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When “I Do” Means “I Want” – The New Rules of Wedding Registries

Since people today marry later than in previous generations, many couples are finding they already have a toaster and matched luggage and tend to feel guilty about requesting more “stuff.” We don’t really need a gravy boat and salad spinner, and nowadays there are more options than ever for wedding registries, so couples can ask for the things they really want. But gift-giving is a touchy subject, and these new registries come with plenty of new rules.

When we got engaged, I suspected that my husband-to-be was much more excited about registering for gifts than actually getting married. He’d been talking about registering for years—long before we even lived together. Now that it’s official, we’re a little stumped about what we actually want to put on our registry. Originally, wedding gifts were to help a young couple transition from their parents’ house to their new home, but we’ve both lived on our own for a long time, so we’ve got all the plates, silverware, and expensive cooking gadgets we need.  When that's the case, follow these rules for appropriately registering for wedding gifts.

Registering for Gifts 

What’s Apropos: Registering at Nontraditional Places
Wedding registries are still as popular as ever—so popular that they’re popping up in places far beyond the traditional housewares emporiums. Outdoors enthusiasts can register at REI, electronics junkies can register at Amazon, and divers can even register for SCUBA equipment. It’s possible to register for furniture, sporting goods, home improvements, computers, and even stock. Regardless of the store, a couple’s registry should always contain items at many different price points, so that guests will have no trouble finding something within their budget. 

What’s a Faux Pas: Making It Too Personal
No matter where you register, it’s important to choose items that benefit the whole couple rather than frivolous or personal things. Don’t ask for personal equipment like wetsuits or golf clubs unless every “his” is accompanied by a “hers.” When the list stops feeling like a wedding registry and starts feeling like a birthday wishlist, guests will feel uncomfortable. It’s a wedding, not an excuse to beg for shoes, clothing, or other personal novelties. Just because you want it doesn’t mean it’s appropriate for a wedding—most people would feel squeamish browsing a registry at Frederick’s of Hollywood and Victoria’s Secret. 

Asking for Cash with Class

What’s Apropos: Designating a Specific Purpose for Funds
There are creative ways to ask for money without making guests feel like they’re just chipping in for wedding expenses. One of the most popular choices is a honeymoon registry. Sites like TheBigDay and HoneyLuna allow couples to create a Web page detailing their trip and the things they’d like to do, including shopping, spa treatments, sports, and meals. Guests contribute toward specific activities, so they feel like they’re giving the gift of an experience, like a candlelit beachside dinner for two, or one round of golf, instead of an impersonal lump of cash. If you break down large expenses (like the hotel room) into smaller, more manageable chunks, several guests can even contribute to the same expense. 

Honeymoon registry experts advise that it’s perfectly fine to register for your hotel and airfare, but don’t expect many people to contribute to them. Most people would rather chip in toward fun activities and meals, so be sure to include plenty of those. 

If you’d rather have money for a new car or a down payment on a house, consider setting up an official cash registry at a site like GoGift. Guests can donate any dollar amount they feel comfortable with, and they can pay with credit cards if they prefer. Even some banks are getting in on the registry action, offering special accounts for couples that are saving for a first home. 

What’s a Faux Pas: Asking for Cash Outright
This is rude, even if it is what you really want—some guests may feel like you’re charging them an admission fee for attending the wedding. If you’re dead set on asking for cash for a big purchase such as a car or house, allow the guests to deposit their gift right into an account so the process seems more official. If you ask guests to contribute to your honeymoon, spend the money on what they designate, don’t just take the money and run. Ultimately, there’s no oversight as to how you spend the money, but if your guests have paid for you to go on a snorkeling trip, don’t use that cash to pay your electric bill. 

Gifting to Charity

What’s Apropos: Donating to a Charity of Your Choice
For philanthropic couples, creating a charity registry is a great new way to ask your guests to put their money to good use. You could allow guests to choose their favorite charity, or register with IDoFoundation or JustGive to have guests choose between a few causes that you select. The site features charities that specialize in animal abuse prevention, women’s rights, poverty alleviation, and many other causes, from small non-profits to large charities like the ASPCA and the American Cancer Society. 

What’s a Faux Pas: Offering Only One Option
When asking guests to donate to charity, it’s polite to give them a choice of where their money can go. Remember that unless you’re passionate about something universal like cancer research, the cause near and dear to your heart may not necessarily be to everyone’s taste. Controversial political causes, especially, can be touchy subjects, and guests may not want to donate to organizations that they don’t believe in. Do include your favorite among the choices, whether it’s Planned Parenthood or Students for a Free Tibet, but be sure to offer some mainstream charities like Make-a-Wish or Habitat for Humanity. 

Even with modern registries, some of the old rules still apply. It’s never okay to mention your gift registry information on the wedding invitation, and if you decide to go with a non-traditional registry option, it’s a good idea to have a second, standard registry for people who prefer to give traditional gifts. Some people, of course, will always ignore the registry and buy something unexpected. If you get three chip ‘n’ dip sets, write gracious thank-you notes and promptly engage in another time-honored wedding tradition—re-gifting.

Allison Ford

Allison is a writer and editor who specializes in beauty, style, entertainment, and pop culture. She was part of the editorial team at DivineCaroline (now for more than three years. She loves makeup, sparkly accessories, giraffes, brunch, Matt Damon, New York City, and ice cream.

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