The wedding registry has gone way outside any box that would hold traditional presents like candlesticks and Crock-Pots. These days, couples are creating wedding registries for home down payments, honeymoons, charities and businesses.
"I think the trend is very fitting to where we are as a society," says Anna Post, the great-great-granddaughter of Emily Post, and an author and spokeswoman for the Emily Post Institute in Burlington, Vt.
Two developments -- couples living together before marriage and/or couples waiting longer to tie the knot -- mean that they may already own pots and pans, bedding, china and other traditional wedding gifts. "The last thing they need is more things for the household," she says.
The recession also has made some couples feel cash-strapped. With their wedding registry, they want money as a gift.
"I think people are looking for any way that they can save money but also to raise money, and that's the area that starts to get a little troubling," says Thomas Farley, a New York-based manners expert for WhatMannersMost.com. "A wedding should not be looked at as a fundraising event."
Below are four alternative wedding registries with suggestions on how to keep them from offending guests.
The down-payment registryContributions toward a home purchase are being made via wedding registry accounts that some banks offer or separate savings accounts set up by the couple.
Constance Hoffman, owner of Los Angeles-based Social & Business Graces, says this is an appropriate wedding registry in today's society because guests contribute to something that is a priority for the couple.
"You have to do it in the correct manner. It cannot be publicized in your announcement. Just like somebody would find out you're registered at a Macy's or a Nordstrom, it's normally by word of mouth," she says.
If somebody asks you what you want as a wedding gift, Hoffman says the most polite and gracious way to respond is: "Whatever you choose, I'm sure would be wonderful. However, we are collecting a down payment for our first home. That's at the top of our wish list.'"
The charity registryThis request is common among couples who do not desire gifts but want to give guests an opportunity to recognize their special day.
When Susan Fitter Sloane, an etiquette expert and owner of Global Manners, in Middleburg, Va., recently remarried, she asked friends and family to honor the nuptials by contributing to three conservation-focused charities.
Farley warns that while the charity registry idea is very high-minded, it can be problematic.
"You may be choosing charities that are near and dear to you, but for someone else, it can be against their principles," he says.
You don't want to violate etiquette rules by mentioning the charitable organizations when sending out the invitations. Fitter Sloane says it's best to request donations on your own tasteful wedding website. Or you can create a wedding registry for charity through websites such as IDoFoundation.org that focus on charitable contributions.
The honeymoon registryResorts and hotels join sites such as TheHoneymoon.com that have wedding registries where guests can contribute to romantic dinners, day trips and spa services.