I received five rice cookers and three grinders at my wedding, read one Facebook post. Another claimed: A friend received a grand total of 11 juicers at their wedding. And yet another: My cousin was gifted more than 30 glass sets at his wedding.
As I racked my brain about what to gift a school friend for their wedding, I couldn't come up with any better alternative to cash. Just to be sure, I asked my friend, and they also confirmed that receiving cash at this moment would be the best. I bought colourful paper, handcrafted an envelope, and, along with heartfelt wishes, gave cold hard cash as a gift to start their new life.
Cash has become more popular as a wedding gift than anything else at local weddings. Giving cash is now considered more convenient above anything else. The bride, groom and their families also increasingly prefer cash as a gift.
Nowadays, at some weddings, cash even accounts for up to 100% of the gifts.
Relief from the worry of picking gifts
It is natural for guests not to have any idea about the likes and dislikes of those who are getting married. Moreover, in local weddings, since the guest list tends to be quite extensive, receiving the same gifts from several people is quite common. In the end, most of the unnecessary items received at the wedding have no use to the newlyweds; except for giving them away or selling them at a low price.
So, the question of what gift to bring to a wedding often becomes a source of anxiety. In such cases, giving cash as a gift is a straightforward solution. In addition, giving cash offers relief from the inconvenience of selecting gifts and the hassle of spending time shopping.
"En route to any event, one has to spend hours stuck in traffic jams. On top of that, going to the market to buy a gift for that event takes up extra time. If you give cash, you save a significant amount of time," said Saif, a resident of Dhaka.
Even on invitation cards, you often find phrases like 'No Gifts' or 'Gifts Not Necessary.' According to Nilkhet-based card business owner Badal, "'Gifts Not Necessary can also sometimes mean cash only!''
"I once asked a couple of customers why they did not want gifts. He replied that most of the time, the items received as gifts are not useful. Instead of asking for cash directly, if you write it like this, many people will understand that it is better to give cash."
Newlyweds can spend according to their preferences
At the beginning of this year, Meer Raihan Masud, an employee of an international organisation, tied the knot. He received a considerable amount of cash as a wedding gift. He believes that money has come in handy at the start of their new journey.
"Receiving cash as wedding gifts is a win-win situation for both sides. Those who are giving gifts don't have to worry about what to buy and the newlyweds are also benefited. With the cash we received as gifts, we bought some furniture for our new home. The rest of the money was spent travelling," he said.
Afra Nawmi, who works for a private communications company, got married last May. Nearly 60% of the gifts she received for her wedding were in the form of cash. She used this money, which she received as blessings from relatives, friends, co-workers, and well-wishers, to purchase many essential and exciting items for her new household.
"Cash gifts as wedding presents are more practical than any other kind. They serve as an important savings for the future of the newlyweds," said Nawmi.
Sadia Ashrafi, a former student of Dhaka University who got married several years ago, concurred. She has kept the cash received from close relatives as savings in a bank account.
Can cover some of the wedding cost
A wedding means no end to expenses. The amount spent on weddings has been increasing day by day. Many, even if they cannot afford it, feel societal pressure to host lavish ceremonies. Some even resort to taking loans from banks or acquaintances to manage the financial burden. In such situations, receiving cash as a wedding gift, even if it is a small amount, can help alleviate the burden of wedding expenses.
"Last year, my father spent at least 10 lakh taka on my sister's wedding. This included renting a community centre, food, decorations and various other expenses. As a middle-class family, this was a significant amount. My sister didn't even want such a grand wedding, but my parents felt pressured to arrange it. It put a strain on their savings. Besides all the other gifts, they received nearly two lakh taka in cash as wedding gifts, which helped them cover some of the expenses," said Hasan from Gazipur.
Dhaka resident Bristy Mahbub Rahman stated, "In most middle-class weddings, a lot of shopping from local stores is done on credit. When cash is given as a gift at weddings, it often goes towards settling these outstanding payments. So, giving cash as a wedding gift can be very helpful for the organisers."
In Bangladesh, most weddings are hosted by the parents. Therefore, the cash received as gift is often either entirely given to the bride and groom, or partially retained by the parents.
For example, Jasmine Jui from Dhaka believes that those who are financially well-off can keep the cash gifts for their children's future, as it can be a significant contribution to their new life. However, not everyone has that luxury. She said, "What I received as cash gifts at my daughter's wedding; after the expenses were covered, I gave the rest to her."
Another parent, Jinat Rehana, has worked at the US Embassy for almost two decades. She got her eldest daughter married a couple of years after her husband passed away. Despite not taking a loan from the bank, they had to break some of their fixed deposits to cover the wedding expenses. Therefore, from the money raised by both the bride's side and groom's side at the wedding, the two families allotted fifty thousand taka for the honeymoon and took the rest.
Inflation is also responsible
The practice of giving cash as a wedding gift has increased in recent years compared to weddings that took place a couple of decades ago, said both newlyweds who recently got married and couples who tied the knot many years ago.
Dhaka resident Nitu Rahman stated, "In my wedding back in 2017, I received a significantly larger amount in cash as a gift compared to other presents. However, my older sisters, who got married at least 10-15 years ago, did not receive cash as a wedding gift for any of their weddings. Distant relatives and acquaintances mostly gifted glassware and other similar items. Close relatives who had a more substantial budget gifted gold jewellery, household appliances, refrigerators, and televisions."
Over time, the trend of giving cash as a wedding gift has gained momentum, and one significant reason behind this change is inflation, as pointed out by Shaiful Hossain, the CEO of Financial Leadership International and an economic analyst.
According to him, "A few decades ago, you could get a nice gift for two to five thousand taka. The price of gold was also much lower. But now, if you want to buy a decent piece of gold jewellery, you may have to spend 20–30 thousand taka. Many people simply cannot afford to spend that much on wedding gifts."
"The prices of other items have also increased significantly over the years. Therefore, giving cash as a gift has become a convenient option for many, allowing them to choose gifts within their budget."
Things to keep in mind while giving gifts
Many people hesitate to give money directly at the wedding, even though it is convenient for both parties. There might be some dilemmas, including how much money should be given, what the organisers might think, whether to give money directly in person or not if you give cash; will there be nothing as a souvenir to remember you by? and more.
If you keep a few things in mind before giving gifts, you can get rid of these dilemmas. Such as:
- If a close person is getting married, you can directly ask them what gift he or she would prefer.
- You can also judge by the financial condition of the recipient to determine whether cash will be of use to her or him.
- In the case of giving cash, you can put it in a nice envelope instead of handing it directly. Ornate envelopes are available for purchase at various stores, or you can make envelopes yourself by watching videos online and using coloured paper.
- Apart from the money, you can also give a handwritten note. Even if the money's gone, the note with your best wishes can be a memory for a lifetime.
- How much money to give as a gift depends on your relationship with those getting married as well as your financial state.
- You can also give the gift through a bank transfer or check if the amount is large.
- Alternatively, you can give a prize bond. If necessary, they can cash out the bond from the bank. Or your gift may win the newlyweds a huge sum of money in the lottery; who knows?
A global practice
Apart from Bangladesh, the practice of giving cash as a gift is quite popular in most countries across the Asian continent. Money is considered an appropriate wedding gift in countries like India, Pakistan, China, Japan and South Korea. Apart from Asia, the practice of giving cash at weddings is becoming popular in various parts of the world, including the United States. Different countries have formed different rules for giving money as gifts.
In Japan, money was once given as a gift only in red-white envelopes. Currently, envelopes of various colours have become acceptable. Wedding gift envelopes in China are usually red in colour. In South Korea, shiny new notes in white envelopes are given as gifts.
Varying from country to country, the amount of cash is determined upon careful consideration of various aspects. In Indian weddings, any amount of money may be gifted with an extra 1 rupee as a symbol of good luck.
In South Korea, the number four is seen as a symbol of death, so special care is taken so that the cash amount does not have the number four in it. Japanese weddings do not give gifts of any number that is divisible by two because it can be easily divided!
In China, the number ending in eight is seen as a symbol of abundance and prosperity. So the cash amount should end with eight.