This service has helped nearly 800,000 couples raise over $600 million for their honeymoons

Michael Svoboda | Getty Images

In 2011, the average honeymoon cost $4,466, according to wedding website The Knot. At that time, more than half (62%) of the estimated 1.4 million couples who went on honeymoons annually paid for at least 90% of their honeymoon expenses themselves.

In 2017, the average honeymoon cost had climbed to $5,432. But by then, more people had started asking for wedding gifts in the form of honeymoon contributions rather than traditional presents, a trend that continues to grow.

Honeyfund is a popular online platform that facilitates this kind of gifting experience. Here's how it works.

How Honeyfund replaces physical gifts

Honeyfund's online registry system acts as a crowdfunding website where couples can raise money for their honeymoon. Once users sign up and sync their bank account, friends and family can begin sending money directly to the recipients, along with a personalized note. The registered couple's bank account is verified prior to any funds going live and contributors aren't charged any processing fees when they give. However, those on the receiving end are charged around 2% on average, depending on their account's setup.

If raising money for your honeymoon isn't your style, Honeyfund can be used to facilitate other goals, such as a down payment on a home, donations to a specific charity or money for the wedding itself.

Sara Margulis and her husband, Josh Margulis, started the company in 2006. They took the idea from personal experience: When they realized they wouldn't have enough money left over after paying for their wedding to go on their dream honeymoon, the couple ended up crowdfunding more than $5,000 to put toward their trip to Fiji. The positive feedback they received from it showed them the need for a registry that serves those who value experiences over things.

The company grew quickly and in 2014, the pair pitched Honeyfund to a panel of judges on ABC's "Shark Tank," where they won a deal with Kevin O'Leary. Honeyfund has since gained even more traction and as of 2018, nearly 800,000 couples had signed up. Through the platform, more than $600 million has been gifted to newlyweds for their honeymoons.

Here's why you should have pizza and beer at your wedding, like Kevin O'Leary
Here's why you should have pizza and beer at your wedding, like Kevin O'Leary

Honeyfund isn't the only company replacing traditional wedding registries. Zola, which launched in 2013, takes a modern approach to wedding gifting. The e-commerce site allows couples to register for experiences in addition to physical wedding gifts. It also offers charity registries as an alternative to asking for gifts. It's free to register for engaged couples, but like Honeyfund, there is 2.5% processing fee on cash gifts that can be paid by the guests or the couple.

Is it okay to ask friends to pay for your honeymoon?

The Honeyfund concept has been known to stir up emotions surrounding the traditional wedding experience. People wonder whether it's wrong to ask for money rather than wedding gifts.

On Weddingwire, a global connector of engaged couples and local wedding professionals, there is an ongoing forum titled: "Is Honeyfund: Tacky or Not?" Opinions are split. Some respondents were concerned about the processing fee, with one woman saying that couples "should just ask for cash" directly from guests if that is what they want. Another woman supports the service, saying that there are ways around the fee "if you read the fine print."

There also seems to be a generational divide surrounding the approach, which I experienced firsthand while planning my own wedding. While my 30-year-old former boss said that I should definitely register with Honeyfund, my 61-year-old mother questioned the concept. "Do people really do that?" she asked, and insisted that I register with Macy's in order to appease any guests who might find Honeyfund confusing.

In an effort to please all parties, my fiancé and I registered with Honeyfund, Macy's and Zola, even though we live in a studio apartment with little space for any more physical items.

I don't feel Honeyfund sends the old-school negative message that a couple is asking their guests to pay for an 'over-the-top honeymoon' like the solicitation of cash in the past.
Suzanne Reinhard
luxury destination wedding planner

However, top wedding professionals say it's perfectly acceptable to ask your friends and family to fund your honeymoon. "I don't feel Honeyfund sends the old-school negative message that a couple is asking their guests to pay for an 'over-the-top honeymoon' like the solicitation of cash in the past," Suzanne Reinhard, luxury destination wedding planner, told Vogue in 2017.

Crowdfunded wedding gifts are here to stay

Forgoing physical gifts may be the way of the future. While retail registries remain the most popular option for wedding gifts, crowdfunding sites like Honeyfund are becoming a staple.

The number of couples signing up for cash registries has risen 50% since 2016, and charity wedding registries more than tripled in popularity between 2016 and 2017, according to The Knot's annual Wedding Registry Study from 2018. For their honeymoons, couples receive an average of $1,437 in cash, the study found. 

Even the royals are crowdsourcing funds rather than asking for wedding gifts. When they married in May 2018, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle picked out seven charities, including the children's HIV association CHIVA, an organization that was supported by Prince Harry's late mother, Princess Diana of Wales, and asked that guests contribute a donation rather than buying gifts.

Don't miss: Here's exactly how much you should spend on a wedding gift

Like this story? Subscribe to CNBC Make It on YouTube!

Self-made millionaire Ramit Sethi: Here's why you should spend a lot of money on your wedding
Why you should spend a lot of money on your wedding: Ramit Sethi