By Faith Durand, Executive Editor, The Kitchn
Hello there, Team Practical! Before I dive in, first let me just say that Meg and all of you made up the most encouraging, sane, and inspiring community I found while planning my own wedding three years ago. I was so grateful for this site and this community. So I’m delighted to have a chance to chat about registries in general and practical kitchen resources in particular.
It seems that most brides and bridegrooms I meet these days are vaguely embarrassed by the idea of a wedding registry. I know I was. I was nearly 30 when I got married, and as a professional food writer I already had nearly everything I needed to stock a well-functioning kitchen. Was a registry tacky? Greedy? Too focused on material things during what ought to be a spiritual, deeply personal life moment? My fiancé and I toyed with the idea of jettisoning the registry completely, or asking for money to be given to charity in our names.
I’m glad that we grappled with this question, and that we worked together to make a thoughtful choice. But in the end, we got over our fear of looking like we were greedy or grasping. Because of course we were not, and the reality was that most of our friends and relatives were going to give us a wedding present. We came to the conclusion that grateful acceptance of this generosity was the most gracious option. (Just turn it around for a moment and look at it from the other side; I love giving wedding presents. It’s delightful to give a gift to people I love on such a wonderful day.)
All of our wedding guests were perfectly capable of deciding whether or not they wanted to give us a gift. Some guests who traveled a long way to be there simply gave us the gift of their presence. Other guests gave cash, and friends who didn’t want to give something off the registry gave us other gifts we treasure. One gave us a funny deck of cards; another played a song at the wedding. And those guests who were inclined to help us set up our home had a resource to do so.
This of course is not the only option or the best option for everyone. But our own personal way of making peace with the whole idea was to ask for a small list of things we believed would be long-lasting, beautiful, and helpful in offering hospitality to others in our home.
Meg asked me to offer some practical resources on this process — if you’ve come to the same place as we did in our wedding registry decision, and you want to set up your kitchen to be more functional, more hospitable, and better suited to the pleasures of cooking at home, then these questions may be useful.
A Few Practical Questions for Building a Kitchen Registry
1. What’s broken or worn out in my kitchen? If you’re getting married right out of school and you have no kitchen equipment to speak of, this probably doesn’t apply. But if you’re like me and you have a fairly well-equipped kitchen already, look over your tools. Are your tongs rusted and falling apart? Is your only stockpot thin and flimsy? Does any lack of equipment trip you up when cooking a basic meal? Look for the sore spots of your kitchen; this would be a good time to replace them. (For instance, my wineglasses were a mess — mismatched and chipped. I’m forever grateful to my aunt and my grandmother for upgrading this very important element of my home!)
2. Is there one special tool or piece I’ve been dreaming of? Don’t put a KitchenAid mixer on your registry just because you think you ought to. But if you’re an avid baker and you’ve dreamed of that perfect hot pink, glittery mixer, then there you go. (For me, I had dreamed of plain white bone china for years. It’s not the most practical kitchen item, but I wanted high-quality, beautiful china, and now every time I take a piece out of my cabinet I think of my in-laws and my mother’s friends who helped us buy it.)
3. Is there anything I would like to learn in the kitchen? This is a dangerous path to travel (think of all those discarded chocolate fondue sets and pizza stones). But if you are serious about learning something new (bread-baking, beer-brewing, canning and preserving) then think about registering for tools or books to take your new skills to the next level.
4. Is there anything that would make it easier to help others or to be more hospitable? I had only a handful of flatware when I got married, so I registered for 12 (yes, 12!) sets of handsome, affordable flatware. I treasure the fact that one set was given to us by my college-aged brother. This, as well as the rest of the sets, helped out when we hosted Thanksgiving for 12. Another practical wedding gift I love is my 9×13 pans with snap-on covers. I use them for potlucks and for taking meals to friends’ homes.
5. How can I make my kitchen greener or more sustainable? My husband and I wanted to start composting kitchen waste, so we put a Naturemill indoor composter on our registry. It was the only big-ticket item on our list, and we were surprised and incredibly grateful when a friend promptly bought it for us. It was a fun experience, learning how to compost (and using that compost in our garden!) during our first year of marriage. Other green ideas: Compost buckets, reusable produce bags, glass storage containers.
Building a Kitchen from Scratch? Some Practical Suggestions:
And finally, here are a few posts from The Kitchn that address kitchen basics and essentials. Whether you’re building a registry or setting up a kitchen yourself, these may be useful. Kitchen essentials are fairly subjective; if you cook Chinese food more than Italian, you’ll need a different set of tools, for instance. But some things are almost universally useful, not to mention inexpensive (metal mixing bowls, cast iron frying pan, Dutch oven, and wooden spoons). Here are some of our favorites.
- 9 Resources for Building a Better Wedding Registry – Anjali, one of our Los Angeles contributors, is getting married this year and she built this resourceful roundup. Here’s one other roundup of kitchen basics: Essential Kitchen Tools: A Roundup of Basics.
- Wedding Registry: If You Could Do It All Over Again… – Our readers weigh in on their own registry decisions.
- Kitchen essentials, according to the pros: Ina Garten’s picks, as well as other professional chefs’ favorite tools.
- My own most-used kitchen tools, and another roundup from Emma Christensen.
- And if your kitchen is OK, but your dining room needs help: Our essential serving dishes.
- Offbeat Tools: A few favorite tools our team loves that you may not think of.
I would love to hear from you all on how you’re handling your own registry decisions, and whether you’re setting up a good kitchen for the first time. What does it mean to you to set up a practical registry?
Photos, in order: Emily Ho, Faith Durand, Faith Durand, Faith Durand, Emily Ho