To Register or Not to Register for Wedding Gifts?

Written by TRB Contributors
Wedding registries and the reason for them was once a straightforward affair. Couples were generally young when they married, and were moving right out their parents’ home into their own. They needed everything to start a household - plates, towels, linens, toasters, everything. Wedding registries helped brides and grooms not only get what they needed, but made sure they didn’t get 10 toasters from 10 different eager friends and loved ones. But a modern wedding registry is a slightly more complicated affair.

Today many couples are a bit older when they marry. It’s likely that the pair have been living on their own for some time before they marry. It’s also possible that they’ve been living together before the wedding day. They’ve already set up a household. While that doesn’t mean that they don’t want or need household things, they probably don’t need the sorts of things that were traditionally presented as wedding gifts. Let’s face it, if a bride and groom just combined separate households, they probably already have one toaster too many.
For many couples, the first question is, “Should I even have a gift registry?” The answer is absolutely yes. Why? For your wedding guests, it is very bad form to turn up empty handed. Proper wedding etiquette dictates that they should give you a wedding gift, and etiquette also dictates that you should make that gift-giving as easy and as stress-free as possible for your guests. Help your guests by letting them know exactly what you want and need.

Now I know what you’re thinking. Cash would make a perfect wedding gift! Asking for cash is just really tacky. If you’re a 35-year-old bride with all the towels you need, your friends and family know that and might just give you cash. But some people just aren’t comfortable with giving impersonal cash as a gift. You need to provide an alternative. Fortunately, there are a lot of solutions to this problem. The best solution is a wedding gift registry. But there are a lot of variations on the gift registry these days, and there’s definitely one suitable for your needs. 
Department stores have long been the giants in gift registries, and the varied selections at big retailers are still a great registry solution. Because these retailers have a wide selection of products, you can register for what you really need. If you’re heading off to a tropical location for your honeymoon, you can register at department store like The Bay and ask for bathing suits, sandals, and beach towels. Have everything you need for the kitchen and the bath? At a large department store like Sears, you can register for common household tools that you need but might not have. 
You can also check out newer gift registries that aggregate many retailers into one place. Online registries like The Gift Network allow couples to register at multiple retailers in one registry. This is great for couples with a clearly defined sense of style who might not find what they want and need in a broad department store. It’s also easy for the wedding guests to find a gift in their price range. And an aggregator like The Gift Network can also allow gift-givers to combine their buying power for one, more expensive gift.
Alternative registries are a great way to communicate your specific needs as well. Maybe you have everything you need for your home and what you really want is a fabulous honeymoon. Of course, asking for cash to contribute to that honeymoon is not acceptable, but the many online honeymoon registries are a viable alternative. It’s a great way for your wedding guests to contribute cash for your honeymoon, without actually handing you cash, which still feels crass to many people. There are a lot of these kinds of registries out there, offering many different options. Do your homework to find one that suits your needs. 
Getting creative with your gift registry is another fun solution to the registry conundrum. I know one bride with a late November wedding who created a Christmas decoration registry at her local department store. Because she and the groom had combined households, they had everything they needed for the household except holiday decorations. They need ornaments, tree lights, stockings, everything - and that stuff can add up in cost. Her guests loved the idea and the registry provided gift giving options for every budget as well! Unique ideas like this one are fun for everyone, so don’t be afraid to get creative. 
So remember brides and grooms, a wedding gift registry is not just about getting stuff that you want or getting stuff that you need. Inviting a guest to your wedding is all about inviting that guest to witness the symbolic start of your life together. Creating a gift registry is not an imposition on your wedding guests - it’s a stress-alleviating suggestion and an invitation that allows your guests to take part in the launch of your life as a Mr. and Mrs.!