Katy Garrett and her husband, Stuart, strike a pose for photographer Bobby Jameidar on their wedding day in Las Vegas in April 2012. Credit: Mel Melcon | TNS

Whatever happened to those gravy boats and candlesticks that you were given as wedding gifts years ago? How about all the gift cards you gave newlyweds because you could not find the right gift, ran out of time to look, or bought for convenience?

Coinstar Exchange recently conducted a survey of 1,000 married couples on wedding gifts and how often they are used and returned, especially with respect to gift cards. It should not be any surprise that many wedding gifts are returned. The survey respondents returned around five gifts on average, with 6 percent of the respondents returning more than ten gifts and 4 percent returning more than fifteen gifts. Almost one-third of respondents returned between one and ten gifts.

Returns did not seem to be specific to any one length of marriage, with one exception — only 22 percent of those who have been married fifteen years or longer recalled returning any wedding gifts, while the other age categories varied from 34 percent to 57 percent of respondents that returned any wedding gifts. Perhaps it was considered more rude back then to return wedding gifts, or more difficult to do so.

There is one other potential explanation why fewer of those married fifteen years or longer report returning wedding gifts — it has been so long since their wedding that they do not remember. Other data seems to back that up.

Gift cards have proven to be a favorite over the years, with an average of eleven gift cards received along all the increments of length of marriage. However, their popularity appears to be increasing. One-third of respondents who had been married over fifteen years received gift cards at their weddings, compared to 74 percent of those married from one to three years. While couples married less than one year received the most gift cards on average (sixteen cards), the average across respondents was eleven cards. We wonder how many of them are sitting unused in a box with the ugly painting Aunt Gladys gave you?

Respondents that had been married ten to twelve years on average had one gift card that was still unredeemed, respondents married from thirteen to fifteen years averaged two unredeemed gift cards, and some respondents still had unredeemed gift cards fifteen years later.

On average across all groups, respondents have two gift cards remaining unredeemed, with those married less than one year understandably having the most unredeemed cards at four. Still, 4 percent of all respondents have more than ten cards unredeemed and 2 percent of respondents have between seven and nine unredeemed gift cards. Eight percent of respondents have four to six gift cards left and 20 percent have between one and three unredeemed gift cards.

The survey seems to show that even with the convenience of redeeming gift cards, there are still far too many that go unredeemed. Not redeeming them is akin to throwing away cash. Even if the couple does not shop at the retailer that issued the gift card, they could sell the unredeemed card online or swap the card for one they can use.

Do not let free money sit unredeemed in your junk drawer. Dig out those old gift cards and use them — or sell them or give them to somebody else who will use them.

Related stories:

Moneytips.com is a website that answers people’s money-related questions, publishes guides explaining products and services available in the marketplace, provides calculators to help people plan and budget, and produces related content.