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Gift registry with a twist


February 2015

When Nicky Rauch and her beau, J. Danger Wolf, got engaged last winter, the stylish couple began planning a contemporary wedding with a classic Wisconsin twist, including a traditional fish fry and an old-fashioned cocktail bar at the historic Pritzlaff Building in the Third Ward.

But when they began to consider their wedding registry, the couple elected to take a more nontraditional approach. They registered at — a crowdfunding website that allows their wedding guests to donate cash gifts to help fund the couple’s Australian honeymoon.

Sites such as and, which gained notoriety following its appearance on the ABC hit show "Shark Tank," and registries at resorts like Sandals are quickly gaining popularity among the betrothed.

Instead of gifting flatware and hobby equipment, guests can contribute to a wide array of wedding gifts, including wining and dining, adventure excursions, travel and accommodations and entertainment. At the top of Rauch’s list? Kayaking, beer tasting and dinner at the Sydney Opera House.

These modern registries absolve the risk of receiving those two toasters and allow guests to participate in a memory-making experience for the couple.

While it may seem strange to some, it shouldn’t exactly come as a surprise. According to Pew Research, the share of 30- to 44-year-olds cohabitating as a couple has more than doubled since the mid-1990s. Many partners either live together or are homeowners well before they walk down the aisle.

"We are in our 30s — we’ve accumulated enough — so we don’t need any more ‘stuff,’" explains Rauch, who heard about the idea through a friend. "Weddings and honeymoons are outrageously expensive. So, I just thought it was an awesome idea."

In the past, couples dutifully registered at boutiques and department stores for various household necessities, such as linens, tableware and kitchen gadgets. Today, couples like the soon-to-be-Wolfs are increasingly turning to alternative registry services, incorporating their personalities and lifestyle into the ceremony along the way.

While some couples choose honeymoon funds, others are using crowdfunding for everything from saving money for a mortgage (, to household utilities (cable) and charitable fundraising.

In Milwaukee, brides can choose to incorporate charitable donations in lieu of traditional registry gifts through WGIRLS, an organization for young professional women aimed at volunteering, fundraising and promoting awareness for the city’s critical nonprofit organizations. The organization assists couples who wish to use their wedding day to give back to the community.

"Many couples already have a house full of things and don’t really need to register for new items," says Rachel Hughes, president of WGIRLS. "Instead, couples can create a registry based on an organization’s wish list of items they need to operate."

For example, couples can set up "tip" or "kiss" jars throughout the wedding venue to raise money for charitable organizations or ask guests to put together welcome bags or gift baskets of toiletry items for homeless and women’s shelters instead of bringing the bride and groom gifts.

Many couples still hold fast to traditional registry methods — Rauch says she will still scan in a few household items at a department store so as not to offend her more conventional guests — but expanding registry options is quickly becoming a new wedding tradition.

This story ran in the February 2015 issue of: