How to Create a Registry That Actually Feels Personal


Maybe you’re not pillowcase people?

by Kate Miano-Levy

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My wife Karyne and I didn’t originally plan on having a registry, mostly because we already have all the things we thought go on a registry. We were planning a small wedding with just our immediate family, and a big registry didn’t seem necessary. Plus, registries can often feel impersonal; there’s never a good way to articulate why we wanted that Dyson handheld vacuum (one of our five pets is a tiny destroyer, and cleaning up scattered pillow innards happens more often than we’d like). Or sure, on the outside, that looks like a plain, old Le Creuset dutch oven, but we really wanted that particular one because it’s the exact one my grandma had. We also wanted to go on a trip together, and thought about setting up a honeymoon fund in lieu of gifts.

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But after several friends and coworkers asked where we were registered, it quickly became apparent that people actually wanted to give us stuff. But the items we wanted were all over the place. It’s not easy to find a Dyson, a Le Creuset in bright orange, and a honeymoon fund at the same place, while also explaining why you want them.

That’s where Zola came in. Zola is a universal registry app and website that lets you add anything to it, including a cash fund and items from all over the web, plus you can make any gift a “group gift.” And with their app, you can even add items on the go IRL. And since Zola has everything in one place, we wouldn’t have to direct people to multiple sites.

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Shortly after signing up, we got our first taste of how amazing Zola is. They sent me an email to notify me of their new partnership with Artifact Uprising. I think I literally squealed with delight. I had already planned on getting our engagement and wedding albums printed through Artifact Uprising after our photographer’s glowing recommendation, so we registered for two different layflat albums, the 20-page and 70-page. And here’s the cool part: Zola lets you add notes to each item, so you can let your friends and family know why you chose each thing. For most wedding and engagement albums, no explanation is necessary. But because we had such a limited guest list, our wedding album would be one of the few ways to share the event with people who couldn’t be there. So we left a note, letting people know that.

Since we weren’t looking for typical registry items, we focused on our honeymoon and other adventures. Zola makes this a breeze, with a huge selection of subscription boxes and classes to choose from. I mean, now you can even add SoulCycle classes.

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We’ve been working on expanding our wine and cocktail knowledge (that’s fancy talk for getting to try lots of types of alcohol), so we picked a few subscription boxes to help get us started. We added a few months of WINC—which is an awesome monthly wine club that helps you figure out what you love and even comes with great recipes and pairing suggestions—on our registry. We added a note to this, too, letting our friends know that once we gathered a few months of boxes, we would have them over for a wine-pairing party.

Zola offers a curated selection of experiences based out of thirteen major cities across the country, making it easy to find something near you to do once you’re back from the honeymoon. Or you can work it into a layover on the way to the honeymoon and start the fun even sooner!

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We chose something local: a champagne brunch cruise on the San Francisco Bay, which we’ve always wanted to do but have never found the time for. We let our guests know that, too. There are other fun, unique things to do, including private DJ lessons in Miami or a sunrise hot air balloon ride in Chicago.

Most people opted to add to our cash fund, which went toward our Hawaiian honeymoon. We broke it down into smaller increments based on things we knew we wanted to do (like 5 x $25 for dinners or 2 x $100 for a day cruise). Since we had full control over the notes, we were able to ask our friends and family to include their restaurant and sightseeing recommendations when they made their contribution. Everyone really loved getting to play an active part in planning our honeymoon instead of just writing a check. And as an added bonus, Zola even has a feature that tracks who to send thank you notes to, so we could let everyone know how much their contribution really meant.

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And the best part? All of this can easily be done from one site. Between the personalization options, and the breadth of products, Zola made registering for our wedding easy and exciting. We loved leaving notes for our friends, and we loved getting all their recommendations as well. For the couple who wants to add a personal flair to something that often comes across as a dull list of flatware, Zola is a great way to go.

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This post was sponsored by Zola. Zola is the universal registry that combines form with function. With Zola, you can personalize your registry so that it actually looks and feels like you (and then add items from any retailer, so that it also represents you). And then they’ve packed it with tons of user-friendly features from group gifting to shipping control (aka you tell your registry when you want to receive stuff), and the lowest fee in the industry for cash gifts if you choose to add a cash registry option. You can even register for activities to do with your partner after you’re married, or use the handy Zola app (with barcode scanner) to register for items at your favorite stores. And if you change your mind about something after you’ve registered for it? No problem. Zola makes online exchanges quick and easy. Zola will even help you keep track of thank you notes because that’s one less thing you should have to worry about yourself. Click here for a full list of Zola’s features and get $25 in Zola credits when you create your Zola account today!*

*YOU WILL RECEIVE $25 TO SPEND ON ZOLA.COM WHEN YOU SET UP YOUR WEDDING REGISTRY ON ZOLA.COM, AND RECEIVE $250 IN ZOLA GIFTS. ZOLA GIFTS WILL BE DEFINED AS ANY PHYSICAL PRODUCTS PURCHASED ON ZOLA.COM. CASH FUNDS OR THIRD PARTY GIFTS FROM OTHER WEBSITES ARE NOT CONSIDERED ZOLA GIFTS. THE $25 ZOLA CREDIT CAN ONLY BE REDEEMED FOR ZOLA GIFTS AND CANNOT BE REDEEMED FOR CASH, CASH FUNDS OR THIRD PARTY GIFTS. CREDITS WILL BE PLACED INTO THE COUPLE’S ZOLA ACCOUNT 4 WEEKS AFTER A COUPLE RECEIVES $250 IN ZOLA GIFTS.

Kate Miano-Levy

Kate is Bay Area native who built her own business as a wedding hair and makeup artist, before shifting gears to work in marketing. She’s an avid iPhone photographer, loves all forms of social media (especially Instagram), and makes a mean chocolate chip cookie. When not obsessing over the latest home design or wedding trends, she can be found on the Peninsula watching Chopped with her wife, three cats, and two dogs. Ask her about her spoon collection.

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  • toomanybooks

    Just signed up on Zola! I’m so excited to finally do the thing every girl spends her life dreaming of… creating my gift registry ??

    • Julia Mandeville

      Are you registering at a place that has physical storefronts, too? I’m super attracted to Zola but I’m worried some of my guests won’t want to go the online route. Also do you understand how it works when you register for stuff outside of Zola? Their website is so vague… I thought I read somewhere that you get the cash value of the gift rather than the gift itself– is that right?

      Registering feels like the toughest puzzle of wedding planning. I wish we could skip it but people are already asking about it, and honestly we have one wineglass so we could really use some household wares!

      • toomanybooks

        Hmm, I wasn’t thinking of registering anywhere in person too, I guess I’m basically viewing it as making one big Pinterest page but that people can buy things from for us lol. I mean, I’ll be registering for stuff that will be available at storefronts too? In fact, I was thinking about going to a store to check out the feel of their sheets and towels, because that’s apparently the one category I have to know about in person. So I wonder if I should register in-store too? It might be a “know your crowd” thing but I’m fairly certain that for me and my guests, registering at Zola will be no problem.

        I don’t know exactly how it works with the “cash value” thing but it does look like you can add stuff from anywhere, much like Pinterest.

        Despite how exciting it is, putting together the registry does feel intimidating! It’s surprisingly difficult to think of enough stuff that I want people to give me, that’s appropriate to a registry, and make sure I remember to think of all the household stuff I need! I’m in a tiny apartment but definitely need help with household wares lol. (I’m in the boat of knowing that I’d like some things to be nicer quality, but not knowing what the nicest version of that thing is and where to buy it, hah)

        • Katharine Parker

          I found The Sweethome reviews helpful, along with asking my mom what she thought about particular brands and what she wants to buy her friends’ kids at their weddings. I also found a totally useful buzzfeed article, of all places, that separated kitchen items into basic must-haves and next-level stuff for registering (https://www.buzzfeed.com/emofly/what-you-should-register-for?utm_term=.uk01BR6kq#.xyl0oVLdQ ).

          I got one piece of advice that I think is useful–people like to buy you a nice gift, so include a few more items like serving platters or bowls or vases so that if you don’t get all of your dishes or cutlery, you can return that extra platter and exchange it. In general, I found registering to be really fun. I hope you enjoy it, too!

          • toomanybooks

            Omg, this Buzzfeed list is so useful!!! Thank you!
            I’ll definitely keep the Sweethome reviews in mind too, I came across that site when I was trying to figure out which humidifier is best (late last night when I should have been sleeping lol)

      • Katharine Parker

        For external purchases, I think you select whether you want people to be directed to the external website or you would rather receive cash and buy the item yourself. In the latter case, Zola takes a credit card processing fee.

        I set up our registries over the holidays so I could get feedback from my mom and sister (figuring out how much stuff, at what price points, stressed me out). It was actually super fun! I love the pieces we picked, and I’m excited about being able to invite people over to use the champagne coupes they gave us, or for dinner made with cookware they gave. (I didn’t use Zola, just because they don’t offer the specific brands that mattered to me, so I would suggest thinking about what lines you want and seeing where they’re sold. If they’re on Zola, it’s definitely an easier/more attractive interface than one of my places.)