Present Tense

Continued (page 2 of 4)

Even if guests don't actually purchase the offbeat items for the bride and groom, posting them on a registry has a secondary result: expressing the couple's style, interests and plans for starting a life together. "My fiancé and I bought a townhouse, and he's all about finishing the basement," says Heather Dougherty, of West Deptford, NJ. He wanted their registry to reflect that. "I was like, 'Drywall? Are you kidding me?' Here I was talking about going to Crate and Barrel to register, and he was urging, 'We need this stuff more than anything else.' In the end, I saw his point; it's not like I'm 23 and don't yet have a blender. So we registered at Home Depot. Some people were surprised and curious when we told them, but most guests our age are used to odd registry choices."

The pressure to meet societal expectations when it comes to gift-getting can be too weighty for some brides to ignore. Page Horton, of Charleston, SC, already owned china and crystal that was handed down from a relative, but when she created her registry, she still consulted with peers about what was okay to ask for and what was off-limits. "Friends of mine said it would be cheesy to register for a honeymoon," she says. "I'm of the opinion that it's no different to ask for a honeymoon than it is to ask someone to pay for my bath towels, but I also trust my friends' opinions." In the end, Page skipped the honeymoon registry.

How did we reach the point of debating tennis rackets versus toasters? "People have learned to express themselves creatively as consumers. Put that together with the trend of individualizing weddings, and this has translated to selecting any kind of gifts you want," says Sharon Zukin, Ph.D., a professor of sociology at City University of New York and author of Point of Purchase: How Shopping Changed American Culture. While the splashier items may be viewed with interest or even amusement by guests, some people will inevitably find them off-putting. "Psychologists have shown that consumers are confused by too much choice," Dr. Zukin says. "It's possible that people used to dishes or glassware on registries become anxious when faced with items they're not familiar with as wedding gifts, or don't understand."

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