You’re newly engaged, congratulations!
Even couples who’ve never been married before understand that weddings can get expensive, but even the most prepared set experiences some level of sticker shock when they start looking around at venues and caterers. Whether you’e paying for all or even just part of your wedding, all of those costs add up quickly, and you’re probably already thinking of how you might balance your budget to prioritize what matters and leave behind was doesn’t.
So when the opportunity for a free wedding registry comes along, you’re probably excited and incredibly relieved that at least something wedding-related is free. But is it?
You’ve almost certainly heard the phrase, “There’s no such thing as a free lunch.” And that is particularly true when it comes to wedding planning. Some venues, caterers and musicians will offer small perks, but if someone offers you something for free, you should expect the quality to be inferior or to find a catch somewhere down the line.
Free wedding registries are notorious for pulling the bait-and-switch on engaged couples, so to be certain that you and your partner don’t fall victim to the same traps, here are five good reasons why you shouldn’t use a free wedding registry.
Reason #1: Not all features are free
When you look at an example registry on one of those free platforms, they probably look clean, organized and user friendly. But what you might not know is that in order to get that exact look and feel, you absolutely have to pay for it.
Take, for example, ads on wedding registries. Now there’s no shame in any company trying to make money for its services, and in general, it’s not surprising when websites have ads on them. After all, this is usually a key source of revenue for the company.
The problem comes when companies overload their pages with ads and then charge you to take them off. Some “free” wedding registries will make your page look like a billboard, making it difficult for guests to actually find the gifts through all of the ads, but they will remove them if you’re willing to pay them. Obviously, this defeats the purpose of a free wedding registry.
By the time you learn about some of these features that are behind a paywall, you may have already spent the time building your registry and getting it to look just right. At that point, you feel you have to pay because of all the hard work you’ve already put into it. And that can seriously mess with your wedding budget.
Reason #2: Free department store registries are extremely limiting
Before the internet, most engaged couples went to their local department or big-box stores to sign up for a free wedding registry. Back then, it was far more common for couples to get married earlier in life, and as such, they often hadn’t lived away fom home and had no housewares. They were also less likely to live together, so they were essentially building a home from scratch once they came home from their honeymoon.
Now, of course, this is a little less common. Many couples are tying the knot in their late 20s and early 30s, which means they’re more established in their careers and have reliable sources of income. They’re also choosing to live together first to determine that they’re truly compatible and hopefully lessening their chances of wanting a divorce one day.
So with all this in mind, the department store wedding registry has dropped in popularity over the years as couples already have their home goods under control when they choose to get married, and they don’t always need new toasters and blenders. Although their registries are still free, they’re not quite all they’re cracked up to be.
First and foremost, department store registries are extremely limiting in terms of what can be placed on the registry. If the store doesn’t carry the product, then you won’t be able to add it. While most carry the big brands like KitchenAid and Cuisinart, you might not find one store that stocks every brand you actually want, which practically forces you to make more than one registry at different stores.
You may also not find online specialty brands or eco-friendly brands that don’t sell in big-box or department stores. If you’re trying to upgrade some older household goods or want to be more eco-friendly around your home, then you may be out of luck.
Of course, the only types of products you can buy in these stores are physical ones, like coffee machines, duvets and knife sets. But what if you have all of that stuff already? Why limit yourself to asking for what you don’t actually want or need?
What you really want might be help paying for your honeymoon and gifts related to your honeymoon or maybe it’s just something that can only be sold online, like a set of Brooklinen sheets. You won’t be able to add these items to your department store registry, and that can stop you from adding gifts you truly want.
Reason #3: The platform wasn’t actually built to be used as a wedding registry
In your personal life, it’s highly likely that you use a cash payment app like PayPal or Venmo, but did you know that some people are actually using these sites as wedding registries? And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Nowadays some couples are turning away from registries at all and just relying on payment apps to receive wedding presents. It’s a very 21st-century idea, and in a way, it makes sense. Most people already use one or more of these apps, so they’re familiar with them, and it is admittedly easy to just send someone money for their wedding and not worry guests with cards and cheques and such.
But the truth is not every guest has quite evolved to this level for wedding presents. Here’s why these platforms just aren’t ready to be used as wedding registries.
PayPal, Venmo and Cash App
Cash payment apps like PayPal and Venmo do not market themselves as wedding registries, but nevertheless, some people have started using them as cash funds. Couples going this route usually add their usernames to their wedding invitations and ask that all gifts simply be sent to them directly.
It’s not hard to imagine why some people find this process completely off-putting. These apps offer no personalisation or any information about the couple, the wedding or the reception. Guests often feel this method is very cold and unfeeling, especially for an event that should be all about joy and celebration. It can also make them feel as if there’s a cover charge to get into your wedding.
All wedding gifts must be considered optional, and you should make all of your guests feel welcome and respected, no matter what they choose to give as a gift. Cash payment apps hurt more than they help, so they’re best avoided.
You may be familiar with GoFundMe, and you might have even contributed to one or two. Most people use GoFundMe to raise money after a terrible disaster, such as a flood or house fire. They’re in trouble, and they may need serious financial help. In short, GoFundMe is primarily used by people who are going through a tough time in their lives and could use the help of their friends and communities to get by.
In recent years, some couples have turned to GoFundMe in order to raise money for their honeymoon. While the platform offers more personalisation than PayPal, it doesn’t allow you to create an actual registry or send thank-yous to guests who have contributed.
Some guests might also view your GoFundMe in a poor light. After all, a vacation is a luxury, and many of the people on the platform are trying to raise money to just get by after experiencing a tragedy. Your guests may feel used or uncomfortable being asked to contribute to a luxury on a platform built for people going through some of the worst moments of their lives.
Reason #4: Free startups without enough funding can close unexpectedly
It’s not unusual for startups to offer their services for free or at a major discount. This helps get people through the door so they can try out the platform and hopeful fall in love with it. That way, when they have to start paying for the service, it’s absolutely worth it.
Startups, however, can be volatile. If they don’t receive enough funding, then they can close down unexpectedly, potentially taking your money with it. There may be wording in the service agreement that forfeits your money if the site shuts down. Not to mention you’ll also lose the registry you built, and if the link to it is already on your invitations, then your guests will be confused when they ty to buy you a gift.
Reason #5: Transaction fees pass platform’s expenses onto guests
In order to make a profit, many cash wedding registry platforms charge a transaction fee for every gift that guests give. This fee usually falls between 2-6%, and it goes to the platform. But if the registry is free, then there are no transaction fees, right?
Not exactly. Many of these platforms will pass this expense onto the guest, so now the guest will pay for the gift plus the fee. While some guests might not notice the extra charge, others certainly will, and it might affect how much or if they give a gift. Instead of paying the extra fee, they’ll just wait until the big day and stick a cheque in a card. Or they might decide not to give a gift at all or take a guess and purchase a gift card instead.
Essentially, the site is technically free to the couple, but not the guests. You might think this is perfectly fine, but you might be putting a major burden on them.
Reason #6: The platform will be free, until you want to access your money
Imagine this scenario: You’re a month away from the big day, and your credit card bill is due. Guests have been so generous in contributing to your cash wedding registry, and now you need to money to pay your bill, which is loaded with honeymoon-related charges.
But there’s a catch. The cash wedding registry platform doesn’t allow users to access their funds until after the big day. If you try to withdraw any money, then you’re going to get slapped with a serious fee. And if you receive more gifts in the interim and need to pull out more money, then you’ll be paying yet another fee. Overtime, those fees add up, and now you’ve paid far more than you ever wanted to when you signed up.
Many of these supposedly “free” cash wedding registry platforms have small hidden fees that they don’t advertise as much as they should. They’re hoping that you don’t read about these fees until it’s too late and by that time you have to pay their fee.
Reason #7: They coudld be hacked while holding your money
In May 2022, hackers pulled a credit stuffing scam on Zola. As a result, they were able to get into Zola user accounts and empty accounts of any gift money that they were holding. Some hackers also used credit card numbers on file to buy gift cards, which they then had sent to their own email addresses.
Cash wedding registry platforms that choose to hold onto their clients’ money take a major risk, and they don’t always have the security, such as two-factor authentication, to protect accounts. Other platforms, like Hitchd, partner with a cash payment service who holds onto the funds and keeps them safe. If Hitchd were to be hacked, no user would run the risk of losing their money.
It’s easy to get so caught up in wedding expenses that you reach for the first free option without reading the fine print. And it’s understandable that you’d rather deal with all the hoop jumping instead of paying for the service. But in this case, you get what you pay for.
Although Hitchd charges couples a one-time fee when their registries launch, our platform comes with all the tools to build your dream registry. You’ll never see an ad on one of our wedding registries, and you’ll be able to access your money whenever you need it. Hitchd also keeps track of who gave which gift and has a built-in thank-you email function, which helps you send email thank-yous immediately after guests send the gift.
Ready to get started with Hitchd? Sign up here.