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New takes on wedding registries fund honeymoons, home renovations

| Monday, April 1, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Clara Cheng and husband Russell Phillips celebrate their honeymoon in Paris. The couple from Marshall used the website Honeyfund.com to register for help funding their trip to Europe.
Clara Cheng and husband Russell Phillips celebrate their honeymoon in Paris. The couple from Marshall used the website Honeyfund.com to register for help funding their trip to Europe.
A sample wedding registry from WeddingRepublic.com
WeddingRepublic.com
A sample wedding registry from WeddingRepublic.com
The website WeddingRepublic.com provides couples a way to register for help funding anything from furniture purchases to home renovations.
WeddingRepublic.com
The website WeddingRepublic.com provides couples a way to register for help funding anything from furniture purchases to home renovations.

When Clara Cheng and Russell Phillips married in May, the last thing they needed was more dinnerware.

The couple from Marshall had each been living on their own for years and had accumulated all the kitchen appliances, bedding and housewares they needed. They also did not want guests to have to lug gifts to their destination wedding in Florida.

What they did want was an unforgettable honeymoon. Thanks to an emerging trend in the wedding planning industry, their loved ones were able to give them just that. The couple used the website Honeyfund.com to register for everything from plane tickets to restaurant tabs for their 10-day trip to Paris and Amsterdam.

“It was really easy to use,” says Cheng, 35. “Guests can choose what experiences they want to purchase for you.”

The local couple is just one example of engaged pairs forgoing traditional big-box store registries. According to Wedding Republic, an online cash registry where couples create wish lists including anything from furniture to wine, 70 percent of couples who married in 2012 lived together prior to the wedding.

Twenty percent of couples who registered for gifts asked for money for honeymoons, 16 percent wanted cash, and 9 percent asked for help funding home-renovation projects. Ten percent of people asked for kitchen “stuff,” and 7 percent requested bed, bath and home decor items.

Over the last few years, a slew of sites have emerged to ensure couples get exactly what they want. Through them, couples create wish lists so guests can help fund their honeymoons or even pay for upgrades while they're there for massages, fancy meals, even hot-air balloon rides. Some go even further and let couples request just about anything they can imagine they'd like to have in their everyday lives.

For Cheng and Phillips, the ability to have family and friends pay for everything from museum tickets to cheese-and-wine tastings added a personal touch to their trip. The couple collected postcards from the sites they visited and sent them as thank-you notes to whoever funded that particular excursion.

“It gave our friends the opportunity to pick something they did and really enjoyed,” Cheng says. “One friend of ours had taken the train in Europe and loved it, so she bought us tickets.”

Sara and Josh Margulis founded the site after their engagement in 2003, when they realized they had all they needed to make a home, but really wanted a luxurious Fiji honeymoon. They added an area to their wedding site where guests could pledge cash gifts toward their dream, and the response was overwhelming. The couple ended up with more than what they needed to pay for the trip.

“People thought it was the neatest idea,” says Sara Margulis. “They loved the opportunity to give something unique.”

Site users don't have to be taking a honeymoon. Couples can use it for any savings goal, Margulis says. Next month, the couple plans to launch a new site — PlumFund.com — where users can register for any occasion, including birthdays and anniversaries.

Katherine Elise Shaw, owner of Trends To Traditions wedding and event planning in Cranberry, has seen more brides using technology to plan their big days. Eighty percent of her clients have a wedding website and most use social media to stay connected to the wedding party and guests. Online registries are another step in that direction, she says.

“People want things that are more hobby-related,” she says. “Some like to travel or ski, so they register at Dick's or REI. Honeymoon registries can include excursions, horseback riding. People can give whatever they want to give.”

WeddingRepublic.com, up and running for the last two years, was the brainchild of founders Hana Abaza and James Kinkaid, who realized many of their engaged friends were already living together and simply didn't need many of the gifts offered through traditional registries.

“They didn't need toasters or tea towels,” Abaza says. “They wanted to climb Machu Picchu.”

The pair found that most couples wanted “big-ticket items,” like appliances or help with home renovations, but didn't have an appropriate way to ask their guests for them.

“It's a problem for guests,” Abaza says. “They're like, ‘I love you, but I'm not paying $2,000 for a big-screen TV.' ”

Through WeddingRepublic.com, guests can chip in for those pricier gifts. The couple can see who contributed to what, and the site tracks the giver's contact information to make sending thank-you notes a breeze.

Abaza admits the site isn't for everyone, like the bride's Aunt Erma who uses her dial-up Internet once a month. Many site users also do traditional registries in stores, she says.

Because there really isn't any limit to what a couple can ask for, Abaza has seen some bizarre requests. One couple asked for a yacht. One asked for seed money for starting a new company. Another wanted their land-transfer tax paid.

The strangest request by far, Abaza says, was the couple that requested marriage counseling.

“You do see couples getting creative with it,” she says with a laugh.

But it's important to keep your guests in mind when registering, regardless of what you're asking for, warns Peggy Post, director for The Emily Post Institute in Vermont and great-granddaughter-in-law of the renowned etiquette expert.

Post recommends providing a wide range of price options for guests. The sites often let people contribute to trips or events in varying monetary increments. Post urges couples to have at least one traditional store registry in addition to online options for guests who prefer to give more tangible gifts.

“Not all your guests will want to give money,” she says. “It may not be towels or linens. It could be something from a home-improvement store.”

Above all, couples must remember to send handwritten thank-you notes within three months of the wedding, Post says. Simply thanking them in person does not suffice.

“Really do it the time-honored way,” she says. “People really do enjoy receiving handwritten thank-you notes.”

Rachel Weaver is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7948 or rweaver@tribweb.com.

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