Divorce rates and Census Bureau statistics on couples living together notwithstanding, June is still the month for weddings.
And while there are a lot of traditional first-time-out June brides, wedding announcements are increasingly filled with last lines like, "Mr. Jones' previous marriage ended in divorce," or Mrs. Brown was attended by her daughter from a previous marriage."
Similarly, many couples have already established joint households, making those standard gifts of pots and pans a little silly.
In short, for all those folks who have been through it before, plus the many who are tying the knot after having lived together, the problem becomes: what to do for the "weathered" bride?
Queries to bridal registries, gift shops and a collection of second and "old" brides revealed some helpful, albeit less conventional gift ideas.
One of the classic ways family and friends have helped a bride get started in a new household is the shower -- usually a gathering of women invited to contribute gifts around a theme -- traditionally a kitchen, lingerie or perhaps linen shower. A new trend in "his-and-hers showers" has spawned a crop of more creative gift ideas for established couples.
A Washington couple in the process of restoring an upper Northwest townhouse was feted recently at a "Tools for Life" shower. Recognizing their need for some of the basic equipment most long-time homeowners accumulate, friends purchased everything from an electric sander and drill to a watering can -- all neatly presented in a brand new garbage can.
Another couple, great wine buffs, were treated to a "wine shower" which outfitted them with an impressive cellar appropriate to the life style they already had established.
One of the most unusual variations on the standard bridal shower was one for Smithsonian magazine production assistant Diane Bolz and her architect husband-to-be, Michael Finn. After living together for a decade, the two decided to get married last year. A friend offered to hold a lingerie shower for Diane, who graciously, although somewhat awkwardly, accepted.
"I guess I didn't sound that enthusiastic, because a few days later, this same friend called back and announced that she had decided to give us a co-ed lingerie shower."
The resultant gifts ranged from a sequined black lace unmentionable for him not to wear at the local Y, to a set of bikini briefs for her marked with each day of the week. (He sometimes has trouble remembering what day it is.) There were a few traditional necessities -- undershorts for him and slips for her, but there also were special items from Frederick's of Hollywood and some fanciful gifts like fishnet hose and an old wedding garterbelt.
Knowing that the necessities are often taken care of, many turn to hard cash as an appropriate -- although unimaginative -- gift. But such a present rarely goes unappreciated.
A twist on the theme was a recent shower arranged by The Flower Designer and New Dimensions for a couple who had been living together. The woman giving the shower sent out invitation with crisp dollar bills enclosed, asking each invitee to return the dollar bill, signed, as an indication that they were coming.
George Skelton of the Foxhall Square shop took the 100 or so bills and made them into a "money tree" centerpiece.
Sent to one couple's home when they returned from their honeymoon was a bottle of chilled Dom Perignon champagne tied with two white helium-filled balloons, two elegant champagne glasses, and a small nosegay, all on a black lacquer tray.
Says Skelton, "The most important thing is the presentation of a gift. It's nothing new to give a bridal couple a bottle of champagne, but the balloons, tray and nosegay make it memorable."
Many "old" brides find their favorite gifts are the one-of-a-kind or handmade: a piece of pottery, a quilt for wall or bed, a hand-wrought set of fireplace tools, an old, but elegant, family heirloom piece of silver.
For those who want a more risque gift, Georgetown's new erotic gift shop, The Pleasure Chest, offers gift certificates. A less blatant idea: silk or satin bedsheets. For couples who have everything, a gift of a flower arrangement each month.
Another idea for the couple who has everything: Personal services like a weekend of babysitting his and/or her kids, or an informal portrait of the couple presented by a camera buff.
Sales people in bridal departments report that it is the luxury items, the unusual rather than the practical, which seem to be most attractive to the "experienced couple.
"Even though we'd been living together for a long time and had all the basics," says Diane Bolz, "we missed a lot of the elegant things that many people who are married in the traditional way get as a matter of course. I think the things I treasure the most are those which are very personal, sometimes handmade by the giver, and those things which are so elegant that I would never have purchased them for myself."