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Toasters are out! We want money!

By MICHELLE MEGNA, New York Daily News – 05/21/2005 – 12:00am

Wedding Etiquette

People RSVP-ing to weddings this summer should not be surprised if they’re asked how they want to pay: check or charge?

Engaged couples are tossing traditional registries faster than bouquets, asking for cash instead of Cuisinarts. Some lovebirds set up money registries, looking for “donations” to help defray costs of the wedding or a mortgage, while others solicit cash for honeymoon expenses.

Nader Khoury and his fiancée are pioneers in the money-for-marriage movement. The couple put a down payment on a house with all the money they collected from guests they directed to a personal Web site set up for that purpose in August 2002. “We got $10,000,” says Khoury, “but it was a new concept then. Now it’s a trend and there’s less of a stigma to it.”

He should know. Inspired by their own success, Khoury and his bride launched, an online money registry based in California. “It’s typical American philosophy to think it’s crass to ask for money, and a lot of people still feel that way,” says Khoury, “but in Asian countries and in the Middle East that’s what you do.”

Sue Fox, author of “Etiquette for Dummies,” agrees. “Other cultures give money and it’s not a big deal. I think we have to lighten up. Etiquette changes with the times.”

Clearly, shelling out for a big old shebang is catching on. The number of couples registered at Khoury’s site has quadrupled in just two years, from 254 registries in 2003 to about 1,000 this year. About 6% of his clients have been from New York.

The honeymoon registry debuted in 2001. They had just a few dozen clients that first year but have recently added a travel agency service. “We’ve had tremendous growth,” says Jeff Beard, director of business development. “We have over 12,000 clients in 86 countries now. It’s becoming a 21st-century tradition.”

With the price of the average New York wedding now a whopping $38,000, industry watchers say it’s no surprise some couples are asking for dollars instead of dinnerware.

But while many Americans are comfortable contributing to a honeymoon registry, which allows them to “give” the newlyweds an activity like scuba lessons, the so-called money registries, where guests help pick up the tab for the wedding itself, leave a bad taste.

Antonia van der Meer, editor-in-chief of Modern Bride magazine, says, “You don’t want the guests to feel like they’re paying a cover charge. You are the host and inviting them to your party, they don’t owe you anything.”

“It’s also dangerous for couples to assume they’ll reap enough cash to pay for something,” warns van der Meer. “It can lead to overspending.”

Valerie Lehman, who got married a year ago, felt awkward about wanting ka-ching instead of kitchen knives.

“It was my third marriage, I owned enough stuff,” says Lehman, who married Michael Washington last year. “I didn’t feel comfortable saying, ‘Give us money,’ so we set up a Web site to fund our honeymoon. I asked for money for spa activities and to swim with the dolphins.” Like Khoury, her experience inspired her to launch, which helps engaged couples solicit honeymoon help.

Not everyone applauds this new development. Josh Brooks, a partner at fete, a Manhattan-based wedding planning firm, says, “Money registries are practical. On the flip side, it’s nice to get something that’s a keepsake, something that lives with you.”

Letitia Baldrige, author of “New Manners for New Times: A Complete Guide to Etiquette” and former social secretary for Jackie O, is more blunt. “This is the crassest thing I’ve seen in all my years of social observances,” Baldrige told the News. “It’s like a runaway horse, this idea of guests paying. It’s horribly wrong.”

But brides like Lehman are laughing all the way to the bank. “My honeymoon was fabulous,” says Leh-man, “and it was free!”

What other couples think:

Saying “I do” means saying “I’ll pay.” Our panel of newlyweds weigh in on the trend of money registries:

Anita (Rivera) Rivera-Rodriguez, Spanish Harlem, married April 16, 2005
“I think it’s pretty tacky to have the guests help pay for expenses. People shouldn’t go out of their means. If you can’t afford it, don’t do it. You can make a wedding elegant without blowing up costs.”

Iliana Rivera, Bronx, married March 12, 2005
“My practical side says asking for money for expenses is a great idea, who needs another toaster oven? But my etiquette side says it’s a bit crass. I don’t think my circle of family and friends would respond well to that.”

Naquona (Nelson) Brown, Harlem, married April 16, 2005
“I think asking for money is very tacky, because it’s your shindig, so you should supply everything. Not to mention that people will be getting their hopes up that all this money is coming through and if it doesn’t meet expectations they’ll be disappointed, and it’s so not about what people are giving you.”

Michelle (Zaccagnino) Hirschhorn, Manhattan, married Feb.12, 2005
“Oh God no, I’d never ask for money for the wedding costs. I think it’s presumptuous to ask for money straight out for the wedding, especially since that’s always an option for guests anyway. But getting money for the honeymoon is cool, better than a gift certificate for Crate & Barrel.”

KimMarie (Beatty) Metzger, Bronx, married December 31, 2004
“I wouldn’t do it. You’re the one who wants to get married, so you should pay for it. It’s one thing if someone pays for a massage on your honeymoon, but to ask people for money for the wedding is completely insane.”

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