Should You—Would You—Crowdfund Your Wedding?

“Instead of a big traditional wedding,we plan on getting married while in the air over the Golden Gate Bridge in a DC-3! Then we’d like to go on a 7 day cruise.” Who wouldn’t? This isn’t a thread on a wedding blog detailing a couple’s wish list for their dream day. It’s a post on crowdfunding site GoFundMe. (If you’re wondering, this particular couple’s raised $2,378 of their $5,500 goal—so far.) 

Crowdfunding’s become huge. Need money to start your small business? To help cover medical costs? Kristen Bell famously raised $5.7million on Kickstarter to get Veronica Mars made into a film. But over the last year or so, there’s been a micro trend of couples attempting to crowdfund their weddings and honeymoons. According to Kelsea Little, GoFundMe’s public relations manager, there have been over 13,500 campaigns in the platform’s “Weddings and Honeymoons” category since 2010, with about 200% growth each year since. In 2011, there were 238 campaigns, which cumulatively raised about $31,000. In 2014, over 9,000 campaigns raised a total of almost $1.3 million. So yes, it’s working. 

The Crowded Wedding, a new crowdfunding site specifically geared towards hosting wedding-related campaigns, launched its first campaign in August 2014. Founder Ashley Klebusch was inspired to start the site when she and her fiancé were invited to a wedding and started wondering whether the traditional toaster/blender registry was still practical for most couples. “I think it was the experience of seeing people crowdfund random things that made us think, ‘Why aren’t they doing things that are actually practical, like weddings?’” Klebusch said. She declined to share the number of campaigns that the site has hosted since it launched, though she did say the biggest was about $4,000.

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Not surprisingly, not everyone in the world of weddings supports this concept. “The idea of inviting a guest to your party and expecting them to foot the bill is not an acceptable one,” says Jamie Miles, an editor at wedding site TheKnot.com. “If you are planning a wedding, it’s important to budget in advance for that, knowing that the average cost of a wedding is around $30,000. So if you are looking to get married and have a celebration, it’s important to have the type of wedding that fits into your budget.”

Etiquette expert Lizzie Post, equally as dubious about the concept, told CNN last year, “I’m not yet convinced that the general population is ready to receive a link about crowdfunding a wedding they are invited to.” But it’s definitely happening more now, and, as illustrated by the couple up above, people are donating.

While a straight plea for money to help fund, say, your dream wedding at The Plaza (or on a private airplane) does indeed seem tacky, some people are using crowdfunding in ways that are more tasteful. Crowdfunding a honeymoon in lieu of a traditional wedding gift registry makes a lot of sense. Klebusch said that honeymoons have been one area where couples have a lot of success crowdfunding. “I think it goes back to why we started [The Crowded Wedding]; it’s more an alternative to the normal gift registry,” she explained.

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The Knot’s Miles acknowledged that there are some situations where crowdfunding for wedding expenses can be a more palatable concept. “It might be a different story if the friends of the couple tried to crowdfund something in particular for the couple, rather than the couple trying to crowdfund their own wedding,” she said. “Or maybe the couple is doing it with intentions that are more guest-focused.” (The Knot itself has crowdfunded wedding services on behalf of several couples in Brooklyn when they lost their deposits after a wedding venue there shut down.)

Klebusch notes that some campaigns do better than others, and that couples who include pictures and heartfelt stories tend to be more successful. Maggie Stanistreet, 24, is a sympathetic example of wedding crowdfunding done well. She and her 25-year-old fiancé Mitch Forbes are planning a July 2015 wedding in Syracuse, NY. Forbes, a member of the military, was injured in Afghanistan while on patrol, and has lost function in his left foot. He’s from Texas, but he hasn’t been able to go home to visit and his family hasn’t been able to afford to come up north. Stanistreet wanted to ensure that Forbes’ family and friends made it to their modest wedding, where they will have a reception at the local Holiday Inn.

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“Mitch was really homesick and his parents were having trouble getting money together to come up. I really want everyone to be here for our wedding because it’s a big deal for him,” Stanistreet said. “So I thought, ‘I’m just going to go out there and try it and see what happens.’ I was actually really scared and embarrassed at first.” But the story resonated, and so far 101 people—including strangers—have donated $3,750 towards the couple’s $4,000 goal. Stanistreet said that with the money she’s raised they can fly in both of Forbes’ parents and put them up in a hotel (which is giving the family a military discount) for six nights, and also pay for shared rooms for 13 of Forbes’ Texan friends who are flying in. “Mitch and I are so thankful and feel so blessed to have so many friends and strangers support us,” Stanistreet said.

While the concept of crowdfunding a wedding is getting more popular, it’s still not that common. As Miles points out, “While you might be seeing a few couples doing this, it’s important to realize that in the larger scope of things there are about 2.5 million weddings a year in the United States.” But it’s obviously starting to become more accepted as a practice. 

“Getting married is usually an expensive chapter in someone’s life, and inviting the support of your friends and family is a natural response,” GoFundMe’s Little said. “In our experience, loved ones are more than willing to chip in.”  So go ahead and splurge on the private airplane.

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