Are you putting together a registry for your wedding/committment ceremony, a baby registry, or any other sort of gift wishlist? Do you believe in emphasizing meaning more than "stuff" in gift-giving, but aren't sure how to translate that into gift-receiving?
There are a variety of different ways you can use a gift registry, some quite non-traditional; what it takes is thinking deeply and creatively about what you really want, and then, if you discover that what you'd appreciate receiving is not limited to brand new brand-name items, you may want to find a gift registry website that will help you convey that. One option is the Alternative Gift Registry website (by the non-profit Center for a New American Dream, which means no ads on the site!); it offers the key functions of a gift registry-- letting people know what you want and tracking what's already being given-- while allowing great flexibility in describing what you want.
Here are some traditional and non-traditional categories of gifts to consider including in your registry, all of which can be easily handled at the Alternative Gift Registry:
- You can certainly request specific items you want with a link to any store on the web (or information about the specific item and brand so they can find it themselves at the best price and/or without favoring a specific corporate chain store.) This is especially important if you expect that different people are going to be buying parts of a matched set-- you can link to another registry that includes the set(s) and use the main list at AGR as a hub.
- If you're more flexible, you can just list an item or category, giving them the opportunity to be more creative and personal-- and to shop wherever they like ("eight white napkins," "board games; we especially like word games, but we do already have Scrabble and Boggle.")
- You can also ask for experiences rather than objects ("theater tickets would be wonderful," "we'd get a lot of use and enjoyment out of an annual National Parks pass.")
- You can let people know you'd accept or even prefer gently used gifts ("good books-- used ones are fine," "a playpen, new or used," "used baby clothes, we'd feel wasteful if you bought new ones!")
- You can even ask for non-material items like services ("we need someone to check in on our pets while we're on our honeymoon," "mowing the lawn for us one summer afternoon would be just as appreciated as any item you could buy," "if you could bring over dinner sometime in the first two weeks after the baby's born, that would be terrific") or donations to charity.
One thing I really like about this website is that it lets you convey that non-traditional gifts are just as welcomed and valued as the "normal" ones, in a way that registering on a traditional site and then saying "Oh, but X would be fine too" doesn't. If it's part of your life and your values to decrease the amount of "stuff" in your home; if you feel good about getting things used rather than new because it's better for the planet; if you want people to know that you won't think the amount of money they spend on you is a measure of how much they care; if there are favors people could do for you that would really be more appreciated than something they'd buy-- if any of these or similar statements is true, then communicating your desires and values about gifts can be freeing to your loved ones while helping you get gifts you feel good about. (The Alternative Gift Registry isn't the only way to do that; there may be other sites that can be used similarly and/or you may be able to handle it by word of mouth.)
So, what do you think? For those of you who've had a wedding/commitment ceremony/baby shower/etc, how'd you treat the gift registry? Did you welcome non-traditional gifts, and if so, how did you convey that to people? How about as a gift-giver-- have you ever seen an alternative type of gift registry, or otherwise been invited to give non-traditional gifts? If so, how'd it go? If not, how do you think you'd feel about it?
(Disclaimer: Although I'm gung-ho about this approach in theory, I've actually never created a registry myself since I've never been married or had a baby, so I am very interested in hearing the thoughts of those who have. But I've certainly bought wedding gifts off registries and wished I could give more non-traditionally but felt too presumptuous and awkward to do it; I'd really love getting the go-ahead from an alternative gift registry.)