Teresa McUsic

Couples turn to crowdfunding to pay for honeymoons

The Honeyfund website helps couples raise money for their honeymoons.
The Honeyfund website helps couples raise money for their honeymoons.

When Kristal Jones and Steven Chance of Arlington decided to get married, they knew they did not want a houseful of kitchen utensils and linens as gifts.

“We already owned our house and had lived together for two and a half years,” Jones said. “We had everything we needed.”

Instead of traditional wedding gifts, the couple wanted something different to celebrate their upcoming nuptials: a four-day backpacking trip to the Smoky Mountains for their honeymoon.

So they turned to Honeyfund.com, a no-cost, crowdfunding wedding registry based in Sebastopol, Calif. Since 2006, Honeyfund said it has raised $257 million for 390,000 couples seeking money to cover everything from honeymoon trips to down payments on a home.

“I had a friend who raised $900 through Honeyfund,” Jones said. “We’ll be happy with whatever we get.”

Honeyfund co-founder Sara Margulis said she and her husband, Josh, created the website when trying to fund their own honeymoon to Fiji.

“With barely the funds to finance our wedding, we needed a low-fee honeymoon registry,” Margulis said. But they didn’t like the options out there, so they created their own page.

From there, a business was born.

More than 1.5 million couples register for wedding gifts each year, or about 87 percent of all couples, according to The Knot, a leading wedding advice website. More than $10 billion is spent on wedding gifts annually.

While three retailers — Bed, Bath and Beyond, Macy’s and Target — dominate the wedding registry business, couples are increasingly ditching wedding gifts for wedding experiences.

Last year, 22 percent of couples chose a honeymoon registry, double the number five years ago, according to The Knot’s 2014 Bridal Registry study, based on data from 7,000 respondents.

Of those who chose a honeymoon registry, almost half used Honeyfund, the study said. Sixteen percent reported using a registry specific to a hotel, travel agent, cruise line or destination, while other general honeymoon sites like Honeymoon Wishes or Traveler’s Joy were used by less than 10 percent of respondents.

While the most popular use for honeymoon registries is overall expenses, the sites are also used for specific excursions or activities, restaurants and spas, according to the study.

The top destination on the Honeyfund site is Hawaii, where more than 32,000 couples have registered for air fare and lodging in $100 increments. Other popular destinations include Italy, France, Greece and Turkey.

“Our couples don’t need the traditional home registry,” Margulis said. “They want to focus on an experience these days and take their dream trip.”

This notion is supported by The Knot study that shows a steady decline in traditional wedding items like fine china and crystal stemware, with only one in four brides registering for those items last year.

Not all honeymoon registries are free or low-cost to the couple, Margulis said, so be sure to check the fine print on fees. Honeyfund does not charge for the service, but makes its money through advertising and upgraded packages that include photos and a design template of your choosing.

To avoid fees, Honeyfund recommends funders pay the couple directly either by mail or at the wedding or shower, using a free certificate downloaded from the website. For those who want to use a credit card, the website uses Paypal or WePay, which charges a 2.8 percent transaction fee to process.

With $400,000 in investment money received last fall on the television show The Shark Tank, Margulis will launch a Spanish version of the Honeyfund and expand the site’s offerings, along with her other gift-giving event website, Plumfund.

Teresa McUsic’s column appears Saturdays. TMcUsic@SavvyConsumer.net

Wedding registry options

▪ MyRegistry.com provides a no-cost universal gift registry that links to virtually any store in the world. Users scan product barcodes to add items to their gift list with their smartphone and items appear with photo and description on the registry. Items from stores without websites can be listed by supplying a photo, description and note on where to purchase the item. Includes free eCards to be sent from users to friends and family.

▪ Best Buy recently launched a no-cost wedding registry available through website, app and in-store kiosks. It includes free shipping on all gifts and a 10 percent coupon for couples after registration.