By: Karen Sullen

To ask or not to ask, that is the question that has been at the center of much wedding controversy lately. Some say asking for money is a definite no-no, while others don't mind at all. It seems the answer to this question depends on who you ask. Brides, guests and etiquette gurus have all had their say, and it appears that neither of them is in agreement. The truth is that most couples would prefer money but shy away from asking because of the stigma associated with it, or they just don't know how to properly ask for it.

Emily Post and other etiquette professionals contend that "you should never ask for money on the invitation" as it is presumptuous, rude and in poor taste. Instead, the information should be spread informally among family and friends. However, everyone does not agree, even within the etiquette circle. The "Etiquette Queen" recently gave the following advice to a bride inquiring about a wishing-well reception. She said that it is appropriate "if you tell your guests first" and suggests that she find an invitation that "shows a wishing well on the front and call it a wishing-well party, instructing them to RSVP for details." This method walks a fine line because it does not explicitly ask for money, but relies on people already knowing that a wishing-well reception means that monetary gifts are preferred. At the very least guests will inquire if they don't know what it is, giving the couple a chance to personally explain.

The responses among brides also vary. While many agree strongly with Emily Post, there is a growing population of brides who feel that it is acceptable. Going against the mindset they consider to be old-fashioned and outdated, these brides tastefully include the information on an insert and, yes, even on the invitation itself with a simple statement saying, "Monetary gifts preferred." To the chagrin of many, these couples are honest and direct because they already have two households full of items and just don't need another toaster. They have real needs for home repair, a down payment for their first home or even relocation expenses, for example, which you simply can't put on a gift registry at Macys. They have even said that many of their guests were not offended but appreciative of the information and were glad to support the couple in a way that would really help them.

On the other hand, many people feel that the great divide is not about etiquette but about culture. It is acceptable, and even customary, in many other cultures to ask for money. Guests invited to a Korean wedding often present envelopes of money to the parents, who then present the money to the newlywed couple. Red envelopes of money are given to the bride at a Chinese wedding, as red symbolizes luck. "The Grand March" ends an Italian wedding reception with a receiving line in which the couple gives each guest a sweet favor in exchange for an envelope of money. An Australian wedding website even provides poems that help couples ask for money instead of gifts. It is evident that a lighthearted, tongue-in-cheek approach is recommended in Sydney, Melbourne and beyond. Here are some examples:

Invitation Script 4
Because at first we lived in sin
We've got the sheets and a rubbish bin
A gift from you would be swell
But we'd prefer a donation to our Wishing Well!!

Invitation Script 13
To save you looking, shopping or buying.
Here is an idea, we hope you like trying.
Come to our wedding, to wish us both well.
And bring this small sack, to throw in our wishing well.
Fill it with paper all colors will do, gold is our favorite but silver will do.
Now that we have saved you, all of that fuss.
We hope you will come, and celebrate with us.

Admittedly, some of the other poems were slightly more serious in nature, but these scripts do tell quite a different story as to how this question is answered internationally. Reading them created a new dilemma to ponder, "Maybe it is not the asking that is the problem, but the way it is worded that can be tacky." One approach is to give guests a choice. It takes the pressure off asking for money and lets them know it's okay if they still would prefer giving a tangible gift. A simple note could say, "While monetary gifts are preferred, we are also registered at…"

Good taste is always in style, but trends do change. Just think. A few years ago, a bride would have never considered wearing a red wedding dress. Yet, several have chosen to do so. If you feel that money is the best gift for you, there are three options, albeit with varying degrees of acceptance: discretely inform family and friends that money is preferred and have them pass the word; tastefully include the information on an insert (not on the invitation) along with the date, time and directions; or do things the old-fashioned way-return the gifts and get the money (since most people include a gift receipt nowadays.) After all, it is your wedding, and the final decision about whether to ask or not to ask rests with you. It might offend, and it might not. But if you're the type who is willing to take that chance, chances are you can handle any repercussions.