It depends who you ask, but the statistics are roughly the same: about half of all married people today choose to live together before they tie the knot. Whether or not it’s a good idea is beside the point; making your dwelling new and exciting post-wedding is fun – and easy if you use your gift registry wisely.

It’s a fabulous idea to still enjoy the ‘newness’ after the ceremony. Hold different types of showers, like a holiday-décor party, where the guests are invited to bring ornaments or decorations for your house. Another favorite for young couples is a ‘stock the bar’ shower, where guests can bring different types of glasses, wines or liquors. This helps the couple get ready to entertain their guests. But you don’t have to wait for a party to jazz up your humble abode. To make the apartment special after the reception, try semi-redecorating; join all of the new gifts and goodies with the old favorites. Maybe you had been hoping for that new four-slice toaster and you can finally get rid of the vintage red toaster from your college days.

One of the nice things about getting married is that you’ll probably come away from the event with at least one or two new pictures. Nothing says, “Just Married!” like a picture of the two of you, you know, getting married. Creating a cluster of wedding photos on the mantle or hung up on the wall is an instant “first-home” touch than works for couples who have been living together for a decade or for those who are brand new roomies. In either case, it’s the details that make a home feel new – whether it is or not.

A fresh coat of paint, new curtains and new bed linens do wonders. We are huge fans of 800 thread-count sheets.

The gift registry can be a useful tool in decorating and preparing for your newlywed home. If you’ve imagined having a red-and-white, polka-dotted kitchen since you were a kid, registering for those red-and-white, polka-dotted dishes would be a smart move. Likewise, several sets of pretty sheets will go a long way toward creating the bedroom style of your dreams – and putting those on your registry will allow the people who give gifts to contribute to your soon-to-be fabulous home.

For any wedding guests who may be reading this right now, take note: If you choose to eschew the registry, you’ll help the newlyweds build their first home together much more with a “paper gift” than with, say, an extra blender.

You can’t go wrong with a monetary donation toward a couple’s new life and home. After all, the bride and groom just spent how many thousands of dollars on the wedding you just attended.

Of course, newly married couples can always use money. Maybe they are saving for a new house, car or wanting to pay off the credit-card bills from the wedding or honeymoon. But if you want something special that isn’t on the plain registry, why not make an item – monogramming is a great way to achieve a personal touch and brides love it. The sky is the limit with this – towels, sheets, dishtowels, or even a doormat for the entryway of their home. Other special touches include soaps or decorative additions to their home.

And home is where the heart is. Really. No matter what a couple’s living situation is beforehand, after the wedding, your home is a new landscape. Those new curtains, that new roasting pan, and the set of incredible French cookbooks are new now, but they usher in a lifetime of your very own traditions.

A wedding is about joining two families together. It isn’t just the bride and groom; it is parents, siblings, and traditions of each family. People forget that this is the beginning of a lifetime together.

And you can start by sweeping the living room and unpacking your boxes of stemware. The rest will take care of itself.

© CTW Features