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.