The Perfect Plan for a Pragmatic Registry
Vendors and venues get a lot of attention during the wedding-planning process, but not not to be underestimated is the importance of the bridal registry on the engaged couple's to-do list. While some couples may put it off, as it feels less pressing than booking the caterer or florist, others hightail it right out to the stores to get registered in anticipation of the long lines to return unwanted engagement gifts.
The reality of registering, though, is this: There is no right way or wrong way to do it.
However, following a few strategies for registering enables couples to formulate a thoughtful, well-crafted list that ensures they're receiving items that they don't just need and want for married life but ones they'll actually use. Of course, there'll always be that one crazy family member who buys you [insert awful gift], which you never would have asked for in a million years, but for the most part, attention to detail in one's registry will provide sound guidance for the bulk of guests.
A Quick Look Back - and Ahead
The bridal registry wasn't always the high-tech, finely polished machine of today. In her book, "Brides Inc.: American Weddings and the Business of Tradition" (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2006), author Vicki Howard traces the origins of the registry back to 1924 and what were then known as "gift suggestion departments." Howard explains that in those days the department store, which was all about service, created these departments as a way to make sure couples didn't get duplicate gifts by tracking what people bought for them and providing guests with gift suggestions From there, magazines and stores started providing pre-printed lists of the things couples should have, and, voila, the modern-day registry was born.
Today, stores, magazines and wedding Web sites provide registry checklists for couples. They are good guides, says Jana O'Leary, a spokeswoman for Target, but the suggestions are not requirements. There is no one-size-fits-all approach for couples seeking to register because much besides the desire for china has changed, as many couples live together prior to marriage and others are waiting longer to be married.
Because of that, "they are more specific in the things they register for and in what they like and need for their life," says Millie Martini Bratten, editor-in-chief of Brides magazine.
Identify What You Want and Need
Some couples may feel overwhelmed by the amount of "stuff" the checklists suggest a couple needs and thus not know where to start. Jessica Pennington of St. Joseph, Mich., felt that way. As the owner of wedding coordination firm Stella Event Design, she has seen other couples walk down the dark path of registering for "everything" because the thought they had to. "Everything is presented to you as, 'This is what you need to register for,'" Pennington says.
Bratten suggests analyzing your lifestyle, what you like and what you want when you begin the process, in addition to looking to your personal interests.
While this is a "wish list," it's not a mandatory list for guests to buy from. They, too, are using it as a guide, and the more indications of style and what you're looking for (more cocktail plates than dinner plates, for example), the easier it will be for them to purchase something that will fit into your lives should they not buy something on your registry. Not only that, but thoughtfully choosing the items you want means you're more likely to get them.
Bride-to-be Noelle Livreri chose the less-is-more approach because she and her fiancé are both in their 30s, live together and know their lifestyle very well. "We were more frugal than other people," she says. "We didn't take the approach that 'this is your chance to get anything you want.' We did not register for stuff we are not going to use."
Livreri polled her married friends for suggestions; Pennington suggests using the checklists as a starting point and writing in your specific needs. Of course, there may be things you don't want now but maybe will in the future. Consider those things, but keep it in perspective. If you'll use something, scan it. If not, save up for if and when it becomes a must-have.
Pick a Few Locations and Check Them Out
Krissy Tiglias, home editor for TheKnot.com, suggests couples register at two or three locations. "One is too limiting, and anywhere above four to five is too many for guests," she says. "You want to make it as easy as possible for them." Tiglias also suggests choosing stores with wide selections and ease in ordering (online and by phone). Check out a store's return policy, as well. Some couples also consider locations of the stores, as some guests may be unfamiliar with online ordering and prefer to buy in person.
Livreri, who lives in Cambridge, Mass., did a lot of research on where to register before she and her fiancé took the plunge. "We did dry runs," she says, something Bratten also suggests: "Make it a little bit of a learning process," she says.
And, Finally, Register
But first, a reminder: "This is about you as a couple," says Anna Post, author of "Emily Post's Wedding Parties" (Collins Living, 2007). "I did once have a man ask if he could register for a fancy electric shaver," Post says. "There's nothing technically wrong with it, but your guests won't want to get it for you - that's a personal item, not for the two of you celebrating your life together."
Keep your guests in mind and register for a wide range of price points and items. The little stuff - such as can openers, wooden spoons and tea towels - are often items people will put together in gift baskets for showers. The big items are things colleagues, bridesmaids and other groups like to go in on to purchase for you.
Also, register for enough things. "We do suggest you register for more gifts than there are guests," Tiglias says. She cites all the pre-wedding events that will eliminate gifts from your registry, such as the shower(s).
Speaking of pre-wedding events, Bratten recommends refreshing your registry prior to the wedding to make sure there are still enough items on there for purchase; the majority of the gifts are bought just 48 hours prior to the wedding, she says. Visit your registry throughout the engagement to see when it needs touching up.
Start the process early so you don't feel pressured or stressed. And remember, you're picking out your presents here - it can't be that bad, so enjoy it.