The Ultimate Registry

From cutlery to clothing, gadgets to gourmet food, the best registries reflect a couple's style

Alli Goldstein, of San Francisco, had been with her husband, Kevin, for six years before their wedding last summer. By the time they married, their tastes had become rather sophisticated, so the couple decided to shirk tradition and request gifts that weren't standard fare. "We had been to so many weddings and had bought the same gifts over and over," says Goldstein, who chose to register at Barneys New York. "We really appreciated that their inventory was always changing. They'd have things that not everyone else has." The couple's choices included hand-painted Sherry Olsen dishes and an R & Y Augousti horn picture frame, along with some nontraditional items. "We also registered for Barneys gift cards and went on a shopping spree," Goldstein adds. "Kevin got two pairs of shoes, and I went nuts at the Kiehl's counter."

Luckily for brides and grooms, times have changed since the days when sturdy home essentials were de rigueur registry choices. Today, wedding-gift possibilities are as diverse as couples themselves: To-be-weds looking for an instant heirloom can request a Jay Strongwater enameled menorah from Gearys' iconic Beverly Hills store, while adventurous types can opt for matching kayaks from REI. With the average age at which people marry steadily rising, many couples are well-established, sometimes even already living together, when they register. Their options? Either upgrade their home furnishings by treating themselves to items like luxurious linens, handblown stemware, and professional-grade cutlery, or splurge on items more fantastic than practical: plasma-screen TVs, Vespa scooters, and first-edition books.

At Barneys in Chicago, Tiffany White, a bridal-registry associate, claims that many couples request items from departments other than the home decor in Chelsea Passage. Many grooms request a Dolce & Gabbana suit or a Rod Keenan hat, while Manolo Blahniks are a favorite among brides. Their wishes are usually granted. "Most Barneys brides will get everything off their registry," White says. "I had an order today for eight water goblets by Saint Louis, which is owned by Hermès. They go for $135 apiece, so that was over $1,500 spent by one guest." Special items tend to get special attention, and choices such as leather desk accessories, Philippe Starck's brightly colored "O" chair (shaped like a martini glass), and iPod speakers are first picks on many registries.

"I wanted objects that spark conversation," says Aya Ikeda of New York City. "Things that, when someone comes to our house for dinner, make them say, 'That's interesting,' not, 'Oh, I've seen that before.' " Ikeda and her husband, Ali Mostafavee, found just the eye-catching pieces they were looking for at The Conran Shop for their wedding last fall in East Hampton, NY. The couple chose Wedgwood's Jasper china, a bright-red Icon pendant lamp, and a blue FrancisFrancis! X1 espresso machine ($649, Ali's favorite toy), and they're hoping to get a Noguchi coffee table ($1,145) by redeeming their gift certificates.

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