What You Should Know About Your Wedding Registry
8 Tips for Maintaining Etiquette and Maximizing Worth
What's the polite way to let your guests know what gifts you'll be happiest to receive? Are there rules? How do you even get started? Don't worry - registering is super fun, super helpful, and super easy if you know what you're doing (and we're going to fill you in on all the details you need to make the process as smooth as possible!)
Giving a present is the timeless way to congratulate someone on a happy occasion, and a wedding is one of the happiest occasions life has to offer. Two people coming together, becoming one, forsaking all others, till death do they part....two people being partners, confidantes, lovers...two people making promises to each other and starting a life together with their family and friends cheering them on - it's joyful, and it inspires gift-giving to congratulate the happy couple!
It's also considered a social custom, almost an obligation, to give a gift if you attend a wedding. If you send an invitation to someone who cannot make it, they may not send one, but it's likelier that they will, and almost certain that your actual guests will bring or send one.
This is where a registry comes in: the probability of having your living room filled with things that you don't need or want or even like rises dramatically when you don't give your guests options of what to get. A registry is basically a specific list of items that you and your fiancé desire to start your life together, like a crockpot, that matching bathroom towel set, Guests can locate your registry and purchase gifts that you picked out.
The registering process has changed dramatically with the advent of Ecommerce (hello, Amazon) and the modern reality of many couples living together before marriage (and therefore already having many of the traditional items that would go on a registry). There is more diversity and choice available than ever before, which is exciting, but it can also be overwhelming. Every registry is different, but here are a few guidelines that every bride should know before grabbing that scanner.
#1 – Register Early
The earlier you register, the better! You'd be surprised at the amount of people who want to congratulate you on your engagement right away, and when you have your engagement shower and/or bridal shower, people will look for a registry to know what to get you. Registering early also gives you time to continually update the list with new ideas as you get closer to marriage. It may sound soon, but if you can have a working registry (maybe not complete, but functional) within one month of being engaged, you'll put you and your guests in a great position! For many brides, this just isn't realistic, which is why we just say the earlier the better.
If you wait too long to register (after the four/six month countdown mark) you'll probably end up with a lot of things that don't match your taste or clutter that you don't need. And while it is perfectly okay to return items, some gifts may be non-returnable, and married life is fun - you don't want to spend the first few weeks going through the hassle of making returns! If you do return items, you don't have to tell the giver specifically, though, and you probably should keep super personal presents (e.g., anything customized) even if you don't love them.
#2 – Limit to a Few Stores
Self-control is a virtue every bride has to learn early on, and this is a good way to practice it while also keeping the process organized and less hectic for you. Generally, you should register at no more than 2-3 places. Here's the reasoning for this: one, it helps you keep better track of what is coming from where, in the case of thank-you cards and returns later, and two, it's polite - the purpose of a registry is to give your guests options, not overwhelm them with your every material wish.
You should definitely register at more than one store, though, to make sure to give everyone enough options! If you're registering at a local shop you love where only physical gifts can be purchased, you'll want to balance that out by having an online option for guests that live out of town, which could be a chain that offers online purchases or Amazon. Some wedding websites will have registry options (like Zola and TheKnot) to pull all of your gifts into one place, making it really convenient for guests and for you.
#3 – Vary Price Range
Not all of your guests have the same financial situation, and you should be mindful of this when selecting gifts. Putting a monetary burden on your guests will make the wedding less joyful for them, and is generally just tactless. It's okay to ask for expensive items, of course - this is the one time in your life that you will probably receive them! - but you should also include some cheaper options, especially since some guests will be purchasing shower gifts and wedding gifts. Kadlee recommends creating three tiers: one of gifts under $50, one of gifts between $50 - $150, and one for gifts over $150. There should be less gifts in the top tier than in the second, and less in the second than in the lowest tier. Also, you should have more gifts in the registry than you do guests you're inviting, so keep this in mind when selecting how many gifts you're listing.
Many registries today now have the cool option of a "group gift", where guests can contribute financially to more expensive items. That's a great way to not make guests uncomfortable when asking for higher-priced presents. It's also perfectly acceptable to ask for cash, either by word of mouth or creative ways to do it that we think might appeal to you (see tip #6), but you should have at least one physical registry for guests that want to get you something tangible.
#4 – Don't Ask for Personal Items
One of the biggest faux pas we've seen is when couples ask for individual, personal items that have no business being on a registry. They probably just didn't know any better, but we're writing this to educate you and help you stay classy, so we'll just be straightforward; registries are supposed to be about providing for a couple. Putting individual needs or wants on there, like an electric razor for the groom or that new designer handbag you really want, isn't appropriate. Save it for another occasion or use the cash you get to purchase the item later!
#5 – Keep the Link Off of the Invitation
It's a universal rule of etiquette that you are NOT supposed to ever include registry information on an invitation. This may seem strange since everyone clearly does know you'll have a registry, and will want to know where, but it's not classy to set the expectation of a gift, even if this seems like the most helpful place to put it.
Instead, put a link to your registry on your wedding website, which is perfectly acceptable to place on the invitation. You can also let family and friends know so they can tell guests that will ask them, and if a guest comes to you with the question "Where are you registered?" or "What do you want for your wedding?" it is not breaking any social rules to direct them to your registry.
#6 – Consider Non-Traditional Alternatives
While smaller household items are the first things that come to mind when you think of what to list on your registry, you can really register for anything. We encourage you to think outside the box in order to get gifts that you'll be excited to receive and will really use! As long as you are both in agreement about what you want, and you took our advice in tips #3 and #4, you can add pricier or wackier items to the registry as well. Think furniture, grills, tools, sporting equipment, luggage, plane tickets, remodeling your kitchen, cooking classes or a food subscription service, a beautiful wedding album, a DSLR camera, adventure gear for camping or traveling, donations to your favorite charity.... anything that will enhance your life as a married couple!
One of the more recent trends is for couples to ask guests to contribute to a honeymoon fund. We love this idea - honeymoon time for newlyweds is precious, and this is an experience you will never forget! It's especially practical if you already have plenty of household items. But optimal honeymoons can be expensive and impossible for some people, so guests really do love to donate to make this happen. There are some sites, like Honeyfund, Blueprint Registry, and Wanderable, that itemize your trip and make it super simple for guests to give and for you to keep track of who has given to what!
#7 – Think Ahead
Many couples make the mistake of only registering for things they need/want right now. You're signing up to live together for the rest of your lives, you'll probably move a few times, and your needs may be different in the future than they are in this engaged season. Think of what you'll need three years from now, ten years from now... maybe it's seasonal items like a Christmas tree or Thanksgiving platter, or items required for entertaining, or something you'd want for a house that may not fit in your apartment (but you can leave it in storage or at your parents' place). Just don't limit yourself!
On another note, think ahead as far as where the gifts will arrive, also. Make sure you edit shipping settings for online gifts and in-store registries to be sent to the correct place of residence - that will help you stay organized! Guests may bring gifts to the wedding or mail them directly, which is fine, but the more you control where the gifts are going, the less stressful it will be.
#8 – Send Thank-You Notes Quickly
This part is going to be a hassle, but it's an absolute must to send thank-you cards. A must. The guests came to your wedding, they purchased a gift, and they deserve a personal note of gratitude. Ideally, you should send out thank-you cards as soon as you receive the gift (you'll receive many pre-wedding). If sending them out within two weeks of arrival seems like a daunting task, enlist your maid of honor or the groom to help you write them and keep track of who bought what!
Obviously, guests who bring thank-you cards to the wedding do not expect a thank-you right away; they know you'll be enjoying your honeymoon and then settling in to married life! But three months is the standard amount of time it should take you to finish those ones. The sooner the better, but waiting any longer than three months reflects poorly on you.
Do you have any other questions about registries? What are items you want to register for, or registries you've used that you loved? Tell us in the comments - we'd love to hear from you!