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Correction to This Article
The article mixed up the opinions of Martha Ertman and Karen Lash, a married couple who discussed their 2008 engagement. Ertman was in favor of having a registry, and she, not Lash, said, "You get a ring with a diamond, and you register; that's how you know you're doing it." It was Lash, not Ertman, who said, "It seemed greedy."
wedding watch

Many are finding it hard to say 'I don't' to wedding gift registries

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By Ellen McCarthy
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, May 23, 2010

When Karen Lash got engaged to Martha Ertman in November 2008, she assumed certain things would follow: a ring, for instance, and a wedding registry.

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"You get a ring with a diamond, and you register; that's how you know you're doing it," Lash says.

Ertman was immediately onboard with the diamond part, but the registry?

"It seemed greedy," Ertman says. The District women, both lawyers, were in their mid-40s, raising a 6-year-old son, Oscar, and they had plenty of stuff between them. Plus, almost all of their guests would be traveling to their Massachusetts wedding, and to Ertman, "that was the gift they were giving."

Anyone who has recently been involved with a wedding -- or has been to one -- won't be surprised to hear that Ertman got some serious pushback on that notion.

Registries started in the 1920s, with a few couples quietly choosing patterns of china or silver. But in the past few decades, they've become no-holds-barred wish lists that seem, to many brides and grooms, not optional.

And certainly, it makes sense: Wedding and bridal shower guests are going to give gifts. They might as well get the couple something they need and want. And this saves everyone the trouble of thinking too hard about what to buy.

But that thought process, Jacobina Martin says, is exactly the problem.

"A gift is something that someone voluntarily does and chooses for you," says Martin, daughter of Judith Martin, a.k.a. Miss Manners, and co-author of this spring's "Miss Manners' Guide to a Surprisingly Dignified Wedding." "When you're just handing out a shopping list, you're saying, 'We don't care what you think we like.' "

The Martins' campaign against registries was not well received by brides, mothers of brides or wedding professionals during a recent book tour. "The industry hates us for this, because it takes the commerce out of it," Martin says.

Laura LoGerfo was turned off of registries after attending countless friends' weddings and seeing them ask for what seemed like "ridiculous items." One friend who never baked suddenly needed a cupcake spatula. Another confessed they intended to return all the gifts for cash.

So when LoGerfo, a 33-year-old statistician, got engaged to Vincent Pickett in August 2008, they were in agreement: no registry. "Then everyone kept telling us, 'You're going to get 40 green tea pots,' " she says. A registry, they were told, was imperative. Begrudgingly, they made a trip to Crate and Barrel. Most couples seemed to be enjoying shooting bar codes with a scanning gun, but to LoGerfo, it felt "kind of dirty."


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