To register or not to register?
February 1, 2011 11:25 AM   Subscribe

We're getting married! We're young and sort of poor, but so are most of our friends. Do we still get registered? What are the pros and cons? Married peoples, did you regret having a registry or not having one? What are the alternatives to traditional registries?

My boyfriend (fiancé, I guess) and I got in a Discussion last night about setting up a registry for our wedding. The boy says we can just get that stuff ourselves, which is probably true; we're not destitute, after all. He argues that our friends and family are showing up to have fun, not to buy us stuff, that our life is perfect the way it is and we shouldn't ask for more clutter.

I agree with all of this, and I also sympathize with the aversion to the wedding industrial complex that dictates coupes to register for stand mixers and towel sets even if they don't need them. We live in NYC, so we don't have lots of room for appliances anyways. However, I'm aiming to attend graduate school full time for the next two years starting this September (wedding is in October), and I worry about our finances. It would be nice to to have some basics to get married life started, but certainly not essential.

We've already decided to ask anyone flying in from out of town to not get us gifts, since we know the trip will be expensive. I'm also aware of registries that put donations in our name. I'm mainly interested in knowing how other couples have dealt with the pressure to register, whether it was worth it in the end or if it was a pain. Any explanations as to why you did or didn't register would be helpful as well.
posted by Hwaet to Society & Culture (66 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
We didn't have a registry and I did not regret it. Some family members gave us money. Others gave us handmade gifts or regular store-bought gifts. Most just gave us a nice card or a big hug.

However, the 'Dude and I had been living together for several years already and weren't, like, 'establishing a home' or anything. We lived in a tiny apartment and didn't need more stuff. We did feel a little pressure from some family members, but of all the non-"traditional" aspects of our wedding, not having a registry was certainly low on the list.
posted by muddgirl at 11:28 AM on February 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

The single biggest argument for registering somewhere for at least some stuff is that if someone wants to get you a gift, and doesn't want to give you money, this way they can get you something you want, instead of something you don't. Registering won't eliminate random gifts ("Why did they think we wanted a wine rack in the shape of the Taj Mahal?") but it can at least cut down on them.
posted by Tomorrowful at 11:29 AM on February 1, 2011 [18 favorites]

People will want to get you gifts anyway. They'll bug the shit out of you if you don't register. They'll also bug you if you don't register for fine china.

The point is, nobody says you have to buy anything, or something that is on the register. Honestly, the register is for older family and family members who don't know you very well but will be invited anyway.

If nothing else, registering means that when people get you dishes they'll all go together.
posted by theichibun at 11:30 AM on February 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

No personal experience, but there's lots of good discussion on the Alternatives to Registering board at Kvetch.
posted by synchronia at 11:30 AM on February 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

At a friend's wedding last summer, we were invited to give money toward their honeymoon in Jamaica this month. Basically buying "excursions" while they were there. My $ went to a zip-line excursion. I thought that was a nice idea, instead of trudging into Bed, Bath, and Beyond to buy the matching hand towels.
posted by kuanes at 11:30 AM on February 1, 2011

while my situation wasn't the same, we did have some friends that didn't have large incomes, so we did two registries... one for the well-off relatives (Macy's, etc..) and one for our friends who weren't as well off (target)... and we only let each group know which registry to go too...

other options i've seen are just asking for gift cards to "insert favorite store" or amazon...
or one couple i know just asked for cash to pay for their honeymoon....
posted by fozzie33 at 11:31 AM on February 1, 2011

also, if you do register, make sure you know the stores policies, some will allow you to return for cash, rather than store credit... which is nice!
posted by fozzie33 at 11:32 AM on February 1, 2011

We registered only after her mother insisted that their friends and family wanted it that way. We got some great stuff that is still in the boxes 20 years later. We finally started using our "fine china" as everyday stuff since we only broke it out once a year anyway. While I don't regret it, I can tell you that even the process of picking the items for the registry was stressful for me and the mrs. I would do it again if only because the stress of doing it was probably less than the stress of her parents jawboning us to do it.
posted by AugustWest at 11:32 AM on February 1, 2011

We only had 80 people at our wedding, sure, but no one got us single place-settings or anything. People aren't dumb - they mostly know what "We didn't register anywhere" means.
posted by muddgirl at 11:32 AM on February 1, 2011

I've been living with my fiance for about two years now, so registering was a tough choice for us. I mean, we've got the kitchenaid mixer. We've got dishes and bedding and towels and all those things you register for. Ultimately, though, we registered. Our invitations haven't even gone out, and already we have people pestering us to know where we registered, what we need, what color towels we want, blahblahblah.

We created a Macy's registry for the few things we didn't have and a few things that we want to upgrade (new skillet, new knives). We're also setting up a honeymoon registry. It's weird to walk into a store and go "BUY ME THIS AND THIS AND THIS AND THIS", but in the end, it's what our relatives wanted, and it's TOTALLY worth it not to have to deal with drama. If people want to buy gifts from the registry, they're welcome to. If they want to buy things that aren't on the registry, that's awesome. If they don't want to buy anything at all, I'm more than okay with that.

And if you feel weird about registering now, wait until you go into a store and they hand you a checklist that says you need a dozen 8-piece fine china place settings and 76 pieces of flatware.
posted by specialagentwebb at 11:34 AM on February 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

Suggestion: Register at Target but only register for incredibly practical, consumable things (paper towels, non-perishable food items, etc.). No pressure on the friends to buy big-ticket items, but people that want to get you stuff you actually need will be happy to know which brands are preferred. Best of both worlds.
posted by jbickers at 11:34 AM on February 1, 2011 [3 favorites]

My wife and I listed four specific charities (two each, although neither of us disapproved of the others) that we requested donations for if people absolutely felt they had to spend money on something. We did also put together a couple of small registries (Target, Amazon) for the people who would be befuddled by the charity concept. Tomorrowful lays out the reasoning behind why we did that. (And yes, we still have a punch bowl we will never, ever use.)
posted by stevis23 at 11:35 AM on February 1, 2011

stevis23 reminded me that we listed a couple of our favorite charities as well, and got a couple Thank You cards from charity donations.
posted by muddgirl at 11:36 AM on February 1, 2011

He argues that our friends and family are showing up to have fun, not to buy us stuff

Your friends will want to give you a gift, to show appreciation for your hospitality, and to celebrate your happiness. Don't register for things you don't need. Don't register for things you know your guests can't afford. Register sensibly, and I'm sure no one will begrudge you for it. Better that than a table of gifts you may not want or need.
posted by litnerd at 11:39 AM on February 1, 2011 [3 favorites]

I didn't have a registry when I was marrying young and poor, and I didn't regret it. I think we ultimately received some cash from a couple of relatives (a couple of whom picked up the cost of liquor or the sound system), some friends got us some gift certificates to restaurants, and one aunt got a friend to make us a decorative plate.

This may just be me--but I don't view marriage as a get rich quick scheme, either with cash money or with appliances. Your finances may, indeed, deteriorate in the future, but I wouldn't try to plan around that eventuality on the backs of your wedding guests (particularly if people are having to travel to be there with you).

That said, at a recent wedding I attended, the cash-strapped bride and groom (with two young kids) asked for cash, and there was a nice box for cash gifts (and a table for physical gifts), and that seemed a reasonable enough approach.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 11:39 AM on February 1, 2011

We did not register for Fine China. This is because we are going to / have inherited a mint's worth of china from our families. No one bugged us about that particular aspect.

Tomorrowful has it right - if you don't register *somewhere* people will be confused. You don't have to put "Hwaet & Mr. Hwaet are registered at XYZ" but your mom / maid of honor / best man type people can give that information out as requested, as can you.

FWIW, we registered at Amazon and Target, and it worked out fine. Particularly for his far-off relatives, who were able to ship stuff to us from the internet without getting a complex about it (people are so, so weird about weddings).
posted by Medieval Maven at 11:40 AM on February 1, 2011

I think you should register, but tell your guests that a gift is optional. If you don't register, you're likely to end up with people having to guess at what you want. You'll always have a few people who insist on giving you a gift whether you want one or not. So, rather than putting yourself in the position of having to write letters that begin, "Dear Aunt Myrtle, thank you for the lovely gnome doorstop..." just put a few inexpensive items on your list at Target.

Also, the donation registry is a great idea, especially in this economy.
posted by xenophile at 11:41 AM on February 1, 2011

Wedding gifts are an archaic part of the (archaic) tradition imo. Used to be, a married couple were setting up a first new household together and had nothing, so they needed plates and bedsheets etc. Nowadays that's almost never the case, so we don't need stuff - we either want stuff or people want to give us stuff because that's the convention.
Me and mine eloped. No presents 'cause no one knew, and when we sent out the after-the-fact email announcement, we made it clear that we didn't want any gifties. We already have a house full of junk!
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 11:42 AM on February 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

Mrs Morte (I call her that despite our unwedded status) and I will be marrying in June. We've made the following, very clear stipulations:

1. Gifts are strictly optional; coming to the wedding or the post-wedding party is the important thing.

2. If someone feels they want to give us a gift, a small amount of holiday currency would be welcome, as we're going on a short, frugal honeymoon afterwards.

3. If someone wants to buy us something tangible from a list, there's a link to our gift list at a popular department store. There's not a whole lot on it (a new set of plates and a few other not-too-expensive items) so nobody is going to feel obliged to buy us anything expensive.

There's an expectation, especially among our family members, that you should have wedding gifts. We'd happily go without. And sometimes it's necessary to accept the generosity of others - it makes them feel good. I think as long as you don't create the perception that you're taking advantage of that generosity, there should be no ill will anywhere.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 11:43 AM on February 1, 2011

I think you should register. People want to buy soon-to-be-married couples nice things to start their lives- not necessarily crystal knick-knacks; I'm talking quality pots and pans, knives, kitchen appliances. If you register, you will give people an indication of things you want and need so they can buy accordingly. Without a registry, you might get stuff you definitely do not want.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 11:46 AM on February 1, 2011

We had a small wedding and registered largely because of older relatives. I don't know about your family, but in mine it's accepted that aunts and uncles and grandparents will want to bring gifts to a wedding, and I did not feel good about what they would come up with on their own.

You don't have to register for things you don't need. I can't imagine that most people feel the need for formal china these days. Just register for things you DO need, or at least want. You'll be able to come up with plenty.
posted by something something at 11:48 AM on February 1, 2011

We're young/poor/really have most things we need for our household anyway, so we set up a registry at Honeyfund, for people to contribute to our honeymoon. the reason i liked this site is that you can break it down into specific things, like airfair, hotel, dinner at a restaurant you're planning on going to, admission to a museum, show tickets....really, whatever you want, you name the things and price. this is great, because then people feel like they really ARE getting you something specific, not just contributing to a lump sum, which for the more traditional guests (aka older people) can seem impersonal.
posted by assasinatdbeauty at 11:49 AM on February 1, 2011

Just register for stuff you plan to buy yourselves. When people don't tell me what they want, I consider it an invitation to get them something I want. This works better with close friends than distant relatives. And most people who like registries will go the nagging/punch bowl route if you don't give them a productive outlet for their gift-giving energies.

(Having said that, expect some folks to disregard your choices, especially if you stick to a narrow band of options - I got better spatulas and nicer restaurant gift cards than one friend asked for, for instance, but this sort of substitution is not always benign. It helps to pick a wide range of gift items, so people who find paper towels gauche won't decide to buy linens in your least-favorite color.)
posted by SMPA at 11:49 AM on February 1, 2011

I pooh-poohed registries until the summer where I was invited to five separate weddings. Then I instantly decided that anyone who didn't register was an evil person who hated their friends.

We registered, and got a surprising amount of what we registered for. We also only registered for things we actually wanted. My rule was "as many things below $25 as above $25," to ensure that nobody would feel screwed over. I did register for good knives, but not for fine china -- the plates we did register for had spaceships on them, and I love them. More of the expensive high-end stuff got purchased than the less expensive things. One good idea that I got and will pass to you: register for REALLY NICE TOWELS. Why? Because really nice towels are way too spendy for towels, but super-ass cheap for a wedding gift, and you will use them every day for years. Everyone needs towels!!
posted by KathrynT at 11:50 AM on February 1, 2011 [15 favorites]

Well, gifts are always optional whether someone tells you they are or not.

Anyway, I've only had one wedding, but I've been to dozens and I find it very helpful if someone has a registry. I like to give gifts - it's the sort of person I am - so I would much rather give a gift that the couple will use and appreciate. A registry sets my mind at ease in that respect.
posted by gaspode at 11:51 AM on February 1, 2011

We owned a lot of the basics so I threw together a small but very useful registry with a whole range of prices and where only a handful of things were over $100 - think durable, plain white dinner plates and bowls, a power drill, a super-durable garbage can. In retrospect, I regret not making it bigger because we got a lot of bad art and bad pottery from folks who had nothing left to choose from on the registry. And it's all taking up room in our apartment: it's tough to get rid of because people actually remember what they gave us and occasionally ask about it!

Even if we didn't really need everything we put on a registry, I bet we could have returned it for cash or store credit for the inevitable future when we'd need new towels, sheets, pillows, sofa, whatever.

So my advice is, think about what you might need a few years down the line and err on the side of inclusion. Otherwise you'll end up with a lot of useless crap that will be tough to give/throw away.
posted by paindemie at 11:55 AM on February 1, 2011

also, if you do register, make sure you know the stores policies, some will allow you to return for cash, rather than store credit... which is nice!

Bed, Bath and Beyond will let you return for cold, hard cash, which can be helpful. Also, they hold "Registry Completion" events every now and again, where you get to come to the store, eat little snacks they're passing around, and get 20% off anything you want. Even the high-end fancy stuff you usually can't save on. We had a ball at this event (in NYC; not sure if they do them everywhere).
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 11:57 AM on February 1, 2011

Just because you register doesn't mean you need to mention gifts or a registry in the invitation. Just register at a department store or Target for some things you were going to buy and then if someone asks if you have a registry, tell them that you registered at x.
posted by WeekendJen at 12:00 PM on February 1, 2011 [4 favorites]

Some stores (I don't remember if it was Linens' and Things or Bed Bath and Beyond) will give you CASH MONEY if you return gifts bought from the registry. This works out well if you are young and poor. Also, the honeymoon excursions worked the same way.
posted by callmejay at 12:04 PM on February 1, 2011

Having been a guest at a ton of weddings in the past few years, I've realized that the registry is at least as much a favor to your guests as a benefit for the couple. People want to get you gifts, but they don't know what you need or want. Don't make them agonize over the decision. Don't make them guess. Just tell them what you'd like to receive.

My fiance and I are also mulling the registry question right now, and we've decided to go for it. But we're only going to register for things we actually want. No fine china, no punch bowl, no panini press. Sure, we've got towels, but they're old and bleach-stained and don't match. So we're going to ask for new ones that all go together and wouldn't be embarrassing to loan to a guest. We could use a few party board games. Cutting boards that aren't stained. Nice glass food-storage containers that won't poison us with plastic chemicals like the cheapies we've been using for leftovers. Replacement vacuum cleaner bags. Even just some matching sheets and blankets, because when we combined our individual sets they don't go together at all. I'm sure you could think of a few things you wouldn't mind getting, too. If you register on Amazon, you could pick almost anything!

If you want to do something less traditional, I've seen quite a few ideas recently. The honeymoon registries have been discussed above -- people can get you activities, dinners, hotel nights, even a bottle of wine sent to your room. There are a few sites where you can register for a house down-payment, and let people contribute to it -- make sure you know any tax implications, but this can be great for the couple who has plenty of stuff but is still renting. Some big-ticket retailers will let you set up a registry so people can contribute toward something expensive -- Best Buy will do this, like if all you really want is a giant new TV or stereo system, and I know a couple who had a Sleep Number Bed registry that worked out really well for them. There are also websites you can register through so that guest purchases cost the same, but the retailers donate X% of the proceeds to the charity of your choice -- google "wedding registry charity donation" for ideas.
posted by vytae at 12:07 PM on February 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

When we got married, most of our friends were--like us--students or recent grads. In our invitations, I included a note that said:

Please don't feel obligated to get us anything; we'll be happy just to have you there. [I would have phrased it "please don't get us anything" but there were objections.] If you feel you must get us something, we like:
* X and Y colors
* practical, useful things

We dislike:
* P and Q colors
* fragile things
* things designed only for display


This worked out reasonably well. I mean, we really didn't want any presents, but we were told that it was how a lot of people feel like they're participating in the wedding, so to ask people to please not give us presents would hurt a lot of feelings. So we ended up with more presents than we wanted, mostly from family, although we got some silly or very thoughtful things from friends (edible undies?). But we left the door open for anyone who *really* wanted to buy something, to get something that we'd probably like.
posted by galadriel at 12:09 PM on February 1, 2011

There's no law that says you need to make a registry full of china you'll never use and appliances you don't need.

One of the most memorable weddings I remember had a supplied gift "registry" that was more like a scavenger hunt, which made the whole shopping (and opening) thing a lot of fun for all. The list was 100's of items long, but from memory it included things like:
  • Antique door-knocker
  • Looney Tunes character coffee cups (* already have Yosemite Sam)
  • Lobster oven mitts
  • Altoids tins
  • Old mechanical typewriter
  • ViewMaster + Grand Canyon wheel
  • Toddler-sized hammer (check Home Depot registry)
  • Christmas lights (blue only)
  • Tin Coca-cola sign
And yes, they really had a registry entry at Home Depot with one or two items in it. And at the record store. And some other odd places that I didn't expect would even have registries.

(Admittedly, this is a couple that's way too cool for Planet Earth, so this might not work for everyone.)
posted by rokusan at 12:12 PM on February 1, 2011 [8 favorites]

Registering isn't about you. It's about your aunts and uncles who don't know you that well but will want to get you something. I know what your boyfriend thinks, but how many weddings has he attended? Not registering just makes it a PIA for your family, seriously.

You don't even have to tell the world you registered. Tell your parents and maybe one friend. People know to ask.
posted by bluedaisy at 12:15 PM on February 1, 2011 [5 favorites]

I also think not registering and asking for cash is the height of tacky.
posted by bluedaisy at 12:16 PM on February 1, 2011 [11 favorites]

People will bitch and moan if there's no registry. Or worse, they will try to guess what to get you. This might turn out ok, but I wasn't ready to risk getting another creepy Jesus statue.
Register for things you need, or want to upgrade. Yes, we already had dishes, but they were a mishmash of his bachelor dishes, my dorm dishes, and hand-me-downs. So we got some plain white everyday dishes, and some nice pots and pans. And replaced the bath towels. We also registered for some camping gear at REI. It doesn't have to be extravagant, but give the guests some options.
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 12:24 PM on February 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

A friend of ours we knew through a creative group in college seemed deeply disappointed that we gave sheets from his registry. We did this because we thought, OK, if he's registered he must need stuff, and sheets are definitely useful, so this will be good. Had we known it was "OK" we'd definitely have gotten/made something more interesting (come on, we all met in engineering school, how could we be expected to have a clue). So, be clear about your intentions.
posted by amtho at 12:24 PM on February 1, 2011

We registered for things after being hassled to - but we didn't register for fine china or silver, we registered for a set of "everyday' dishes, 'everyday' stainless, mid-range wine glasses, and a few other household utility things that we really use (toaster oven, coffeemaker). Stuff like that, people loved it and bought us full sets. And I love having a set of grown-up matching everyday dishes, rather than mismatched hand-me-downs, and we really use the utility things and are glad to have them. So - for us, the registry worked great.

Some older relatives were disappointed that we didn't register for the fancier stuff, since they really wanted to feel like they were contributing toward a lasting nice thing for us. Those people ended up giving cash, usually, but I think they were still slightly disappointed. (But we don't hold dinner parties and we have some family china if we need to, so it seemed like it would be a waste.)

We registered because a lot of people wanted to get stuff from a registry. They were calling our parents to ask where we were registered, eagerly.

I made a point of filling the registry with a lot of stuff that was $15-$50, to set the expectation that we didn't need expensive gifts, and so that there would be cheap but still nice-seeming options for people who didn't want to spend a lot. None of the cheaper things got bought. (I would still include the under $50 if I were doing it over, though)

I think in your case, the small apartment means you should *definitely* register. People want to get your stuff that you need/want, they don't want to get you stuff that will be a burden. In our case, a lot of people either didn't find the registry or didn't like the options there, so we got a LOT of stuff that was one-off. A lot of made-by-local-potter largeish ceramic bowls. Which are great individually, but a bit of a headache to store if you have a small place (they don't stack well).

If I had it to do over, one thing I would register for is a set of table linens. We still don't really have a full matching set of those, and it's something that bugs me once or twice a year.
posted by LobsterMitten at 12:30 PM on February 1, 2011

Also, the formal etiquette around wedding gifts is: you (the people getting married) cannot mention them, even to say that you don't want them. You can't mention your registry or lack or registry unless someone asks you. Officially all that stuff should go through back channels (eg guests call up your parents to ask what you want or where you're registered). Plus these days people can search online to see if you're registered at one of the big common places.

I think you should register, and say nothing. Let your back channel people know what your intentions are (do you want nothing? creative gifts? do you want stuff from the registry or is it a backup? do you want cash toward a honeymoon? whatever), and the word will get out.
posted by LobsterMitten at 12:33 PM on February 1, 2011 [10 favorites]

But - yes - only register for stuff you actually want and which can fit into your small space!
posted by LobsterMitten at 12:35 PM on February 1, 2011

Totally register. In Canada, big box department stores like The Bay have so-called Completion Programs that allow you to purchase items on the registry that your friends/family didn't get for you at a 10% discount on top of any sales or promotions. I'm sure something like this exists in the States too. Once in a lifetime chance to get 10% off almost anything in a department store...why not?
posted by reformedjerk at 12:40 PM on February 1, 2011

I never felt any pressure to register, but we did because we wanted to. People want to buy wedding gifts for their friends and family, generally, and some of your guests will appreciate buying something they know you want. Don't register for towels and mixers if you don't want to (you can register at REI or something if it's just kitchen stuff you don't need); and if you don't want to register, don't. People will buy you what they feel like, or give money. Generally I think just don't mention gifts at all, and if anyone asks you can tell them where you registered or that you don't have a registry.
posted by JenMarie at 12:42 PM on February 1, 2011

Register. Do not mention the registry in or on the invites -- that's tacky. Make sure your immediate families and wedding party know where you're registered. People will either ask them, or they'll ask you, and you'll say, "Oh, you don't have to get us anything!" and they'll say, "I know, but where are you registered?" and you gracefully admit, "Macy's." Or whatever.

Register at a WIDE range of pricepoints, and register for things you want or need. Not for stuff you just feel obligated to have. If you don't want china, don't register for china. I've seen trash cans. I've seen video games. Include at least one big national store, if you can, that a) older relatives can physically go to and shop and and b) ships direct via online registry shopping. (Target, Crate & Barrel, Bed, Bath, & Beyond are all good choices for this.) I cannot tell you how incredibly convenient it is to be able to look online at someone's registry, pick out something I know they want, and just have the internets ship it directly. I'm not NOT getting a gift! (And I vastly prefer to give a THING if at all possible; even when I've donated to a honeymoon registry or something, I try to ALSO give a book or the couple's favorite movie or something that I can stick the card in. I feel wrong without a THING to give.) It's an real convenience for your guests; I get aggravated when people don't set one up because then I have to try to guess what an appropriate amount to give is, and I can't just have the internet deal with it, and I don't get the fun of picking something out.

We registered for 99 cent egg cups up to some $400 piece of decorative crystal. Our Crate & Barrel registry got bought out fast because it had a lot of $6.95 wine glasses and $5 spatulas and $20 baking dishes. But we did have people complain we didn't register for enough expensive stuff because their mental pricepoint for a wedding gift was apparently much higher than ours, and we only registered for a few expensive (and kinda silly) things.

You can set up registries at amazon, too, incidentally, which we did for our first baby and which people LOVED. People are pretty comfortable with amazon and you can register for just about anything there. Target lets you register for gift cards, which I think is a little nicer than registering for toilet paper. :)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 12:46 PM on February 1, 2011 [2 favorites]

(Oh, yes, you can definitely register places like REI or Home Depot or any place that HAS a registry. Those registries are always kinda fun because you know the couple loves that activity and it's fun to pick something for them. I went to a wedding where the whole registry was Home Depot for massive renovations they were doing to their home -- tools and lamps and even just wood. It was fun to be like, "I got your lightswitch plates!")
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 12:48 PM on February 1, 2011

LobsterMitten is right. Register because people WILL buy you stuff, and in your small place, it is better to have things you actually need.

My MIL gave us an exersaucer when our son was born. Really sweet, only we lived in a tiny Brooklyn apartment and those things are huge and non-collapsible and we had no storage space.

That said, I know what you mean--I hated the whole registry process, it feels like such a racket--we just registered for basic, generally inexpensive stuff.
posted by torticat at 12:50 PM on February 1, 2011

LobsterMitten nailed it. I know this is becoming increasingly out-of-touch but I was raised to believe you're not supposed to ever expect a gift. Not at a birthday, not even at a wedding. Even saying "no gifts please" says that you expected one.

Register someplace practical, but only give out the info if asked.
posted by JoanArkham at 12:52 PM on February 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

Yea, to second Eyebrows McGee:
In our experience, guests mostly wanted to give items that were $40-$150. I didn't put enough stuff on the registry that was in that range, so people would buy $80 worth of smaller stuff. Several older relatives asked us afterward, why didn't you have more $100 stuff on there, that's what we wanted to get you.

People want to get you something they can see you having/using/enjoying for years. So pots and pans, dishes and flatware, linens, artwork, serving pieces like a gravy boat, candlesticks, punchbowl, quilts, that sort of thing. Stuff that has a lifespan. When you're writing thank you notes, you want to be able to say "we will always think of you when we use this wonderful [whatever]". So from my point of view, gifts like paper towels and other consumables are not satisfying to the guest-psychology.
posted by LobsterMitten at 12:54 PM on February 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

If you register for things at target then no one gets them for you, you get a discount (%15) if you want to buy them yourself.

Registering isn't tacky. Mentioning it on invites or insisting that people do/don't buy gifts is tacky.
posted by the young rope-rider at 12:58 PM on February 1, 2011

Another thing to consider: When bonehead and I got married, a number of guests were arriving from out of town. Registering at a national chain (like the Bay or Sears) meant that travelling guests could purchase the gift and have it shipped to our town, rather than schlep a big and bulky or fragile gift on an airplane. Registries can be handy.
posted by LN at 1:04 PM on February 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

My friend's invite listed that her wedding website would have registry info. It didn't. So, I just went to the websites of a few of the more common wedding registry stores and found that she had indeed registered at one. I was able to get her gifts more easily. I appreciate a registry as a wedding guest because I am going to get a present for the couple, and it'd be much easier if I could do a registry. Also, with a registry, people can give you this and that without it being totally obvious how much money value of stuff they've given you, like it is with money or gift cards.
posted by elpea at 1:25 PM on February 1, 2011

Yes, do register. Like many of the above posters say, don't wave it in people's faces, but do have a registry. People want to give you things, so you should let them. It's really fun to be cooking dinner and say "hey, honey, what bowl should I use for the salad?" and he says "use the wedding bowl!"

- Don't register for anything you don't genuinely want even if that's "what registries are for" (example - the food processor I bought off craigslist from a very nice young lady who said she was getting rid of stuff from her wedding registry that she'd used less than twice in the 2 years since the wedding. I was to late to catch the stand mixer.)
- Do register for things you'd totally use but there's never going to be a sudden and immediate need to make you go buy (e.g. we chose to register for 3 4-setting boxes of pretty stoneware, and use it all the time, but the only time we've used the whole stack of 12 plates was when we hosted Christmas. Awesome to have, but with no wedding, which day were we going to decide to go out and buy 12 matching plates?)
- Don't register for anything that's more expensive than you'd feel comfortable accepting from your average parents-generation relative.
- Do register for a lot of $20-$30 items, and register for a lot of stuff so even your procrastinating friends have some choices at the end. (also note, some places - Bed Bath and Beyond - will give you discounts on buying up the rest of your list afterwards)
- Don't be embarrassed to register for practical things, or unromantic things, or quirky things. People like giving gifts that speak to who you are or how they know you, even if their grandmothers might be astonished. Our friends were delighted to be able to give us a pair of yoga mats and blocks (we're doing it together, see, that's romatic, right?), my coworkers knew that it was me not the husband who put the tool chest on the list and gave it to me with a name plate.
- One of the fun aspects of registries (especially Amazon) was being able to make notes on them, such as "OMG these wineglasses have titanium in them, it might take us more than a month to break one!" or "This stoneware set doesn't come with ice cream bowls. Find us some smallish bowls that might look good together?" or "a tablecloth for a 32x62 table, in a room with an eggplant accent wall".

In short, just register for things that are about *you* and not about the wedding industry.

Also - don't feel bad a couple of years from now when the wedding towels are rendered obsolete by a bathroom remodel, you've broken 2 wineglasses, the coffee grinder just shorted out, and you haven't used the yoga mats in 10 months. Your friends and relations still love you and you still love them, it was never about the stuff in the first place.
posted by aimedwander at 1:26 PM on February 1, 2011

I wish I hadn't registered. All the Walmart-brand stuff I got ended up in the trash after two years. I even sold the furniture we bought with the cash. The only items we ended up keeping because they were too precious to throw away were all the cards and a hand-embroidered blanket with our names and wedding date.

Don't register, especially if you're in NYC. Sell the useless stuff you get. Without a registry, people might be more likely to get creative.
posted by theraflu at 1:55 PM on February 1, 2011

Personal vote, we did not register (we were super poor and had just had a baby while hubby was in school and had nothing to set up our first apartment together with) and I refuse to even look at other people's registries. Ugh, it totally moves the focus of the celebration away from the people being celebrated into how much you are willing to spend (because everyone I know that used a registry talked about how much different people spent on them because the registry had the price-tag). I love that of the gifts we received so many were so personal to our relationship with them.
posted by saucysault at 2:12 PM on February 1, 2011 [2 favorites]

People wanted to give us things. We wanted people to be happy. We registered on Amazon for things like DVDs, cookbooks, travel books, kitchen stuff we actually needed, and so on--and it's even better now because there's a button that lets a buyer say they bought something elsewhere (at least there is on regular wishlists, and I assume registries are the same way). So if a friend wants to buy you something and finds an unopened "Doctor Who Series 1" at Half-Price Books for $20, they can get it for you and click a button to get it taken off the list. No one will know how much it cost. We also mostly gave it to people who asked about it, and told them that it was optional and we were happy to get just their best wishes, and that we also enjoyed handmade things, vintage/secondhand things, or creative things. It's for people's convenience.

I heartily endorse things like yoga mats, tools, and so on, and the note feature on Amazon is great for this. (And I think Amazon's Universal Wishlist will let you add items from Etsy and ThinkGeek and so on, so you're not restricted to Amazon.)

And for pete's sake don't INSIST that everyone donate or make something (or arrange things so that it looks like they're expected to). I find that insufferably rude and it makes a whole lot of assumptions about my time, energy, and means that I don't appreciate, even though I sometimes like making things. Sometimes it's easier for me to work bargain-shopping mojo on a registry-listed item that I know they'll actually like and use (admittedly, I hate buying monogrammed napkins) than it is to come up with something ~*~*~CREATIVE!!!~*~*~.

(I find the notion of talking about the price tags bizarre, and think it says more about the friends than the existence of the registry.)
posted by wintersweet at 2:26 PM on February 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

I was resistant to registering, but his traditional family kept asking. So we registered at amazon, making it clear that we were happy if no one got us anything, and also offering a bunch of low-priced options, namely, magazine subscriptions (support the dying print industry!).

One thing I didn't expect was that a lot of people chose to buy us 2-3 low priced items. So we ended up having pretty much everything on our registry purchased, and with some relatives complaining that they didn't know what to get us. In the end, though we wouldn't ask for money (ick), a lot of them ended up giving us checks. Weird. But I'm not complaining. With the money we were given, our already cheap wedding ended up with being free, and we got a nice new bed and some newer kitchen appliances out of it, plus a bunch of magazines. Doesn't get much better than that.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 2:35 PM on February 1, 2011

People will want to get you a gift, and if you have no registry, you're going to get some weird crap. Your friends might know you well enough to give you a gift you'd like, but other guests will be at a loss for ideas if you don't register. It makes gift-buying so much more work for them. That's just inconsiderate.

Do register, and make it at a popular, go-to store so that even the non-internet-savvy can find your listing.

Register for only what you really want and have space for. Choose a range of prices to fit various budgets. Monitor your list online and add more stuff if you need to. (You might not see much get purchased until a couple of weeks before the wedding.)

You might not think you care what you get, or if you get anything, but I felt that it was better to have, say, matching towels in a color we liked rather than a scattershot bunch of stuff we hated.
posted by Knowyournuts at 2:52 PM on February 1, 2011

Register. Don't tell anyone that you've registered. (And definitely don't put anything in the invitations or any other mailings about it. That's not polite even if you want the gifts.) If people ask, tell them you don't need a gift. If they insist, you'll be able to tell them, "yes, we're registered at Bob's House of Practical Things that Don't Take Up Much Space." If no one asks or insists, it's just like you never registered!
posted by decathecting at 2:56 PM on February 1, 2011

It's weird that no one's mentioned SHOWERS! I know there are different customs in different families and in different places, but in all of the weddings I've known about the registry really comes into play for the bridal shower. (Some people use the registry for wedding gifts, but by then it's mostly been bought up). If someone's likely to throw you a shower, then you should definitely register because guests are then required to come up with house-y things and you don't want 20 toasters.
posted by moxiedoll at 4:37 PM on February 1, 2011

It looks like everyone's saying what I'm about to -- that your friends are all broke too and get it that you don't want anything, but they're not the ones registries are for. Registries are for your great-aunt who still hasn't quite wrapped her brain around the fact that people don't use doilies any more, and is going to show up at your wedding with a doily for you unless you give her a different idea.

You don't need to put expensive crap on it either. I've been to a bunch of weddings, and invariably there are some inexpensive things on there -- like, a set of placemats for ten bucks or a couple kitchen gadget-y things. You can fill up your registry with goofy stuff like that -- or even perishable things; my cousin put some brownie mix from Williams-Sonoma on hers, I think.

And people are under no obligation to get you things from your registry anyway, if they know you well enough to know there's something else you'd totally love. The registry is for great-Aunt Doily.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:43 PM on February 1, 2011

My friend registered at amazon. They have a ranking of "love to have", "like to have", "nice to have" or something like that. I got them an external hard drive and a video game bc they were both on the love to have list, and it's not something I would have thought to get them.
Most people will give you gifts, at least this way you have a say over what some those gifts are.
posted by Neekee at 6:14 PM on February 1, 2011

Thank heaven for LobsterMitten - I was starting to get worried. Registering for things is indeed more helpful than not to your guests, who want to give you at least a small gift, but no way do you formally distribute registry information, even to say "no gifts."
posted by naoko at 6:55 PM on February 1, 2011

Whenever my parents get invited to a wedding, my parents both remark how they wish that registries were more acceptable when they got married. My dad mentions that they got three salad spinners and my mom mentions that she got the ugliest plates. And then they both say "and we couldn't return most of it."
posted by Brian Puccio at 7:16 PM on February 1, 2011

On the alternatives to a gift-registry front, some friends know a couple who are asking wedding guests to give them a copy of their favourite book or album. This is affordable, personal, and you will suddenly have more books and CDs. Woo!
posted by the cat's pyjamas at 12:15 AM on February 2, 2011 [2 favorites]

Some other friends registered at a camping/sporting goods store. Meaning, you don't have to register for dish towels, register for things you want.
Plus, no one "has" to get you anything from a registry.
posted by Neekee at 7:17 AM on February 2, 2011

Some other friends registered at a camping/sporting goods store. Meaning, you don't have to register for dish towels, register for things you want.

Agreed. I have a friend who registered for board games and gardening tools.
posted by naoko at 8:24 AM on February 2, 2011

If you are planning a wedding and any family is involved at all, you probably know that you just have to give in to family pressures sometimes.. and I think registering might just be another one of those things that really isnt a big deal. Part of being a good host is to make sure everyone is just register somewhere that you feel comfortable registering if that is what your family is used to. Like many people have said, its for older family and relatives that you dont know every well and you dont have to make a big announcement about it.....Or you can be so cool and resist these sometimes difficult conventions to prove your independence but I dont think this is a good time to be so damn resistant. You are getting married, so you have proven your independence already and I think letting your parents have some minor details that dont matter in the grand scheme of things can prevent massive heart break (that goes mostly for things other than registering). It is a hard time for families, people go nuts and keeping things easy and straightforward is the best advise I can possibly give.

I have come to realize that for us, registering is a cultural difference, for example, my fiancée is Greek..they give cash. I am Jewish...we give gifts. I doubt that goes for all Greeks and Jews, but for us it is a clear line. We havent registered anywhere yet but we will probably have a registry somewhere with useful things or we might do the honeyfund thing. As long as we have something that people can look at for inspiration, I think it will all be ok.
posted by bdoop21 at 9:15 AM on February 2, 2011

Sometimes people pitch in on stuff. That depends on the age/wealth of your gusts.

Also, register for power tools. You'll get more use out of them than you will your china & silver, and it's something fun to talk about. :7)

Out-of-town guests are likely to give you money -- it's easier to pack, after all -- but some people are always looking for ideas.
posted by wenestvedt at 9:06 AM on February 3, 2011

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