If you're planning a big wedding, register your gift preferences with one or more stores. It makes shopping easier for the guests, and you will receive gifts you will enjoy using for years to come.

"A lot of young women seem a little shy; they haven't thought of registering," says Michael Belleveau of Cartier. "They may be hesitant because they feel like they are asking for gifts."But Belleveau says gift registry makes sense for everyone. "The bride gets what she wants. There are fewer duplications and exchanges, and she always knows exactly who gave her which gift."

Before registering, Belleveau says, look around. Once you choose a store or stores, ask your fiance to join you for a final look-see.

"That's very important," Belleveau says. "Men today often have very definite ideas about what they like, and it's nice to have the couples agree on the items they will be receiving."

Bridal registrations can be useful long after the wedding, too. Cartier, for example, keeps the registration for a number of years.

"Guests may like to buy one item for the wedding, and another for anniversaries or birthdays," says Belleveau. "And many people like to add babies' silver when the time comes."