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Shifting priorities upend traditional norms

The pandemic has forced couples to rethink their priorities. They had to slash guest lists, but parties became more personal. The focus shifted from throwing a big bash to marking a new chapter in a couple’s life with their nearest and dearest.

Lee says while cash gifts have become more common during the last decade and a half over standby items like blenders, dishes and towels, the pandemic has certainly sped up the process of normalizing it.

So far this year, the top cash registries on have been for honeymoon, down payment, home renovation, adventure and furniture funds.

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Experts welcome the opportunity for couples

Lesley-Anne Scorgie, founder of MeVest, a financial coaching company in Toronto, says she isn’t surprised that couples may ask more for money.

“It has been brewing for years,” says Scorgie. “People want less stuff ... Case in point, I have three cheese boards, still in boxes, from when I got married.”

Cash, on the other hand, is not only useful for the recipients, it’s also incredibly easy for the gifter, Scorgie says.

Carl Spiess, a retired financial advisor in Toronto, attended two weddings over the summer that the pandemic had delayed. Both couples asked for cash, which he was happy to supply.

“I was very happy for the direction,” says Spiess. “I'm really happy that these people are getting married and know what they want and are not falling prey to tradition, but are doing what’s going to be right and needed in their new lives.”

But donning his advisor cap, he would like to see couples spend that money with intention. These types of windfalls are rare and if used wisely, can help set that couple up for long-term success.

While Spiess says that wedding guests should give the money without any expectation for how the couple should spend it, the newlyweds will miss a rare opportunity if they fritter away the gift.

“There is the worry that the cash would be spent on a honeymoon that's a bit more luxurious than maybe they could or should have undertaken,” says Spiess. “And they come back, kind of back at square one, without having taken advantage of that windfall.”

Ideas to spend your wedding money

A couple’s plan for using that money should depend on where they stand financially, Spiess says.

If their budget is tight, putting it away in a tax-free savings account is a smart move. But if they’re doing well financially or hoping to save to buy a home one day, stashing it in a Registered Retirement Savings Plan, or RRSP, for later in life or for a house down payment will be helpful.

Scorgie suggests using any windfall to help get yourself out of debt, while also saving for short- and long-term goals. However, couples should feel free to skim some off the top to celebrate their wedding.

But she cautions that everyone should continue to be careful with money until we’re clear of the pandemic and its unpredictable financial implications. So while it’s fine to plan a nice trip after the wedding, instead of Maui, maybe a “mini-moon” in your local lake district or wine country is a nice compromise.

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Cash is the gift that keeps giving

Couples shouldn’t feel they have to spend the money immediately — especially with the uncertainty of the pandemic, Scorgie says. Work together to plan your future and figure out how that money can get you there.

“We know that couples who plan together, stay together,” says Scorgie.

As for guests who may be hesitant to give cash, your gift could be equally meaningful as fine crystal wine glasses that make an appearance every holiday.

“A nice influx of cash could help a couple actually get through their first year of being homeowners,” says Scorgie. “And that's a huge gift.”

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