- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 10, 2007

The tight corset of wedding registries limiting couples to elegant tableware has loosened to include the whole house, the back yard and even the honeymoon.

Today’s engaged couples are registering less often for the china, silver and crystal of their mothers’ generation, says Bonnie Schwartz, owner of Bonnie Schwartz & Co., a wedding consultant and event planner in Bethesda.

“Rather, they’re registering for the Crate & Barrel, fun type of things,” Ms. Schwartz says. “They just want fun things that can be mixed and matched. They’re into cooking and entertaining, and they’re registering for good cookware and kitchen appliances.”

In the past few decades, couples have become more casual and informal in the gifts they hope guests will purchase for their weddings and bridal showers.

Some couples continue to register for more traditional items, such as dinnerware, flatware, cookware and linens. More often, they register for a wish list catering to their particular interests, such as sports equipment; camping gear; outdoor furniture and grills; furniture for their home; power tools; bathroom spa accessories; home office supplies; organizers; special-interest classes in such subjects as gourmet cooking or pottery; and additions to their movie, music or book collections.

They are asking for monetary gifts and signing on to financial registries for house down payments or moving costs, honeymoon registry services for honeymoon donations, and charity Web sites for family and friends to donate to their favorite charities.

“Most of our couples are still doing the mix, still wanting the nice china, but they also want to register at Home Depot and REI for camping equipment,” says Carol Marino, a wedding planner and designer who owns A Perfect Wedding in Fairfax. “A lot of brides still want the china, crystal and flatware, and some of the guys want something different.”

Couples generate their registries based on their wants, needs and tastes.

“It’s all a personal choice what registrants choose. It depends on if they’re starting out, have leftovers from college or are joining two homes,” says Chrissy Yonaites, project leader for store operations at Crate & Barrel, a retail company headquartered in Northbrook, Ill., that sells housewares and furniture.

Couples are marrying later and marrying a second and third time. The average age for first marriages is 27 for women and 29 for men, according to the Conde Nast Bridal Group, publishers of Brides, Modern Bride and Elegant Bride.

Older couples likely live on their own first or live together and already own most or all essential household items. When it comes to registering, they may want to add a few things, replace some old items or update what they already have.

“They really don’t need everything like the first time around and can be more selective,” says Ann Nola, director of the Association of Certified Professional Wedding Consultants, a national organization based in San Jose, Calif., that serves as a registered training and certification program for wedding consultants.

Couples are trending toward registering at general-merchandise retailers, such as Target, Linens ‘n Things and Bed, Bath and Beyond as opposed to high-end department stores that sell the traditional china and silver, Ms. Nola says.

“Brides today don’t want to be polishing silverware and want to put things in the dishwasher,” Ms. Nola says. “It’s a different lifestyle we have now. The way the world is now is fast and furious. Nobody has time to polish silverware.”

In addition, registering with general retailers enables couples to find more of a selection in one location, Ms. Nola says.

“They can find everything there, and it’s affordable,” she says.

Couples should not limit their registries to the here and now, however, Ms. Yonaites says. For example, they may want to entertain after they are married and, if so, will need glassware, tableware and linens to serve large groups, she says.

“We understand that for registrants it’s a big job to figure out what they want,” she says.

Couples who decide they want to donate instead of receiving gifts can register on charitable-giving Web sites such as JustGive and the I Do Foundation.

“It’s definitely still considered a new movement, but it’s growing every year,” says Andrea Lloyd, director of operations for JustGive, A Smarter Way to Give, a database in San Francisco, Calif., of more than 1 million local, regional and national charities.

Couples can register for charity, giving all or part of their registry, or choose merchants that give a percentage of their profits to charity, Ms. Lloyd says.

“It’s showing their community that charitable giving is an important part of their lives … as well as inspiring others to bring charitable giving into their lives,” she says.

Couples registering at JustGive say they want to avoid the pressure of materialism from the billion-dollar industry of weddings and want to focus on what is important to them, Ms. Lloyd says.

“I see that a lot, couples being overwhelmed by all the traditional things that aren’t necessarily all that important,” Ms. Lloyd says.

Five hundred couples have registered at JustGive in the past year and brought in a half-million dollars to be given to charity. Since the start of the Charity Wedding Registry in 2003, $1 million has been donated.

“It’s a time where people are traditionally giving rather expensive gifts. What better way to redirect that generosity to those who really need it,” Ms. Lloyd says.

Guests not comfortable with charitable giving, however, can choose something else to give to the couple, says Anna Post, marketing coordinator of Emily Post Institute Inc. in Burlington, Vt., and author of the upcoming etiquette book “Emily Post Wedding Parties,” scheduled for publication in the fall.

“The gift at the end of the day is the choice of the giver,” says Ms. Post, a great-great granddaughter of Emily Post.

Couples remain within decorum if they register for charitable and financial donations and gifts catered to their special interests, Ms. Post says. In particular, if they register for financial registries, they are letting their guests know what they plan to purchase with any of their monetary gifts, she says.

“People are more comfortable that the money is going toward something tangible that the couple will enjoy,” Ms. Post says.

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