Wedding Registries Are a Necessary Evil. Here’s How You Make Your Peace with Them.

updated May 1, 2019
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It’s happening. Your wedding is approaching, and your mom and your aunties are on your case. You need to register — and STAT — before someone forcibly sticks one of those scanner guns in your hand and marches you over to the nearest department store. So what’s the hold up?

As someone who’s been writing about (and struggling with) the idea of the registry for more almost a decade, I have a few guesses.

First, Who Am I (and What Do I Know About Registries?)

(Image credit: A Practical Wedding)

For starters, I’m married and I registered for gifts for my wedding. I’m also the founder and editor-in-chief of A Practical Wedding, which started as a blog that I wrote while sitting at my kitchen table. Now, it’s the top independently held wedding publication in the world.

I’ve made a career writing about weddings and all the stuff leading up to them — and that includes registries. I’ve written and edited countless stories about building registries, registry regrets, my best advice, the list goes on …

And Now, Back to Those Reasons You Haven’t Registered Yet

1. You already have stuff.

You currently have plates that you eat off, and pans that you cook with, and cups that you drink with. Because you are an adult who eats food. And you don’t want to be wasteful and get new stuff just because you’re getting married.

2. This isn’t the 1950s.

To you, the idea of a wedding registry seems so antiquated. That is all.

3. It feels icky.

Making a big ol’ list labeled “Stuff I want that you should buy for me” seems … weird. To you, it feels tacky, greedy, and too materialistic.

4. You only want/need the big, expensive stuff.

Sure, you’d love to ask people for that stand mixer you’ve been coveting since you were a child. Or that Vitamix that’ll make soups and smoothies. But you don’t feel right asking people to spend $300 (or more!) on you. You don’t want to seem brazen. You also don’t want people to think that you’re too hoity-toity.

5. You can’t even think of anything you need.

How is Unmarried You supposed to figure out what Married You is going to use? For all you know, once you’ve tied the knot, you may become some new person who wants to start making sous-vide eggs. Or you might not even eat eggs anymore as a married person! You don’t have a crystal ball! Oh, but maybe you can register for one?

6. You don’t have the time.

You’re planning a wedding here! You simply do not have time to put down the hot-glue gun and pick up the scanner gun. You just don’t.

7. You really just want the cash.

Maybe you guys are paying for your own wedding? Or maybe you need $100 more than you need a new coffee maker? Either way, you’re worried that a registry will encourage people to buy you things instead of just give you the dough.

Why Registries Are a Necessary Evil

Here’s the thing: Your wedding is not just about you and your partner. It’s also about the people who have loved you guys since you were born, your parents’ friends who have loved you from afar, and the motley collection that is your self-made community. All of those people are going to come together on one day to celebrate this bond you’re making, and also to celebrate the pure idea of hope that a wedding symbolizes. You crazy kids love each other so much that you’re going to try to make it work in the face of all the obstacles of life.

How do people want to celebrate that? Well, with cake and bubbly for sure. But they also usually want to contribute something to the family you’re creating. And often (at least for older generations), what they want to contribute is something physical. They want to bring you plates, and wine glasses, and pans, and KitchenAids. The end result is that, when you pull down that platter your grandmother gave you, you’ll be able to think of her, and feel all her love and hopes for you, long after she’s gone. (Trust me on that one.)

People want to give you things to feel like they contributed to your special day and to know that’ll continue to play a role in your marriage, years down the line. They’re going to buy you things no matter what. And if you do not register, a few things will happen: People will constantly ask why you haven’t registered or tell you that you haven’t registered for enough things, and you will most certainly get a lot of stuff you do not want.

What’s that? You’ll do it? Great! But then there are all the little questions, to which I have answers.

Your Registry Questions Answered

1. Can I register for cash?

Probably not, although you know your crowd. If you want cash, the best possible thing to do is have a small, poorly advertised registry, and a family member who will spread the word that they know you’d appreciate cash. What’s that small registry for, you ask? It’s for the people who are never going to give you money whatever you do, and to avoid getting a crazy four-foot glass vase. Unless, you know, that’s your thing.

Note: There are some registry sites that allow you to register for cash, but they often take a cut or add a service fee, which might be off-putting for some relatives who are already reluctant to give you something so non-tangible.

2. Can I register for big gifts?

Short answer: Yes. Longer answer: Yes, because there is always someone unexpected who wants to buy you something big. Maybe it’s your grandmother’s lifelong best friend who isn’t coming to the wedding. Who knows, but they’re probably out there. Super millennial answer: The newer universal registry services often allow for group gifting, so a bunch of friends can go in on getting you that dining table.

3. Should I register for small gifts?

Um, yes. Your friend currently finishing her Ph.D. in women’s studies probably isn’t flush with cash, but still loves you. She might only be able to buy you those measuring cups you wanted. People can also group smaller gifts together to make some sort of custom themed gift (think: those measuring cups, plus a marble rolling pin, and a pie pan), which will make them feel like they’re doing more than just buying off a list.

4. How much should I register for?

Obviously this depends on the size of your wedding. If you’re planning to have 12 guests, probably not a lot. If you have 200 guests … well, you get the idea. Here’s the thing to keep in mind: If you know what you really want (I really wanted everyday plates), don’t make your registry so big that people can buy up the extraneous stuff, and not your big-deal items. Also remember that once all those plates have been purchased, you can always add fun extras to the registry.

Oh, and that brings me to another point: Once you register, you should frequently check it to see what’s being bought. Sure, it’ll take away a little bit of the surprise, but you’ll need to watch the registry to see if you need to add to it. For all you know, your Aunt Myrtle might have gone a little overboard and bought up everything!

5. Can I be bitter if people don’t buy us a gift?

No, no you cannot. People love you, and in many cases they spent a lot of time and money getting to your wedding. If they didn’t get you All-Clad, it’s all good. Plus, remember that guests have until your first anniversary to buy you a gift, and some of us (cough) use every minute of that time.

Either way, people who didn’t get you a gift still deserve a thank you card. Send them a nice note to thank them for coming and being part of your special day.

6. What if I don’t get the stuff I actually wanted?

Those plates you wanted oh-so-badly and didn’t get? Many sites have an option to help you complete your registry and will give you a special discount if you buy yourself anything within a year (or so) after your wedding.

What Exactly Should You Register For?

You’re in good hands at Kitchn. (In fact, Faith answered this question for me six years ago.) The editors here are going to be doing a lot more on wedding registries — adorably under the idea of The Happy Ever After Kitchen — during the next two months. Stick with them and they’ll tell you the most long-lasting kitchen items they think you should register for, where you should register, the most popular registry items, and more.

So go forth and register. Use a scanner gun at your local fancy cookware shop. Set up a personal-feeling universal registry in true millennial style. Heck, set up a small registry with a few good things, and start a whisper campaign for cash.

But whatever you do, enjoy it. Wedding planning can be stressful AF. You deserve at least one wild frolic through the china.