Couples with enough Cuisinarts to fill several kitchens are opting for a new kind of wedding registry to make their honeymoon dreams come true.
By Carole Dixon 06/02/2014
Most mature couples brave enough to walk down the aisle these days have already been cohabitating for a few years, or at least supporting themselves long enough to accumulate plenty of wineglasses, cutlery and Cuisinarts. Why ask for more household items to add to the clutter — especially when you can afford to whip out your credit card at a Macy’s home sale? With the average wedding tab now skyrocketing past $100,000, even simple nuptials can be expensive, with too little cash left over after the bar and buffet bills are paid to warrant an extravagant honeymoon — unless you’re marrying a Trump. Add to that the extra pressure on the trip itself, probably the most important you will ever embark upon with your new (hopefully) lifetime mate. So why scrimp, if you don’t have to? Enter online honeymoon trip registries — websites like Honeyfund.com, Travelersjoy.com and Wanderable.com — which are helping to send freshly minted couples all over the world.
More than 290,000 couples have already used Honeyfund’s free service to make their travel dreams come true. Clients can request honeymoon vacation “experiences” — i.e. cash — for their wedding gifts, and upgrade their registry webpages with more pictures, bells and whistles. From a kayaking trip in Fiji to a lavish dinner in Paris or an African safari, spectacular honeymoons are limited only by the couple’s imagination and their guests’ pocketbooks. One pair raised almost $25,000 for their journey to South America, while less elaborate itineraries, such as a simple trip to Hawaii, have come with gifting tabs of just a few thousand.
To sign up, you simply create an account, or “dream registry”; share the information with your wedding invite list and then sit back and wait for your honeymoon plans to firm up. The websites help smooth over the traditional stigma attached to asking for cash. “There are still some people from a bygone generation that have a different standard of etiquette, but Peggy Post [etiquette expert and daughter of Emily] has come out in favor of this growing trend,” says Honeyfund CEO Sarah Margulis. “It’s a changing demographic and some people will never be comfortable with it, but it has become an accepted way of gifting.”
Margulis co-founded Honeyfund with her husband, Josh, in 2006, after their own honeymoon. “We looked into a honeymoon registry but just couldn’t find a site that we liked,” she says. “They were too expensive.” The couple opted to put together their own wedding gift registry website and had such a positive response they decided to launch Honeyfund. While the basic site is free, they offer upgrade packages — “value,” “premium” and “elite” tiers, costing $19.99 to $99.99 for such options as an ad-free page, a slideshow and a guestbook. Invitees can send a credit-card gift via Paypal or print an online certificate and bring it to the ceremony. “We advise couples to have one traditional wedding registry in addition, for people who don’t feel comfortable with this format,” says Sarah.
While couples have used these sites to fund recreational travel, the trend also encompasses helping people pay for expenses of married life farther into the future, such as a mortgage. One bold couple who registered for a honeymoon cruise added the option of gifting fertility treatments.
Santa Monica publicist Nicole Worley decided that Honeyfunding a post-nuptial trip to the Caribbean would be easier on guests traveling to her destination wedding in Solvang. “As a young couple it was a great way to fund our honeymoon in a nontraditional, simple way,” she says, “so we presented the Honeyfund option to our guests. When people are traveling, bringing a gift can be difficult.” Her advice: “If you’re making this available to an array of people, it’s important to educate them.”
Thomas and Laura Grissom of Phoenix, Arizona, used Honeyfund for their wedding in 2012. “We didn’t need more things and we actually planned the honeymoon in Europe before the wedding,” Thomas says. They learned about the site from an ad in The Knot. “We value travel much more than buying things, and our family knows that about us,” says Laura. “Once we explained that the money comes directly to us, even my Grandma got involved.”
Traveler’s Joy, with more than 200,000 members, also posts honeymoon guides to destinations like Anguilla and Walt Disney World. You can read about the couples’ reasoning for picking their wished-for trips, while checking out profiles, pictures and even maps of their proposed itineraries. There are airline upgrade pleas, such as “Jill has never flown first-class, so why not now?” as one groom-to-be wrote. Other popular requests appear to be couples’ massages, Champagne, breakfast in bed or scuba-diving excursions. And there is a blog where honeymooners can share anecdotes and pictures after their trips.
Traveler’s Joy was launched in 2005 by North Carolina entrepreneur Brandon Warner after a leave of absence from his job took him to New Zealand, where he met co-founder Tony Alexander. “A lot of friends were getting married and it’s so frustrating to buy someone a $100 spoon that they will never use,” says Warner. “We decided to create something where people could request experiences on their honeymoon.” While they service mostly honeymoon clients, silver and golden anniversary couples are also getting in on the action. “We’ve had family and friends surprise a couple with trips like a cruise or an around-the-world journey,” Warner adds. “Our clients span the globe.”
Traveler’s Joy charges a flat fee of 7.5 percent for all cash gifts received by its service. Even though it’s not free, Kelley Coughlan, the founder of Melrose PR in Santa Monica, and her fiancé, Hunter Weaver, decided to give it a try. “We chose Traveler’s Joy because we liked the clean layout of the website. We found that many of the others were more cluttered and a little confusing,” says Kelley. Being affiliated with both Weddingwire.com and Theknot.com didn’t hurt either. “Our wedding website is hosted by The Knot and we felt it would be an easy, seamless integration,” she says. “Also, we loved that you could select what the money was going towards, such as breakfast in bed or snorkeling. We felt it would be fun for our parents and family to know how they were contributing to our honeymoon itinerary.”
Five-star hotels are also noticing a shift away from traditional gifting. According to Susan Williger, director of communications at The Langham, Huntington in Pasadena, “Over the past few years, we have seen an increase in couples that register for their honeymoon, including our brides and grooms. Couples typically go about this by listing the hotel as their honeymoon destination via their wedding website. Wedding guests can contact our concierge at our hotel to prearrange and gift specific components of the newlyweds’ honeymoon, such as romantic dinners at The Royce Wood-Fired Steakhouse, spa services, in-room amenities or gift cards for the luxury boutique.”
And the trend isn’t stopping with honeymoons. Honeyfund’s Margulises have launched a second site called Plum Fund, which raises money for any watermark occasion, from birthdays or anniversaries to baby showers and community events. And some people are registering online for wedding shower gifts. One Los Angeles foodie asked for gift certificates to local high-end restaurants for hers — but if it was our choice, a trip around the world would be just fine.