Summer is the season of weddings. My wife and I were no exception tying the knot in June 1989. But when you have a Yankee marrying a Southern woman, the tradition of gift giving is radically different. 

While planning the wedding we realized that with families and friends 1,300 miles apart, half the guests would be seriously inconvenienced with travel. Rather than make people blow money on plane tickets or have to drive for three days, not to mention the hotel and meal expense, we came up with a solution: two wedding receptions. One in Alabama, one in Connecticut. 

And two very different traditions when it comes to wedding gifts. 

People buy actual presents in the South. The bride often “registers” with a department store for things like china, crystal, silverware, and kitchen appliances. (They do not let the groom register, because he would likely go to Home Depot or Lowe’s and register for power tools and a Shop-Vac.) 

Northerners have simplified the process by giving cash. Impersonal? Maybe. But helpful? Big time. 

We got married in Alabama and had a reception here, and of course the gifts were traditional. We got a lot of really nice stuff. A short time later we flew to my hometown for reception number two. 

A few days before, one of my mom’s friends presented my wife with a white silk bag. “What’s this?” my wife asked. 

“It’s your boost bag.” Mom’s friend explained that toward the end of the reception, people line up and give the bride envelopes filled with cash, supposedly to give the young couple a financial “boost” toward a mortgage on that first house. (The cash is always given to the bride because if it were given to the groom the bride would come home one day and find a pool table, recliner, big screen television, and beer cooler, along with a bass boat in the driveway.) 

This tradition is perfectly depicted in the movie Goodfellas, where people line up to give Lorraine Bracco envelopes with cash. 

When it came time to write thank you notes (a tradition that seems lost on young people these days) we had a list of who gave what. She handled the notes to her family and friends, while I wrote the ones to my side of the family. I was happy I only had to write notes of thanks for cash because I would have had no idea how to say, “Thank you so much for the lovely salad fork. We will think of you on every occasion we have a salad at dinner.” 

Recently I’ve decided to try the financial boost concept in this part of the world. A friend’s daughter was about to get married, so I simply asked, “Would you prefer a gift or cash?” 

The answer was cash. 

Let’s face it, when a young couple is starting out, the last thing they need to worry about is money. Giving cash gives them money to spend it on what they really need, whether it’s a down payment on a house or something else. Simply having a nest egg in the bank is a big stress reliever. 

If they wanna blow it on a cappuccino maker, at least that’s their decision. 

As for our “boost,” it sure came in handy when we bought our first home. A house trumps a salad fork in my book. Though my wife really loves setting the table with the china we got as wedding gifts. In the end, it was the best of both worlds.

Randy Tatano is the author of more than 20 novels, writing political thrillers under the pen name Nick Harlow and romantic comedies as Nic Tatano. He spent 30 years working in television news as a local affiliate reporter and network field producer.

The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of 1819 News. To comment, please send an email with your name and contact information to

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