Do I need a cardbox at my wedding?

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This geometric cardbox is from Etsy

Offbeat Bride: do I need a cardbox at my wedding? I've tried to look up wedding card boxes, and they are these weird things that look like wedding cakes — except on Offbeat Bride, where they most often look like small monsters or TARDIS. (True observation, I swear!)

However, I'm still not sure exactly what a card box is for! Is it for people who want to give you cards, so you don't have to hold onto them? If so, are these “congratulations!” cards, or do they include money? We're trying to discourage people from giving us presents, but I'm totally down with handwritten notes of support.

I guess what I'm trying to figure out is – do I need a cardbox at my wedding? Are people going to expect it, in the “I brought you a card, where do I put it?” sort of way? Because if it's going to make everybody's life easier, I guess that makes sense, but honestly the whole thing confuses me.

Thank you. I feel like a dunce, but I honestly haven't been able to find a satisfactory answer. It's like the whole wedding universe assumes I already know this thing.
-selie

Generally, cardboxes are a place to put any cards you receive at the wedding. Many of them are meant to be somewhat secure so that if you receive money in a card it won't walk away. I used a box I happened to have that looked like a little suitcase because we had a small wedding, easy enough to monitor who was walking in the doors, and I hadn't had time or energy to be more creative about it.

You don't have to have one. You could use a basket, just collect them by hand, or tell people to set it on a table. It is utterly up to you. Guests probably will expect some place to put any gifts they might get you despite your preference or any cards they might choose to give.

Our readers way off on the question: DO I NEED A CARDBOX AT MY WEDDING?

  • “I think it is a good idea; even if you don’t ask for gift, you might have an aunt or uncle who will ignore that and stick $ in a card. It just seems a good idea to have them all in a place that IF someone decided to try and sneak off with the cards, it would be pretty noticeable. Of course, this is not something you HAVE to do, but I worked weddings for 4+ years and if there was not a birdcage or box or whatever, people seemed confused about where to put the cards. If I could avoid that easily and cheaply, I would (and did!).”
  • “I went to a wedding not to long ago where the bride and groom did not have a box to put cards in and it meant that cards and gifts were left in all sorts of places. It looked really messy and meant that gifts/cards might go a-wandering.”
  • “I’ve been two a couple of weddings that didn’t have card boxes, and guests had no idea who to hand their cards to. We didn’t want to burden the bride and groom with a stack of 100 cards, but we wanted to make sure that they received them. At least in our part of the country (New York City) it’s expected that people will give the couple a monetary gift to help offset the cost of the wedding.”
  • “I was at the wedding of my future brother in law and they hadn’t set up a card box, just asked those who brought cards to put them on the table. At one point, a couple of guests were refusing to just put their cards on the table, that there must be a place to put them in, so I swooped in, found an empty box and a couple table runners that hadn’t been needed and wrapped it up prettily and set it on the gift table. They ended their griping. I learned a lesson: it doesn’t have to be elaborate, it just has to keep it from falling off the table or being mixed up with someone else’s gift.”
  • “We also tried to discourage gifts. Thus, we did not have a gift table or card box. We did have guest book, where I hoped people would write their “handwritten notes of support.” Nonetheless, people brought cards. Lots of ’em. They left them by the guest book. They left them on the cake table. They left them on the head table. I *hope* we got them all, but I’m not sure because they were really left everywhere with no one watching them or collecting them until the end of the night. Many people honored our wishes, but many cards had checks or cash in them. If I had it to do over, I would try to have some kind of discrete place for people to put cards”
  • “Cardboxes aren’t required, in the sense that nothing at a wedding is required except two (or more) people professing their love and commitment. That being said, people will get confused if there isn’t somewhere for them to stow cards. They may even get a bit peeved, especially if there are monetary gifts included. When i worked at a banquet hall, we would often have couples that forgot boxes and they would hand cards to us servers or even just leave them in their table. If we didn’t see it, it would be quite possible that the couple or their family would leave before we could give it to them. So, in that vein, I would recommend it for both your own sanity and peace of mind.

Now, if you've decided you want to make a cardbox, of course we have no shortage of inspiration. And we're guessing readers will have even more in the comments!

Weigh in: are card boxes worth your time, or are they just one more “not worth it” DIY project?

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Comments on Do I need a cardbox at my wedding?

  1. We had a black leather box. We didn’t even label it. People put cards in it, so they seemed to understand it’s use even though it wasn’t unique or labelled. 🙂

  2. I decorated a regular grey metal mail box and am setting that up for “marriage advice” but it would totally work as a card box too.

  3. I plan on having/making a card box, and am gobsmacked by how expensively some former brides are trying to resell theirs! If not for the potential for thievery(this is a thing?), I’d just use a simple basket on a table. I have no elaborate DIY plans, just to make a cardboard box a little pretty!

    • Not sure what your theme is, but Micheal’s has some great boxes that could be used for this purpose. I purchased one that is a cardboard box but has hinges and a handle like a suitcase. I also got some wood letters which I painted and spells out CARDS to put on it and make it cute. It was cute and different and you are right, the card boxes are crazy expensive.

  4. We’re using my Mums old 70’s suitcase. We have asked for money towards our honeymoon in place of gifts so people will be expecting somewhere to put cards.
    I did go to a wedding not to long ago where the bride and groom did not have a box to put cards in and it meant that cards and gifts were left in all sorts of places. It looked really messy and meant that gifts/cards might go a wandering.

    • How did you go about asking for money instead of gifts? We are thinking about doing this as we already have everything we need in our house. I’m not sure of the etiquette.

      • This was something I struggled with for a while. My FH and I will be moving in together next year and then the wedding will be a year afterwords. Anything we don’t have now we’re sure to have by then and we really would prefer money to put toward a honeymoon. This is what I’ve come up with and was posted on the registry page of our wedding website:

        “Thank you so much for your generous thoughts and checking out our registry. The two of us have been very fortunate in our time together in that we have everything we could think of to start our life together.

        As you may know both of us love to travel and share new experiences. We talked about it for a long time and decided that in lieu of a traditional registry it might be more fun for our friends and family to help make one of those new experiences a reality.

        One of the places we have always talked about visiting was New Zealand. The beauty of the land calls to us and there could be no better place for us to relax and start our new life together. If you were thinking about getting us a gift we would love for you to share in this experience. Oh, and please, please, please make sure we have your address so that we can send you a post card while we are there!”

  5. I was so DIY-ed out by the time I got to the cardbox thing. I just went to Home Goods and picked up one of the many decorative boxes they always have there. They’re made out of a cardboardy material and have different prints/designs on them and they come in all kinds of shapes & sizes. Mine had a rounded top with a latch closure. Looked nice, easy, & cheap! It probably depends on your guests but pretty much everyone gave us a card so it was nice to have them all centrally located and not have to worry about forgetting any on a table or something.

    • Yes, they are kinda like hat boxes. But now they are in all sort of shapes/sizes/not hat boxed shaped, lol. Seems like the easiest idea!

  6. I’ve been two a couple of weddings that didn’t have card boxes, and guests had no idea who to hand their cards to. We didn’t want to burden the bride and groom with a stack of 100 cards, but we wanted to make sure that they received them. At least in our part of the country (New York City) it’s expected that people will give the couple a monetary gift to help offset the cost of the wedding.

    We used a picnic basked that we happened to find at a thrift shop the week of the wedding for $6. It was totally perfect for our laid back picnic reception, but if we hadn’t found that we would’ve just put out another box or basket that we had on hand. It doesn’t need to be fancy, it just needs to be visible!

  7. I was at the wedding of my future brother in law and they hadn’t set up a card box, just asked those who brought cards to put them on the table. At one point, a couple of guests were refusing to just put their cards on the table, that there must be a place to put them in, so I swooped in, found an empty box and a couple table runners that hadn’t been needed and wrapped it up prettily and set it on the gift table. They ended their griping. I learned a lesson: it doesn’t have to be elaborate, it just has to keep it from falling off the table or being mixed up with someone else’s gift.

  8. I wasn’t going to do a card box, but then my friend offered to lend us the gilt bird cage she’d used for cards at her wedding. I’m really glad we took her up on her offer, because tons of people brought cards, most with cash in them. It was nice to have them all in one place. For the same reason, we also had a little table where people could put any gifts they brought to the wedding.

    • My dad painted a black birdcage gold and I put a ribbon on it.

      It was great – the whole thing opened up when we wanted to get the cards out, but everyone could just slot cards in between the rails. Just make sure if you buy a cage that the rails are far enough apart to allow for a reasonable size card.

  9. We did the whole TARDIS cardbox thing and I’m happy we did for a lot of reasons others highlighted above. Also, what was great about it is that it is now a decoration in our house! I tried to use objects from the wedding as decoration/art or other uses throughout our house, so that there are little reminders of that day in our daily living. The cardbox is one of them!

  10. Birdcage I found at Goodwill for $4; wove some ribbon that matched my colors around the bottom, BOOM! Done.

    I think it is a good idea; even if you don’t ask for gift, you might have an aunt or uncle who will ignore that and stick $ in a card. It just seems a good idea to have them all in a place that IF someone decided to try and sneak off with the cards, it would be pretty noticeable. Of course, this is not something you HAVE to do, but I worked weddings for 4+ years and if there was not a birdcage or box or whatever, people seemed confused about where to put the cards. If I could avoid that easily and cheaply, I would (and did!).

    My cousin get married recently, and she got a huge cookie jar with their new last name engraved on it; she used that for the cards, then just put the cookie jar in the kitchen to use for cookies! I thought that was a cool idea.

  11. We also tried to discourage gifts. Thus, we did not have a gift table or card box. We did have guest book, where I hoped people would write their “handwritten notes of support.” Nonetheless, people brought cards. Lots of ’em. They left them by the guest book. They left them on the cake table. They left them on the head table. I *hope* we got them all, but I’m not sure because they were really left everywhere with no one watching them or collecting them until the end of the night. Many people honored our wishes, but many cards had checks or cash in them. If I had it to do over, I would try to have some kind of discrete place for people to put cards that somehow didn’t look like I was expecting them so that people who hadn’t brought them wouldn’t feel put out. Maybe like have some postcards that folks could leave their handwritten notes on next to a basket that could collect both these postcards and any cards people brought with them. You could later assemble all the postcards (and any meaningful cards) on a binder ring and have that instead of a guestbook. In any case, good luck!

    • This is what we’re planning on doing also: discouraging gifts, having a place to put cards for the people who inevitably do (hey, if it makes them feel good, I won’t say no), and having blank note/postcards so that people can leave a goodwill message if they like and hopefully not feel like they goofed by doing what we asked!

  12. I absolutely agree with what everyone has said – cardboxes aren’t “required,” in the sense that nothing at a wedding is required except two (or more) people professing their love and commitment.

    That being said, people will get confused if there isn’t somewhere for them to stow cards. They may even get a bit peeved, especially if there are monetary gifts included. When i worked at a banquet hall, we would often have couples that forgot boxes and they would hand cards to us servers or even just leave them in their table. If we didn’t see it, it would be quite possible that the couple or their family would leave before we could give it to them.

    So, in that vein, I would recommend it for both your own sanity and peace of mind.

    We got a larger cardboard decorative box from a craft store, which I repainted to look like a Minecraft chest. While it wasn’t the typical birdcage or basket, we now use it to hold Xbox accoutrements in our apartment.

  13. My mother has kindly informed me she will make me a card box… I have no idea what we want it to look like. I’d probably want a Tardis one… But… There are other items it could look like… Maybe a tent as we’re campers.

  14. I wrapped a cardboard box in wrapping paper that coordinated with my wedding colors, and cut a slit in the top for the cards to be put inside.

    People like to have a safe place to leave cards because they do often contain cash.

  15. I think cardboard box is the easiest route to go and definately worth the time. They can be made pretty quickly or simply bought as others have suggested. It gives the guests a place to put their well wishes, gifts, etc. without the frustration of trying to figure out where the card goes or if they should “bug” the bride and groom. I know that our older southern relatives will freak out if there is no present table and card box. (even if we request no gifts, they will hide the money in our pocket when they leave) I’m thinking of modge podging a cardboard box with either our favorite comic book charachters for us or with old circus posters to fit the theme of our wedding.

  16. I definitely agree that not having one could lead to some major confusion, but like the idea of not having something labeled “CARDS!” that might make folks feel like bringing something was expected or necessary. We had one, clearly identified, by our table cards so that people didn’t need to carry anything around, and that worked out beautifully. Ours was a hollow book we found at a home goods store for $20, but friends have made some pretty amazingly elaborate DIY ones. I think it’s smart to have SOMETHING, and if it’s decorative, people who didn’t bring a card might appreciate the decorativeness and not feel any pressure.

  17. I like the idea of a card box for guests’ convenience and comfort, but unfortunately there have been a LOT of stories in my area about people sneaking into wedding receptions and stealing the card box. This is just one of many: http://www.nbcphiladelphia.com/news/local/Wedding-Theft-Surrender-215247631.html

    So I’m torn. On one hand, I don’t want any guests who bring gifts to be confused about where to put them. On the other, an obvious “HERE ARE ALL THE GIFTS” location makes them much easier to steal if you don’t have security watching them all night.

    Instead, I might end up asking our venue coordinator if guests can place gifts in a secure location that will definitely be watched: like our venue’s coat check area or behind the bar. Then I’ll put a sign near our guest book table telling guests where the gifts should go.

    • Ooch, that stinks. I imagine the risk of theft would vary depending on how large your wedding is and where you’re located. If you put the table/box in a corner that’s only accessible by passing through the crowd, and have a small enough group that it would be obvious if anyone is out of place, I wouldn’t think it would be too much of a concern. A coat check area (if one exists) is perfect, though!

    • We put our gift table very close to the bar. The bar-tenders kept an eye on it, and the bar was the busiest place besides the dance floor, making would-be thieves nervous about being caught. Plus our card box was a giant mailbox, so walking off with it would have been really conspicuous.

    • My sister in law’s wedding was at a wedding venue where they moved the card box into a secure back room once everyone had arrived and had a chance to deposit their cards. Since the gift table was right in front of the door most people will have deposited gifts by then, and if anyone had a card later the staff could still put it into the box. Maybe it could be put behind the bar or in an office for collection at the end of the night?

  18. Normally, I’m the one saying “if your unsure if you need it…you probably don’t”.

    …except for a card box.

    Basically a card box is for people to deposit they’re cards. They’re just congradulatory cards, and can contain money. Most of the time it’s just your guest wishing you well on your married life/happy thoughts/whatever. Sometimes people will affix their card to their gift. Even if you receive no gifts…you’ll probably receive a stack of “congrats on getting married” cards. And you’ll need somewhere to put them.

    For our wedding, we had a small table at the front (and I mean SMALL) of the reception where my mom put an old wicker basket. She tied a ribbon to it. We didn’t have any signs saying “please deposit any cards here”. Guests just know that it’s a card container. People who brought gifts, (we did a Honeyfund so we didn’t receive a lot of material gifts), put them near the basket (on the table, on the floor). Our reception manager stayed near the gift area, and about after an hour of the reception starting, she moved all the gifts and cards into a locked backroom for my family to pick up later after the reception.

    My suggestion is to have a small table set up at the front of the reception site, have your site manager stand near the table to watch it (or if you don’t have a site manager, ask someone you trust to be the “Card Guard”). Put your card container there. If you choose to do something wacky…a sign might be in order to direct guests to put their cards there. Anyone bringing a gift will also deposit their gift near the card box. After a while, have that person move all cards/gifts/whatever to a secure location. I’ve never seen it happen or have any personal instances of this, but sometimes people can steal from the card/money box/gift table.

    Just as a head’s up, even if you ask your guests not to give gifts…you will mostly likely still receive a few…so it’s best to have a place for those gifts to go so you’re not awkwardly receiving gifts/cards throughout your wedding and then having to find somewhere to put them.

    • I agree with the sentiment that “if you’re not sure, you probably don’t need it” AND that cardboxes are probably an exception. Now I’m trying to think of anything else that fits that category. Non-alcoholic beverages?

  19. As a wedding guest, I’m more comfortable when couples have a designated place to put cards so that I know the card I’m giving them doesn’t get lost. It’s not only a matter of security (not wanting the cards to get lost or stolen) but it’s also convenient for you. Instead of having to pick up all the cards to take home, they’re already in a container; just pick up the container and go. No card spillage to worry about.

  20. I ALWAYS encourage people to learn from my mistake and have a card box. We didn’t even know cards would be a thing because we had a registry AND it was a destination wedding. But we wound up being given three cards the day of… and then promptly lost them. (Don’t worry! We found them eventually.) But had we had a freaking card box, we would have been fine.

    Wish we had done the freaking shark card box for our shark-themed wedding: http://offbeatbride.com/2013/05/wedding-sharks

  21. My friend that recently married just wrapped a medium sized cardboard box in simple wrapping paper. They cut a large slit on top to make it clear this was the “card box” and not just another gift on the table. It was subtle but clear in its purpose, and I think that was the best way to go for them as a very laid-back and “don’t give us gifts” couple.

  22. We had a circus themed wedding and I found a lady on etsy who made custom circus tent pinatas she cut a trap door into the bottom and a slit in the top and we used that as our card box.

  23. Ours was a white mailbox I bought from Home Depot for $17. We spent another $5 on paint to put our hand prints on it, ala Ellie and Karl from Up. It was cute, went with our theme, and we can actually use it as a mailbox if we get a house someday. You can use anything that can hold stuff, from boxes to baskets to bird cages….whatever you have around the house or would use again.

  24. I bought a vintage-looking wooden box with a key shaped hole cut in the top for our wedding. It does double duty as decor in my house, and one feature I really liked about it was that it had a magnetic closure that was so strong that it actually SEEMED locked – I think it would have (may have?) discouraged thievery because if you just give it a tug to see if it will open it seems locked. In fact, someone tried to carry it out of a wedding a couple of weeks ago by using the opening like a handle and I had to warn her that it wasn’t actually locked, just magnetic! It was kind of pricey, but like I said it’s doing double duty, plus I have loaned it out to several friends for their weddings, and they all sign the bottom of it afterwards which is neat. It’s like sisterhood of the traveling card box 🙂

    For the curious: http://www.bhldn.com/shop-decor-table-signage/passkey-card-box-1/productoptionids/a8336f9b-8f9d-4022-927a-ca9584cf2655

    • I got that same one and I love it…we use it at home now to throw all the mail in that we don’t feel like immediately looking at.

  25. You can always double a card box and advice/note box, but you should probably have something. It’s super confusing for people if there isn’t one, even if it’s just a shoe box wrapped in a scarf or something you picked up real fast.

    • I’ve been thinking of doing just this! Getting some blank cards and pens or pencils so that people can write things even if they didn’t think ahead.

      Our card box is going to be one of the few big DIY projects we’re tackling–we want a papercraft postbox from The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask. (Looks like this: http://ninjatoes.wordpress.com/2010/09/25/the-legend-of-zelda-clocktown-postman/ ) Not only are we both huge Zelda fans, but the postman and postboxes are used in the story to reunite a couple separated by a curse! If you go through their storyline correctly, there’s even a wedding at the end. So it’s cute and thematically appropriate at the same time…even if only about 5 other people will understand what it even is. 🙂

    • Oh, I’m so glad someone else brought up the shoebox idea. My plan is this:
      One of my pairs of wedding shoes (because my feet don’t like heels for very long, but the rest of me does) is an adorable pair of green ankle boots from Poetic License. Poetic License decorates their boxes in adorable ways, with a pull out drawer for the shoes, so I figured I’d just reuse the box with a new label saying Cards + Advice! No muss, no fuss, and no extra money spent.

  26. My wedding is Friday!! I used a large unicorn piñata. Can’t wait to smash it Saturday morning 🙂

  27. We bought a clearance wire basket at Joann Fabric that fit with our home decor. We dressed it up with a little bit of leftover ribbon, a peacock feather, and a $1 sign from the wood-craft section with the word “Cards” drawn on it in paint marker… and once it served its purpose, the ribbon got cut off and it is now holding potatoes!

    It was also a relief being able to text someone at the end of the night and get an immediate response of “Yes, your mother has the card basket.” It might sound gauche to say it, but that basket was worth a LOT more than the $7 we paid for it by the end of the reception. I’m glad we had something to contain them and make them easy to locate when I panicked.

  28. The card box worked really well for me, mostly to separate the things that were “just cards” from cards that were supposed to be stuck to boxes, but fell off.

  29. We used a silver tray my mom already had, and I designed a little sign for it and printed it out. Simple, elegant, and free! If it hadn’t been for my pre-wedding OBB reading I probably would’ve spaced out having somewhere to put the cards altogether.

  30. We had a card box that was just an open mailbox. That wasn’t good enough for some people. I was told that it wasn’t “safe” to leave an open box full of cards at a wedding because it might be stolen. I felt a little shocked that someone would think any one of my 100 closest friends and family would steal a box full of well wishes. In the end we got about 50 cards, most of them were well wishes and other cute stuff. Some people also put their kids coloring book pages in there. Only 2 people insisted on personally giving us their cards, we just put them in the box when they weren’t looking.

  31. It’s all of these little incidentals that go along with weddings that make me crazy (and a bit bitchy, depending on what it is). Favors, guestbooks, card boxes, escort cards, programs, etc etc ad infinitum.

    I think having a clear place for people to put cards is a good idea, but as far as doing something special for it? Not necessary. If you are worried about the possibility of cash/check cards being stolen, ask someone to act as security or put them in your proximity. I went to a wedding in January that had no clear place for cards and as such, I don’t know if mine (and the money) ever got to the couple. At a different wedding a month ago, they just used the birdcage that the groom already had from owning a bird a few years prior and left it next to their table.

  32. We decided we needed a card box for organization purposes. Its one of those things that makes guests more comfortable and oriented and is so easy to do. We went with the cardboard box covered in fabric thing and it only cost us a roll of colored duck tape to secure the fabric to the inner edge of the box and lid. We tried to discourage gifts, but almost EVERY SINGLE PERSON brought a card of some kind. Thank goodness we had them all in once place so when it came to write thank you notes we could be sure we had them all.

  33. We bought a basket for $2 at a reuse depot, and I wrapped ribbon and (fake) leaves all over it to make it pretty and “fall”. Printed out a paper that says “cards” and tied it on.
    Boom. Done. By far the easiest DIY part of our planning 😉

  34. I strongly suggest having your card box close to your head table OR a trusted person to monitor the box, or count the cards that are in it- OR empty it as soon as you believe all guests have arrived. It is my biggest fear that our card box will empty on its own- which would be horrible because we are asking our guests to “sponsor” our honeymoon with cash. Our card box will be at our guest bench and a very close friend will be monitoring it all night! (What’s a guest bench? Instead of a guest book we are having a friend make a bench for us, all guests are signing it with a sharpie and then he will lacquer over it and we will place it on our porch! My favorite idea so far!)

    • Korean weddings usually have one or two cardbox attendants who sit at the entrance of the wedding venue. When guests arrive, the attendants OPEN the card and record the amount on a document along with the guest’s name. Aside from the extreme violation of privacy and degree of awkwardness, it is a good way to make sure that you have a record of every gift received.

      I guess it’s also worth noting that Korean weddings usually only have cash gifts.

  35. I think a gift card box is becoming more and more essential at weddings. There will always be people who bring a card or money gift and it makes it much easier if there is place to put them all. It’s better to be prepared and there are heaps of reasonable priced gift card boxes that look great with very little or no DIY. I just bought one from amazon by hayley cherie which was $20 and looks amazing. I’m just going to add a few flowers to match our purple wedding theme. I don’t think it’s worth going all hard out with DIY on a box, I’d far rather put my time into things like the table settings/ invitations etc.

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