You may have heard the phrase that "there's no such thing as a free lunch." What it means is that no matter how good a deal or arrangement sounds or looks on paper, there is always some sort of a catch that will make you reconsider whether the deal was worth the effort.
An online clothing company, for example, might offer free shipping, but the amount of money you must spend in order to get that free shipping may be too difficult to reach, especially if you only want one inexpensive item.
That same philosophy can be applied to honeymoon registry sites. As a couple planning a wedding, you and your partner probably feel like money exits your bank account way faster than it comes in, and that can be stressful when you're trying to balance regular expenses with wedding charges. So when an option for something free comes along, such as a free honeymoon registry site, then you naturally want to try out that option if it will save you a bit of money.
But even with honeymoon registry sites, there's no such thing as a free lunch, and something that sounds great may have hidden fees and drawbacks that you won't realize until it's too late.
Here's what you need to know about free honeymoon registry sites and why you need to avoid them. Do your research now — and avoid some big mistakes later.
What is a free honeymoon registry?
A free honeymoon registry website is a type of site that lets couples set up a honeymoon registry site without paying a fee.
For those new to these types of registries, honeymoon registries allow couples to build a registry that includes gifts related to their honeymoons. Instead of asking for toasters and sheet sets, you instead ask guests to treat the two of you to dinner for one night of your honeymoon or a tour or spa day.
The popularity of these sites exploded as the web became more ubiquitous and social media grew more popular. Now it's so easy to buy gifts online and tell friends and family members what you plan to do for your upcoming wedding. As more couples decide to live together before tying the knot, more of them have the household basics that are the staple of most registries. What these couples (along with you and your partner) might really want is help paying for your honeymoon.
With costs for weddings and honeymoons climbing each year, it's no wonder that couples will want to take advantage of anything that's free. But doing so might cost you later when you really can't afford a charge.
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Types of free registry sites
When you start browsing different registries, you will likely run into three different types of free registries that sound too good to be true: the store-sponsored, the selective and the not-an-actual honeymoon registry. You might think that you can sacrifice some features in order to not pay anything for a honeymoon registry, but when the big day gets closer and fewer people contribute, you may wish you had gone a different direction.
Here are the three types of “free” registry sites and what you need to know about them.
Many of the big-box and department stores will provide engaged couples with a registry completely free. These are traditional registries that couples even 10 years ago would have made without a second thought.
But because many of these stores have fewer couples creating registries, they've tried to get a little creative with their offerings. For example, some stores sell gift cards for other vendors, such as Southwest or Airbnb, so you can add a gift card amount to your wedding registry and then use that gift card (assuming someone gives it to you) to pay for flights and accommodations.
The account remains free, but there's the hidden cost of access. If no one buys you the gift card, then you don't get the money to help pay for your honeymoon. It's as simple as that.
You are also limited to what the store offers. If you originally planned to fly through Southwest but switched to Delta at the last minute, then you might end up with a gift card that's useless for your honeymoon. When you use gift cards, you're bound by what the store offers, and if plans change, the registry won't be able to change with you.
Store-sponsored registries also won't have gift cards to cover many of the smaller honeymoon expenses, such as dinners or spa treatments. Even if you have a few household goods that you'd like as a gift, you're still bound by what's available. If the store doesn't have the pot set that you prefer, then you have to settle for what's available.
Selective honeymoon registry sites
Some honeymoon registry sites claim to be free to use for couples, but these sites will often charge couples for basic features or access to their gift money. So yes, you can sign up and create a honeymoon registry, but you'll likely find that, well, there's no such thing as a free lunch.
Common moves to appear free by these honeymoon registry sites include:
Charging for ad-free sites:You build the perfect site, but when it launches, it's buried under a mountain of ads. Now it's hard for guests to read. You can, however, make all of those ads go away — for a price.
Connecting to PayPal or other cash apps:It's great to be able to connect your honeymoon fund directly to your PayPal or other cash app account, but transferring funds between the two accounts will almost always come with a fee, sometimes even two fees. Now that “free” honeymoon registry isn't so free.
Charging your guests:Sure, you won't have to pay a service or credit card fee — but your guests will. When they try to give a $100 gift and see a much higher charge, they might say “forget it” and decide to write a check instead. Now there's nothing wrong with checks, but if you're trying to book hotels and tours, then having that money available now will be a big help.
Early access fees:Let's say an aunt and uncle buy one of the gifts on your honeymoon registry a month before the big day. The money goes into the account on the website — but you might not be able to access it without incurring some kind of fee. This puts you in a tough spot. You need to pay off credit cards packed with airfare and hotel expenses, but every time you pull money out of your account, you lose a bit of it to a transaction fee.
In short, creating an account may be free, but accessing it when or how you want it may end up costing you.
Not-an-actual honeymoon registry sites
Would you consider PayPal or Venmo a honeymoon registry site? Most likely, no, but over the past few years, some couples have been turning to cash app sites in order to raise money for their honeymoons. We refer to these as not-an-actual honeymoon registry sites.
Cash apps are not honeymoon registries, and although you can crowdfund with them, they do not offer a platform for an actual registry. There's no room for personalization or important wedding details, such as the date or location, and you won't be able to post many pictures of you and your partner to the cash app site.
The only way to use a cash app to fund a honeymoon is to crowdfund by asking wedding guests to send money to your account, but there's a lot wrong with this approach from an etiquette standpoint. Your guests want to feel respected and appreciated for their gift, whatever it may be. Some may feel insulted that they're expected to just give cash, especially without a real thank-you or a good indication that the money will be spent on your honeymoon.
With cash apps, all the money goes to your account, but there's no guarantee that you'll be using that money to actually pay for your honeymoon. Now even with a honeymoon fund like Hitchd, there's no law forcing you to spend the exact gift amount on that tour or spa treatment, but because you've already done the research (and maybe even booked the service), there's a high chance that you'll follow through with the gift.
Cash apps also lack a good way to thank your guests. Though you can write a thank-you message if you crowdfund, but PayPal and other cash apps won't track who gave you what and they won't allow you to send thank-you notes.
Why you should avoid free honeymoon registry sites
A free honeymoon registry site might seem like a great idea in the heat of wedding planning, but so much can go wrong and you might end up paying at the exact time when you don't want to be.
Here are three good reasons to avoid free honeymoon registry sites no matter what:
Hidden fees:Some sites that claim to be free aren't actually free unless you don't use any of their features. If you don't want ads on your website, then you'll have to pay to get them removed.
Ease of access:When you need to pay for a flight or hotel room, you need to access that money right away — but if you have to pay a fee to get it, then that fee eats into your money. Some honeymoon registries won't let you access your funds at all until after the wedding, which can cause some big problems when you're trying to pay off your credit card.
No thank-yous:Making your guests feel appreciated and thanked should be your number-one priority with any honeymoon registry, but those without fees often lack a good way to thank guests after the wedding or tell them much about the honeymoon itself. Without this information, the registry might feel like more of a cash grab than a wedding gift.
Remember, honeymoon registries are businesses too. They do need to make money — one way or another.
What to look for in a honeymoon registry
So free honeymoon registries may be out, but there are other options. Here's what to look for in a honeymoon registry.
Gift options:Honeymoon registry sites should offer different types of gifts — physical, cash or experience. Hitchd lets users pack their registries with lots of different types of gifts.
Great design features:You don't want your registry to look just like everyone else. A good registry site will have hundreds of stock photos available to help enhance the personal photos you upload.
Personalization:You want to be able to add your wedding details to your honeymoon registry, of course, but wouldn't you also like to write something nice for your guests? Maybe something to welcome them to your site? It's your site. You should be in control of what the text on your site says, and you should be able to add photos as you please.
Thank-yous:Guests should always feel important, welcomed and thanked when looking through your wedding registry. Some registry sites, like Hitchd, keep track of who gave which gifts and will let you send thank-you notes through email.
When you're thinking about which honeymoon registry site to choose, consider what is most important to you and your partner. That will help guide you as you choose a site.
Just because a honeymoon registry isn't free doesn't mean that you shouldn't consider it. Honeymoon registries like Hitchd offer a variety of features that will help you build the perfect registry that meets all of your needs. Get started with Hitchd here.
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