The question that many engaged couples ask themselves is: “how does a wedding registry work?“
A wedding registry is an online or physical list of gifts you want to receive from your guests. It’s not required, but it does make the process easier for everyone if you do one!
A day of registration would end with couples over scanning, not scanning the right things, or worse, just giving up on the process altogether.
What Is a Wedding Registry and How Does it Work?
To put it simply, a wedding registry is the master wish list for your wedding gifts. A registry is a quick and easy way for your wedding guests to see all the things you’d love as you start married life. And yet, a registry is so much more!
A registry tells your guests if the gift they intend to purchase has already been bought, where it can be bought, and it can even offer alternatives depending on budget. A wedding registry lets your guests match your perfect gift and their budget.
Plus, a wedding registry prevents your guests from double buying. That means no returns, no worrying about gift receipts, and generally less work for you!
It Works If You Work It!
A wedding registry works best when you are committed to the process. Don’t let this scare you off; this is a fun process where you constantly pick out items that mean something to you.
The wedding registry is one of the great treats of planning a wedding, and many couples will tell you that daily registry checks are one of the highlights of being engaged!
We recommend updating your registry as often as possible to ensure you are maximising your registry’s potential.
Checking your registry often will allow you to remove a gift that’s been purchased, add a new skill that you recently discovered, or replace one item with another if you see something you like better!
Ready to Start Your Wedding Registry?
Creating a newlywed wish list is one of the most anticipated aspects of planning a wedding. After all, you’re essentially selecting gifts for your home that other people will buy for you.
(When else will you get an opportunity to ask for a luxury grill or the pastel coffee maker that matches your kitchen backsplash?)
Plus, filling your newlywed nest with gifts from well-wishers is one of the best ways to signify your new beginning as a married couple.
How Does a Wedding Registry Work?
Wedding registries have evolved drastically over the years. In the past, it was common to create multiple registries and shop at physical retail stores.
While this is still an option, all-in-one registries make it easier than ever to curate gifts from any store on one list.
Plus, universal wishlists allow you to expand your registry beyond physical items. Alternative gifts like cash and experience funds and gift cards and charity donations are popular choices for couples who don’t want (or need) many new physical items.
So, how does a wedding registry work? More couples are opting for universal registries that house every gift in one place.
(Not only is this easier for you to manage, but it simplifies the shopping experience for guests too.)
Thanks to all-in-one registry tools, you can ask for all kinds of gifts, from new bathroom towels to a standing mixer to cash for honeymoon excursions and even gift cards for your next Chipotle date night.
Once you’ve created your registry, integrate it into your wedding website.
This is the best way to share gift information with guests.
Traditional etiquette still indicates that it’s not appropriate to put registry information on your invites, but you should include your wedding website—this will indirectly guide guests to your registry.
From there, guests will purchase gifts to be shipped directly to you and your S.O.
Where to Register
Companies that specialise in home goods, cookware, and other popular wedding gifts would have you believe that you need to register in person at a brick and mortar store.
You and your spouse no longer need to spend all day at a handful of different stores scanning items for your registry.
Registering with individual companies is time-consuming for you and confusing for your guests. The more individual companies you register with, the more information you have to relay to your friends and family about where to shop.
Dos and Don’ts of Wedding Registries
No matter where you register, and the products that end up on your final wish list, our dos and don’ts will simplify the entire process.
Don’t Go Overboard
When registering, stick to two or three stories you love.
Choose a national department store or chain with lots of household basics, and you may also want a local specialty store to add to your registry.
Think of your guests—you may want to choose stores that are low-, medium-, and high-end, so guests have gifts in a variety of price ranges to choose from.
Do Register Ahead of Time
Complete your registry four to six months before the wedding. This will give guests time to purchase gifts for the big day and your engagement and a shower.
Don’t Tell Guests Where You’re Registered in Your Invitation.
Once you have registered, give the information to the immediate family and the wedding party, and let them spread the word.
If you are asked where you have registered, it is OK for you to tell, but it is not proper to include registry information in a wedding invitation.
Registry information can be included on a wedding website, as long as the store’s actual name is not formed on the same layer; organise your website so that guests must click down one level to find the details.
To Register for Enough Gifts
Register for more gifts than you have guests, so there will be plenty of items to choose from.
Think about who your guests are, and register for gifts at a wide range of prices, or choose individual items rather than sets, as with pots and pans, for instance.
It is OK to put a few expensive items on your registry, but balance them with more affordable and equally lovely options.
Don’t Ask for Money.
While it’s still taboo to ask for money directly, financial registries try to make this less awkward; for example, couples can now register for stocks through certain websites or for their honeymoon through a travel agency or an online service.
Are they saving up for a house? Some banks have programs that let brides and grooms establish a particular account to which guests can give money earmarked for a down payment.
Do Review Your Registry
If your registry doesn’t automatically notify you when a gift has been purchased, review your registry every few weeks and more frequently as the wedding approaches.
Use your updated registry to help you keep up with writing thank-you notes.
Don’t Limit Your Registry.
Don’t think just about your lifestyle as it is today.
You’ll be entertaining more in the years to come, so create a wish list of items: a platter for your first Thanksgiving dinner or champagne glasses for a New Year’s toast.
Keep those special occasions in mind; it’s a beautiful way to include loved ones in those crucial milestones.
Do Write Thank-You Notes Right Away
Ideally, it would help if you acknowledged every present immediately; writing a note the day you receive it is best, but sending it within two weeks is also acceptable.
Of course, the period surrounding your wedding is a busy time; if you fall behind, make every effort to send a thank you as soon as you can—but no later than three months after the event.
Don’t Worry If You Don’t Get Everything on Your Registry.
If you don’t receive everything you registered for, don’t fret.
Many stores have a completion program, which offers a discount on remaining items, or will keep the registry active for anywhere from a few months to a few years, so friends and relatives can continue to purchase gifts from it as other joyous occasions arise.
Do Involve the Groom
He might not be invested in your bouquet flowers, the ceremony backdrop, or the hotel blocks for guests, but here’s the groom’s time to shine!
Enlist his help in filling out your registry.
There’s room for yard tools, whiskey glasses, sports equipment (within reason), and collectible books amid all of your pretty choices, trust us.
Don’t Hesitate to Return Things.
It happens to us: we order items online, positive they’ll fit, feel, or look as great as the picture indicates.
Then, the package arrives, and the conclusion is unanimous: return it.
The same can happen for products on your registry!
Don’t feel obligated to notify the gift giver of your exchange, but know that it’s allowed—and ordinary—to replace ho-hum choices with ones you love.
Do Merge All of Your Registries in One Place
Even if you request vintage selects from an antique store, china from your local design shop, and kitchenware from Macy’s, you can still group all of your requests in one all-inclusive registry.
Doing so not only makes your life easier (you’ll be managing one list, rather than multiple separate ones) but your guests, too, who only have to search one spot to find the just-right gift.
Online registry sites make combining gift lists a cinch. You can always include a picture and description for that particular item that’s only available in-store to raise money for it, then buy it later.
Don’t Write-Off Gifts That Aren’t Products.
Charitable donations, experiences, and contributions to a down payment, stock portfolio, or honeymoon are all valid gift requests. Just be sure to include some physical presents on your wish list, too, to keep your great aunt and traditionalists happy.
Do Tailor the Shipping Settings
Many online registries let you select when you want to receive your gifts by mail (either as they’re purchased, in bulk shipments, or at a later date entirely).
For example, if you and your fiancé have a move on the horizon (into a new house or to a brand new city), it might be advantageous to have presents sent to your home once you’ve arrived.
Similarly, if you have to take a trip to the post office or local shipping company to pick up packages, then it’s practical to have gifts arrive in groups.
Request email notifications when gifts are bought to stay on top of thank you notes (that’s right, those should still be sent within two weeks of the giver’s purchase regardless of when the gift lands on your doorstep!).
Don’t Only Register for Fine China, Crystal, and Silverware.
Fill your future home with items that feel personal and useful to you and the groom; otherwise, you’ll feel like you’re living in a grand museum featuring someone else’s beautiful objects.
Along with building your collection of family-holiday-worthy pieces (looking at you, gravy boat), leave room for the fun stuff, a funky mirror for your entryway, and a professional camera for those trips aboard.
The Wedding Registry Tips You Need to Know
For even more help, we’re sharing the top wedding registry tips that every couple needs to know. Follow our expert advice to get the most out of your newlywed wishlist—we promise it’ll make for a fulfilling experience.
Time it Right
One of the biggest wedding registry tips to know is that it’s completely acceptable to create one as soon as you get engaged. We recommend making your registry right away.
This makes it easier for guests who’d like to purchase a gift for any pre-wedding celebration, like engagement parties or showers, or for those who’d like to send something as a token of their congratulations.
It’s okay to shy away from traditional registry items.
If you never cook at home but love to camp, it makes more sense to register for a tent than request a crystal gravy boat. But, be open to the fact that your tastes may change in the future.
Even though you can’t imagine a need at this moment in your life for that gravy boat, it may become indispensable for future Thanksgiving dinners with your in-laws.
Take some time to think about your lifestyle now, as well as what it might look like in the future, and select gifts accordingly.
You can also use our roundup of the best wedding gifts this year for some preliminary ideas.
One of the most crucial wedding registry tips is to take inventory with your partner.
If you’re living together before marriage, you might want to skip traditional items if you already have them in your home.
Make a list of what you have, as well as what you still need and want. (Perhaps you already own a simple coffee maker, but if you’ve been eyeing a brand new espresso machine, it may deserve a spot on your wishlist.)
Also, consider the need for “every day” and “formal” versions of dinnerware, glassware, table linens and serving items.
If you love being the go-to house for dinner parties, you might want to register for some extra serving sets for the next time your friends stop by unexpectedly.
Taking stock of what you have and what you need is the best way to stay organised and efficient while making registry selections.
Do it Together
You and your partner should register for gifts you’ll both enjoy.
To decide on what you need, talk about the style of home you’d both like and choose items together.
While you might receive input from well-meaning family members and friends, remember that your wedding registry is for your home, not theirs, and such decisions should be made with your partner.
Set aside time specifically for your registry to curate a list that feels tailored to both of your interests.
As you begin shopping online, you might wonder exactly how many gifts should be added to your registry.
There’s an easy way to figure it out, and all it takes is a secret math equation. Multiply your guest list by two, and add a few extra.
You might worry that over-registering feels greedy, but that’s far from the case. It’s better to have too many choices than not enough.
This also ensures that gifting options won’t run low as guests start to purchase presents.
Include Multiple Price Points
An excellent wedding registry includes gift ideas for all price ranges.
Guests will be able to spend different amounts on wedding gifts, so give them plenty of options at various price points.
We recommend having gifts that fall between $25 and $200 or more. Our data indicate that the average guest spends on a wedding gift is $120, so keep this in mind as you make selections.
Don’t shy away from adding a few luxury items because some guests will want to splurge. (Plus, big-ticket products make for great group gifts too.) But don’t forget to add some budget-friendly options as well. Guests will appreciate your attention to detail.
Since it’s essential to have plenty of gift options at various price points, check your registry often to make sure there are still enough choices for guests.
Selections will dwindle as your loved ones buy items leading up to the big day, so check back periodically to ensure there are options at all prices.
Guide the Gift-Giving
An excellent point to keep in mind when you start your registry is to select products you really want or need first, like a new mattress or a high-tech vacuum.
Then, as the items on your checklist start to dwindle, add more. That way, you won’t be stuck with a fruit basket when instead, you need those extra salad plates.
Browse Other Registries
You can steal registry ideas from other couples. It’s super easy to find your friends’ registries and wedding websites.
Stay in Season
If you have longer than one year before the wedding, try to avoid registering for seasonal items that might be replaced in a few months.
When guests go to purchase gifts, they may find those things have been discontinued.
This is another good reason to check your registry often. If things sell out or get discontinued, find a replacement ASAP.
Ask for Cash
No, really. It’s perfectly acceptable to register for money. We encourage it. Asking for cash used to be a taboo wedding topic.
In years past, it was deemed inappropriate to ask for monetary gifts.
But in 2021, registry etiquette has evolved, and cash gifts are more common than ever. You can put cash funds toward anything, from a puppy fund to a kitchen remodel or even newlywed experiences, like cooking classes or concerts.
We’ll let you in on a secret: Guests want to give wedding gifts that’ll be used, so if you’d benefit more from a monetary donation than another set of wine glasses, add cash funds to your registry. You’ll thank yourself later.
Think Outside the Box
Already have everything you need for the home? Get creative with your registry ideas.
Consider asking for gift cards to your favourite restaurants or home decoration stores to enjoy after the wedding.
Or, if there’s a charity close to your heart, invite guests to donate instead of sending a gift.
You can even set up a honeymoon fund to cover airline tickets or resort activities for your newlywed getaway.
It’s easier than ever to personalise your registry with gifts that make sense for your lifestyle, so take full advantage of this as you select items.
Ensure that your registry items can be shipped to your home address. This will spare guests the hassle of going to a store to pick up your gift and then to the post office to send it.
Spread the Word
It’s not appropriate to flat-out ask for wedding gifts, so don’t include registry information on your wedding invitations.
Word of mouth is one appropriate way to disseminate this. Your registry info can also be listed on your engagement party, and bridal shower invites since the invitation doesn’t come from you but the person hosting the shower.
The best place to share your registry, though, is on your wedding website. Include the link to your custom wedding page on your invites to guide guests to your newlywed wishlist.
Plan for Late Shoppers
Traditional wedding etiquette says that guests have up to one year from their wedding day to buy a gift, so that’s at least how long your registry should remain active.
Even after you say “I do,” make sure your registry still has options for late-gifters.
Most wedding gifts are bought within two weeks before and two weeks after a wedding.
Knowing this, check your registry during this timeframe and add additional items if necessary.
Sending thank-you notes is the most critical task on your post-wedding to-do list.
Thank your guests adequately—a text message or email won’t suffice here.
Handwritten thank-you notes for gifts received before the wedding should be sent within two weeks of arrival.
Notes for gifts received on or after the wedding day should be sent within two months of your return from the honeymoon.