If I had it to do over: wedding registry


This joyful time in your life calls for celebration…and a lot of gifts! Obviously not everyone who gets you a gift is going to know your particular preferences or what you need, so a gift registry takes the uncertainty away.

Now two decades later and embarking on a more minimal and environmentally conscious lifestyle, I wish I could time travel back to that day in the department store and set the young me straight on a few things. Not having that much stuff can actually be a positive thing and gaining a large amount of stuff in a short amount of time can be overwhelming.

It’s inevitable that you will only want or really need just a portion of it, which leaves the other portion in your possession to determine its fate. Will it stay and clutter up or take valuable space in your new home, will it get boxed up and come along on your next move, or will you get rid of it and feel guilty about it? Here is what I would have done different on my wedding registry:

Request experiences

Before our honeymoon in the mountains, we made a down payment on our cabin rental with the remaining balance due on arrival. In the days before online reservations, I didn’t read the small print that the payment had to be cash. Thank heavens for whoever handed us the stack of congratulations cards from the gift table as we rushed out the door after the reception. It might have been a really short honeymoon otherwise!

Thinking back to that time in our lives, money was a useful gift. It could be argued that we would have spent it all in short time on things we wouldn’t remember a year later, and that would be a valid point. But many years later, we still remember the thrill and relief of opening those envelopes with cash more than almost any other gift.

A recent trend, which I adore, is a honeymoon registry. This is the epitome of gifting experiences rather than things. Websites such as honeyfund.com and honeymoonwishes.com allow guests to offset honeymoon expenses with a monetary gift. The couple can even choose experiences they want funded, such as ski lessons on a mountain vacation or a candlelit dinner on the beach. These are the types of gifts that are remembered for a lifetime.

Skip the China

I blindly followed the herd on this one. Tradition dictated that wedding registries had a matching set of China as the piece de resistance. I never questioned if I even wanted it. It was just what was done.

Our wonderful family and friends granted my wish by giving us a beautiful complete set, with each place setting wrapped in gold tissue paper inside a silver and gold box. I also registered for a set of everyday dishes, which we received. Even though we didn’t have room in our duplex, we could have served dinner to more than 30 people, some dining a little fancier than others.

Over the years, our China has been displayed in a couple different hutches, one handed down and one left with our old house. Upon each move, it’s always the first thing I pack and the last thing I unpack because it’s seldom used. I’ve spent countless hours rolling and unrolling each piece in newspaper and cleaning the dust off the displayed pieces.

A lot of space and time has been devoted to maintain and store the China, which has been used only a handful of times and is now tucked away in a kitchen cabinet. As our décor has changed through the years, I got rid of the patterned everyday dishes we had and now a sturdy set of white plates, bowls, and glass cups doubles for everyday use and when entertaining.

The China did bring me joy, it’s a beautiful heirloom, and I’m grateful to have such a nice set. But I wonder…do I really want to lug it with me on my next move, which might be Maui with any luck! Or will my kids even want it when I’m gone? Passing along too much stuff might keep them from having the things they choose themselves.

Request only a few classic gifts

Some of the gifts we received have stood the test of time and we still own and use them after 20 years. These gifts are register-worthy and include a set of silverware, covered casserole dishes, and skillets and saucepans.

Although my recent focus is on seeing how little stuff we need, there are a few things I recommend requesting in duplicate. Having two sets of silverware would have been handy. It doesn’t take much room to store and would have kept me from buying disposable silverware for parties. Now it would be difficult to find a matching set. Another duplicate that would’ve been nice was glass cups for basically the same reasons, and the fact that these break over time.

A chef’s knife and cutting board are items you’ll need in the kitchen from day one. Linens such as towels and sheets are also good registry items. These of course haven’t lasted 20 years, but picking good-quality, neutral-colored linens will get you a lot more mileage from them. We chose burgundy and navy with a floral design for the bedding just because it matched the towels. I got tired of the colors and patterns long before the linens wore out and replaced them.

Request gift cards

How wonderful would it have been to go shopping without the financial worries after you’ve had a few months to settle in to married life? This would allow a little time to see what it is your new home together actually needs.

Think outside the box on gift card preferences. Kitchen, bath, and home good stores used to have the monopoly on wedding registries. Newlyweds can find plenty of useful things there, but also very useful in that first year would have been gift cards to hardware and home improvement stores. Other inevitable purchases for newlyweds are electronics, and Best Buy recently started a wedding registry.

Go for quality instead of quantity

The idea of stocking an entire house with supplies all at once is kind of funny if you think about it. If you’re like us, only about 20% of our kitchen supplies get used every day, leaving the other 80% waiting to be used on special occasions or with specific recipes. The majority of the gifts we received were for the kitchen, some from our registry and some not.

In hindsight, I would much rather have a professional-grade mixer, which I got years later, than an assortment of appliances designed to handle only one or two kitchen tasks. If that meant I couldn’t make certain dishes for a while, it would be a worthwhile sacrifice to have those few high-quality items that will endure.

Your wedding and honeymoon come and go and it’s back to reality and everyday life in the blink of an eye. You have a lifetime to stock your kitchen and linen closet, but only a brief moment to enjoy your honeymoon and being newlyweds.

Life events such as having kids or developing new hobbies will provide you with a steady accumulation of stuff. It’s wise to acquire it slowly so you’re not spending irrevocable time in stuff management. You may even decide that you really don’t need all that much stuff after all!

Are there items you regret including or not including on your wedding registry? If so, I would love to hear from you. If you’re just starting out, best wishes for keeping stuff at a minimal so you have the time and space to create a lifetime of happy memories.

3 thoughts on “If I had it to do over: wedding registry”

  1. I got married three years ago and I still wish I could do my wedding registry over again! I love your ideas about going for quality over quantity and wish I had done that.

  2. Thank you Britney! I think breaking tradition and requesting things or experiences that couples really want is a new trend, and definitely something I wish we would have done as well!

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