Wedding Registry 101: The 4 Major Things You NEED to Know About Gifts

wedding registry

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Okay, I’ll be frank here. When I first attended a wedding I actually remember (so maybe 3 years ago?), I actually didn’t know a lot about weddings in general besides the fact that you got to drink fahn-cee champagne and smear your mascara when you saw the bride walk down the aisle for the first time. So when I saw that people weren’t bringing enormous gift boxes to a celebration even bigger than a birthday party, I got really confused — until I heard about the wedding registry.

A wedding registry is kind of like a couple’s personal catalog or item checklist. The couple registers at a store that has the stuff they like, their guests buy whatever item hasn’t been bought yet, and both sides call it a day in the gift-giving process. That seemed simple enough to understand.

HOWEVER, there is a maddening slew of etiquette that is associated with wedding registries (and gift-giving in general) that couples need to decipher, so I am aiming to answer some of your many, many questions.

The Basics


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You can’t just point at your guests and command in a deep voice, “GIVE ME YOUR TRIBUTES!” This isn’t ancient Rome, and the fact that there are so many things way more valuable than spices (did you know a pound of peppercorn was worth more than a pound of gold back in its day? Remind me never to knock over a pepper shaker again) means that guests will most likely be very confused as to what to get you for a wedding gift.

That, and you don’t want to look a duplicate gift horse in its mouth.

This is why people have wedding registries. So that way, guests know exactly what the couple wants and are able to play eeny-meeny-miney-mo and lay their claim on whatever dish set they want to buy before someone else does. So when you’re setting up your registry, be sure to follow these tips:

  • Make sure you AND your partner count your inventory — if you both already have a complete set of knives, there’s not much point to having an extra set of knives. Except for maybe knife-throwing practice.
  • Be realistic about your hobbies. Do you REALLY need that centrifuge for fancy foams if you prefer eating takeout and homemade 5-minute frozen dinners? Is it REALLY necessary for you to get a tricked-out army knife with a serrated edge if you go camping once every ten years? Make sure that your registry is both practical and something you enjoy! No harm getting some fancy decanters if you’re an aspiring bartender.
  • Think multi-use if possible. If you can saute your vegetables and your meat in a regular ol’ pan AND do more cooking-related tasks with it, a wok might just take up space. Additionally, upgrade anything that requires replacement.
  • Put some fun items too! I’ve personally always wanted an ice-cream maker, so that would be my quirkier items compared to the more sensible items I’d put on a wedding registry.

What Do You Typically Register For?


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There’s no official hard rule for what you should register for as gifts, although the most common gifts seem to be an assortment of pans, plates, and cooking utensils. Nowadays, it’s a lot more common to see couples already have the majority of household items since they’ve probably lived together for a while now. Below is a list of what items couples generally try to aim for but are certainly not limited to:

  • Kitchen: Baking pans, pans in general, blenders, fancy kitchenware, silverware, china, trash cans, knife sets, juicers, blenders
  • Living Room: Lounge chairs, coffee table books, coffee tables, lamps, vacuums, carpets
  • Bathroom: Towels, soap, cleaning supplies, scents, cleaning supplies in general
  • Bedroom: Linens, pillows, pillow sheets, bed sheets, night stands, irons, steamers,
  • Outdoors: Rakes, shovels, weeders, tool kit, gardening supplies

I guess while these items aren’t going to make you squeal in joy (unless you’re Monica from Friends), they certainly are going to be practical and save you hundreds of dollars from spending on necessities. If you’re looking to inject a little personality into the gifts you’re registering for, do a little research to make sure that your pieces are beautiful as well!

How and Where Can You Register?


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Before you run off to the nearest Target and go trigger-happy with those scanner guns, you need to pause and think about your inventory and all the things you need. A) “Do all of the things my partner and I are going to need even exist in a store” and B) “Does that store even have a registry option?” (P.S. Both answers should be a resounding “YES”. And Target does have a registry option, so feel free to scan to your heart’s content).

Where can you register?

Your best bets are any really sizable chain stores and prominent e-tailers such as Target, Walmart, IKEA, Crate & Barrel, Amazon, etc. These stores make a killing (when not making a killing on people who just want cheap stuff in general) on Black Fridays and weddings, so they’ll most likely be able to accommodate for your registries.

If you have your heart set on that quaint little furniture store on the corner but don’t know if they have the option of registering, ASK. You never know if they’ll say yes or no. Worst case scenario, the store owners say no and you go and sulk off to the antique store on the next block. Best case scenario? They say yes, and you chuckle in glee as you anticipate what pretty things you want in furniture wonderland!

Just a side note, but be sure to check a store’s exchange/return policies. After all, we all experience buyer’s remorse at some point… even though that crystal cornucopia seemed like SUCH a good idea at the time.

When should I register?

It seems like a good time frame is 6 to 10 months before your wedding. More than a year is a little TOO early, but it’s always nice to let guests know in advance that they have time to decide which spanking awesome gift they want to give you! Plus, if you feel uncomfortable telling people that you have a wedding registry that early before a wedding, you can just wait until people start asking around (and trust me, they will) about the registry. Just register and get it out of the way so you can worry about more pressing matters. You can always add items to your list if need be.

How do you set up a wedding registry?

Excellent question — because weirdly enough, it just seems very straight-forward. After all, you just head online (or in person) and fill out the form for a wedding registry. But there are some general rules of thumb you should follow.

  • Choose 2-3 stores, 1 or 2 of which are nationally-recognized chain stores.
  • Choose top-tier, middle-tier, and lower-tier gifts in terms of price, so that way people have a variety of options they’re able to afford.
  • Don’t include the name of the stores in a wedding invitation. Just a little tacky to mention any sign of “gift-giving” in an invitation of all things.
  • Different brands will have different requirements that couples must meet. Most of the time, it just amounts to different forms that you need to fill out. However, some stores/brands charge a flat rate for using their wedding registry rates, and this rate would be a percentage of a guest’s contributions.
  • Alternatively, some brands might offer completion discounts! They usually kick in the day after weddings, so you have the chance to complete the set with items that go for cheaper than they normally are.

Mo’ Money, Mo’ Problems

wedding registry

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You know you’ve been there. Cranking your equivalent of “Mo’ Money, Mo’ Problems” in your car on a hot summer day, blasting your music out the windows as you hear Kelly Price sing her famous hook:

It’s like the mo’ money we come across,

the mo’ problems we see”

And here’s the old-age question when money is EVER mentioned in the same statement as “gift”.

“Is it okay if I give money as a gift to the couples?”

See? As soon as that question comes up, people are ready to tear whoever had the gall to ask that question a new one. All sarcastic threats aside, long-established terms of wedding etiquette tend to be very touchy around the topic of money as a gift because it seems impersonal, yadadada, and other strange and antiquated reasons. However, we live in the 21st century now — and if there is anything that people LOVE receiving more than anything else (except the company of the Leto brothers, hello), it’s money.

Now here’s the ACTUAL and RELEVANT question where money is mentioned in the same statement as “gift” .

“Is it okay if my partner and I ask for money as a gift?”

That’s a little trickier. Asking for cash rings a little too much of money-hoarding. Some of your guests are ultimately going to be traditionalist and insist on buying you a set of pots and pans no matter what. And that’s okay. However, asking for cash gifts is acceptable as long as you’re gracious about it and are able to frame it in a manner that will positively contribute to your marriage. Examples of what you can use cash gifts for are:

  • Putting a down-payment on a home
  • Contributing to a honeymoon fund
  • Gift cards (kind of like cash, but shows you went the extra step to convert it into a card)
  • A puppy fund!
  • Charitable donations

And on the even more positive side, some guests might end up just giving you cash as a gift anyway. Some guests just have trouble being creative with gifts — but really, it’s the thought of being able to give what they think is helpful and meaningful to the couple that counts.