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January 20, 2010

The Wedding Registry Quandry

I recently came upon this great article via Times Union blog Simpler Living from Naomi Selden titled: Is it rude not to want a normal wedding registry?  With permission, I want to share a different perspective on the "normal" wedding registry and see how you feel. The wedding registry can be a touchy subject, but its also a very interesting one...

One of my recently engaged readers wrote in with a wedding registry question:

When I moved in with my now-fiance, our intent was to look for a bigger place “at a later date.” We’ve decided that our location, for the price, is a gem for a number of reasons, and we’d rather sacrifice space and stay where we are.
We have a storage bin full of stuff that is duplicates that at some point we are going to sit down, inventory and try to liquidate. Most of it is stuff we don’t need, that I wanted to hold onto “just in case”: extra pots and pans, for example.

I’m worried about creating a registry, which I’ll likely be expected to do, and then accumulate more stuff. It might be nice to get some fine china, and we could really use new bedding, but aside from a few key things, I really can’t think of much that we need.

I was planning to not have a wedding shower, but I was gently informed by my future-MIL that her sisters were already joyfully talking about it, and they would be terribly disappointed if I didn’t have one. Since it is so important to them, I likely will have a shower, for which people will inevitably want some sort of registry.
The fiance and I have joked about putting “silly” things on there (video games, season tickets to the Yankees, a Kindle — thank Amazon Universal Wish List!), but I’ve read far too many blogs and articles about people who “ask for money” (which, really, who couldn‘t use?), or do “honeymoon registries,” characterizing them as entitled jerks. I, personally, wouldn’t mind if no one got us anything at all! I just want this to be a time to celebrate with the people we hold most dear.

So this is my long-winded way of asking: How do you intend to tackle this very sensitive issue?

Here’s my answer:
I can relate to this bride. Like her, I also plan to register for things like real flatware (we’ll donate our old sets when the time comes). And like her, I’m also uncomfortable asking for money, even indirectly via things like gift cards.

After giving it some thought, here’s what I’m telling her (and myself):

1. If you haven’t already, tell your mother-in-law what you’ve told me.
Ask her for her suggestions, and listen. But also stand your ground. She knows what your living situation is, so I’m hoping that will help. And don’t forget that these days, a lot more people understand that not all couples need help setting up their first homes — because they already have, on their own.
2. Do not, under any circumstances, register for things you don’t need or want.
There’s no better way to guarantee that you’ll end with useless stuff that you then have to find a place for, give away or return.

3. Give people options.
A lot of couples create more than one wedding registry. So sign up for yours (choosing gifts at various price points) at Bed, Bath & Beyond, Amazon or whatever else floats your boat. The more choices you give your guests, the more likely it is that they’ll find a gift they really want to give you.
One of my friends registered for a Deluxe Scrabble set for her bridal shower. I love Scrabble, so I was so much happier to get her that than something for her kitchen or bathroom.
My favorite gifts are experiences, so I’d actually love it if my guests could give us movie passes and gift certificates for restaurants we like. We’d definitely use both.
And personally, I think a honeymoon registry is a brilliant idea. So …

4. Stop reading blogs and articles that tell you that not wanting charger plates and a china tea set makes you an entitled jerk.
Because you aren’t one. Some people will never understand why others want certain things (or don’t). Ignore them, and move on.

5. Accept every gift you get graciously, even the ones you don’t want.
Some people will inevitably ignore your wishes and show up at your shower or wedding with a blender, toaster or chip-and-dip bowl. Thank them, then decide what to do with their gift: keep it, regift it or return it for something you can use.

Try to keep perspective in these cases. The spirit of the gift really does count, and every one of your guests who takes the time and effort to give you one deserves a sincere thanks. And I’m sure you know (as do I) that we’re both privileged to be in this position.

6. When you get something new, get rid of the old one.
Professional organizers call this the “one-in, one-out” rule. By keeping the gifts you like and donating or selling your older duplicates, you can upgrade without adding to your clutter.
I also love that you say this: “I just want this to be a time to celebrate with the people we hold most dear.” I agree wholeheartedly, and I think you’ll find that’s what your guests want for you, too. Good luck, and congratulations!

What’s your advice?


  1. Great post. I've thought about this a lot too. I just registered for some cool things we didn't have but would want (like at Targer) - like camping equipment, Wii, DVD sets, etc. So it doesn't have to be just 'homey' type stuff. And I put some of those suggestions on my wedding website, for those who choose to come.

  2. Thank you for supporting the honeymoon registry concept!

    It is great to see how popular the honeymoon registry is becoming. When Traveler's Joy started six years ago, we realized there were a large number of engaged couples that were not satisfied with the diversity of the traditional wedding registry market. Since then, the honeymoon registry has become a mainstream option for brides and grooms and the industry has experienced significant growth.

    We are proud to have helped tens of thousands of couples honeymoon at destinations they may never have considered - a great feeling for everyone at Traveler's Joy.

    Best Regards,
    Brandon Warner
    President & Co-founder
    Traveler's Joy Honeymoon Registry
    Traveler's Joy, Inc.

    *Honeymoon Registry Partner with, The Knot, and*

  3. I think the best way to deal with it is to just explain your situation to friends and family who will be attending the wedding. Like many couples, we moved in together almost 2 years ago and our wedding is in June. In that much time, we pretty much have everything we need and the only stuff we'll be registering for is some upgraded to things like flatware and linens. And most of our wedding guests know this, but like post says, chances are we'll still end up getting gifts that we don't need from the more traditionally oriented guests which we'll probably try to find some purpose for, and if we can't, we'll return it.

  4. Having been in your shoes not long ago, I couldn't agree more, with both the quandary and the advice. Don't gasp, but I actually had 5 showers, and had to turn down a few other offers. They were lovely and so appreciated, but then there is the other side of having so much 'stuff' that our apt is bursting at the seams and we still have other items in my parents' attic.

    When I was registering, I wasn't loving the cash/honeymoon registry options that were out there. So, I started my own: Thank you for supporting this option in your article!

    With us, you can register for your honeymoon, a new home down payment, or anything else you're thinking of.

    We just got a great writeup in RecessionWire that addresses the etiquette aspect too:
    I thought their take on it was spot-on and really addresses a legitimate concern.

    I'd be happy to personally answer any questions:

    Dana Ostomel
    Chief Gifting Officer

  5. Thanks for sharing my blog post, AmyJean. Honeymoon registries have been a controversial topic on my blog, so please feel free to weigh in there, too, via her link to my original post.

    Happy planning!

    Naomi Seldin
    Simpler Living

  6. This is a whole new concept, but it totally makes sense and I'm glad it;s becoming more and more popular.

  7. If you use the Zankyou online cash wedding registry, yes you can ask for cash, but in the form of a gift idea. On the website you can add any items you like but in the end you will just receive the cash value of whatever you asked for so then you can go buy it yourself or if you change your mind, use the money for something else. It's very free and flexible in that way without coming off as "entitled" as you say. They also have the lowest rates (2.85) of any cash wedding registry.


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