hot air balloon file photo

There’s a new normal in wedding gifting: travel and experiences rather than pots and pans. Today’s newlyweds are registering to make their honeymoon dreams a reality, and some couples even sign up for help with the down payment on a house or a college fund for future kids.

This is happening because couples are marrying later and often already share a home and have all the household goods that used to be the mainstay of registries. And if they still need any of those items, they’re usually gifted to them at the bridal shower. Consequently, the idea of a honeymoon fund, either through travel companies or online sites like Honeyfund, is a tempting option for marrying couples.

Requesting donations to help pay for the many expenses of a honeymoon - travel, hotel accommodations, restaurants, excursions, etc. - is a practical thought, of course, but is it, well, a bit tacky?

“In a word, no,” says wedding planner Lori Hemphill, head of Lancaster’s The Perfect Plan. “Isn’t it nicer to give somebody something they’ll really enjoy? I think so.”

“I agree,” says Sara Hummer, a Lancaster floral designer, who counts many millennials among her friends and clients. “I recently gifted friends honeymooning in Spain with a candlelight dinner on the beach. To me that was a much more romantic gift than, say, a blender.”

Shift in traditions

Before Honeyfund and travel companies began to gain traction, couples usually didn’t ask for financial help for their post-wedding getaway. Those who did it anyway, requesting honeymoon cash gifts through their wedding website, word of mouth or on a wedding information card, were considered a bit uncouth, but registries have removed that onus.

In fact, wedding guests often like contributing to a honeymoon fund, say wedding planners. They find it’s much more fun choosing a travel experience than selecting a toaster or set of china off a computerized shopping list. And specifying spa treatments for two, scuba lessons or wine tastings is more attractive than just giving a check.

Of course, the more descriptive the wish list, the more it’ll involve the guests. “They love it when you’re specific about the experiences you’d like to participate in on your honeymoon,” advises Sherry Jenkins of Jenkins Travel, Lancaster. “Just as people prefer buying a gift card to giving cash, your guests would rather buy you dinner at the resort’s Italian restaurant than send money.”

Jenkins Travel sets up honeymoon registries and is also a specialist in destination weddings.

“When you opt for a destination wedding to some lovely place, you stay after the guests leave,” Jenkins says. “You’re already on your honeymoon. Since a wedding away may be significantly less expensive than a traditional celebration back home, this is a good way to save.”


Registry etiquette

Wedding planners recommend that you set up a separate honeymoon registry with an itemized, semi-public wish list. You can stock it with anything you’d do or need on your honeymoon: activities, of course, but also splurge-level experiences, hotel rooms and rental cars.

To make things easier for budget-conscious friends and family, split each expense into affordable portions.

With registries proliferating it was inevitable that new etiquettes would evolve. For example, it’s considered bad form to put any wedding registry information on the invite itself. Instead, couples should set up a wedding website where their registry information can be linked. Word can also be spread by the bridal party, parents and friends.

Many registries keep track of exactly who gifted what, and that information comes in handy during the honeymoon. Snapping a photo of the experience to include with a thank-you note is a much appreciated, thoughtful touch. Just keep it PG, say planners. Obviously a picture of the couple’s massage comes under the heading of TMI, but a shot of the two of you in robes, slippers and big smiles is cute and social media-worthy.

But suppose the newlyweds don’t want to go on a honeymoon? Surveys all say that millennials love experiences more than material goods, so registering for concert or theater tickets, season subscriptions to Longwood Gardens or sports venues, hot air balloon rides or restaurant visits could be items on that registry wish list. But as with travel expenses, make sure to divvy up costs so no one has to foot the bill for an item alone (unless they really want to.)