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Tips for Your Wedding Gift Registry & Etiquette Checklist

By Casey Slide

wedding married coupleYour wedding is one of the few times in your adult life when you can actually pick out the presents that you want people to give you.

It’s great because when you open the fancy coffee maker that grinds its own beans, and say “I love it!” - you actually mean it.

Registering for gifts can be one of the most fun parts of planning a wedding, but it can also be stressful. Here’s a complete guide to making your wedding registry perfect.

What Is a Wedding Registry?

A wedding registry, also commonly known as a bridal registry, is a list of items that a couple would like to receive as wedding gifts from a particular merchant. The merchant gives the list to wedding guests when requested and keeps track of which items have already been purchased and which items are still available.

This system benefits the couple as they are able to receive the gifts they actually want and need. It also benefits the guests who want to easily know what the couple would like to receive. and of course, the merchant is able to make a profit off of the many gifts purchased.

How to Start a Wedding Registry

To make a wedding registry, you have two options. You can go into a brick-and-mortar store, or you can go online. Either way, the process is similar:

  1. First, you sign up to start a registry by either going to the customer service counter at the physical location or by going to the wedding registry section of the website.
  2. If you are physically at the store, the store attendant will give you a list of items that couples typically register for along with a scanner. Then you are free to roam around the store and scan items that you would like to receive as gifts. If you register online, you can browse items and select them for your registry.
  3. Once you’re finished, you can always go back in the store or go online to make adjustments if you change your mind about anything or want to add new items.

How Does a Couple Choose Where to Register?

One of the keys to a good registry is to find the right merchants to register with. This can be a challenge because there are so many to choose from. To help you pick the perfect registry merchant, here are a few tips:

1. Pick a National Store
If you register at a local chain or boutique, your aunt and uncle who live of the other side of the country will probably have a difficult time getting you a gift from your registry. Even if they were able to go online and shop, they might be hesitant if they have never heard of the store.

Out of respect for your guests, register at a nationally known store that has a good reputation. Your guests will enjoy shopping for you more if they are able to go to a store they recognize. They might even be able to use a coupon.

2. Have an In-store and an Online Option
Some of your guests are going to want to order you a gift online and have it sent to your home directly. Others will want to buy a gift in-store and bring it with them to the wedding. Make sure you offer them both options.

Tip: If you decide you really want to register with Amazon, which is only online, make sure you also register with a different merchant that does have a brick-and-mortar store.

3. Pick a Merchant that Suits Your Style
If you are not a gourmet cook and never intend to be, Williams-Sonoma, the gourmet cookware store, is probably not the best place for you to register. Think about the stores you shop at regularly and register at one of those, while throwing in a few items from a store that you love but may be out of your price range.

4. Register with Two Merchants
You want to make sure you give your guests enough options. Register with at least two stores so that your guests can shop where they are most comfortable, and also to make sure that you are able to register for all the items that you will need. Some stores may not carry absolutely everything. For example, if you decide to register at Williams-Sonoma, you will need to also register with a store where you can get bed linens.

Tip: Try to limit your registering to three stores. Four or more can be overwhelming.

5. Go with the Most Commonly Registered Stores
You can’t lose by registering at big national chains that understand the wedding registry process. Macy’s has a fabulous wedding registry reputation, especially among those who have Macy’s credit cards and receive discounts when buying gifts. Bed Bath & Beyond is known for its easy return policy and they also give you 10% off on all the items you registered for after your wedding. Crate & Barrel is becoming more well-known as a great place to register, especially for their modern style. Other top registry stores include Target, Pottery Barn, and JC Penney.

Items to Include on Your Wedding Registry

When you sign up to make a registry, the merchant will provide you with a complete list of items that can be included on your registry. Keep in mind that most of the lists that you receive are old-fashioned.

They will include the proper number of fine china settings, the number of white wine glasses and red wine glasses, and the number of toasting flutes. Many couples find that they do not need all of these fancy items and instead desire more practical things.

I recommend getting the registry list from the store, but only registering for what you need or think you will use. Then consider also registering for these more practical, and fun, items:

  • Electronics: Blu-ray player, gaming system, speakers, GPS
  • Camping equipment: Sleeping bags, tent, outdoor barbecue grill, cooler
  • Backyard: Outdoor furniture, lawnmower, over-sized outdoor umbrella, garden hose
  • Travel: Luggage bags, garment bag, video camera, toiletry bag
  • Recreational: Board games, roller blades, horseshoe set, bicycle parts and accessories

bride gifts

Top Tips for Your Wedding Registry

Registering for your wedding gifts may seem to be pretty straight forward, but here are some tips to help you make sure that you get everything you want and need, as well as to make sure that your guests are happy with the gifts they are buying.

1. Create Your Registry Together
This is not the bride’s registry, and this is not the groom’s registry. It’s the wedding registry, meaning that both bride and groom need to contribute to its formation. Plus, what couple doesn’t have fun going around a store and shooting everything that they want with a laser?

2. Register for a lot of Gifts
Some of your guests will know exactly what they want to get you when they look at your list, others will base their decision on the price. Regardless, your guests want options. Don’t limit 50 guests to only 50 options. I suggest registering for twice as many gifts as you have guests.

3. Register for a Range of Prices
Many guests will already have a price determined that they want to spend before looking at your registry list. If all your items are over $50, some of your guests will not be able to afford anything. If all of your items are under $50, you are not registering to your full potential since some guests will want to spend well above that.

Tip: Don’t worry about registering for a really expensive item. You may be surprised by how much some of your guests are willing to spend.

4. Pick Gifts You Will Actually Use
If you don’t think you will ever use toasting flutes, don’t register for them. That is a waste of money for your guests, and a waste of a gift for you. Also, carefully consider kitchen gadgets before you register for them. How often will you really use a panini press or a smoothie maker?

5. Register for Pieces Instead of Sets
The only thing that my husband and I did not receive from our wedding registry was a very expensive set of pots and pans. However, our friends who registered for their pots and pans in pieces received everything. Many guests will want to buy a piece instead of a set due to the cost.

6. Skip the China
Most modern couples do not need fine china. Fine china is expensive and used infrequently. Eventually, you may inherit some from your family.

7. Review an Item’s Rating
Do some research on what brand and model is best so that you can ensure that you are registering for a quality item. For example, you may look at all the coffee makers and have to choose one based on looks instead of functionality – unless you already know a little bit about them. Or consider skipping any items that you are unsure of. You can then go online later, look over the customer reviews, and then add that item to your registry online.

8. Review Your Registry Periodically
Yes, I am telling you to look at your registry to see what has been bought! It is important that you do because you need to make sure that there are still plenty of options for your guests. Always make sure there are a range of prices.

9. Ask Your Friends
Ask your married friends what items they registered for and which items they would recommend. You may find out that they have the best vacuum cleaner, but that their coffee maker has way too many pieces that need cleaning between each use.

Final Word

If you decide that you do not want to do a registry, or if you already have most of your household items, make sure your guests know what you would like to receive as a gift. Some alternatives to registries include money, gift cards, gifts for charities, and money towards a memorable honeymoon destination idea.

Registering for gifts takes the guesswork out of gift-shopping for your guests, and ensures that you’ll begin your married life with all the basic necessities.

What advice do you have for a couple preparing to put together their wedding registry?

(photo credit: Shutterstock)

Casey Slide
Casey Slide lives with her husband and baby in Atlanta, GA. She graduated from the University of Florida in 2005 with a bachelor’s degree in Industrial Engineering and worked for a prominent hospital in Atlanta. With the birth of Casey’s son in February 2010, she decided to become a stay-at-home mom. Casey’s interests include reading, running, living green, and saving money.

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  • Nicole Davis

    Registering for a cleaning service is a unique and practical gift idea. It ensures more quality time for the bride and groom by eliminating the stress of a messy house or deciding who does what chore. When the house is clean, the happy couple has both the time and space to either entertain, or enjoy romantic nights at home :o)

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