Gift rap

Wedding registries that go beyond china and blenders

It wasn’t so long ago that brides and grooms went straight from their parents’ houses to their shared house. Having never lived together, the young couple registered at a nearby department store for all the things they didn’t have—china, silverware, towels, etc.

Now, not only are people getting married later in life than ever before, but 65 percent live together before getting married, according to Bride’s Magazine, and thus are likely to own that stuff already.

“I see two main trends in bridal registries,” says Ann-Marie Fenner, owner of Infinite Moments, a local event planning company. “I see a lot more big-ticket, nontraditional items, like vacations, as well as a lot more practical gifts, like handmade items or charity donations… Weddings have become a reflection of couples, and they want their registries to match.”

Honeymoons: More and more travel agencies are offering registries so guests can contribute financially to the couple’s honeymoon. Plus, those guests who prefer to give wrapped gifts can do so confidently, by giving something that coincides with the vacation theme—say, a digital camera or luggage.

The great outdoors: If outdoor recreation is your thing, you might register at stores like Cabela’s or Orvis for gear, or for even bigger items like an RV or horse trailer. Bank accounts work for these things, too.

Create your castle: “Many couples are upgrading their current homes or buying new places together,” says Fenner. “Ethan Allen has seen a huge rise in registries for furniture in recent years.” Kitchen and bath remodels and backyard renovations top the list of home improvements, but so do practical items like washer/dryers. If this sounds like you, consider registering at The Home Depot, Lowe’s or Walmart. Or you might open a bank account and ask guests to contribute toward remodels or even new home down payments.

Get a theme: Do you and your betrothed like to cook? Are you art enthusiasts or sports nuts? Consider registering based on theme. For instance, you could register only for kitchenware. Even if guests have trouble shopping on your registry (or choose not to, as some will inevitably do), they can generally find—or make—something that fits your theme.

From the heart: The current economic crisis and DIY movement has many couples going low-key or asking for handmade gifts, like photo albums, artwork or handmade quilts. “I’ve also seen potluck weddings, where invitations call for guests to RSVP with what dishes they’ll bring, and then guests provide both the food and the recipes, so the couple gets a collection of special family recipes,” says Fenner. “That way, guests are really sharing a piece of their lives.”

Mix and match: Try registering for a little of this, a little of that on one of the many websites that let you pull items from a large number of vendors, like or Local software architect Eric Jennings recently launched, which lets registrants post links or photos for desired items. Guests can either reserve or buy them. Couples might include links to favorite local restaurants, spas or boutiques to which guests can buy gift certificates, or photos of destinations, services or handmade items that guests may want to contribute toward. Because the site isn’t store- or vendor-based, the sky’s the limit, and independent, local businesses stand a chance of being included.

Be generous: Charity registries are also increasingly common among couples who have all they need. Websites like or allow couples to register for one or several charities.

“Gift-giving is a touchy subject for some people,” says Fenner. “So ultimately, the goal is to strike a balance. Combine big-ticket and practical items on your registry, so that everyone can contribute something.”