WEDDING presents are usually approached with trepidation - by both the giver and the receiver. Unless the bride is very organised, the traditional wedding list is no guarantee that she won't get 20 toasters and any number of vases which have to be 'lost' in a move. The solution lies in a practical innovation - the bridal registry.
Employed by the likes of Prince Charles and Princess Diana, Prince Andrew and Fergie and virtually every society wedding - and increasing numbers of smaller affairs - in Britain, the United States and now Hong Kong, the service enables a bride to open her presents without blushing.
Large stores like The World of Joyce, Lane Crawford and Hong Kong Seibu, and speciality shops like Lalique, Craig's and Hunter's, offer a bridal registry service. The couple simply go shopping, pick out what they want, leave a list with the store and allowtheir guests to choose presents from it.
When socialites Pansy Ho and Julian Hui were married in 1991 they stipulated exactly what they wanted: crystal from Baccarat and Lalique, silver cutlery and trays from Christofle, assorted items from Seibu, and baubles from Gianmaria Buccellati. Needless to say, shops in the Landmark did a roaring trade, selling down to the last Lalique decanter for what was the society wedding of the year.
Most stores advise couples to register about some months before the wedding. Just before they send the list the store will check that they have stock of items. The shops inform guests that they hold bridal registries for the couple, and in most cases guests don't even have to step foot in the store. The list can be faxed to them, and they can select items from a price range they want to give to the couple.
All presents are gift-wrapped and delivered free, and the store will also cross out purchases once they are made, so there is no double order of a particular item.
But even the best laid plans can go awry. 'Not everyone buys what's listed in the registry - they have a look at it and then go off to buy something completely different,' said one bride. Another said she didn't want to do a bridal registry because she felt too embarrassed. 'I suppose that's how I ended up with so many casserole dishes,' she said.
Tiffany is famous for its jewellery but the most popular items for bridal registries are sterling silver cutlery and dinner services, crystal glasses, decorative pieces such as photo frames, vases and table arrangements. Couples can also pick from overseas stock via a computer link. These items take about one month to arrive. Prices from $100 for a set of playing cards to $100,000 for a sterling silver tea set.
The World of Joyce, The Galleria: Couples tend to go for the Italian-designed household items such as glassware, dinner sets, porcelain items and some flamboyant furniture items by Fornasetti. Prices range from $150 for an arty coffee mug to the price of adesigner gown for a dinner set.
Ralph Lauren, The Landmark: Everything for the total Ralph Lauren look. American country style bedding and linens, furnishings, upholstered furniture, floor and wall covering. Prices start from $150 for a plain, single sheet to $67,000 for a four-poster bed.
Lane Crawford outlets: A wide choice from silverware to tableware by leading brands, to electrical goods, furniture, bedding and everything for the home. Prices vary.
Seibu, Pacific Place: Everything for the home from art and paintings to electrical goods to cutlery, kitchenware, furniture and Japanese tea sets and tableware from a wide range of leading brands. Prices vary.
Baccarat, Bernardaud, Christofle, Lalique, Hummel, Raynaud and Van Cleef and Arpels outlets: Crystal, porcelain, silver and jewellery. Expect to pay about $500 to $1,000 for a Baccarat or Lalique wine glass to $500,000 for a crystal chandelier.
Waterford Wedgwood: Crystal glasses and fine china. Prices range from $200 for a Jasper plate to $80,000 for prestige items such as a Wedgwood Portland vase.
Royal Copenhagen: Fine china from Royal Copenhagen, cutlery from George Jensen and glass from Holmegaard. Prices range from $300 for a Fairy-tale plate to $60,000 for a Flora Danica soup tureen.