American couples ask guests for help with mortgage payments

As they prepared for their wedding this year, New Yorkers Alexa Feneque and Silvio Tellez kept their wish list short. Forgoing the usual hand towels and salt shakers, they asked only one thing of their guests.

“We are working so hard to save for our first home and any contribution towards this will always be sincerely appreciated,” they wrote on their online wedding registry, or registry as it is known in the United States.

The request netted the couple around $30,000 and highlighted a trend – the growing use of marriage records to raise funds for mortgage down payments as US housing costs soar.

“We’re house hunting now,” said new Ms. Tellez, 29, a banking analyst who lives in New York’s Long Island suburb with her architect husband. “We didn’t really have a place to put everything we would have gotten if we had made a registry.”

Wedding planning websites such as Zola and The Knot report that couples are increasingly asking their guests for more money to cover housing or other expenses rather than asking for household items.

At Zola, which has been used by more than 2 million couples since its launch in 2013, 75% of users ask for money. The number of housing-related funds on the site has doubled since 2019.

The Knot, which surveys more than 300,000 brides, grooms, guests and wedding professionals in the United States each year, said funds to cover new homes or renovations increased by 10% this year, which makes it the second most popular cash fund after those for honeymoons. The value of contributions to housing-related funds has jumped 79% this year, he said.

“With everything we’ve been through with inflation and the housing market, people are really thinking about how they want to use their registry,” said Esther Lee, associate editor of The Knot. “Savvy couples now know they can use their records to deposit that money for their future home.”

Historically, home ownership has been closely tied to marital status as couples settle down and start a family. The homeownership rate among married couples was 79% in 2020, compared to a national average of 66%, according to US Census data.

Newlyweds beginning their home search this year after the busiest wedding season in 40 years are dealing with both record house price appreciation during the pandemic and rising interest rates.

Mortgage rates have more than doubled since the start of the year as the Federal Reserve raised benchmark rates to curb inflation. The average 30-year fixed-rate mortgage hit a 14-year high of 6.29% in the week ending Thursday, up from an average of 2.88% last year, according to Freddie Mac.

Alexa Feneque and Silvio Tellez asked only one thing of their wedding guests: money © Imagine Studios

The median monthly payment on mortgage applications in August was $1,839, up 43% from a year ago, according to data from the Mortgage Bankers Association.

Wedding guests seem to recognize the obstacles newlyweds face when looking for a home of their own. They contribute an average of $175 to $200 to housing funds, compared to an average of $100 to $175 for honeymoon funds, according to data from Zola.com.

“Clients really want to give to these new home funds and they’re willing to give a little more to help a couple get that first home,” Zola spokeswoman Emily Forrest said.

Camille Hemming (née Clifford), a 31-year-old brand manager from Michigan, said she and her husband raised $10,000 for a mortgage down payment last year through their marriage registry. The couple initially married in a socially distanced pandemic ceremony with 12 guests in August 2020, then did it again with nearly 200 people and a steel drum band in 2021.

About a third of guests contributed to the fund in cash instead of buying one of the more traditional gifts on the couple’s registry, like All-Clad cookware, Hemming said.

“A wedding is one of those rare times when you get a lot of gifts and people are willing to invest in you and your future as a couple,” she said.

Cash funds are often more convenient for modern couples, who tend to marry later and fund the majority of wedding expenses on their own. Nearly three-quarters of Zola couples said they were saving for a new home at the same time they paid for their wedding.

Tellez said she was encouraged to see home listing prices in her neighborhood start to drop, but said market fluctuations had little bearing on her timing. She waited two years after getting engaged to marry her fiancé in February and hopes to buy a house by the end of the year.

“We don’t want to wait any longer,” she said. “I’m just trying to start my life. I want to be able to start a family and move on.

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