Registering approval for a same-sex union — giving or receiving — can be more difficult than it seems. That’s where Dean Driver can help
It’s often the second question (after "how many carats is your engagement ring?") that couples are asked then they announce their nuptials: "Where are you registered?"
The gay gift registry market "is becoming a big business now," says Dean Driver, a design consultant well-known for his elegant tablescapes. But while retailers have tapped in on this aspect of the wedding industry, one segment has been slow to catch on: same-sex couples getting married.
"I think most people are very confused when it comes to the concept or even what to register for, how it works," says Driver. "That’s especially true of gay couples, because it is so foreign to many of them. But if they are getting married and want people to buy them presents, they need to let them know what they want."
According to Driver, gay men spend much more money on their registries than lesbians. "What can I say? The queens love their china and crystal," he says with a hearty chuckle. Driver has established a few guidelines about what to do (and not to do) when registering for a same-sex union. Here’s his advice:
• Register for things you like today. Don’t worry about what you’re going to like 20 years from now, only what you know you want now. "Some people worry that something’s too trendy, but our tastes change throughout our lives. Don’t try to predict what you’ll want in the future."
• Register for things you are actually going to use. Along similar lines, gifts aren’t meant to be stored in a trousseau or drawer gathering dust. Ask for items that will be put to immediate use. "Buy for your lifestyle" is Driver’s catchphrase.
• Feel free to mix and match your styles. Do you like ornate while your partner favors modern? You can find a happy median. "If you are merging two completely different lifestyles, don’t be afraid to mix classic with contemporary," says Driver. "We do it with clothes and architecture — there’s no reason you can’t do it on things for your home." If you have family heirlooms you don’t want to make totally obsolete, bring them with you when you register. "You can update them to make them appear more modern."
•Don’t register for by-piece place settings. "That was a marketing scheme invented in the 1920s when a huge middle class was making money for the first time," Driver says. "Not everyone needs a tea cup and saucer — does anyone? We drink out of mugs and many people don’t even eat at a formal place setting anymore." But…
• Don’t be afraid to ask for outrageous and unique items. A wedding (hopefully) is a once-in-a-lifetime event, so why not register for items you would never buy for yourself? "This is a special day, and some things you’ll have the rest of your life, and this is your chance to get it. You can go to Pottery Barn any day and buy that on-sale item," Driver says.
• Register where you feel comfortable. Neiman Marcus or Target? You can always do both. "You should register at more than one store — two or three," Driver says. "Some people like an option — maybe they don’t like one store or like a place they can use their charge card to get points. Other people are intimidated by more elegant stores," and prefer a less hoity-toity choice.
• Register for items at every price point. Think about your guest list. Is it mostly your parents’ rich business associates or your starving-artist friends from college? If the former, go ahead and ask for the moon. But make sure there are some items your less affluent pals can purchase without breaking the bank.
Beyond the registry
Just because the couple may register for certain items, though, doesn’t mean the guest has to cleave rigidly to that list. Personalized gifts can mean even more than just another fork-and-spoon combo.
"Don’t be afraid to buy off the registry," says Driver. "A selection of Christmas ornaments are great to buy for a first Christmas together, even after the holidays. If you know you are going to a wedding in the spring, you can get some great ornaments on sale for them."
By etiquette, wedding presents may be conferred up to a year after the ceremony, "although you really shouldn’t wait that long."
Don’t be offended, either, if the couple exchanges your gift for something else. Some retailers can even call the couple and let them know the item was purchased without you personally delivering it. That allows them to exchange it if necessary without inconvenience to anyone.
Even if a couple asks for gift cards, Driver sniffs at the idea. "This is your one chance to get things that you are not going to buy for yourself that is really special. Gift certificates are appropriate but they are not individual," he says. If you do, his rule-of-thumb for what amount is simple: Whatever you feel you can comfortably afford. "It’s really the thought that counts— there is no set limit."
If you are dry of ideas and your friends did not register, Driver has a suggestion, too. "Two gifts I always recommend as appropriate are picture frames and flower vases. You can never have enough things like that," he says.
Whatever you choose, make sure the present is for the couple, and not merely the one member you may be closest to.
"It should be for both of them — you’re really celebrating that union. Gifts for one of the other are better for birthdays or Christmas or graduation," Driver says. He pauses, then adds, "plus it gives them something to argue over if they do get a divorce!"
Dean Driver, ConsiliumCreativeMarketing.com. 214-432-1666.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition May 1, 2009.