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Couple wants to exchange their vows, not score a new vacuum cleaner

Blast New York Bureau

Who turned weddings into orgies of materialism, where productive, hardworking adults expect to be showered with enough shiny new household items to make Martha Stewart feel at home?

I am 36 years old and in one form or another have been living on my own since I was 18. The same is true of the woman I plan to marry in a few months.

In that time, we have acquired sheets, blankets, pots, pans, plates, drinking glasses, silverware and assorted other household items. The only thing we're really missing is a waffle iron and that's only because I left mine burnt to a crisp.

Now I admit that not all of these things are perfectly matched and many of them would be entirely unacceptable to our more domestic friends and relatives, but the fact is, they all work and I can roast a turkey, bake a lasagna, and offer guests a glass of wine when the occasion calls for it.

Some day I would like to have matching crystals -- and a set of the copper-bottom pots my mom uses would be nice, too. But I am not getting married to acquire these things and I am not inviting my oldest friends to the wedding so I will receive a lot of gifts.

Miracle of all things, my fiancee and I agree on this. The first decision we made when we began planning our wedding was that we are going to ask our guests not to bring gifts.

So, why did I spend Sunday afternoon in a series of trendy shops looking at plates and glasses, while surrounded by men with clipboards who dutifully ticked off their items on gift lists as their spouses-to-be tried to decide which expresso maker they couldn't live without?

Because it turns out, it is rude not to ask for gifts. My fiancee's mother simply pretended not to hear us when we said we didn't want gifts. "Where are you going to register" was the response repeated every time we tried to explain our thoughts to her.

My mother was more philosophical, but just as steadfast. The idea of not asking for gifts was fine in theory, she said, but giving gifts to newly married couples is a tradition and the "people that you love" are going to give you gifts anyway. You might as well register so that you get what you want, she said.

Even my friends sort of shook their heads and looked at me as if I were a few bricks shy of a load when I tried to explain my feelings on wedding gifts.

So we caved. We decided to register just to shut everyone up and we're immediately sucked into the vortex of consumerism.

With my fiancee in New York and me in California, we selected a store and began choosing China patterns, champagne flutes, tablecloths and toasters. There will soon be a list with our names on it at one of those trendy houseware stores. Anyone who cares to will be able to walk in, punch either of our names into a computer and find a never-ending supply of gift ideas at prices to fit every budget.

But if any of my friends are reading this, I have a better suggestion for you. Make a donation in our names to help feed the homeless, save the whales, or educate a child - and send us a card explaining where the money went.

It will be nice knowing that we are helping other people as we start our life together.

WILLY MORRIS is now married and living in New York.