Saturday, March 29, 2003

Wedding gifts go way beyond the basics

Couples are registering for everything from pedicure and spa machines to lawn mowers and chain saws

By Michele Day
Enquirer contributor

[photo] Melissa Fox (left) of Sterling Cut Glass in Kenwood with bride-to-be Erica Vidmer.
(Craig Ruttle photo)
| ZOOM |
Friends and family of Erica Vidmer and Jeff Fritsche will find the usual assortment of dinnerware, towels and bedding on the Newport couple's five wedding gift registries.

But those who want to give the bride and groom something a little different for their May wedding should check out their registry list at Sears. It includes a 35-millimeter camera for taking pictures on the honeymoon, a compact stereo system for home entertaining and a weight-lifting bench - for keeping Fritsche in shape after the ceremony.

"We're not necessarily expecting to get that stuff," Vidmer says, laughing. "But they were some things we wanted, so we thought, `What the heck, might as well try.'"

Kelly Brink and Kelly Morse of Union didn't include traditional wedding gifts such as toasters and coffee makers on their gift registry at Target.

"We already have those things," says Brink, the 35-year-old bride. "Those are daily-use items and things you purchase on your own."

But guests for the couple's July 5 wedding take note: Brink sure would like to soak her feet in the pedicure and spa machine on her list; and the copper garden planters would fit nicely along the front walk of the couple's home.

Like most brides- and grooms-to-be, Greater Cincinnati couples are looking outside the kitchen and beyond the bath as they register for wedding gifts.

"What people register for depends on their lifestyle," says Linda Stallings, president of Aunt Linda's Weddings and Events in Madeira.

"We're seeing a dramatic increase in the breadth of products they're registering for," says Julie Raimondi, executive editor of The Knot, a Web site for wedding planning. "It's not just fine china; it's casual china, too. People always registered for small appliances, but now they're registering for scales and electric toothbrushes, pretty much anything and everything.

"... There seems to be an increase in personal types of things, like stereos, barbecue grills and more home-improvement type things, like drills. Rather than people saying, `We're getting married and we have to register for a mixer,' people are saying, `We don't need a mixer, but we really do need a new lawn mower."

One factor driving the trend, Raimondi says, is that businesses that stock all sorts of home and lifestyle products are promoting wedding gift registry services.

Home Depot and Lowe's encourage brides and grooms to register for chain saws, tool boxes and garden hoses. Discounters, such as Target and Wal-Mart, push camping gear, croquet sets and even bathroom plungers. Specialty stores from Pier 1 Imports to Pottery Barn and Linens 'n Things offer new options in home decor and accessories. Even traditional department stores, including Lazarus and Dillard's, promote nontraditional items - lamps, rugs and furniture - as wedding gift options.

Hard cash ranks as the clear favorite wedding gift, according to more than 6,000 couples surveyed in a January poll by Here's the breakdown of gift type preferences
• Money - 49 percent
• Kitchen and cooking equipment - 18 percent
• Bed and bath - 9 percent
• China - 8 percent
• Home decor - 7 percent
• Honeymoon trips - 5 percent
• Home electronics - 2.6 percent
• Sporting and camping gear - 1.2 percent
• Table linens - 0.2 percent
Stallings began advising couples about wedding gift registries 20 years ago. At the time, the advice focused on choosing china patterns. Today she recommends everything from Tupperware parties that double as bridal showers to gift funds that can help couples pay for a down payment on a house.

One bride who planned to buy a new house set up an extensive registry at a hardware store. She listed colors for paints, styles for shelves and custom blinds, even plants for landscaping.

"Why not?" Stallings says. "I think it's a great idea. Then after you're married, you have a house-painting party and invite all your friends over to paint."

Wedding experts say lifestyle changes contribute to the new trends in wedding gifts.

Couples are waiting longer to get married, says Chris Ohmer, spokesman for the Great Indoors in Springdale. More mature brides and grooms who've already set up households often register for more decorative items, from lamps to picture frames, Ohmer says.

Vidmer, 25, has purchased six settings of everyday dinnerware. She's registered for an additional six at Williams-Sonoma. She's also registered for entertainment pieces, such as monogrammed bar glasses, an ice bucket, a pewter tray and a salad bowl set, at Sterling Cut Glass in Kenwood.

"We already had a lot of the basics," she says. "Now we're registering for some nicer things, and things we don't have. We're sort of adding to our collection."

The expanding role of men in wedding planning also is changing gift lists, says Margaret Lahrmann, wedding registry director for Dillard's Midwest Division.

"We're seeing more brides and grooms registering together as opposed to brides with their mothers," Lahrmann says.

Men's interests lead to requests for patio furniture, electronic devices and specialized cooking equipment, but wedding experts find few men want to see the process through to the point of picking out the flatware pattern and table linens.

"Usually (with) men, their patience is about an hour," says Melissa Fox, a buyer for Sterling Cut Glass. "The brides will come in and do the barware with the men, and then the bride will come back and do the other things by herself."

The movement toward less formal entertaining also attracts interest in gifts from stores such as Pier 1 and the Great Indoors.

"We don't see people coming in asking for fine china or fine crystal," Ohmer says. "People want things they can enjoy and not something they have to put back on a shelf and just worry about using for special occasions. They want something they can use every day."

Brink and Morse are prime examples. "Our lifestyle is such that whenever we have free time we're riding motorcycles or skydiving," Brink says. "Formal entertaining is not a part of our lives. Neither of us has to entertain for business, and most of our friends are more casual. We love to get together for a barbecue. In that respect, I love paper plates. You can just throw them away."

Regardless of their tastes and styles, many couples say they enjoy the process of picking out their fantasy wedding gifts - especially when the options seem endless.

"It's sort of like a wish list at Christmas thing," Brink says. "Obviously, you aren't going to get everything you asked for, but you're bound to get a few things.

"I'll have to check if Harley has a registry of some sort. I'd sure like some new bike gear."

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