Beyond dishes and sheets

by Elizabeth Conner

Tica was tops on the wish list of Maggie Gainer and Don Wolski.

Picture this: You walk around your favorite store picking out everything you want.

"Let's get two of those, and, oh, one of these would be really nice, and oh my God, we've gotta have that!"

Sound like a fantasy come true? Well, that's what it's like setting up a wedding registry.

More than half of the 850 couples who married in Humboldt County this year set up their bridal registry at traditional stores, such as Gottschalks Department Store or Robert's. China, silver, crystal, linens and other household items are frequent choices. But many couples look beyond dishes and sheets. Like so many other wedding traditions, the bridal registry is being updated.

"We already had all the household things we needed -- we're both grown-ups," said Maggie Gainer, who married Don Wolski at their Bayside home last July. "We weren't even requesting gifts, but people kept asking us what we wanted. We knew we both really wanted to get a dog after we were married," she said. So they registered at the Sunny Brae Animal Clinic.

"The staff was pretty surprised when we called to ask about setting it up, but they thought it was a great idea and figured out how to make it work for us," Maggie said. The gifts sent to the Corgi Fund paid for not only the puppy but also shots, spaying, exams and all its health needs for years to come.

Evan Baxter and Carri Ratazzi, Humboldt State University seniors who are getting hitched Jan. 5, decided to register at two places. "We're both 26 so we already have blenders and stuff. We registered at a department store so we could replace our crummy college dishes and get a few cool things like some pilsners and beer steins," Evan said.

"But we both love to camp and backpack, and there's a lot of things we wanted. We registered at Northern Mountain for a bigger tent, a camp stove, sleeping pads, a good thermos, a water filter and other camping stuff," Evan said.

They are not alone. Dozens of Humboldt's betrothed register at camping and outdoor stores. "We had six or seven couples register here this year," said Alan Agapinan, assistant manager at Northern Mountain Supply in Eureka. Adult toy items like canoes or kayaks, sleeping bags and pads and even climbing ropes are popular choices.

Robert Baker of Arcata's Outdoor Store said several couples register at the store each year. The response from gift givers? "A lot of the older folks seem surprised and a little uncomfortable. Younger folks think it's pretty cool," Baker said.

If you and your spouse-to-be need a table saw, sander or power drill, maybe you'll want to join the 20 or so couples a year who register at Hensel's Hardware in Arcata.

"People I've registered don't seem to be that interested in crystal or china. They seem to register more for everyday items like mops, garbage cans and tools like hammers, crowbars and wire cutters," said Theresa Bates, who's been helping couples at Hensel's for more than three years. "Power drills are actually pretty popular and a few have ordered a table saw," Bates added.

Some duos select works of art and small furniture. Over 50 couples registered at Plaza Design this year. Popular items include candles and holders, mirrors with candle sconces, small wooden tables, fine art, picture frames and outdoor lanterns, according to staffer Bonnie Barnes.

Some traditional items such as dishes are also selected, but the choices at Plaza Design are apt to be one-of-a-kind ceramic pieces by North Coast artists, such as Peggy Loudon or Frances Boettcher, or Fire and Light's unique dinnerware made of colored, recycled glass.

Other couples don't pick things to register for at all. Instead they ask their family and friends to help pay for their honeymoon or other travels by registering with a travel agency.

"A lot of couples want experiences, not things to dust," said Mary Lou Lorenson of Eureka Travel. Many who registered at her agency were entering their second marriage or already living together, according to Lorenson. Hawaii and the beach resorts of Mexico are the most popular choices.

Many who register at traditional locations like Gottschalks at the Bayshore Mall and Robert's in Henderson Center are signing up for different things than the couples of several years ago. "Not everyone does China these days," said Pattie Bowling, Gottschalks Bridal registrar. "Many are leading a more casual lifestyle so they pick stoneware and bright-colored patterns instead."

Evan Baxter put it this way, "Carri and I wanted stuff we could use 365 days a year, not 10."

Dolores Rex, owner of Robert's in Eureka, added, "Since so many couples are already set up with basic household goods, they register for fun things like pasta machines, gourmet foods and coffees, espresso makers and cup sets, and even things like wind chimes."

Wherever you decide to set up your bridal registry, think it through and have a good time doing it. After all, your wedding is probably the only time in your adult lives when you get to pick exactly the gifts you want.


Symphony of selection

The First Step: Where will the wedding be?

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