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NEW YORK (MainStreet) —You can’t put a chihuahua on a Crate & Barrel wedding gift registry, nor can you put lunch at the Eifel Tower on a Pottery Barn one. One of the long-held traditions of wedding preparation has been the gift registry – picking out items like china and cookware for your future household. The wedding registry gift market for 2011 reached $10 billion, according to XO Group Inc., with 1.5 million U.S. couples registering at an average of three stores. However, for reasons both personal and financial, some couples are now turning to one of the many non-traditional registry options available today.

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Alternative wedding registries such as and use an entirely new model and let couples register for items and experiences that reflect exactly who they are and where they are at in their life. On these sites, couples can register for almost anything, be it honeymoon excursions, museum tickets, mortgage down payment funds, rescue pets or home restoration – nothing is out of reach. Once they register for something, the couple allocates a price for it - there’s even an option to allow more than one person to contribute to a large gift. For example, the couple may allow 10 people to contribute $100 each toward the honeymoon plane tickets. Every time a guest “purchases” a gift, the money goes into an account for that couple, allowing the two lovebirds to purchase the item themselves directly.

Dana Ostomel, CEO of, says nowadays many couples don’t want to register – but they don’t want to ask for cash gifts either. Sites like offer a middle ground. “A lot of people don’t want to go to the traditional route, but they’re told they need to give guests guidance on the gifting aspect,” says Ostomel. “While I think most people would prefer monetary gifts, they are just too polite to ask. And most people don’t want to give money because it feels cold and transactional. Sites like ours offer a happy medium, because guests can contribute to something that the couple will remember them fondly for.”

Brandon Warner, Chief Marketing Officer of, says couples today are marrying later and in many cases have already formed a household together without much need for plates and cutlery. “Most of our couples are in their late 20s and early 30s and are concerned about not being wasteful,” says Warner. “They don’t want to register just for the sake of registering, so they choose a site like so they can ask for things they truly need and are going to use.”

This was the case with engaged couple Lindsay Alford, 29, and Jonathan Khay, 32, of Birmingham, Alabama. They had already bought a house and lived together for three years before getting engaged. When it came to their wedding registry, they felt like registering at Bed, Bath & Beyond or Williams-Sonoma just didn’t make sense. “We already have tons of stuff, and we don’t even have enough room for the stuff that we already have,” says Alford. After doing some online research, Alford came across and the couple chose to register for various aspects of their honeymoon instead.

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“We knew we wanted to go on this honeymoon to Europe and we were concerned about racking up credit card debt in order to do it,” says Alford. “Now our guests can contribute to our honeymoon and help us create memories that we’ll always have. My little sister gave us lunch at the Eiffel Tower, and it’s just so amazing that she could do that for us.”

Newlyweds Sara and Rush Childs of Durham, North Carolina, were both looking for a wedding registry that was a true reflection of them as an adventurous, world-traveling couple. They registered for items they would need on their trip like sleeping bag pads and a water purifier. They also registered for fulfilling experiences like tickets to a wine cellar in Slovenia."

Ostomel of Deposit a Gift says the decision to go the non-traditional route is a trend that more couples should consider. “Couples don’t want to lie. If they don’t need that set of china, they don’t want to register for it. Through our site they can say, ‘we want to be homeowners and be financially responsible and we’d love to have you support our dream’, or ‘we want to travel and make memories together’, or ‘we’re starting an adoption fund because we know adoption is expensive.'”

Whatever the motivation, non-traditional wedding registries fill a need for couples looking for an alternative that suits their lifestyle, personality and financial situation. “I think it’s awesome,” says Alford. “Because people are giving you something more personal than cash and a card, and we’re able to afford our honeymoon without being bogged down by expenses. It’s exactly the type of registry we needed.”

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