Written by E. Ce Miller | Photography by Emma Belen Photography
Setting up the wedding gift registry might be every engaged couple’s favorite part of wedding planning. Except, maybe, for cake tasting! And honestly, who can blame you? You’re basically shopping for all those splurge- worthy items you have always wanted but never really needed, without actually spending any money yourself.
Plus, if you rock it old school (aka: actually register for gifts in a store, in person) you get to use one of those super- fun barcode scanners on your phone. If you’ve never done this before, wielding a barcode scanner in this capacity comes with a surprisingly exhilarating sense of power — use it wisely.
But like every other element of wedding planning and prep, setting up your wedding registry comes with its fair share of etiquette, and some helpful guidance to go with it. Here are some things to keep in mind while setting up your registry — guaranteed to keep you and your gift-giving guests happy.
1. CHOOSE YOUR PRICE POINTS MINDFULLY.
Before you even start to put together that gift registry, really think about who you’re inviting to your wedding, and plan your wish list accordingly. Be sure to have a few big-ticket items for those folks who you know are going to want to splurge on you. But also be mindful of anyone — like your old college roommate and those co-workers still paying off student loans — who might be operating with a more modest budget. The bulk of your registry items should fall somewhere in the middle of your highest price point and your lowest. A good rule of thumb is to expect guests to spend around the same amount of dough as you are budgeting per person for your big day, give or take.
2. CONSIDER EXACTLY THE KIND OF WEDDING YOU ARE HAVING.
Naturally, if most of your guests live locally and will have minimal travel expenses, they’re going to have more to offer in the gift-giving department. If you are asking your guests to venture across the country — or even around the world — to attend your (undoubtedly, fabulous) destination wedding, keep that in mind when you’re registering for gifts.
Make sure your expectations take into account what your gracious guests will already be spending just to attend your wedding, both in travel costs and in any time they might need to take away from work. Also make sure you set up your registry so that everything is delivered directly to your home address (or wherever you want all your gifts to go). No one wants to transport a Crock-Pot across 3,000 miles, only to have you transport it right back.
3. TRY TO KEEP THAT REGISTRY AS ORGANIZED AS POSSIBLE.
We once gifted a soon-to-be-wedded friend a dozen napkin rings, 18 napkins, nine place settings, a soup ladle, and the lid to a butter dish. This was not by design. The folks who had gotten to her registry before us had completely ransacked it — buying a couple plates here, a few table linens there, a butter dish (sans lid), without any rhyme or reason that we could discern. It’s funny in hindsight, but a good reminder that if you’re registering at one of those housewares stores where everything comes with its own barcode, it can be hard to keep your registry orderly. If possible, try to register for things in sets, and try to refrain from constantly editing the items on your registry throughout your engagement.
It makes things very confusing (and unnecessarily embarrassing) for your guests. Particularly those of us who are not especially adept at wrapping one half of a butter dish.
4. KNOW YOURSELF (AND YOUR FIANCÉ).
Don’t feel like you have to register for items you will never use, even if it’s a classic registry gift. Should you register for a bread maker and then actually receive one, you will most likely attempt to make said bread exactly one time, before you realize two things: 1.) You are not all that interested in baking homemade bread and 2.) You have now made it entirely impossible to return your shiny, brand new bread maker for something you will actually use and love.
If the person who gifted you the bread maker is someone who regularly spends time at your house, you will be obligated to pull the bread maker out of the back of your pantry and place it on your kitchen counter every single time they come over. And bread makers, for anyone who hasn’t spent a lot of time moving them to and fro, are notoriously heavy. Know yourself, register for things you will actually use.
5. BUT DON’T BE AFRAID TO TREAT YOURSELF EITHER.
If you’ve always been interested in, say, brewing your own beer (or, you know, actually baking your own bread) then, by all means, your wedding registry is the opportunity to treat yourself to the pricier items you have had your eye on — with the added benefit of someone else’s budget.
6. THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX.
…The gift box, that is. Although receiving eight blenders and a stash of sterling silver candlesticks you will (probably) never use has practically become the stuff of wedding clichés, that doesn’t mean you’re limited to filling your registry with items that can fit inside a standard gift box.
Consider registering for experiences instead of, or in addition to, items to stock your home. Take some of the financial stress out of your honeymoon by setting up an account where guests can contribute to your travel budget. You can make “experiential gifting” feel a little more personal than just writing a check by inviting your guests to put together a few fun date night goodie bags for you and your new spouse. Instead of adding everything and the kitchen sink to your registry, you can also put together a shorter list of bigger ticket items (think camping gear, a wine tasting class, his-and-hers kayaks, etc.), and make sure your guests know they can pool their giving toward one larger item or experience for the two of you. At the end of the day, your guests just want to give you something you’ll both love.
7. PAY IT FORWARD.
Have everything you could ever need and want, and a comfortable travel budget to boot? Consider using your wedding registry to pay your own hard work and good fortune forward. If there’s a charity you and your soon- to-be-wedded love, or a nonprofit near and dear to your hearts, invite your guests to make a donation in your names, in lieu of gifts. Giving back is definitely a great way to celebrate your new life together.
Check out these vendors for help with your registry, favors, gifts and more.