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Honeymoon help, a click away

Sites let wedding guests contribute to costs

Zoe and Ivan Sifrim of Cambridge, who were married April 30, used honeyfund.com for gifts to help pay for their California honeymoon. Zoe and Ivan Sifrim of Cambridge, who were married April 30, used honeyfund.com for gifts to help pay for their California honeymoon. (Essdras M Suarez/ Globe Staff)
By Bella English
Globe Staff / June 21, 2011

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Alexandra Roberts and Danny Robert have lived together for three years. They’re getting married Aug. 28, and their small Charlestown apartment has all the furnishings, bedding, and appliances they need. So instead of a toaster or Crock-Pot, they’re asking friends, via an online gift registry, to help pay for their honeymoon in Alaska and Banff.

With a few clicks of a mouse, their wedding guests can choose from a number of gifts, including a Bike & Brew tour ($100 apiece for bride and groom), a one-night stay at Lake Louise ($300), a Banff gondola ride ($30 apiece), and a champagne service ($20 per night).

“We don’t currently have a honeymoon, but we already have a kitchen,’’ says Robert, 27, a software developer.

His fiancée, a 28-year-old wedding photographer, adds: “It sounds cheesy, but for us, things are not as important as experiences are.’’

By asking their guests to buy them experiences rather than utensils, the couple is joining a growing number of betrothed who are turning away from the traditional in-store gift registries in favor of an online registry for help paying for a honeymoon, buying a home, or even contributing to a charitable cause or a future child’s college fund. According to a survey of 12,000 couples married last year, conducted by WeddingChannel.com and TheKnot.com, 11 percent opted for a honeymoon gift registry.

With couples living together longer before marriage and marrying at a later age — the median age is 28 for men, 26 for women — the need for new household items has dwindled. And these young adults are fully wired, so an online registry seems natural, with the entire transaction taking a giver a minute or two. The registry service transfers the donations directly into the couple’s bank account.

In addition to the honeymoon section, some registries offer a home section, where couples ask for help with everything from a down payment on a house to a swimming pool. One online registry crows: “Use your wedding registry to help purchase a honeymoon, for a house deposit, a car, or set up a child’s college fund early.’’

“They’re looking for an experience, or an opportunity to fulfill a dream as a couple, or maybe just looking for help,’’ says Jane Delser, North American director for zankyou.com, an international registry used by Roberts and Robert.

The founders of the site realized that there was a need for a less traditional approach for “today’s couples,’’ Delser adds.

Manners maven Peter Post, director of the Emily Post Institute in Burlington, Vt., says the online honeymoon requests are good for both donor and receiver.

“In some ways,’’ Post says, “it makes giving a little bit easier in that you know you’re giving something they’d really like to have, and not just another vase that’s going to sit in a cupboard somewhere. Or just, ‘Here’s some cash, because I don’t know what else to give you.’ ’’

But he stresses that guests need not feel bound by such a registry, either — just as folks have never been bound to in-store bridal registries. “That hasn’t changed,’’ he says. “If you want to get them a blender, that’s perfectly OK.’’

Though some still adhere to the custom that the bride’s family pays for the wedding and the groom pays for the honeymoon, Post says that today the payments depend on each party’s ability to contribute.

Roberts and Robert are paying for their own wedding, and neither had heard of the custom that the bride covers the wedding and the groom the honeymoon. “I notice a lot of my friends just aren’t taking a honeymoon because they don’t have the money for it,’’ Robert says.

On honeyfund.com, couples describe their experiences under headlines such as, “Sarah & Patrick went to Costa Rica with an extra $5,000,’’ and “Jessica and Geoffrey went to Greece with an extra $2,600.’’ The latter wrote that they used a honeymoon registry because they got married in New England but live in California, so transporting physical gifts would have been a hassle. Though they planned an affordable honeymoon, with their gift donations “we had less to worry about on our honeymoon.’’

Roberts and Robert can relate. They live in Boston but are getting married on Mount Hood in Oregon, where he is from. So they decided on an Alaskan honeymoon. On their gift registry, they wrote: “If we need new forks, at some point in our life we can get them.’’ They added, online, that they would rather friends and family donate to the American Prairie Foundation, devoted to creating a prairie wildlife preserve, or Mazon, a Jewish anti-hunger group.

No china, crystal, or silver for them? “I have hand-me-downs from my parents,’’ says Roberts.

One new company, 1-800-Registry, offers both honeymoon and home registries. Founder Donne Kerestic says that nearly 30 percent of new homes last year were bought by newlyweds.

“Couples are marrying older, so they are in a better position to buy a home,’’ says Kerestic. He has seen couples include on their wish list everything from down payments on a house to fences, a new pool, cabinets, closets, flooring, electronics, landscaping, and a sprinkler system.

Post isn’t as high on the home registry as he is on the honeymoon registry. “Helping put in a floor for the house doesn’t quite excite me as much,’’ he says.

Zoe and Ivan Sifrim of Cambridge used honeyfund.com for donations to help with their California honeymoon next month. On their home page they described the trip, starting with a few days on the beach in Santa Barbara, driving through Big Sur to Carmel-by-the-Sea, then three days whitewater rafting and camping, ending with hiking and sightseeing in Yosemite National Park.

The couple, who lived together for two years before they married April 30, had much of the honeymoon paid for by wedding guests, including airfare, hotels, gas, a GPS and trip gear such as waterproof sandals and quick-drying T-shirts “to stay warm and happy on the river,’’ according to their description on the registry.

Zoe Sifrim, who works at a nonprofit group devoted to health care, learned about the registry from a colleague. “I saw that it was possible not to make it super-greedy,’’ says Sifrim, 24. The couple also registered online at Crate & Barrel, but, she says, the honeymoon items were the most popular among guests. (Still, few wanted to contribute to the rental car.)

At first, her father thought the idea of a honeymoon registry sounded “tacky,’’ says Sifrim, but he came around after she and Ivan, 26, who directs the music program at the Everett Boys & Girls Club, posted it online. “As long as you make it fun and you make them think they are contributing to a personal experience, people certainly like it,’’ she says.

Their friends Tanner Amdur-Clark and Brittany Dobson were pleased with their contribution to a night in a Santa Barbara hotel. It was a first for them.

“We just looked through to see what we could afford and what would be meaningful,’’ says Amdur-Clark, 24, a Harvard graduate student. “We thought a night on their honeymoon would be more of an experience gift than a stuff gift.’’

Dedric Carter, 35, and Ebony Boyce, 33, had the household items they needed. When they get married July 3, they’ll start a two-week honeymoon in Australia and Fiji, for which they posted a wish list on honeyfund.com. So far, their round-trip airfare to Sydney is two-thirds covered by friends and family, as are some excursions, a harbor dinner cruise, a gourmet dinner, flights to Fiji, a couple’s massage, and diving lessons. They still need some help with accommodations.

“My mother said, ‘What is that? That’s crazy!’ when we first told her,’’ says Boyce, an obstetrician-gynecologist. “Now, she’s the biggest advocate of it. I think she got excited when she actually saw our honeymoon unfold on our site.’’ Friends have responded enthusiastically — to the tune of $8,000 in contributions — say the couple, who live in Hyde Park.

The honeymoon is expensive, and “we absolutely needed help with it,’’ says Carter, a senior adviser for strategic initiatives at the National Science Foundation. “It’s been great.’’

While engaged couples may welcome the online registry setup, it’s not always as easy for those who grew up in a more traditional era. One 60-year-old woman who lives west of Boston refused to contribute to the honeymoon of a friend’s son. The list included, among other things, a sunset cocktail cruise, jet ski and helicopter rides, guided horseback rides, massages, a multicourse dinner, and skydiving.

“I looked through it and I thought, I just can’t do it,’’ says the woman, who asked not to be identified because she didn’t want to offend her friend.

She bought them a lovely crystal bowl.

Bella English can be reached at english@globe.com.