Better Ever After: Experiential Wedding Registries


For space-cramped NYC couples

Better Ever After: Experiential Wedding Registries | A Practical Wedding

by Maddie Eisenhart, Managing Editor

Anyone living in New York City while planning a wedding knows that there is a special “city test” that all plans must pass before you can move forward with them. Large scale DIT projects? Only if you don’t need the use of your couch for a year. And how does one transport a wedding dress in New York, exactly? Then there are the gifts. There’s been a lot of discussion here about the value of gift registries and allowing your loved ones to celebrate your union by helping to build your home. But the reality it is, for a lot of people living in New York, a gift registry is just not a practical option (I mean, forget about the space issues, let’s talk about the hassle of having to figure out where to have your packages delivered, amiright? Or the reality that most New Yorkers get married long after they’ve established their homes.) Unfortunately, so many of the alternative wedding registry options are less than ideal for APW readers. It’s not that they are inherently bad, it’s just that so many of them feed into the wedding itself (cash registry, honeymoon registery, etc.) which leaves those of us focusing on the marriage part of things without many options. But today I am delighted to tell you that there is a middle ground! And it comes in the form of our newest sponsor, Better Ever After, an alternative registry provider in New York City that focuses on experience gifts that enhance your marriage. Revolutionary? Perhaps.

Better Ever After: Experiential Wedding Registries | A Practical Wedding

It’s About What Comes After The Wedding

So here’s how it works: instead of registering for objects or experiences related to the wedding, you and your partner create a registry full of experiences that you can redeem weeks, months or even years into your marriage. And since all the experiences are hand-selected by Better Ever After’s team (who created Better Ever After as a result of frustrations planning their own weddings), they are, frankly, really rad. Gifts range anywhere from home brewing to graffiti tours to city adventures to cheese-of-the-month clubs, and beyond. (The next of my New York friends to get married is totally getting a pie-of-the-month-club gift, for the record.)

Better Ever After: Experiential Wedding Registries | A Practical Wedding

What makes Better Ever After stand out among other alternative wedding registries like cash registries or honeyfunds is this emphasis on life after the wedding (which is actually kind of a bonus gift in and of itself, because sometimes that adjustment period can be really hard.) When I talked to Olivia, owner of Better Ever After, she explained, “I started BEA to make wedding gifts fun again. I was so tired of buying my friends random kitchen stuff that I was pretty sure they didn’t really want and wouldn’t use. I never got excited about thinking of my friends using their new salad spinner… And then, when it came time to do my own registry, it was just boring and frustrating. Yes, the gun is fun, but trying to think of 100 pieces of something you can add to your registry is hard, when a) you live in a NYC mini-apartment and b) you already live together and already did all your major home shopping! To me, experiences are so much more valuable than things. The chance to still have fun date nights when you’re married, learn a new skill together, to create those memories that you’ll always treasure is so much more meaningful and important to building your marriage than random stuff. And they don’t take up room in your closet!”

Better Ever After: Experiential Wedding Registries | A Practical Wedding

Easy + Fun + Meaningful = Everybody Wins

The other point Olivia emphasized in our conversation is that Better Ever After is fun for your guests too. When I got married, I remember one of my aunts gave me a cash gift and then sternly told me, “Don’t you dare use this to pay off your credit cards.” At the time I was confused (and frankly, a little annoyed) at why she would preface her gift like this, but now I understand. She wanted the satisfaction of an exchange, of knowing that we used the money to create happy memories that would then be associated with her generosity. And while I’d argue that paying down credit debt creates some of my happiest of memories, I appreciate that Better Ever After affords people like my aunt the meaningful gift exchange they’re looking for without robbing space-cramped couples of closet space. Plus, since Better Ever After was created specifically to take the place of a wedding gift registry, almost all of the experiences fall withing the $60-$150, which means even fresh-out-of-college Maddie could have afforded one of these gifts (bonus points for not having to go splitsies with five other couples on something big, or having to reconcile the fact the you bought your best friend a salad spinner for her wedding because it was the only thing in your budget left on the registry.)

Better Ever After: Experiential Wedding Registries | A Practical Wedding

And just in case you’re worried that Better Ever After is going to be one of those Groupon-esque presents that accidentally gets filtered into your Spam folder, don’t sweat it. Better Ever After gifts are redeemed as gift certificates, which means that when someone buys you an experience off your honeymoon, you get this really nicely packaged present in the mail that you can still unwrap and then keep in a safe spot until you’re ready to use it. It’s kind of like all the best parts of the internet, combined with all of the satisfying parts of the US Postal Service.

Better Ever After: Experiential Wedding Registries | A Practical Wedding

Right now Better Ever After is only serving the greater NYC area, but they are looking to expand! So if you want Better Ever After to be available where you live, head over here and vote to have your city expanded to next. In the meantime, I know there are lots of you who just found the registry solution you were looking for. So have fun taking this afternoon deciding between glassmaking class and private home cooking lessons. It’s no scanner gun, but I’d wager a bet the end result is well worth giving that up.

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  • Laura C

    This is a great idea. I’d actually been thinking that we should include a section of our honeymoon registry that’s not actually for the honeymoon — buy us a date night for a month after we get home from the honeymoon, two months after, three months, have a year of monthly date nights built in.

    If we were still going to be living in NYC after the wedding, we’d totally be signing up for this.

    • teafortwo

      I agree! One of the things that I have been thinking would make a lovely wedding gift is a theatre or symphony subscription. (For couples who are into that.) Lots of dates to get us through a first year of marriage, feels indulgent and something that we would be unlikely to buy for ourselves (we do see a lot of theatre, but buying all those tickets up front is intimidating), and doesn’t take up any physical space.

      I’m squeamish about registering at all, so I can’t see myself asking outright for it. But I can think of a few couples in our circle who are absolutely getting art gallery memberships and theatre subscriptions when they marry.

      • ElisabethJoanne

        I’ve asked for and received a museum membership for Christmas, and been very appreciative.

        • Laura C

          The last few years, my parents have really focused on experience gifts for me, knowing that I had enough stuff even before I moved into a smaller apartment with someone else who also had stuff. Museum membership, theater tickets, restaurant gift certificates…all wonderful gifts to get.

        • A Single Sarah for certain values of single

          I get theater subscriptions for my birthday. It’s lovely.

      • http://partialto.tumblr.com LIZ (SINCE 1982)

        Yes! I was just coming here to say that we cobbled together our own version of this using Amazon’s universal registry feature. Most of our registry was memberships or classes.

  • teafortwo

    Does the couple actually directly receive a voucher for the activity that you chose, or are the gifts notional and then aggregated into cash/credit?

    I know I have read about other experience/honeymoon registries where the gift-giver clicks on “Swimming with Dolphins” and pays $150 or whatever that costs, but then in the end the couple is just given a big cheque for the total, which they may or may not put toward swimming with dolphins.

    Maybe it makes me sound like a control freak, but if I’m going to give cash, I’d rather just give cash. If I’ve chosen a gift, then that is the gift I want to be giving someone.

    (This isn’t limited to online registries – a friend of mine registered with a brick-and-mortar store last year, only to get phone calls about how half of the things she had registered for that friends purchased were not in stock, and so she would have to accept store credit, instead. 100 dutiful thank you notes later, she still doesn’t have most of the stuff that she was thanking people for.)

    • Maddie

      From what I understand, you get a gift certificate for the specific event that was purchased for you. So if you buy something for someone, they get a card that says, “TeaForTwo bought you an art class!” and then you have a redemption code specific to that experience.

    • http://Www.bettereverafter.com Olivia

      Hi TeaForTwo,

      Thanks for the question!  We definitely agree that if you give a gift, your friend should receive that exact gift!  Unlike a cash or honeymoon registry, all of our gifts are for the actual experience described.  We’ve partnered with a great set of local businesses to provide these experiences to our couples. 

      Please feel free to reach out to me directly if you have any other questions at olivia.chin@bettereverafter.com

      Olivia
      Founder and CEO, Better Ever After 

      • Brittany

        Olivia, please expand! We live in a small flat in Nashville and have been living together for a few years now. We already have everything we need for our house and then some! Having fun dates sounds so much better than stuff I’ll feel bad about breaking.

        • http://www.bettereverafter.com Olivia

          We’ll try! Don’t forget to vote for your city (link in last paragraph) so we can let you know our next stop!

  • M.

    “….let’s talk about the hassle of having to figure out where to have your packages delivered, amiright?”

    SO RIGHT.

    Anything we end up getting off our small registry is going to be shipped to my fiance’s parents 700 miles away or taken home by them after our out-of-state wedding, and DRIVEN TO US next time they come to visit. Because this is actually the easiest option for us. NYC WTF. ugghh

    • Hannah B

      We’re totally doing the same thing. Once I get around to registering. But, if there’s no room for the packages, there’s also no room for the stuff, right? Also, how do people tell people about registries (especially non traditional ones, like this?)

      • Caitlyn

        Hannah, as far as letting people know- both about our traditional registry and a non-profit we were asking for donations to- we made one of those wedding websites and had a Registry section. Though they are a little cheesy, it was a good place for us to put that information, the train schedule for people traveling that way, etc. That worked for a good number of the guests, who followed the link from our save the dates and invitations. The ones who never looked at the website mostly just asked me or my parents where we were registered!

        As you’ve said, finding room for the gifts is hard! We asked for kitchen things we genuinely wanted, but getting it all organized in our NYC kitchen is tough. Time to put up more shelves, I suppose.

      • http://www.bettereverafter.com Olivia

        Hi Hannah, great question. Most of our couples share their personal registry link on their wedding page. Most wedding page services (the knot, wedding wire) allow you to add custom links to the pre-built registry page, and we’re going to have instructions on adding custom images soon! On your Better Ever After registry, there is also room for you to include a short message to your guests, and couples can share their story for why they chose an experience gifts registry. In fact, many of our customers have told us they actually prefer gifting an experience more than traditional stuff to the couple!

  • kireina

    This is AMAZING. Any plans to expand to other cities?

    • GA

      The last paragraph says they’re having people vote on where to expand next. :)

      • http://Www.bettereverafter.com Olivia

        Hi Kireina, we are definitely planning on expanding!  Like GA said, just let us know by following the link in the last paragraph, we might be headed your way soon!

      • kireina

        Duh. Look at me, getting all excited and not reading the last paragraph. :)

  • Ashlee

    This is legit amazing, and EXACTLY what I want in a registry. I love getting and giving gifts that aren’t things to have, but things to do. That’s what I’ve been trying to do for the last few Christmases, actually, because I feel like people just don’t need more stuff. Unless they do, obviously, and there are certainly items that we could really use but are out of our regular budgets, so those will go on a registry. But we really like to DO things. We’re in the DC area (already voted for it, whee!) and would love a Smithsonian membership, or tickets to one of the many theaters, or wine tours, or any of the great things to do around town.

    What I particularly like about this is that you get actual certificates for very specific things. A lot of the “alternative” registries are really just cash registries, but you’re just earmarking the cash for something. I would feel a lot more satisfaction as a gift-giver getting that guarantee for the money.

    • Caroline

      Yes this!!!! I don’t want to register for “experiences but really cash”. That’s awkward to me. But actual gift certificates for experiences? Heck yes! That would be so awesome. I hope you come to SF in time for us to register with you for our August wedding!!

  • Lisa

    I love this! I wish it was offered in my city! I have been getting people and have gotten experiential gifts for the past couple of years (come on, you KNOW you want to cruise on the Erie Canal for your birthday!) and it’s AWESOME! I already told my fiance that I want someone to get us a jet boat tour of Niagara Falls for our wedding.

  • M.

    Ooh I love that Discover Outdoors is one of their options… they do periodic hikes with SHELTER DOGS you guys. <3 <3

  • Melanie

    Thanks so much for sharing this great site! My fiance and I live in Hoboken, N.J. and while we will be registering for some upgraded essentials (I don’t care how small my kitchen is, I will make an awesome dutch oven fit) this sounds like another great option!

  • Zoe

    Such a great idea! Does a couple have to be registered with BEA for a guest to give a gift from there? I know an NYC couple who is likely to have a traditional registry, but I’m sure they’d love to receive something like this.

    • http://Www.bettereverafter.com Olivia

      Hi Zoe, your friend does not have to be registered to receive a gift.  Just make sure you provide their name in the gift message so we know who to address the gift card to!   We’ll ship the gift directly to you so you can pass it on to your friend (we’re going to have an option to ship directly to your friend soon).

      Feel free to email me if you have any other questions at olivia.chin@bettereverafter.com

  • http://Www.bettereverafter.com Olivia

    Hi Melanie,

    We’d love to be a part of your wedding registry!  You might be interested in our cooking class with Home Cooking New York:  http://www.bettereverafter.com/96-learn-to-cook.html#/

    The do a great comfort foods class which might give you some great recipes to use with your new dutch oven!

  • Stalking Sarah

    BEA: I see your sample registry’s gender neutral names, and I give you two giant queer thumbs up!

    • http://www.bettereverafter.com Olivia

      Haha, so glad you noticed! We like to think of ourselves as very guy- and girl- friendly, in any combination!

  • Katherine

    My husband would have loved this! (I, on the other hand, was happy with our registry – a relatively small number of things that I actually wanted…)

    We did do something sort of like this for a “shower” my parents held for us. (Rather than inviting their friends to our wedding, they invited a group of people over several months after the wedding so that people who’d known me forever could meet my husband.) At that point, we didn’t want more gifts, so we asked people to come with a date idea to share. One person typed up a list of suggestions, one person gave us a check designated for a specific date, one couple offered their vacation home for a weekend away. But mostly we just had a big discussion of fun things to do in and around Chicago. I took notes, so we now have a list of activities when we want to deviate from the dinner & a movie standard.

    • http://www.bettereverafter.com Olivia

      I love the idea of having your guests suggest experiences for you and your new hubby to enjoy, such a great way of making the gift-giving process so much more personal and intimate!