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More couples opting for uncoventional wedding registries

Allie Hegvick and her fiance, Eric Sauvageau, of Leonard, N.D., registered for gifts at Walmart and Mills Fleet Farm. Their registry at Fleet Farm includes many items that will be helpful to them at their rural home, including an ATV sprayer. Special to The Forum.

FARGO - Allie Hegvick's wedding registry had everything, including the kitchen sink.

Hegvick, 24, and her fiance, Eric Sauvageau, both of Leonard, also picked out a saddle pad, landscaping lights, nozzles for a water hose and an ATV sprayer for their wedding registry at Mills Fleet Farm in Fargo.

Hegvick says she didn't know the Upper Midwest supply store had a gift registry until her mom, who works in pricing at Fargo's Fleet Farm, told her.

"My fiance and I, we live there half the time," Hegvick jokes. "That's where we always shop. That's where we buy almost everything."

So it made sense for the couple - who live in the country, have a horse and go camping - to register at Fleet Farm for their July 23 wedding. They also registered at Walmart.

"It's just like going to Walmart, except you go to customer service," Hegvick says about the process of registering for gifts at Fleet Farm. "I wish they would put out a kiosk. I think they'd get more (couples)."

Hegvick and Sauvageau's choice of a registry store and items reflects a larger industry trend toward nontraditional bridal registries, says Amy Eisinger, associate editor at wedding planning site WeddingChannel.com. She describes nontraditional wedding registries as "anything your mom wouldn't have registered for."

These include registries for honeymoon activities or charity donations, online universal registries that list items from stores around the Web, and lifestyle registries that, like Hegvick and Sauvageau's gift wish list, feature items that are "useful to you in an everyday way or have to do with your lifestyle," Eisinger says.

Nearly nine out of 10 couples register for wedding gifts, and the most popular registries are still at Bed Bath & Beyond, Target and Macy's, according to a 2009 wedding registry study by WeddingChannel and The Knot. But more couples now create nontraditional registries as well.

The 2009 registry study found that 12 percent set up registries for a honeymoon, up from 8 percent in 2008, Eisinger says. Four percent registered for charity donations, and 3 percent used universal registries, such as MyRegistry.com or the WeddingChannel's GiftRegistry360.com.

One popular honeymoon registry site is Traveler's Joy. Betrothed couples choose honeymoon activities and expenses their guests can designate monetary gifts toward, such as chunks of airfare, hotel stays, train tickets or boat tours. The site sends the couple a check, charging a fee of 7.5 percent of the gift value to cover site hosting, maintenance and service.

In effect, a honeymoon registry asks guests for cash, a wedding faux pas, but Eisinger says these registries are more round-about, discreet and therefore acceptable.

"It's not like I'm giving you cash; I'm paying for one leg of your plane trip to Jamaica," she says.

An article about registry myths on MSN.com's Lifestyle page insists it is not a faux pas to register for honeymoon activities or fun items, like a flat-screen TV.

Eisinger says more grooms are getting involved with the registry process, which likely explains the increase in lifestyle registries. Also, the average age of the couples has increased, and more are cohabitating before the wedding, she says.

"They've already done all the blending of their items; they've already figured out the things they need," she says. "They want to register for items they're actually going to use and are a reflection of who they are."

Ken Frey, director of operations for Mills Fleet Farm, says its stores have offered a gift registry for about 15 years.

"We have a very diverse line of goods," says Frey, who works at the company's Appleton, Wis., corporate office. In addition to small appliances, the store carries sporting goods and lawn-and-garden items, he says. "We can help to generate a list that would be pleasing to the bride as well as to the groom."

The Fleet Farm list isn't just limited to bridal couples. Frey heard of a Clydesdale farmer who used the service as a sort of baby registry for new colts.

And it's not just Fleet Farm. Other unexpected stores where couples can create registries include Home Depot, Menards and sporting goods store Gander Mountain.

Younger, outdoorsy couples tend to register at Gander Mountain, says Toby Nagel, manager of the Fargo store. They fill out a paper form with the items they like. The store can then send the registry to any Gander Mountain store they want to have it. Guests request a copy of the registry at customer service and cross off items purchased.

"It tends to be tents, camping gear and fishing-type stuff," Nagel says. "Camping tends to be the highest by far," including sleeping bags, cots, outdoor chairs and cooking gear.

"It's something different for them. Instead of getting the same stuff, they can get things they're actually going to use," he says.

Bridal registry highlights

* More than 1.5 million U.S. couples (87 percent) register for gifts.

* Couples register at 2.7 retailers on average.

* Seven out of 10 fiances are involved with store selection.

* The average number of total registry items is 137. The average price range of items is $9 to $420.

* The item categories deemed most important by couples include kitchen appliances and electrics, cookware, bedding and casual/everyday china.

* The average number of wedding gifts returned is eight.

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