The Right Way to Handle the Registry

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According to Sharon Naylor, a wedding etiquette expert and author of “The Bride’s Guide to Freebies” (Lyons Press, 2012) most couples decide on two to three wedding registry options, though it’s fine to have up to four. Diane Gottsman, a national etiquette expert and owner of the San Antonio-based Protocol School of Texas, suggests having a variety of options, including local kitchen and home-and-garden shops, and larger department stores like Target, Macy’s and Crate & Barrel that also offer online purchasing to ensure all guests have a convenient choice they like.

Alternative registry websites have proliferated in recent years; however, the etiquette experts don’t all agree on whether they are acceptable. Unless your request is directed toward immediate family, Gottsman feels that asking for money for a honeymoon or home-purchase down payment is stepping over the line of appropriate gifting. If your loved ones all tend toward the traditional, it’s probably best to skip it.

On the other hand, both the Emily Post Institute and Naylor say honeymoon registries have made the transition to etiquette-OK. And this option is especially popular with guests when they can pick a particular honeymoon experience, Naylor says, such as swimming with dolphins, a catamaran cruise or a sunset dinner on the beach. Down-payment registries are still a bit more fringe, Naylor adds, so if you opt for one, make sure you also include a classic home registry with items more traditional guests will prefer purchasing, such as china, crystal, linens or kitchen counter appliances. 

Within each standard registry, select a large variety of items you truly want and need, in a wide range of price points, says Gottsman. Avoid things that are clearly “over the top,” she notes, as it can send a negative message and may turn off gifters.

All the etiquette experts agree that it’s never OK to put anything related to gifts directly on your wedding invitation – you can’t even say “No gifts, please” on the invite. It’s also a big Don’t to announce where you’re registered on Facebook, Twitter or other social media accounts — even make posts like “Having so much fun registering at Williams-Sonoma!” Naylor says. Instead, list the stores you’ve chosen on your wedding website’s registry page, says Gottsman. You may then include your wedding URL on your save-the-dates or as a small enclosure with your bridal shower invites.

Gottsman advises holding off on using any gifts until after your big day. “Goodness forbid something happens and the wedding is cancelled,” she says. “It would be bad form to have a luncheon and invite the gifter, using the china she help purchase for your wedding that never took place.”

That said, you should be sending out thank you notes shortly after you receive each gift, says Naylor. She recommends two weeks or less from when you received an engagement or shower gift, and within three months of when you received a wedding gift. Keep a detailed record so you don’t forget anyone.

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