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.
Unexpected gifts abound at Moss, another New York City store that has attracted design devotees from around the world. Popular registry items this summer included his-and-her Danish bicycles ($2,990), signed and numbered Philippe Starck gun-shaped lamps ($1,800), limited-edition Fish Designs Amazonia resin vases ($3,100), and Italian wine available by the bottle or the case through a partnership with wine merchant Vino. "One couple registered for two place settings of the Rosenthal "Magic Flute" pattern, with real 24-karat gold," remembers Nicole Breedlove, the registry specialist at Moss. At $1,500 per five-piece place setting, they didn't feel comfortable asking for 12, but didn't want to forgo it altogether, either. "I tell couples it can be for your romantic dinners or Sunday brunch. It's just for the two of you. It's intimate."
"This was an opportunity to get really special, specific items from one of my favorite stores," says Lisa Tarlow Thurnauer of Los Angeles, who registered at Moss for her summer wedding to her husband, Thomas. "I think the people buying the gifts felt more special, like they were choosing things that we loved as opposed to just napkins or whatever. I have this very small collection of owl figurines, and there was a Venini glass owl and a ceramic one by Jonathan Adler that I was able to register for and add to my collection."
For Norine Dworkin-McDaniel of Orlando and her husband, Stewart, their shared love of art glass was front of mind when they registered at Bloomingdale's in Las Vegas, where they lived at the time of their December 2004 wedding. "I wanted Frette linens and Stewart wanted a $2,000 espresso maker," admits Norine, "but we also agreed on registering for a lot of art glass and crystal." They requested several Kosta Boda glass vases and bowls, and a full set of Orrefors barware, including goblets, tumblers, martini glasses, double old-fashioneds, brandy snifters, decanters, and more. "Anybody looking at our registry could tell we were setting up for major, quality entertaining," she says.
Lindsey and Ben Gladstone created a registry at Barneys in Chicago that was influenced by the fact that they don't entertain formally. "We might have some friends over for wine or a barbecue," says Lindsey. "So we just wanted fun, versatile pieces." Jonathan Adler vases, a rosewood salad bowl and Pols Potten candlesticks did the trick. "We said, 'If we don't get them, we don't get them. But if we do, how cool,' " she says.