Honeymoon Funds: Getting Cash Without Being Crass

Honeymoon kiss
Honeymoon kiss

With the expense of weddings and the still weak economy, more and more couples are taking advantage of the crowd-funding trend to bankroll their honeymoons. In fact, last year, 12% of couples created a honeymoon registry, according to the 2011 Registry Study from TheKnot.com and WeddingChannel.com.

I should know. My wife and I just returned from our honeymoon in sunny Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, thanks to the contributions our friends and family made to our HoneyFund.com registry. (That's us sharing a smooch in Rio's Santa Teresa neighborhood after some delicious caipirinhas).

We're thankful for the financial harnessing power of the Internet, because it would have been hard for us to have afforded the trip by ourselves. And we're not alone: The average cost of a honeymoon was $4,466 in 2010.

And while about a third of couples scaled back their plans because of the economy, few abandoned them all together. More than 80% of marrying couples -- about 1.4 million -- took a honeymoon in 2010, feeding an estimated $6 billion to $7 billion industry.

Forget the Decorative China, We'll Take a Trip to China

Plenty of crowd-funding sites exist to help honeymooners on their way, including HoneyFund, GoGetFunding and GiftSimple. There's no signup fee and, as with a traditional registry, the couple earmarks the contributions they want: ten $150 gifts to cover airfare, say, or two $100 massages at the hotel spa when they arrive. Our original plan was to go to Hawaii, so we requested four $75 tabs for swimming with dolphins and five $200 tabs for our hotel room.

We asked our guests to select the honeymoon activity online, then mail us a check. (Like most honeymoon sites, HoneyFund doesn't require givers to make the purchase through its interface.) If we wanted the money right away, we could have opted for a direct deposit into our joint bank account, but this way we avoided the 2.9% PayPal fee for direct gift transfer.

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Let's face it, many young couples would prefer to get cash as a wedding gift, but asking for a hundred (or a couple hundred) dollars can seem crass. The honeymoon registry, by contrast, allows people to see the the experience value of their contributions, according to Daniel Post Senning, spokesperson for the Emily Post Institute and the great-great-grandson of the etiquette doyenne.

"It can be a little awkward if [the honeymoon registry] is just to receive cash and it's just in $50 increments," Senning said. "That's unfeeling and a little cold. But done well, people can purchase a particular meal or experience without it being about the dollar amount."

And that way, the couple is also more likely to get what they want. Jessica Lachs, the founder of GiftSimple, explained that earmarking a specific use for the money tends to inspire people to give more. "People like to feel like their gift is a meaningful contribution to a particular item instead of a drop in the bucket."

Inevitably, there are detractors, as a quick troll of TheKnot's message boards attests. "Having a HMR is not okay," user "edielaura" wrote on an etiquette forum. "It's rude to ask people to pay for your vacation." "Habs2Hart" agreed: "HM registries are very rude. It's basically the same as registering for cash, which is a big no-no."

Senning says that while the honeymoon registry doesn't have the same history as the standard gift registry, it's more tactful than tacky: "By no means it it inappropriate or gauche to do."

Instead of a mere thank-you note, couples are more likely to send their honeymoon underwriters postcards or photos from the big event -- scuba diving, having a spa day, indulging in a fancy dinner.

Chen Klein, a 29-year-old web programmer in Seattle, got married this past August and used GoGetFunding.com to finance her weeklong honeymoon at the Hilton's Iru Fushi Resort & Spa in the Maldives.

Courtesy Chen Klein
Courtesy Chen Klein

The couple spent $3,000, of which they crowdsourced $2,590. At the wedding reception, they gave a special shout-out to guests who had contributed $20 or more.

Klein says it was easier to enjoy the crystal blue waters and white sand beaches with their bank accounts less deflated. And the extra cash cushion allowed them to indulge themselves a bit more than they would have otherwise.

"We splashed out a little extra on the room service," Klein said.