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A Wife’s Guide to Wedding Registries

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A 1910 wedding guidebook  advises would-be gift-givers that “the art of giving is one that is very much abused, for many times, in giving presents, the circumstances of the bride and groom are overlooked.” These days, brides and grooms register for lists of items they need—or think they need—to live a happy life together. Unfortunately, the wedding industry doesn’t encourage women to think about their circumstances or to ask for thoughtful, practical gifts. That’s why it is important to evaluate who you are as a couple and who you’d like to be before you register.


Assess how you and your fiancé live now

You and your fiancé are marrying each other for who you are—not who you dream of being. What would make your life easier now, the way you already live by yourself?:

  • If you cook, register for high-quality cookware to replace worn out pots and pans. Register for the pieces you know you’re likely to use rather than an expensive set. You should also register for cooking appliances that will make cooking easier and more enjoyable such as a nice stand mixer (if you have room) or food processor. If you don’t cook, register for a simple starter set of pots and pans to give cooking a try before you clutter your kitchen with a lot of cookware you aren’t going to use. A crockpot is a great choice for people who don’t have much time to make homemade meals.
  • If you like to have friends over for drinks, consider registering for barware like drink glasses, shakers, and ice buckets. Just keep in mind that you’ll need somewhere to store your barware. If you and your fiancé aren’t big drinkers, stick to water or wine glasses.
  • If you travel often, a luggage set is a good idea. If not, don’t bother for now. You can also buy luggage later in your married life when travel is more of an option.
  • If you have any special hobbies you enjoy together, you can register for the tools and equipment you need. The Amazon.com Universal Registry Button is a great way to include these kinds of items.
  • Are there any items you currently love that need an upgrade? Perhaps you’re still using your college coffee maker or your mom’s hand-me-down toaster. Register for a high-quality replacement.

Think about what you’d like your married life together to be

You and your fiancé love each other just the way you are, but you both have a vision of what married life is like. Register for the things that will make that vision easier.

  • If you’d like to cook more often, register for whatever appliances would make that easier. A stand-mixer is a registry staple, but it only makes sense if you have space to leave it out on your counter. A crockpot, on the other hand, is a great way to easily prepare homemade meals with a lot less effort. Don’t forget a few bigger pots now that you’ll be cooking for a family.
  • If you want to entertain dinner guests, register for nice dinnerware. Eight to twelve place settings is standard for couples who like to host dinners. You’ll also want serving ware such as platters and salad bowls.
  • If you’d like to entertain less formally, consider a tea set. My set is one of my most-used wedding gifts.

Look for quality, not luxury

Adam and I bought most of our first furniture from Goodwill, so many of the things we owned looked shabby next to our wedding gifts.

  • Some registry staples from your grandmother’s day—silver and fine china come to mind—really don’t make sense unless you’re expecting to throw posh dinner parties regularly.
  • Think about maintenance, too. As much as Adam and I love our beautiful stemware, we hardly ever use it—I’m afraid to break it and it’s a pain to hand wash all the dishes after a nice meal.
  • Looking for quality instead of luxury doesn’t mean you have to register cheap. If you register for high quality products that you will really use, your friends and family will enjoy giving them to you—even if they’re expensive.

Focus on the things you really need

There are certain things it is fun to buy—and certain things that it isn’t. Try to keep a balance on your registry between what you need and what you’re likely to get.

  • There are some things you can count on getting from your registry: table linens, stemware, and board games come to mind. Remember that registering for a large number of these “fun-to-buy” items might cost you the things you really need.
  • On the other hand, there are some things people don’t like to buy. Knives are a good example. For the superstitious, it is bad luck to give a knife as a wedding gift. In fact, many nicer cutlery sets come with a penny for you “buy” the knives from the giver. Consider asking close family or bridesmaids to get these unpopular gifts for you.

Don’t register for anything you wouldn’t buy yourself.

It’s easy to get carried away registering for knick-knacks and picture frames. But wedding registries are a one-in-a-lifetime chance to get people who care about you to buy you what you really need for a lifetime together.

  • Resist the temptation to register for one-function cooking gadgets like fondue pots, ice cream makers, or panini presses. You can always go back and add them later if your guests buy all of your registry staples.
  • It is a good idea to add things with a variety of different prices to your registry. But that doesn’t mean you have to register for cheap things you don’t need just to make your guests happy. Friends on a budget can always split a more expensive gift, but no one wants to buy a present you only registered for out of pity.

Register smart

Companies that host wedding registries are clever. They place items you’ll actually need on shelves next to luxury items. They also offer free drinks at registry events to loosen your inhibitions with the scanner. It takes some effort to stick to your principals once you have a scanner in your hand.

  • By all means go to the store. Look at the items for which you’re registering. But make sure you only register at stores where you can access and edit your registry on-line. That way you can take off items later if you’ve gotten too scanner-happy.

Suggested items

Your registry should reflect who you are and the way you and your husband want to live, but here’s a checklist for how you might want to put those principles into action.

For most everyone:


If you like to cook, consider:


If you don’t like to cook, consider instead:

  • A cookware set
  • A bake ware set
  • A chef’s knife
  • A paring knife
  • A bread knife
  • A crockpot

If you like to bake, you should consider:

  • A stand mixer
  • Cookie sheets
  • Bread and loaf pans
  • Cake pans
  • Cooling racks
  • Muffin pans
  • Pie pans

If you like to entertain for dinner, consider adding:

  • A Dutch oven, crockpot, or other vessel for preparing large meals
  • Another 4-6 place settings
  • Another 4-6 sets of flat ware
  • 12-14 steak knives
  • A hostess set of flatware
  • A serving set of flatware
  • 12-14 wine glasses
  • 2-3 platters
  • 2-3 salad bowls
  • A butter dish
  • A gravy boat
  • 12-14 placemats
  • 12-14 cloth napkins
  • 2 table cloths

If you like to entertain after dinner, include:

  • 8-12 of the stemware for your drink of choice: red wine glasses, white wine glasses, champagne flutes, highball glasses, lowball glasses, brandy glasses, cordial glasses
  • A cocktail shaker
  • An ice bucket and tongs
  • A red wine aerator
  • A wine rack
  • 8-12 coasters
  • A few fun board games

If you already have a good idea what you’d like your home to look like, think about registering for:

  • 4 bath towels
  • 8 wash cloths
  • 2 bathmats
  • A shower curtain
  • A bedspread
  • A dust ruffle
  • 2-3 fitted sheets
  • 2-3 flat sheets
  • 4-8 pillow cases

And there are a few things you should only register for if you already have everything else you need:

  • Fine china
  • Silver
  • Candles and candlesticks
  • Napkin rings
  • Decorative towels
  • Vases
  • Picture frames
  • Decorative pillows
  • Luggage
  • Financial help for your honeymoon

What do you think? What do you dream of adding to your wedding registry? What do you wish you’d asked for? Let us know in the comments.

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