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With this ka-ching! I thee wed

My fiance and I want the American Dream: to be married, have a family and own a home. I'm still a student, and she has some debt, so the home-owning part of the dream is beyond us right now. My suggestion: Instead of registering for wedding presents, we could ask our guests to contribute to the down payment on a house. My fiance thinks this is tacky and rude although she has no problem with signing up to get crystal and china. What do you think? Undercapitalized

I think it's like going to a bar and informing the person next to you, "Hey, in case you want to buy me a drink, I should let you know up front, I'd really rather have the cash."

Is this a celebration of love you're planning, or Live Aid for the overspent middle class? If it's the latter, don't hold back. Make the receiving line double as a giving line by sticking an ATM at the beginning. Let no moment go unmerchandised: "For $80, you'll get a DVD of our wedding night. For an extra $180, we'll even throw in the bedroom scenes!" Don't forget to offer your guests the option of a monthly direct-debit from their bank account, which may usher them up the tiers of giving; turning, say, gold-level friends into platinum ones.

You claim you're after the American Dream the idea that, through hard work and determination, anybody can have a happy, prosperous life. Um, yes, but that's supposed to be your own hard work and determination, not that of your friends. Some couples do ask their families to chip in for a down payment instead of a big wedding but, at what point do your parents get to be done feeding the upstretched palm? Then there's the tacky new trend of setting up a Web site where wedding invitees can seamlessly pay for the couple's home, honeymoon, and more. Suddenly, they're not just your pals, they're also your PayPals!

There are arguments for registering for gifts: It prevents a couple from ending up with 26 blenders, saves them when others' bad taste is not exactly their bad taste, and it's a relief for "friends" who'd scarcely recognize the bride but for the big white dress. But, maybe people who don't know you well enough to gift you without assistance have no business coming to your wedding. And frankly, if a wedding is about the love, not the loot, is it best celebrated with a flock of lead crystal butterflies, or the $14.95 John Gottman book, The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work? Of course, you two could also do with a few visits to a Certified Financial Planner so "'til death do us part" doesn't become "'til debt do us part."

This being America, not the Sudan, what do most of us reeeally need on top of what we already have? Will your love be meaningless if you express it in a rented one-bedroom apartment while eating on Target-ware instead of Wedgwood? Unless you're dirt-poor, why not tell your guests "love is all we need," and in lieu of gifts, suggest they donate to your favorite charity? Otherwise, maybe a truly meaningful wedding gift would be a letter from each guest, perhaps to bind into a book, with their hopes for your marriage; such as, that it will last longer than the payments they'd be making on that jewel-encrusted breadbox they would've ordered you from Tiffany's.

Stop in the wrong name of love

My husband and I have been together almost two years. Previously, he spent three years with a woman whose name sounds somewhat similar to mine. Not constantly, but often enough to annoy me, his parents call me by her name. He thinks I should let it go. I think they could try a little harder to get it right. Whatzhername

Let's say I'm about to be flattened by a bus. My grandma, who typically takes four tries to get any of our names right, attempts to warn me: "Richard, uh, Lorraine, uh, Caroline, uh ... Amy!" Not only do I become roadkill, I've spent my last moment on earth being mistaken for my bald uncle with the big red mustache. Sure, I could be offended, but why? Likewise, when your in-laws occasionally default from Sandy to Susie, is there anything more at work than force of habit and a bit of a traffic jam on Memory Lane? Yeah, they could try a little harder to get it right or you could try a little harder to accept it's taking them a while. I'm still waiting on my grandma perhaps because she's secretly plotting to have me predecease her. Then again, this seems unlikely, considering the mileage she gets ending our every visit by rasping, "I'd like to see you again before I'm dead!" Got a problem? Write Amy Alkon, 171 Pier Ave, No. 280, Santa Monica, CA 90405, or e-mail AdviceAmy@aol.com (advicegoddess.com).

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