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When Gifts Arenít An Option

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For bride-to-be Ellen Tracy, her ideal wedding present isn’t a spatula or spice rack – she’s looking for something more in the realm of a spa package. Tracy, 22, and her fiancé, Neil Marya, 24, aren’t registering for the traditional wedding presents. “We are both young. Neil is still in school, and I’m going back,” Tracy says, “so we don’t need a ton of the traditional wedding items, especially because we’ll likely be moving a few more times before we settle down.”

Instead, the young Boston couple will complete a honeymoon registry.

Like Tracy and Marya, couples across the country are looking towards alternative wedding registries. Recent news reports on the trend showcased one couple in Palo Alto, Calif., that used their registry as a way to fund their start-up business, asking guests to make donations. Another couple in Omaha, Neb., created a scholarship fund.

If you’re a couple who has all they need, and wants to do something a little unorthodox, check out JustGive.org, which offers a charity wedding registry. Since the wedding registry’s start six years ago, the Web site has raised nearly $1.7 million for charitable organizations by honoring 2,300 couples through their online registry. In the last year, charity-wedding registries have increased 50 percent at JustGive. “Some couples want to honor a family member or give to a cause close to their hearts,” says Sarah Myers, program manager. “Some choose charity because they ‘already have too much stuff’.”

To create a charity-wedding registry, couples produce a personalized registry page with details about their wedding, then choose their favorite charities. Guests can search for the couple on the Wedding Center page, select a charity and donate. Top-earning charities include Doctors Without Borders, Feeding America and American National Red Cross. Couples can choose large national charities or even local grassroots organizations.

“We find that most couples choose charities that have a personal influence. For example, if the groom’s mother is a breast cancer survivor, the Susan G. Komen fund is a popular choice,” Myers says. “Some couples select charities they have volunteered with, or even worked for.”

If you’re looking for another alternative, check out what Tracy and Marya are doing. A honeymoon registry allows them to tactfully ask for money to put towards their getaway. Their wedding venue at the Intercontinental Hotel in Boston offers money towards a stay at any of their partner hotels, which puts them at a good kick off point for their honeymoon. “We’ll also pick some activities so people can feel like their money goes toward something very concrete,” Tracy says. “I think some people feel a little strange putting their gift money into a pool online, so they would like to be able to purchase a complete activity.” Honeymoon registries can help you book flights, cruise dinners, spa packages or even a round of golf.

And if you’re like Tracy and don’t want to let go of all tradition, you can always do a little of both. Tracy and Marya are still planning to register for china and some nice cookware.

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