Building a wedding registry can be incredibly overwhelming. There are so many decisions to make, from store registry or multi-store registry? to how does one know what makes a good pan when all you’ve ever cooked in was hand-me-downs? Add to the many decisions an influx of well-intentioned advice and judgment from everyone you know, and there’s the typical experience.
There are a number of resources online meant to help soon-to-be newlyweds, but they are often more helpful in theory than in actual execution. Most of those resources involve lists of “must-have” items for your registry, which may or may not be relevant to the lives you and your future spouse intend to lead. I know I for one have been without a salad spinner for the entirety of my life, and I still manage to feel pretty fulfilled.
Likewise, many of those lists assume a very traditional sequence of events, like the cabinet and storage space of a home rather than a smaller space; that any couple building a wedding registry needs entirely new stuff rather than the possibility that some already have a number of high-quality homegoods that don’t need replaced; and that anyone getting married intends to live a life where a fully-stocked kitchen and linen cabinet are the two main priorities.
So instead of a list of items you need, this guide will instead give you some great questions and tips to consider as a starting point to building a wedding registry that perfectly fits the life you plan to live.
Five Tips for Building Your Perfect Registry
1. Getting married will not magically make you a wizard in the kitchen or change your eating habits.
Chances are, if you ask around for advice on what to put on your wedding registry or look up lists of must-have registry items, you will get a lot of specialized but “very necessary” kitchen items. Here’s the thing: if you currently eat take-out for almost every meal, getting married is probably not going to change that. And that’s ok. If you love to cook, that’s awesome, and it would make perfect sense for your registry to reflect that! But if you hate to cook and you’d rather spend your free-time doing other things, don’t feel pressured to become the next Betty Crocker or to have a kitchen that looks like it came from a copy of Home and Garden magazine. Instead, fill your registry with things that are actually useful and exciting to you.
However you feel about cooking, here are some useful things to consider when adding kitchen items to your registry:
What do you already have? Take stock of the things you have in your kitchen. What things do you use every day? How quality are the items you have? If there are things you use every day that are lower quality or are wearing out, then this is the perfect opportunity to replace them with a brand that will last you forever and be a joy to use! If you already have things that you love and you feel are great quality, then skip those things for your registry. Just because tradition demands that every newly married couple needs a brand new set of dishes doesn’t mean you actually have to replace the lovely and still-in-great-shape set you already have.
What do you wish you had? This is the perfect opportunity to get that not-totally-necessary thing that you think you’d use a lot! Do you or your spouse-to-be love ice cream and making your own food from scratch? Register for an ice cream maker! Do you wish you had a stand mixer every time your arm falls asleep using the hand mixer? Put it on your registry. Forget what convention tells you should go on your registry and instead think about what you actually like to do and what things you think you will actually use on a regular basis.
Ask people you know for advice, but don’t take their word as gospel. You probably have a lot of friends or family members who have built a wedding registry before, and they can be a great resource for figuring out what to include in yours. However, they are not you and they likely don’t know exactly what is going to add value to your life and home. Ask people what things they wish they had registered for or what things they consider must-have items; then take it with a grain of salt. For instance, if you register for a drip-coffee maker because “everyone needs a coffee maker in their kitchen” you just might find yourself getting rid of it a year later because you only used it twice (hypothetically speaking, of course!).
2. Items from your wedding registry do, in fact, take up space.
Consider what your living situation will be when you first get married, and take that into account as you build your wedding registry. A lifetime-worth of sheets seems great until you realize your studio apartment doesn’t have the space to accommodate them. Likewise, full table-service for 16 seems like a dream-come-true for anyone who loves entertaining, but if you don’t currently live in a place that would seat 16 at your dinner table, then you probably don’t have the space to store all those dishes.
Think about where you’ll be living when you’re first married, and think about what your future plans might be. If you know you’re moving into a house relatively soon after your marriage (or you already live in a house), then storing the extra stuff in a smaller space until you move may be worth it! But if you are pretty sure renting is the only thing in your foreseeable future (or you plan to build a tiny home? eh?), then don’t put so much stuff on your registry that trying to store and/or move it all will make you miserable.
If you have things on your list that you don’t really need or want right now, you will have to find the space to store it. If you have only things on your list that you know will be beneficial to you and your lifestyle, then storing it probably won’t be too much of an inconvenience for you. Just be realistic about what will fit in your home and your lifestyle, and what will be worth the space it takes up to you.
3. Your registry should reflect what you and your future spouse actually like.
Again, this is in a very similar vein of “think about what you actually like and register for that”, but it’s advice worth repeating! If you’re home-bodies or you love to host and entertain people, then your registry will likely have a lot of home items (and there ain’t nothin’ wrong with that, my friends!). But if you love to be adventurous or travel more so than cooking, then skip the expensive pans or high-end trash cans and instead register for things that matter to you. Here are some unique ideas for all kinds of couples that I’ve seen on registries and thought, Yes! That is SO them!
- Board games and puzzles
- Camping equipment (or gear for any hobby the two of you enjoy doing together)
- All the necessary tools for making fancy cocktails at home
- Artwork or other home decor items
- DVDs or records
- Activities you’d like to do during your honeymoon (like snorkeling, or tickets to a certain museum)
- Donation to your new house fund or new car fund instead of a physical gift
- Donation to your favorite charity
4. Consider the guests who will be at your wedding.
It can be really frustrating and embarrassing as a wedding guest when you look at someone’s registry only to find there isn’t a single item that you can actually afford to get them. Keep this in mind as you build your registry.
Obviously, you will not know the exact budget of all of your wedding guests, you can’t control how quickly the less expensive items on your list are bought up, and more than likely, you care way more about someone’s presence on your special day than the presents you receive. But, most guests want to bring at least a small gift when they go to a wedding. Don’t base your entire registry off of what other people will think about you or be able to get you, but do be mindful of the guests who will be attending your wedding and what their ability to get you a gift from the registry might be.
One thing you definitely don’t want is to have loved ones skip your big day just because they feel embarrassed or frustrated that they can’t afford any of your desired gifts! There are some things you can do to both build a registry full of the things you actually want and make sure your guests will feel totally comfortable while celebrating your big day.
- Register for individual items instead of sets. For things like kitchen utensils, pots and pans, dishes, and linens, stores will often sell a large set that is a discount from each individual item, but altogether rather pricey. Consider registering for the individual items instead. While the “discount” from the set is tempting, most people don’t budget several hundred dollars for a wedding gift. You’re more likely to get those items as less expensive, individual pieces from several different guests than you are to get one large and expensive set from a handful of guests who know each other well enough to go in on a gift together. It also gives guests a lot more options to choose from when deciding what to get you as a gift, which is more fun for your guests and helps them feel good about what they’re gifting you!
- Register at multiple places. This is a good one not only for budget, but also taking into account the age and demographics of your guests. If you only register on Amazon, that will give a lot of great and cost-effective options to most people on your guest list, but could leave your older or less tech-savvy guests feeling frustrated. Your younger guests will most likely purchase your gift online, but many older guests (or those without internet access at home) want to go into a physical store, print out a physical copy of your registry, and hand-pick the gift themselves. Also keep in mind that when you register at many brick-and-mortar stores, you will get a discount to use on any items that weren’t purchased off your registry, which is a nice perk that you may not get from entirely online registry services. Mix it up and you will have your bases well-covered.
- Consider how much something is worth to you while registering. I am all for buying quality things that will last instead of low-quality things that will need to be replaced over and over, but it is worth considering whether the cost of something on your registry reflects the worth of that item to you. Did you put a $90 laundry hamper on your registry because that is the one-and-only laundry hamper for your home and it is really important to you to have a high quality hamper, or because you figured you might as well have a $90 laundry hamper if someone else is willing to pay for it? Try to strike the right balance of having a registry full of quality items that will add value to your life and home while still being realistic and considerate of your guests.
5. Research items you want to add to your registry
If there’s one piece of advice I wish I’d known before creating my wedding registry, this is it! I grew up as the youngest of three girls, so it was hand-me-down central for almost everything I owned. Before getting married, I always lived with roommates and was pretty frugal, so I typically just made do with things I already had from family members or thrift stores. So when it came time to put things like sheets or knives on my registry, I had no clue what to look for!
If I’d done more research, I would have registered for a few really high-quality individual knives in the sizes I like and a good electric knife sharpener instead of a knife block in a well-known brand that I personally knew very little about. When registering for sheets, I would have looked at the material instead of the thread-count. For me, I just had to chock it up as a learning experience (and quickly replace all my sheets, sadly); but you can learn from my mistake! Do your research and avoid having to replace things soon after your wedding day is over.
But mostly, have fun!
Ultimately, building a wedding registry should be more fun than stressful! Pick out things that will add value to your life. Have fun with your future spouse while you brainstorm the things you’d like and pick out colors and patterns. Research any items where you don’t already know exactly what you like to make sure you’re getting something that will last and that you’ll enjoy using.
What are your must-have items for a wedding registry?