Startup Promising Cash For Weddings Pivots To Crowdfunding Platform, Infuriates Couples

A lower-budget wedding. (Molly)

A lower-budget wedding. (Molly)

The news went out around December: a startup in Seattle would give engaged couples loans for their weddings, and some couples receive $10,000 toward their wedding expenses with no obligation to pay it back… for as long as the couple stays together. Then it abruptly changed the entire business model when it launched.

The free wedding thing was the concept for a startup, SwanLuv, which began as a company that would lend couples money, up to $10,000, for their weddings. The catch: they wouldn’t have to pay any of the money back unless they divorced, and couples that divorced would pay the money back with interest.

Here are screen grabs of the site’s original sales pitch, posted back in December. Now, the company’s site is down.

swanluv1
swanluv2

Mathematically, this makes no sense, unless the couples who don’t get married are paying back at least double what they received for the wedding “loan.” In an interview when the startup first debuted, the founder said that the math did indeed add up, and that the idea was to create a “casino for marriages.”

He apparently didn’t anticipate how many people believe in true love and free cash, and claims to have received requests to fund at least 200,000 weddings.

On the launch day, Valentine’s Day, the company announced that it would pivot, as they say in startup-land. Instead of giving loans, it would become a crowdfunding platform specifically for weddings, where couples could solicit their friends and relatives to pay instead. The catch remained the same: if they divorced, the money would all be returned… to the people who originally donated.

The company tried to explain itself on its Facebook page:

The initial business plan was to provide a lending model, “Receive funds up to $10,000 towards your dream wedding for FREE (paid by members that don’t stay married).”

Due to overwhelming demand (nearly two billion dollars at $10,000 per couple) and unanticipated legal regulations/restrictions in the lending space, rather than pull out we came up with a tool we believe still helps couples with their wedding financing.

“If so many other couples as myself had the family and friends to help with our weddings,” one bride wrote to Seattle tech news site GeekWire, “we would have already gone this route, not wait months on end for help from what seemed like a dream come true.”

Now, the couples whose hopes were raised by this program are stuck finding another way to pay for their weddings or borrow the money.

Why hundreds of couples are furious at this startup [CNN]
Wedding financing startup SwanLuv angers couples with surprise switch to crowdfunding platform [GeekWire]
A website offered to pay for weddings. Then it came time to write the check. [WonkBlog]