Creating a Modern Wedding Registry: Everything You Need to Know

Just like you’ve seen in so many other traditional wedding customs, the wedding registry’s undergoing an evolution.

It’s a terrific concept, and it continues to provide a great service to guests and couples alike. But, that traditional registry you probably envisioned – formal crystal, silver and those china patterns your mom is dying to help you pick out – just no longer applies to many newlyweds.

Happily, today’s wedding registry does a better job of reflecting that casual lifestyle that most of us enjoy, and yet it still serves the useful task of helping to guide guests toward what you actually need or want to get started in setting up your new home.

Still, there are pitfalls and nuances to be aware of. This article will help guide you toward setting up a modern wedding registry that will truly help feather your love nest, while keeping your guests content.

When Should I Set Up the Registry?

It’s a good idea to launch your registry – at least add a few items! – three or four months before the wedding date, so early bird shoppers will have something to choose from. But, straining to set it all up too far in advance can have a downside. Some items may be seasonal; others may just have been discontinued by the time your guests get around to buying.

Remember, you don’t have to choose all your items tonight, just because you happened to set up a registry in the commercial break between CSI and Two and a Half Men. You can always add to or refine your list down the road.

Selecting Stores for your Registry

One of your first tasks is determine what type of stores you want to register with. The traditional choice is department stores, of course, but a contemporary one might include more specialized outlets, ranging from Pier One to Bed Bath & Beyond, and from electronics warehouses to cookware and craft boutiques, wineries and even galleries.

If you’re inviting out-of-town guests, be sure to select at least one store with an online registry, to make it easy for your friends back home to order gifts online. Oh, and while you’re at it, resist the temptation to run wild. You only want to register at two or three stores, no matter how varied your interests. Otherwise, you’ll overwhelm guests with choices if you select any more.

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Registering Outside the Lines

But let’s say your absolute favorite store doesn’t seem to offer a registry. Now what? You could see if the store will set up something just for you. Some proprietors will work with you to create a special list for you and your guests.

Also, if you and your partner already share a fully-furnished home, consider the more out-of-the-box registries. For example:

• Today, you’ll find financial service registries where couples can register for stocks they’d like to receive as a gift.

• Some travel agencies also have registries where guests can contribute to your honeymoon – underwriting a dinner, an activity or a night with special accommodations.

• And if you’re already the couple that has everything? Ask guests to contribute to a charity that’s close to your heart. There’s even a special registry for this; the “I Do Foundation.” It’s a wonderful organization that sends guests’ contributions to the charity of the couple’s choosing.

How to Pick Items for Your Wedding Registry

When you’re pondering which items to add to your registry, keep in mind that guests really enjoy giving festive, romantic gifts that seem like keepsakes. A few crowd-pleasers include barware, large serving pieces (they’ll imagine you hefting a turkey on their porcelain platter for years to come!), vases and decorative candleholders.

As for pricing, a good rule-of-thumb is to pick items within a price range you’d be comfortable shelling out if you were the guest. You don’t have to stick to wooden spoons and lucite napkin rings – just pick items within a reasonable price range.

Also, beware of picking out similar or identical items at different stores. This will definitely make your registries harder to manage, and will probably result in unintentional duplicates and the hassle of attempting returns, often without a receipt.

But what about “group gifts?” This is a go. If you think you have family or coworkers who might enjoy pooling their resources for an exceptional piece of furniture or a stunning piece of artwork, then try including one or two items along these lines.

It might seem strange, but electronics are another issue entirely. Guests like to imagine you cuddled up within the vicinity of their artistic, tasteful gifts for years to come. Unfortunately, Xboxes and plasma TVs simply won’t give them that same fuzzy feeling. (Neither will pool tables.) To avoid giving any impression of a gift grab, it’s best to avoid listing items that can’t conceivably be regarded as romantic, memorable and family-centric.

MORE: Popular Wedding Favors | Top Wedding Registries | Guide to Wedding Favors

How to Let Guests Know About Your Registry

Now, here’s your next challenge: how to give your guests the heads-up about your registry websites or store locations. As you’re probably aware, it’s bad manners to tuck a long list of registry sites into your wedding invitations. Even though you didn’t mean it that way, some recipients would feel this showed you were more interested in the gifts than in sharing your celebration with friends and family. So this is an etiquette faux pas, even when that helpful department store provides you with those cute little pre-printed cards “to tuck in the invite.” Don’t do it!

So how to spread the word? A modern solution is to put together a wedding web site that contains all the wedding details you can’t fit into an invitation: a map to the site, some photos of the couple (so the family in Iowa can ogle your cute fiancé), and of course, the registry information. In the invitation, you can refer your guests to the web for more details without crossing any etiquette lines.

Sometimes, though, the majority of your wedding guests won’t be Internet users. In that case, you’ll use an old-fashioned tactic to spread the news: word of mouth. You can also ask the host of your bridal shower to include this information with the shower invitations; that’s a perfectly acceptable choice. In fact, that’s a great use for those cute little registry cards!

What Do I Do With my Registry After the Wedding?

Many stores keep your registry active for up to one year after the wedding. That lets would-be gift buyers refer to your preferences even after the wedding — a very popular option when birthdays roll around! Also, check with the stores ahead of time to see if they offer a discount to couples who buy any remaining items on the registry themselves, after the wedding. This is a common practice among retailers.

MORE: Popular Wedding Favors | Top Wedding Registries | Guide to Wedding Favors

The Modern Registry: A Cheat Sheet

• Set up your registry three to four months before your wedding date.

• Select two or three stores/registry sites that meet your needs.

• Select items that you need or want,and that your guests will enjoy giving.

• Create a wedding web site with all the details, including registry information, or work with your party hosts to spread the details by word of mouth.

• Use store discounts, if provided, to purchase items you wanted but that didn’t get bought on your registry.

• Most importantly, don’t stress out – creating and fine-tuning your registry should be fun for you, and make the gift-buying process fun for your guests as well!