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TrendWatch: Down payment contributions as wedding gifts


You’re not imagining it. American couples are waiting longer and longer to get married. These delayed “I do’s” pose a very serious question: Just what do you get a couple that set up house—either independently or together—years ago?

Some of these happy couples may still register for traditional home goods as gifts. After all, it’s a great opportunity to start a new chapter of their lives with refreshed and updated décor. But, for those with plenty to feather their nests (or even too much, if they’re in the process of merging households) it may feel frivolous to suggest gifts they don’t really need. This is especially true if they’re scrimping and sacrificing for a big purchase, like a new home.

Enter the down payment as a registry gift!

Bride/Groom: But, isn’t it rude to ask for money?
Yes, it could be considered rude to ask for money. Luckily, a registry isn’t a place to ask for anything! When you add a food processor or pillow cases or a Nessie soup ladle to your wedding registry, you’re simply suggesting gift ideas that you and your spouse need and like. It’s a convenience for your guests, who may not know your current tastes or what you already have, but gift choices are ultimately the prerogative of the giver.

Even etiquette experts from The Emily Post Institute and Martha Stewart Weddings say it’s perfectly acceptable to let your friends and family know that you’d appreciate contributions toward a long-term financial goal like homeownership. Who knows? You may be doing a favor for guests who’d prefer to give cash, but worry that it won’t be seen as a thoughtful or meaningful gesture.

A few tips to safeguard everyone’s feelings:

  • Consider setting up a traditional registry for guests who prefer tangible gifts.
  • Like any gift registry, your desire for financial gifts should be passed by word of mouth, not printed on your invitations. Depending on your relationship with your guests, it may be fine to post links to your registries via social media or a wedding blog or website. The main thing to avoid at all costs is the impression that you’re telling guests what to buy, or even that gifts are expected.
  • Make it easy for people to contribute in whatever way they’d like. A crowdfunding site like HatchMyHouse.com, DownPaymentDreams.com or HoneyFund.com may be convenient for tech-savvy members of the Amazon generation, but your Great-aunt Gladys might prefer to give cash or a check—a smart move that avoids PayPal fees and other surcharges!
  • Wait until after the nuptials to ask big contributors for a gift letter. Unless you’re closing on a home during your honeymoon, there should be plenty of time to broach the subject later.
  • Unless you’re donating the funds to charity, try not to say you’d like cash in lieu of gifts. Expressing a strong preference could make guests feel obligated to choose a monetary gift or make tangible-gift givers feel their presents are less appreciated.

Wedding Guest: But, isn’t it impersonal to give money?
Only you can decide whether cash is an appropriate gift, but it’s probably safe to say that money is rarely an unwelcome offering. If you’re concerned, there are many ways show that you’ve put great thought and care into your down payment gift.

Example ideas:

  • Engrave a personal message on a keychain, ornament, birdhouse, piggy bank, photo frame or other small home-oriented gift to commemorate their union or express your wishes for their future happiness. Include it with your check, cash or a copy of your online gift confirmation.
  • If you know of several other guests who intend to contribute, consider banding together to present a keepsake, such as an album filled with personal notes and well-wishes, family recipes to try out in the new kitchen, etc. Other group memento ideas: wishing stones in a decorative bowl or jar, signed puzzle pieces (perhaps forming a house) or a framed poem or proverb about home accompanied by signatures and personal messages.
  • Include a gift letter with any large contribution so the newlyweds will have it on hand when their lender asks for it. Bear in mind, you may be asked to provide a new version in the future if the lender needs it to include additional information.

A final note: Before you register, make sure that you’ll be able to use gift funds toward your home purchase. Depending on your loan type and lender, you may be limited in the amount or the source of gift funds used. Check out our FAQ on this topic now »

Need gift ideas for other occasions? See our other articles!