand, note that it is perfectly acceptable to mention gift registry information on a wedding shower invitation. A shower is all about the gifts.

In 2013, the best way to spread the word about wedding gift wishes, including donations of money, is still through good old-fashioned word-of -mouth. The future bride and groom inform their closest relatives and attendants of their wish list. These people become the ambassadors of the couple's hopes and dreams. When the guests ask them what would make the couple happy, they can say something like: "Since they have been living together for a couple of years, the reality is that they pretty much have everything that they need. I do know that they are dreaming of travelling through Europe's vineyards and castles. A monetary donation could help to fulfil that dream."

As for your question about the addition of a gift, since it is your daughter, I strongly recommend that you add a gift. After all it is a celebration of love and family.

What if the bride was not your daughter? Technically, if you had been asked to "join them" there would be no big gift to give, as you are already spending to attend. Depending on your relationship with the couple, you could top up your cheque with a token gift; something of sentimental value.

In all cases, the value of a gift is always at the discretion of the guest. Contrary to popular belief, there is no magic formula for the amount that must be spent. The amount that a guest spends on a gift is always based on his relationship with the couple, while respecting one's budget. When in doubt about what to offer, as stated above; a guest can always ask close relatives and wedding attendants. More on wedding gift etiquette in this Sticky situation blog.

Whether offering cash, a cheque, a gift or a combination of these, a card must always accompany it.

In your case, to avoid misunderstandings and hurt feelings, check in with your daughter by saying something like: "What would you like as a gift? What would make you happy?" This way there will be no disappointment, no uncertainty or unfulfilled expectations. You will also then be able to inform friends and family that will ask you about wedding gifts.

Have a Sticky Situation? Write to Julie and she will reply promptly. Want more Solutions to Sticky Situations? Like her fan page on Facebook, and follow her on Twitter or read Etiquette: Confidence & Credibility, now available for pre-order. Planning a conference? Customized business etiquette activities are available.

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