It’s wedding season. That means it’s time for guests up and down the country to work out what to buy the happy couple for their nuptials. Those luxury towels or that porcelain milk jug from their wedding registry?
Or perhaps there’s no gift list, and instead they’re asking for money towards their honeymoon. “The honeymoon fund is definitely a trend,” says Dom Beavan, co-founder of GettingMarried, a business which creates wedding websites. “It’s growing in popularity, and it’s also growing in acceptability.”
Lauren Enever, brand content manager at Prezola, one of the most used gift-list services in the UK, says that post-pandemic, couples are particularly keen on the honeymoon fund. “We are seeing couples making plans to make up for lost time,” she says, “to enjoy prolonged escapes. These days, many engaged couples are already living together, so it has become increasingly common to see couples ask for money for a honeymoon, experience or house deposit as their wedding gift.
“We are also seeing an increase in couples adding upgrades to their gift list for the big honeymoon, things like new luggage and stylish beach accessories are the gifts of choice to make trips extra special.”
Around 20 per cent of Prezola gift lists are “cash only”, while 50 per cent of couples like a mixture of cash and gifts all on one list. Around 60 per cent of cash gifts are honeymoon fund contributions.
In 2022, when most people getting married already live together and have plates and a toaster, and in a world where there is an overload of stuff and oceans of plastic, money for a one-off trip to a beach hotel in the Maldives or a wine tour of Tuscany might make sense. In the UK it is traditional to give the couple something, so why not help them have a lovely holiday?
It’s wedding season, so what are you buying for the happy couple? (Photo: Peter Dazeley/Getty)
“We did this for our wedding,” says James, who recently got married. “We already had a house, so we said ‘if you want to give a gift, then we’d love donations towards the honeymoon. If not, no worries come and enjoy the day’.”
Some wedding guests love the honeymoon option. “Please, I BEG all couples to do this,” says an i colleague. “Don’t make me buy a gift they’ll never use.” Another friend says; “I think holidays of a lifetime are much more meaningful than a present.”
Sarah Harris, editor of Bride magazine, can see why a honeymoon fund is so popular. “It not only contributes to the newly married couple’s once-in-a-lifetime getaway, which can sometimes be particularly unobtainable following the outlay on a wedding, but it also gives guests the feeling that they have contributed something worthwhile.”
Yet, the honeymoon funds don’t go down well with all guests. “I went to a wedding where there was a link to a PayPal account, and we transferred money directly into the groom’s bank account,” an i reader tells me anonymously, for fear of upsetting their friend. “That was a bit grim.” Other responses from wedding guests include; “It’s like saying ‘please buy a ticket to our wedding’. Either you want them to come or you don’t.”
Dom from GettingMarried has noticed it can be divisive. “Older, more traditional guests do find it a little bit uncomfortable and a bit cheeky,” he says. “We always recommend that you do both, that you use one of the services where you can have products, experiences and cash contributions. The other piece of feedback that we see from guests is that it can feel a little bit like an invoice.”
“We’ve seen people do poems asking for money,” says Dom. “My opinion is it’s a bit naff.”
A popular honeymoon fund poem is: “If you were thinking of buying a gift to help us on our way, a gift of money would be much appreciated and really make our day!”
“The worst is people just putting bank details,” says Dom, “Sometimes people do poems and bank details.”
By all accounts, honeymoon funds appeal more when they’re less transactional, and more personal. The most popular approach is to use a specialized gift service where you can itemise the holiday; £50 for cocktails on the beach, £80 for a scuba diving session.
“If it’s just a blank ‘give us some money’ instruction,” says Dom, “it can be uncomfortable for couples but also uncomfortable for guests because they’re not sure how much they’re expected to give. It’s better to do something to show guests they’re making a contribution towards something quite specific.”
“We had a honeymoon gift list,” says one i reader on Twitter. “People could choose the experience with a range of price options, including tickets to orangutan sanctuary, night in hotel, couples massage, beach picnic, dinner, air miles and so on. It created magical memories for us, and we sent each person a thank you and a picture.”
The Debrett’s etiquette guide has copious advice on the subject of wedding presents: “Traditionally close relations gave the bridegroom a cheque, but this custom faded once wedding lists in department stores came into fashion. Asking for money can be awkward but it is once again becoming more accepted. It is important for the bride and bridegroom to communicate clearly that the money is going towards something specific.”
Of course, there are couples who make it explicit that they don’t want wedding gifts. I went to a wedding recently where the invitation asked that anyone wanting to give a gift, donate to a refugee charity instead.
According to the 2022 wedding report, people spent an average of £16,529 on their wedding. There is an argument that because a couple might spend so many thousands of pounds on giving their guests a good time at the wedding, a present is key.
“It’s better to do something to show guests they’re making a contribution towards something quite specific” Photo: Colin Anderson/Getty)
Yet, attending weddings can also be expensive. According to annual wedding research from American Express, British wedding guests in 2019 spent an average of £391 each to attend a wedding. Hotels were the biggest expense, followed by outfits and gifts. “Almost nobody gets married in the church round the corner from their parents’ any more,” says Dom, “or, if they do, the couple and their friends don’t live near there. Traveling to weddings costs money.”
And that’s before the hen and stag dos, which a MyVoucherCodes 2019 report found cost on average £204.82. From experience, £100 is the lowest end of the spectrum, and they tend to cost far more than that to attend.
With that in mind, could it ever be acceptable to do away with wedding presents entirely? “I think there’s too much focus on wedding presents,” says Laura, 33.
“It also doesn’t feel manageable with so many weddings to go to, to keep up with all those wedding expenses. I do feel resentful about it sometimes, because as much as I love my friends, I just wish some of their hens and weddings didn’t mean I was so out of pocket all summer.”
There’s also the power of tradition. Dom thinks we’re a long way from wedding presents beginning to decline, if they ever do. “It’s less about what the couple wants, and more about etiquette. I couldn’t attend a wedding and not give a gift.”
As long as wedding presents are here to stay, there are ways to make them more fun. For his honeymoon fund, Steve made a jolly, personal YouTube video about the trips he and his partner had in mind. He told guests they would go wherever the funds allowed. “Cleethorpes for chips or a road trip around Croatia,” he tells i. “We made it to Croatia!”