Present Tense

Continued (page 4 of 4)

Regardless, some people question using any registries. According to one of the foremost etiquette experts in the world, Letitia Baldrige, Jackie Kennedy's former social secretary and Washington, DC-based author of Taste: Acquiring What Money Can't Buy, this gift-giving evolution is not necessarily a good thing: "People used to open beautifully wrapped presents, and they were so excited to see what was inside," she says. "Now, everyone knows exactly how much everyone has spent, and what the gift is going to be. For someone like me, who's lived through years of traditional weddings, it really stings to see all of this commercialism—I think it's crass and distasteful."

Julie Klam, of NYC, says she selected unusual items-even some that could be viewed as trivial, or "throwaways" —as a reaction to what she perceives to be registry gluttony. She used the gift list for her wedding to send a message. "I always feel offended when I see a big-ticket item like a $400 vacuum cleaner on a registry," she explains. "So my husband and I chose things like hot fudge from Williams-Sonoma. I think people appreciated what we were trying to say, which was, 'We want you to share this day with us because we love you—not because we want the booty.'"

And then there are couples who ask, straight out, for cold, hard cash. "I've gotten at least three wedding invitations that read, 'Monetary Gifts Preferred,'" says Althea Parker, of NYC. "At first I found it a bit pushy. But then I thought, well, if that's what they want, I'd rather do this and save the time that I would have spent going shopping." Althea wrote a check to the bride and groom on all three occasions.

Those couples were wrong, insists Anna Post, great-great-granddaughter of etiquette doyenne Emily Post and author of Emily Post's Wedding Parties. Asking for money—or anything else—in a wedding invitation is strictly off-limits, she says: "There should be no mention of gifts on a wedding invitation. And if you are going to ask for money on a wedding Web site or blog, I would word it, 'Any gift would be terrific, but what Tom and I would love most is help with a down payment on a house.' Instead of using the word money, I'd go with a gentle euphemism, such as help, or a donation."

Despite the confusion that's sometimes caused by the wide-ranging registry options, Dr. Zukin is certain that people will continue to become more used to them in years to come. "I can only see more individualization of the wedding," she says. "As the marketplace gets even wider, and the trend of self-expression grows, expectations will change. I can even imagine a future with individual registries—items just for the bride or just for the groom. How would that be received?"

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