Blush and Bashful: Let’s Talk About Wedding Registries

Feature image photo by Tash Jones – Love Luella Photography via Getty Images

I’m gonna be honest — a very fun part of getting married and hosting a wedding party is receiving presents! When I was younger, I used to think wedding registries were kind of cringey but, as we’re learning together as I write this queer wedding planning column, many of my attitudes about wedding protocol has changed as I’ve gotten older.

I think in my early twenties, I thought of registries as prescriptive and unexciting. I rarely had the kind of money to spend on a registry-suggested gift, and I also just found it bizarre to essentially make a wishlist…in my mind, surprising friends with a DIY present was the ultimate loving gesture, and taking away the surprise element and the DIY element seemed so… capitalist (don’t worry, I’m rolling my eyes at my baby dyke self so you don’t have to, even though obviously a part of me still lightly agrees with her — love to be queer and contain multitudes!).

Anyway, the point is, wedding registries are definitely a thing to consider when planning a wedding, whether you’re into them or not. So let’s get into it!

What is a wedding registry?

A wedding registry is basically a list of presents you and your future spouse would like to receive. It’s like a Christmas list you can share with your entire wedding guest list. If you’re like me (a Jewish person who is not used to creating Christmas lists and is sometimes shy about asking for what she wants) the concept can be… horrifying. But I must admit, it’s also quite practical.

You can make a wedding registry at one specific store, or you can make a universal registry online. If you pick a specific store, you will be including items only they sell (some stores have the same owner and thus do a sort of umbrella option for wedding registries), and if you pick a universal registry you’ll be able to pick items from literally anywhere and add them to your list. My extremely anecdotal experience is that folks who are a little bit older are used to registries at specific stores and might miss the chance to waltz into West Elm and ask a sales assistant for The Friedman Registry, and folks who are a little bit younger are surprised that was ever a thing and are used to registries that solely live online, usually at wedding websites like Zola and The Knot or at big box stores like Target or (sigh) Amazon.

Why you should make one

As far as I can tell, there’s really no Right or Wrong move when making a wedding registry. Like most things when it comes to wedding planning, you need to decide what feels right for you.

Like I said, I do find registries practical. You and your partner(s) can think about what you need and can guide guests to give you gifts you’ll actually use. This can include traditional things (like kitchen items), adventure accessories (like snow shoes), or money funds (honeymoon funds are very popular). One of my close friends admitted that she initially thought wedding registries were awkward, but the older she’s gotten, the more she loves them. She told me she wants to get her friends what they actually want and likes to be told what to do so she can make it happen. Another friend told me she and her wife like to find the weirdest or funniest item on the registry and purchase that. Don’t be afraid to be weird and specific — your loved ones want to get you the things you want, and they can only do that if you tell them what that is!

In terms of deciding on exactly which registry host you’ll use, that’s also up to you, though it felt a bit stressful for me because of all the options out there. A pro for choosing a specific store is that someone who wants to get you a gift could go into that physical store, ask for your registry, and do some window shopping in person if they prefer. A pro for a universal registry is that you don’t have to juggle multiple lists — it’s all in the same spot. Also check out bonus offers that come with different registries. Many stores will offer a discount on items you add to your registry but aren’t gifted once the wedding is over, so you can “complete your list” (lol), and the Zola host (which, full disclosure, I am using) allows you to exchange gifts seamlessly and will hold off on sending you your gifts until you pull the trigger (rather than when the person actually purchases it) which is really handy if you’re moving or if you simply don’t want to manage keeping track of gifts and thank you notes until after the wedding.

A wedding registry is also cool because it helps loved ones avoid purchasing a gift someone else has already given you. The store or the online host will update your registry as soon as an item is purchased, so you won’t have to deal with returns when two people want to buy you the Yeti cooler. In general, this is a real “tell people how to take care of you” kind of moment.

Why you might decide to skip it

Okay, that said, I have quite a few queer friends who decided to skip registries. The main reasons were either (1) the people getting married didn’t want to receive gifts and either requested no presents or a donation to a mutual aid fund or charity instead and (2) the process was too overwhelming so they just didn’t do it and accepted whatever gifts people chose to give them.

Both of these reasons make sense to me, and if you truly don’t want a registry, skipping it is just fine (and I’ll share some other options in just a moment). But if you are considering skipping it because it feels overwhelming and would like to be convinced otherwise, read on!

How to make a registry

Creating a registry, once I got started, was actually intuitive (thank you to Zola’s easy to use website) and fun, as well as a cute exercise for me and my fiancée to create our ultimate wishlist together (guess which one of us chose multiple heart-shaped Le Crueset dutch ovens and which one of us chose a shop-vac and some fancy gardening tools!), but before I dived in I was really intimidated by the process.

My hot tip is to make a universal registry, ideally with the wedding site you’re using, and then just do it. Thinking about balancing multiple registries (something that was much more common before online shopping was so ubiquitous and before universal registries were so accessible) was way too stressful. The universal registry solved my personal problems around this task.

Once you get going, just treat it like a wishlist. We’ve intentionally included a lot of different price points for gifts and selected the option for “make this a group gift” for all our big ticket items so friends can go in on things easily together. I’ve also had a really nice time chatting with close friends about what they included on their registries, or what they wish they had. One of my dear friends told me she didn’t create a registry and really regrets it, because she wishes she could’ve gotten a lot of very specific cookbooks. I then asked her to share her list of must have cookbooks with me and added all of them to the list. If anyone chooses to gift us one of those, I will always think of both the gift-giver and my friend who suggested the book when I cook from it, which already makes me feel sentimental.

Here are some alternatives to wedding registries

Receiving gifts is not something everyone wants, and if you opt out of making a wedding registry, I totally get it! Here are some other options of things you can request if you really don’t want wedding gifts.

First, it’s always an option to just say “no gifts, please.” Friends who really want to gift you something honestly still will do so, but it takes a lot of pressure out of the expectation.

Next, I’ve had a lot of friends request donations to specific mutual aid funds or charities, often with a little bit of explanation about why that particular fund matters to them. This is a great option, especially if you feel all your material needs are met and you’d rather have money to share with others in your extended communities.

Finally, I recently saw a very cute alternative to traditional registry websites: SoKind Registry bills itself as The Alternative Gift Registry and allows people to dream up any kind of “gift,” without a focus on the material. So for example the friend who created the SoKind registry I saw asked for things like “the gift of your time sharing a new skill with us,” “homemade art,” and “your favorite recipes.” The tagline for SoKind is “more fun, less stuff,” and if that resonates with you and you want a formal way to ask your friends to gift you less physical things and more creative ideas, this might be a good option for you.

What did you do?

As someone who once rolled her eyes at wedding registries and is now joyfully using a traditional one, I’m so curious what everyone else has chosen to do when it comes to wedding registries! Did you use one? Do you wish you had? Do you have any regrets or Hot Tips? Let us know in the comments!

Blush and Bashful is a biweekly queer wedding planning column.

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Vanessa is a writer, a teacher, and the community editor at Autostraddle. Very hot, very fun, very weird. Find her on twitter and instagram.

Vanessa has written 404 articles for us.


  1. I also used to think registries were tacky and uninspired and impersonal. And like you, as I’ve grown up and started going to a lot more weddings, I’ve realized they just make the gift buying process so much EASIER. I no longer have to stress about what to get my pals for their weddings – they’ve already told me! So if you have a registry, don’t think about it as asking for stuff (which is hard). Think about it like you’re making the process less stressful for your guests!

    Also, just want to add, my fiancée is Italian, and apparently in Italian culture, registries are just not a thing. It’s all about CASH. And I’m Jewish. So this feels even MORE tacky and impersonal to me. But I’m trying to get over that.

  2. Love this especially the alternatives! Kristen and I plan to do a 50/50 split between a honeyfund and a donation to a local lgbtq youth org we love, mainly because I already have most kitchen things I want, our house is really small, and a lot of household items we like to thrift or buy from local spots so for us getting a bunch of stuff didn’t really make sense but I looooove buying stuff off of registries for my friends!!

  3. Not mentioned here but online registries are also great for when you’ve got guests coming a long way/overseas! My friends had their wedding in Chicago (I’m in the UK) and used Zola, and it was SO much easier than trying to figure out how to pack something lovely and keep it safe all flight/pay international shipping. I also loved how the range of price points meant it wasn’t a ‘how much should I spend’ concern – everything there was something they wanted, which made me less nervous about the difference in what I could afford.

  4. I also used to be very anti-registry and now I appreciate them! When I got married, we said “no gifts” because we lived in a small apartment and attending our wedding involved travel for most people. But, in practice, the older generations mostly wrote us checks and our friends/cousins mostly just wrote very sweet cards. I think we would do things differently now, but that was perfect at the time!

  5. For my wedding my wife and I asked for no gifts and instead asked people to contribute to the day using their skills and talents (graphic design, baking, makeup, etc) and we included some causes that people could give to.
    In practice most people ignored the “no gifts’ and gave us cash, which was actually really helpful and now we have some savings for our future family! But i would still do it the same way because I know that saying no gifts made a lot of my younger/artist/poor pals feel comfortable giving us their time and love as a gift.

    The few physical gifts that we did receive all were super personal and meaningful.

    OH EXCEPT that my mother in laws cousins (who we couldnt invite bc there were too many of them) strong armed us into doing a bridal shower, which I was very against and was kinda awkward. We did get a really nice duvet out of it though!

  6. loved this! the thought of having our wedding result in a bunch of stuff was not making me feel excited (i felt like we already had too much stuff! whole basement full of stuff!), but we wanted to have an option for people who didn’t just want to give cash. so we did two options–either a honeymoon fund contribution or an ask for guests to give us a record that was meaningful to them–similar to the sokind registry idea. i think you could do something similar with any object where having a collection can be a good thing (books, photos, cookbooks, ornaments, etc…), and it was fun to see who gave which record and why :)

  7. question on gift giving – how do you determine what amount (re value) is appropriate? i know there is no one-size-fits-all formula, but how do others decide on that?
    i remember attending a wedding with a registry where items felt overpriced to me, and at the same time it felt awkward to gift like a single teaspoon. it would have been possible, but you don’t want to come off as cheap either??

    • The rule of thumb I’ve heard is you try to cover the cost of your plate. That way the couple break even on your attendance. And if you bring a plus one, cover both plates. But that could be anywhere from $50-$200 a person, so either try to subtly inquire, or estimate based on the size of the venue and the number of guests. But that’s just a general guideline, there’s no hard and fast rule!

    • yeah I think this can be tricky, because there are all sorts of “rules” you can find about it but some of them are antiquated or also based on the assumption that all attendees are in the same financial situation. I feel strongly for my own wedding about emphasizing a sliding scale model on the registry landing page of our website. I want to explicitly state that people should only give what they’re comfortable with and that even their presence is a present, especially since most of our guests will be out of towners. but also if you encounter a registry and a lot of the items are pricey but there are a few that are much smaller, I don’t think you should feel weird about choosing those smaller items. they were likely added to the registry for that exact reason!

  8. Ooooh Vanessa I agree so much with your baby-dyke self! Maybe I’m too young (mid twenties), but the idea of buying my closest friends a crate and barrel napkin set makes my skin fully crawl off my body!! Maybe I’ll age out of this lol. But I also feel like TikTok has really made me jaded about the whole capitalist Princess wedding dream industry.

  9. This is a bit of a different example, but I made a kind of registry for my baby shower a year and a half ago that sort of worked and sort of didn’t.

    We didn’t want to request specific items (I didn’t care which onesies or blankets people bought and I think that part of picking out patterns is fun) but also didn’t want too much of one thing or things we didn’t want. We also made it very clear we did not expect gifts, especially because lots of people had to travel to get there.

    So I made a google doc with a list of general stuff (like numbers of onesies and sizes) and shared it with everyone who came and asked them to stick off what they got. The issue was, a lot of people ignored it!! We got way too many 0-3 month onesies, someone gave us an expensive baby monitor that we didn’t want, we got two copies of the same book, etc. I was baffled.

    Do wedding guests also ignore registries soemtimes? Was it because I didn’t do a specific item registry? What do you all think?

    • This was us! We had a combined elopement/baby celebration very specifically requested no baby clothes, and ended up with a bajillion onesies that we didn’t have a need for and weren’t our style! We think these people didn’t look at the registry. Conversely we got everything we had on the baby shop registry, as well as some cash for a honeymoon and for the baby, so it wasn’t completely terrible.

  10. we’re definitely going to do a honeyfund because we want to go on a nice honeymoon and we know we’ll be too broke. plus we live together and either i have what i want or we don’t have space for them. i might create a small registry for older relatives, but definitely just want money for the honeymoon.

  11. My partner and I are in Canada so a lot of wedding websites like Zola and The Knot didn’t work for us as seamlessly as it would in the States. We also wanted to prioritize charitable donations and were frustrated that Zola (which we are using for our website and otherwise really like) was going to take a cut of charity cash funds. So we’ve signed up with Thankful, which is really just a link aggregator and lets you add items from any store that has a website and delivers to your location. So for charities, it just lets you make a link to the donate page rather than taking a cut. There’s a one time $30 USD fee but it seemed worth it for the flexibility and to avoid Amazon.

  12. Here’s a question – my partner and I currently live together in a one bedroom apartment. We’re engaged and planning for a wedding in fall 2024. We would also like to buy a house some time in the near future. But we don’t want to plan a wedding and buy a house at the same time, because of costs and stress. So the house will likely have to wait until 2025.

    Since at the time of our wedding we won’t have room for anything bought off a registry, should we just not bother? Or should we do like a “house fund” so our guests can help us afford to buy/furnish a house? Or should we use a wedding registry as an opportunity to ask for things we’ll need once we do get the house?

    • I think a house fund is a good idea! Like “help us set up our new life together” sort of thing.

      Your conundrum is super clear to me from just these 2 paragraphs, (I’m in the same boat pretty much) so I’m sure you could phrase this nicely for your guests to understand and feel good about contributing to

  13. Oof, why was this not published 2 weeks ago before I made my registry and had so many feelings about it!

    Similar to some above, due to “we have everything”/small apartment issues, asking for a ton of household items felt really not for me.

    Very few of our peers have got married so we took the lead from one that did and their honeymoon fund that worked relatively well. We have set up a range of donations from £3-£500 and framed it as dates/fun things to do as a new married couple – like buy us a drink or buy us a fancy meal or buy us a festival ticket, with a few giving options in there like look after our dog for the weekend.

    So far we’ve received one £200 gift and now we’re not sure if the gifter will feel cheated if we use the money for something other than that specific card said??

    Some of these ideas like ask everyone for a book or charity giving I am now kicking myself I didn’t think of

    • omg wait i looooove this sliding scale dates idea!! so cute and creative. tbh, I personally don’t think you need to feel bad if you end up doing something slightly different with a gift than what the card originally said. i do think it could be nice if whatever you DO end up doing with it, you sent them a lil text or photo about it as a thank you. i don’t think they’ll be upset if it’s something other than the original intent, so long as it’s something nice for y’all as a couple!

  14. This is such a good article! Wedding planning required *so many decisions* and I found the registry on top of that very overwhelming. Partly bc I’m not really a consumer, partly bc we aren’t currently in a large enough space to have or store items, partly bc we are both adults and have a lot of the things we need, partly bc it’s hard for me to ask for what I want, partly bc I have pals of many different income levels and didn’t want to create barriers

    Good advice I got from married pals was to think about registry was for shower gifts vs cash gifts for wedding itself. So we did set up a small registry at a local department store, but chose gifts at various price points and mostly focused on gift cards so that we could make purchases later. For certain guests this was preferable, and it does feel nice for your day to day life to think ‘oh that’s the coffee maker from *particular pal*. But tbh it did mean a lot of planning beforehand as well as returns etc after that I was not prepared for!

    For cash gifts we used a website called which was GREAT (we are in Canada and it worked). We made one specific fund toward building a dock on our lake property and people loved it – we left the ‘goal amount’ open which meant that guests could contribute to whatever their own comfort was.

    We would get an email note from everyone once they had made a gift which was really fun and sweet (and also SUPER helpful later on for thank you notes and tracking)

    It also feels really fun to have a big project that people contributed to, and the cash is deposited right into your account, so you don’t have to worry about cards full of cash at your venue. Highly recommend!

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