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In what has been dubbed a "marriage of convenience, if not creativity" a number of credit unions are piloting a new program aimed at members planning a wedding.

Called the "MatriMoney Wedding Gift Registry Program," it was developed under the auspices of the Filene Research Institute's i3 group, which seeks to foster innovation in financial products.

MatriMoney is a share savings account for couples who are getting married in which the couples can register for cash gifts.

The program is being tested at North Island Financial Credit Union in San Diego and is based on the group's research, which indicated that couples desire cash gifts, yet are uncomfortable asking for cash from friends and relatives. "The MatriMoney account provides a more elegant way for engaged couples to request cash consistent with wedding registries at retail stores," said its developers.

It works this way: the account requires a $200 minimum deposit and a wedding date set 90-plus days in the future. North Island joins in the wedding celebration by matching the first $100 in wedding gift cash, and by offering an interest rate that is higher than a regular share savings account. The credit union also provides registered couples with MatriMoney Registry Announcements-wallet-sized cards that explain the program to bridal shower and wedding guests.

Guests have two ways to make deposits in a couple's MatriMoney account: in person at any North Island Financial Credit Union branch or by credit card via the credit union's contact center. An attractive "Congratulations" card with gift information is sent to the couple as an acknowledgement. A list of all who contributed to the MatriMoney account is included in the account statement, so it is easy to send thank-you notes.

NIFCU's Geri Dillingham is among the i3 members who helped develop the product. Also involved have been MaryAnn Hughes of Common Wealth One FCU in Alexandria, Va.; Jim Miles of MidFirst Credit Union in Franklin, Ohio; Barry Shaner of Toledo Area Community Credit Union; and Susan Siegel of Sunmark FCU, Schenectady, N.Y.

"MatriMoney stemmed from an innovation exercise that had us look outside of our industry for fresh products and services," said Dillingham.

According to i3, three other credit unions in the United States have variations on the program and no banks offer such a product. Ultimately, said i3, the group will develop the MatriMoney program into a national franchise.

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