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Wishing Well & Wedding Wishing Well

Is it really okay to ask for money or specific gifts?

Traditionally it was considered rude for a bride and groom to indicate any preferences regarding gifts, but times are changing rapidly. In 1976 just 16% of people lived with their spouse before marriage, while the current figure is at 81% and continuing to rise, so most couples today will already have many of the things traditionally given as gifts. Guests don’t want to spend their money on something that the couple already has or something that they may not like, and many people will expect some guidance on this.

Of course, in many cultures giving money was always the norm. At traditional Jewish weddings it’s common to give money in multiples of 18, while at a Hindu or Buddhist wedding money amounts ending in ‘1’ are preferred, usually delivered in a traditional decorative envelope. Traditional Chinese weddings call for cash in a lucky red envelope, at Italian weddings guests fill the bride’s borse with cash, and of course at super traditional Greek weddings guests pin cash to the bride’s dress.

The wedding wishing well, or money tree, emerged as a fun way for guests at weddings that weren’t culturally traditional to give money instead of gifts. To make the couple’s wishes come true, so to speak. Some people take this quite literally and have a small wedding wishing well set up on the gift table to collect envelopes, cash and gift cards. Others will use a basket, suitcase, letterbox or something else entirely. You don’t have to have anywhere specific set aside in this way, of course, but it will help prevent any from going walkabout or slipping behind the table or under the tablecloth.

What is a wishing well card?

The wedding wishing well card is a separate card included in your wedding invitation package, which provides details about arrangements you have made for presents. This is where you can let guests know if you have a wedding registry, a preference for cash, or would prefer donations made to a charity in lieu of gifts. Of course, if you have no specific requests, this card is not necessary.

The wedding wishing well card came about because etiquette says gift details are never to be written on the wedding invitation itself, yet guests wanted to know what the bride and groom would prefer before they spent their hard-earned money on a gift. Instead of fielding questions from hundreds of people individually, it made sense to include this information with the invitation.


How do I ask?

There are a few key guidelines to follow when wording your wedding wishing well card:

  • Whatever your preference, make it clear it is an option only. You are providing guests with a suggestion, not making a demand. You may have a registry or prefer cash, but you should be careful to word this in a way that makes clear you’re not expecting anything. Remember, you are requesting your guests’ presence at your wedding: a gift is an extra bonus. Specifying your preference is supposed to make it easier for your guests, not cause problems for them!

  • If requesting cash, indicate what you will put money towards. People like to visualize how you will use their contribution. They don’t want to give you money and have it wasted. You don’t have to go into specifics here, but mention that you will be putting it towards your honeymoon / a house / a dishwasher or anything else. This helps a cash gift feel more tangible and satisfying for the person giving.

  • Be clear and honest. It has been trendy to use cutesy rhymes or poems on the wedding wishing well, largely to combat the awkwardness of asking for money. While there’s nothing wrong with these wedding invitation poems if you like them, don’t feel you have to take this approach. As long as you are polite, don’t fear being direct and honest.

  • If requesting donations to a charity in lieu of gifts it can be nice to indicate why you have chosen that specific charity. Perhaps you lost a loved one to cancer and want your guests to donate to research, or you and your partner both love animals and want to support the RSPCA. Feel free to let your guests know why this cause is important to you!


The wedding wishing well - Suggestions of wording

Keep it simple! Feel free to borrow from the following:

For those who wish to bring a gift, we have registered with Myer to make it easy for you to find something we need.

In lieu of gifts, we would appreciate donations to The Cancer Councilin memory of our beloved grandparents.

Your presence at our wedding is the greatest gift we could ask for but if you would also like to bring a gift, a contribution towards our honeymoon would be much appreciated.

If you wish to give a gift,we would appreciate any contributions to our savings for our dream home.

We have all the material things we could ever need and ask that a donation be made to those less fortunate in lieu of any gifts. Donations can be made to the Salvation Army, or to any charity of your choice.

We are lucky to already have most things we need for our home. In lieu of gifts, we would love a small contribution to our honeymoon fund so we can have the experience of a lifetime in Bali.

A wishing well will be available to allow guests to contribute towards the purchase of a new washing machine. Practical, but greatly appreciated!

Cassie has worked at World Vision for the past three years and is leaving her job as we move to start our life together. Donations to support the projects she has invested so much time in would be deeply appreciated.


Alternatives to a wedding wishing well

If you like surprises or find it distasteful to mention gifts before being directly asked, it is perfectly acceptable to leave this card out of your wedding invitation package. Just make sure you’re prepared to field a lot of questions from guests who are used to being given some guidance on these things! If you go the word-of-mouth route to let people know your preferences, make sure your bridal party and immediate family are well informed of your wishes so they can offer helpful suggestions to guests when they are asked.

Another option is to include details of your gift preferences on your wedding website, and just ensure the link to this is included somewhere in the wedding invitation package. Guests are likely to turn to the website for any information they need and this keeps it out of the official invitation, which honours traditional etiquette.