Gift Registries – What Do You Really Need?

A long time ago engaged couples lived with their parents until they were married. After they were married, they needed things to set up house, like toasters and vacuum cleaners and dishes. Today’s engaged couples more than likely have lived on their own or with their fiance for a long enough period of time that they don’t have the same needs. In addition, since so many  couples have lived together or even solo for some time, they are also paying for their own wedding which means the gift registry situation becomes even more complicated.

Let’s face it – whether is is to defray the wedding expenses, pay for the honeymoon  or  a down payment on their first  home; most newlyweds could really use some cash. Unfortunately asking guests for cash is kind of tacky so, what do you do when you are faced with this dilemma?  If you would really rather receive money there are a couple of solutions to getting what you really need instead of something you might have to exchange.

Home Loan –  Believe it or not – FHA has a ‘gift’ registry that you can use  to apply to  downpayments on your first home. Friends and family can ‘gift’ as much or as little as they like or are able and you are notified every time someone makes a donation. It serves a dual purpose since it will allow otherwise cash-strapped individuals to purchase a home during the housing slump, thereby saving homes from foreclosure and (slowly) improving the housing market. This is an interest bearing account so don’t be surprised if you see your balance climbing higher every time you check. Genius!

Cash Registry– There are dozens of registry sites dedicated to helping you get the money you need as well as making sure your money is safe and available when you need it. PayPal has even jumped on the bandwagon and offers a secure method of accepting cash gifts. Again, you are notified of each and every gift as it arrives which makes it easier to track ….and send thank you notes. Check for one that is reputable, check their references and FDIC requirements, make sure there are no loopholes or fees and read before you sign anything. The account may be interest bearing but might come with a debit card you can use for purchases that charge a transaction fee.

Honeymoon– Many travel agencies offer honeymooon registries where the guests’ donations are used to whittle down the honeymoon cost. This could turn a ho-hum honeymoon into a dream vacation….never underestimate the generosity of your loved ones.

If all else fails – ask for money. When someone asks you what you need, tell them you have everything you need but are saving for _______ (whatever). Don’t be surprised if some people don’t want to give money. In some cultures, it is taboo to give or receive cash as a wedding gift, in others it is preferred.  Also there is no minimum or ‘per plate’ standard. The gift you give or receive should be based on the closeness of your relationship and what your guest can afford.If you are expecting  cash gifts, remember to have a place to keep the envelopes safe.  Clever retailers everywhere sell decorative boxes and beautiful alternatives to a plain box sitting on the gift table. Consider a Victorian Birdcage!

Sweet Charity– Last but not least, if you have every household item you could ever need or want and money is not a problem for either of you, congratulations. In this case, you may want donations to be made to charity on your behalf.  As we all know, there are millions of needy people throughout the world and if giving to others is in your heart, there are  many charities which allow you to do this. Make sure they are listed with the IRS as a charitable organization and have Form 990 documentation readily available. Select a charity or two that is close to your heart or that you strongly believe in and request conrtibutions to be made to them in lieu of gifts.

As always, it is never appropriate to ask for gifts anywhere in the wedding invitation. Use personal correspondences, website and word of mouth to let people know where you are registered. Although many companies provide inserts for invitations, these are used only for shower invitations and never for the actual wedding invitation or save-the-date cards.

-Penny Frulla for Bridal Expo Chicago

Purses, pens and pillows – Don’t sweat the small stuff

When your wedding day draws near, there will be about a dozen little things to do that seem insignificant but, can actually make a big difference in the overall day. Its detail time, folks and if you want to to be creative, it’s time to put on your thinking cap and think outside the box!

Bridal Purses used  to be as simple as little satin drawstring  satchels made but now brides are opting for sparkling, jewel encrusted clutches. Invest a little more money and you will have a glittery reminder of your wedding day that you can carry to every black tie function for years to come. No need to carry a ton of stuff in your purse, just  a few makeup essentials for touch ups as the evening wears on. you will not want to carry it down the aisle so have someone like the maid of honor or your mother hold onto the purse during the ceremony or reception.

Guest Books are still very popular but some couples are mixing it up by  having guests sign the over-sized mat on their engagement photo. The photo is then framed and unlike the traditional guest book can hang prominently in their home for years to come, remembering the well wishes they received and reminding them of your friendship. 

Don’t forget the pen! Whether you like l ostrich feather plume pens or sleek sterling stylographs, you can find one that resembles your wedding decor. There are hundreds of styles and colors, just make sure the pen writes easily and is not bulky or hard to use. Beware of fountain pens since most people aren’t used to writing with them any more, they can leak and be very tricky to maneuver.

Ring Bearer Pillow –If you have children in your wedding and you have opted for a ring bearer, you will want to find a pillow that is fool-proof. The image of a young boy in an Eton Suit comes to mind with the rings balanced squarely in the center. In case your ring bearer is not able to perform this task with perfect balance, or gets easily distracted, I would suggest having a ring pillow with ribbons attached so that you can tie the rings  in order to hold them in place. Tie the ribbons securely but so they are easily untied. Easy enough, right?  The traditional ring pillow is white or ivory – the same color as the dress. It can be adorned with lace or whatever fabrics you desire. New versions of the ring  pillow include the colors of the wedding. To me they just look like sofa pillows. Sometimes it is best to stick with tradition.

Pillow alternatives have been popping up all over the place. How about a  satin or silver box with the rings in it for safekeeping? There are also very wedding  bowls with a loop to tie the rings in place, usually etched with the couple’s name and wedding date. Hollowed out books, satin halters for dogs to carry the rings, mini-suitcases and just about everything else under the sun. If the pillow bothers you , there are alternatives. The pillow seems adorable enough to me.

Card Holder – Lets face it, in lieu of gifts it is perfectly acceptable in many cultures to give an ‘envelope’ as a wedding gift. In some cultures it is merely expected. In previous years, the only thing available was a large white satin box with an opening large enough to slip a card into…. even one that was stuffed with cash. Now, there are more options than there are colors in the rainbow!  Custom white wire boxes, wedding suitcases, wedding birdcages, boxes that are shaped to look like a wedding cake and the list goes on. Most of the boxes are fabric covered and some are adorned with ribbons either in white or colors matching the wedding.

Whether you are having twenty or two hundred guests, these little things can make a huge difference in the impact of your day. They can also  add up quickly so make sure you have room in your budget to get creative at the last minute. 

-Penny Frulla for Bridal Expo Chicago