Getting just the right thing for the happy couple can be a minefield for guests – how do you choose something they'll actually want, without resorting to cold, hard cash? Flora Watkins offers her advice.

‘We had such luck,’ said Lady Evelyn Guinness, surveying the presents bestowed on her son, Bryan, and Diana Mitford, ahead of their wedding in 1929 – ‘all ours were stolen while we were on our honeymoon.’

It was precisely to avoid such a predicament that John Lewis introduced its Brides’ Book in 1957. No longer would married life be sullied by friends’ questionable taste in crystal goblets and standard lamps. For decades, bride and groom zipped happily around Peter Jones or the General Trading Company, selecting the cutlery and crockery with which to set up home.

However, times change, and with most couples now living together before they marry, the need for a dinner service is often as obsolete as the bride’s entitlement to wear white.

“Perhaps you may feel able to hand out your account details and sort code along with a list of local B&Bs and taxi firms, but why stop there? Why not ask your guests to crowdfund the whole thing?”

Slipping a request for cold, hard cash in with your wedding invitations used to require considerable chutzpah, yet it happens so frequently now that John Lewis offers couples the option of asking for ‘honeymoon contributions’.

Even Debrett’s has acknowledged the trend, although the form of words in its Wedding Guide – ‘you may feel able to ask’ for funds – is redolent of disapproval. Perhaps you may feel able to hand out your account details and sort code along with a list of local B&Bs and taxi firms, but why stop there? Why not ask your guests to crowdfund the whole thing? Or pin money to the bride as she dances, as they do in Greece?

“Remember that people usually spend more on a present than they’ll slip, grudgingly, into a card.”

Requests for money go down about as well as the news that the happy couple are to double-barrel their names – and not just among the older generation. It just isn’t terribly British, is it?

And, deep down, you know this, even as you find yourself on websites offering vomit-inducing verse intended to soften the request: ‘If you were thinking of getting us a small wedding gift/Some money wouldn’t go amiss.’

Plump for a wedding list. Plates can always be upgraded, drab duvet covers replaced with luxurious new bedlinen. For the mercenary, remember that people usually spend more on a present than they’ll slip, grudgingly, into a card. And the shameless can always cash them in for vouchers.

Wedding present cash

Six top tips for buying wedding presents

1.    Stay on the list if possible. This often means buying a boring plate from Peter Jones or a saucepan from The Wedding Shop but there is a reason as to why this lists are put together: to avoid receiving 48 vases, as one friend recently said
2.    So as not to miss the most interesting presents, set a reminder in your diary for when the list goes live (for John Lewis Gift List this is generally just two months before the date of the wedding)
3.    Remember that the bride and groom have the option to top-up the list if their friends’ generosity have resulted in it being fulfilled before time so don’t despair if it looks empty by the time you reach it.
4.    If you are going off-piste, a safe bet is to head straight to the reference books section of your local bookshop (or Amazon). A helpful tip: The Book People sell Times World Atlases for £15 online as opposed to their RRP of £75.
5.    Don’t ignore the gift voucher option offered by the online wedding list site. Brides are very grateful for these in order to complete sets of plates, glasses, cutlery.
6.    Remember that even if you are travelling great distances, it’s still polite to buy the couple a present. How much you spend is not important.