||The Gifts on Every Wedding List
Groom-to-be Lucas Ward has two specific requests on the gift registry for his Oct. 1 wedding. "A really good chef's knife is the power tool for the kitchen," says the 28-year-old co-founder of a Chicago technology start-up. "So is a good pair of tongs."
No argument from fiancée Paula Grahmann, a nursing assistant. She says she isn't much of a cook and is happy to have Mr. Ward pick kitchen gear.
As wedding season kicks in, gift registries are making some changes -- and offer a glimpse into the homes and expectations of couples. The most-popular items registered at four big retailers, Bed Bath & Beyond, Target, Macy's and Crate and Barrel, highlight some marked departures from perennially popular flatware, small appliances and other traditional items.
At Macy's, premium kitchen cutlery has rocketed to the top of wedding registries in the past five years, partly due to grooms' influence, says Susan Bertelsen, group vice president, wedding and gift registry, for the retailer. She also credits men for helping drive sales gains in home bar ware, such as ice buckets and cocktail shakers. And Michelle Mesenburg, director of marketing for home items at Target, says grooms-to-be are helping drive the growing popularity of electronics or camping gear as wedding gifts.
Target's most popular bath-towel color is "bison brown." Macy's top towel picks are vanilla, white, linen and chocolate. Couples move more often and "want something they can take with them to their next place and not be committed to a bold color statement," Ms. Bertelsen says.
These days, family-sized barbecue grills, bamboo bath accessories and sports gear are cropping up. Grooms are also requesting more household items, since they take a larger role in housekeeping, and are now doing one-third of the cooking, says Stephanie Coontz, author of several books on the history of families and marriage.
Couples' average age at first marriage has risen by several years, to 28 for men and 26 for women. More than 70% have already been living together by the time they marry, researchers estimate. When couples make up gift lists, "they choose them together, and they will use them together," says Ms. Coontz, co-chairwoman of the Council on Contemporary Families, a nonprofit Chicago research organization. In the past, wedding-gift lists tended to be "cookie-cutter affairs" with young brides asking for "big-ticket items that would be used once a year, if ever," Ms. Coontz says -- china, linens and glassware.
Couples in most urban areas typically live in smaller homes compared with the past, and they lack space to store gadgets or items they will use only occasionally. When David Mishook and Meg Keene of San Francisco registered for their wedding in 2009, he chose a multipurpose cast-iron Dutch oven. "Instead of buying a waffle iron and one of those weird egg things they make, and five different sizes of pans and three different sizes of pots, it makes more sense to me to buy three or four pots and pans that are versatile," he says. An appliance that doubles as grill and griddle is among Macy's hottest picks. At Crate and Barrel, single-use items such as toasters and ceramic pasta sets have fallen off its top-picks list.
Rebecca Lysen, 29, and her fiancé, Justin Hosek, a musician and sound technician, also registered multifunctional items for their Oct. 1 wedding. On the list for their one-bedroom apartment in Brooklyn, N.Y.: a KitchenAid mixer that doubles as a pasta maker, meat grinder and shredder.
This particular appliance has remained popular for at least two generations, attaining iconic status, retailers say. It is often chosen by brides because "their mother or grandmother had one," says Marjorie Daugherty, gift-registry director for Crate and Barrel.
Casey Collier and her fiancé, Paul Whittemore, of New York City had uniquely personal selections: limited-edition art prints, Italian lessons and a karaoke machine for partying with their friends.
After living together for three years, Ms. Collier and Mr. Whittemore say their household is established. So they registered "items that fit both our personalities and taste, and upcoming events we are planning as husband and wife," says Ms. Collier, 29.
Most couples register at multiple retailers or websites to satisfy their varied tastes. Mr. Ward found beer mugs, a stovetop grill and leather cooking gloves he liked at TheManRegistry.com. He says he gave "veto power" to Ms. Grahmann, who drew the line on one item: a remote-controlled party cooler that rolls along the floor from guest to guest. "She laughed for a good couple of minutes, and then said no," Mr. Ward says.
Mr. Hosek, whom Ms. Lysen jokingly calls "Groomzilla" because he has strong opinions on their wedding plans, objected when Ms. Lysen wanted to add decorative items such as a candelabra and silver frames to their registry. "My first reaction was, why are we getting any of this and what is a candelabra?" he says. Ms. Lysen insisted, she says, because she wanted their 150-plus guests to have a wide range of gift choices.
She, in turn, objected when Mr. Hosek wanted to add a 12-quart stock pot, worried that it would take too much space. Mr. Hosek says, "I'm the soup guy. I need a big pot." He compromised, adding a smaller 8-quart model. And Ms. Lysen agreed to add the KitchenAid mixer he wanted, but only if she got to pick the color.
A growing number of couples are bypassing gift registries altogether. When Dolores Ramirez of San Antonio married Michael Wimpy at age 43, both had been married before, had lived together for a year and were remodeling a house.
Friends kept asking, "What do you want?" she says. Finally, at the suggestion of her wedding planner, Josephine Sokoloff, she and her fiancé asked for Home Depot gift cards. The take: nearly $3,500, enough for plenty of remodeling supplies and a few appliances.
The Gift List
A look inside wedding registries, based on a survey last summer of 11,582 couples by the wedding websites TheKnot.com and WeddingChannel.com:
(Source: The Wall Street Journal, 06/08/11)
- An estimated 1.5 million couples registered for an average of 151 items in 2010, up 10% from 2009.
- Couples register at an average of three retailers.
- 7 in 10 men are involved in picking registry items.
- 49% of gifts received by couples were cash or gift cards.
||Home Price Bargains Coming This Summer
Home prices are already a third off their highs, but this summer could bring the real discounts.
Buyers are still cautious, and anxious sellers will have to price aggressively to get them off the fence.
That could result in a "summer clearance sale," predicts Pete Flint, CEO of Trulia, the real estate web site.
"We don't imagine a stampede of buyers, like outside of Macy's on Black Friday," he said. "We see this more akin to January sales where retailers are trying to get rid of stock before it gets stale."
Several factors, he said, will lead to blow-out prices -- Accelerating price drops: Home prices have already reached their lowest level since the housing bubble burst, and are now at 2002 levels. Sellers will feel the pressure to make deals before their homes lose even more value. Bloated inventory: There are boatloads of homes on the market, more than eight months worth at the current rate of sales. Many are distressed properties; short sales and bank repossessions. Such homes are selling at discounts up to 50%. Tight credit: Some homebuyers still can't obtain mortgages, limiting demand. Unemployment: Unemployment is still around 9%. People without jobs don't buy homes, obviously, but high unemployment also rattles working people. Lacking the confidence that their jobs are secure, they may not look to buy.
These forces could all come to a head this summer, according to Flint, because of the cyclical nature of homebuying. Buying takes off in spring as many young families hope to make their moves before the new school year.
"By the end of the homebuying season, sellers will become increasingly desperate," said Flint.
Adding to already swollen inventories will be a flood of new distressed properties poised to hit the market.
"By the summer, most of the 'robo-signing' delays will be over and more distressed properties will be on the market," said Celia Chen of Moody's analytics.
Many banks had slowed foreclosure proceedings until they made sure that paperwork was in order. That put hundreds of thousands of homes into foreclosure limbo: Borrowers were no longer making payments in many cases, but were allowed to remain living in the homes.
There's little urgency for buyers to act in this stagnant market because no one expects prices to turnaround, according to Ken Johnson, a real estate professor at Florida International University and co-author of a new study on whether it's better to buy or rent. Realizing that home prices will likely get even better, buyers can wait for even better deals.
"If people think we're at the bottom of the market, they'll act," he said.
All the experts, however, are telling buyers that prices will continue to erode all through 2011. Even after that, no one is predicting outsized price gains.
"There will be a lousy housing market for another year or two," said Michael Larson, a housing analyst for Weiss Research.
Even if we're at or near the bottom, buyers are unlikely to see prices rise much if they wait.
"I myself continue to rent," said Johnson. "I know that even if I don't buy for a year, it's no big deal. Who cares if I miss the bottom if prices only go up a couple of points or so?"
(Source: CNNMoney.com, 06/01/11)