D.C.-based wedding planner Shelby Tuck-Horton said couples using these Web sites are being honest with their guests about what they actually want and need. She has seen a rise in the use of these registries among couples who are a little older and have already set up their homes, eliminating the need for most traditional registry staples.
Although he knew little beyond the world of coffee makers and monogrammed towels, Kevin Russell, 48, enjoyed his first stab at using an alternative gift registry. He and his wife were guests at a wedding where the couple set up a honeymoon registry to fund a trip to Greece.
He said it was a little surprising at first to see the alternative registry, but then “you look at it and say, ‘This looks fun.’ ” Russell wound up gifting the couple one night in a hotel and an archeological tour.
“The reality, at least for me, is that you could put a check in an envelope as your present, but at the time this was a fun gift,” Russell said.
But the etiquette of asking for what you really want does trip up some couples. Ryan Gaffney, 27, and his wife Carrie, 27, talked about whether to go the traditional route or use an alternative registry when planning their May 2012 wedding.
“We certainly considered the idea that couching what ultimately amounts to ‘give us cash’ more as a ‘pay for snorkeling on our honeymoon’ may help it go down easier for people who might otherwise be on the fence,” Gaffney said, although he and his wife ultimately decided against an alternative registry.
Count Karen Avila, 22, as a wedding guest who is on the fence.
“I’d much rather buy a traditional wedding gift as opposed to making a donation online because I find it to be more personal,” said Avila, who will have attended three weddings this season by August. “A big part of wedding gifts is letting the bride and groom know how special they are to you.” And simply punching in a credit card number — even if it’s to fund that amazing-sounding snorkeling trip — can feel too routine.
“Making a donation online takes the excitement out of the process and feels more like paying a bill,” she said.
Wedding planner Tuck-Horton understands some of these reservations but believes that wedding etiquette is evolving and that alternative registries are a logical extension of more traditional wedding gift-giving habits.
“It’s not like asking for cash. When couples use these Web sites, they are still giving their guests options, like how much to spend and what to buy, just like with a traditional registry,” she said.
Some of the sites couples are turning to include Hatchmyhouse.com, which was launched in 2008 and has let roughly 1,000 people “build” their virtual dream home so family and friends can help them buy it, piece by piece. Honeyfund.com, which was created in 2006, has helped more than 216,000 couples to crowd-fund their honeymoons. There are more specific sites, too, such as one for couples looking to honeymoon at Disney, where people can register for hotel accommodations, moonlit cruises and even theme park tickets.
But a honeymoon fund only gets you where you need to go on one trip. How about something more practical, for everyday travel?
In January, Dodge launched its Dodge Dart Registry to help people register for a new Dart. More than 6,000 people have used the service since then, including couples who are using the site to custom-design the car they’d like as a wedding gift. Since new wheels are well out of standard guests’ budget, the registry itemizes the car parts, from a 120-amp alternator to the leather-wrapped steering wheel.
It may not sound romantic or traditional, as wedding gifts go, but newlyweds William and Amanda from Pineville, La., give practical reasons for wanting a new car.
“We cannot think of anything else that would help us more than a good, reliable, fuel efficient vehicle,” William posted on their Dodge Dart registry profile, explaining that the pair plans to start a family soon.
And it’s hard to argue that a panini press will come in handy as often as a four-door.