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Confessions of a Bridal Registry Consultant

The other week, we were discussing the APW theme that you don’t, in fact, have to Buy All The Things for your wedding (because you already have all the things that matter). Emily, who you’ll remember from her lovely New Orleans elopement and her post on the immigration process and marriage, piped up to say, “As a former bridal registry consultant, I would love to write a post about how the WIC wants you to buy all the things. Or at least register for all the things.” So of course I begged her to write exactly that post. So here, in our ongoing discussion about registries, is an exposé on how the industry wants you to buy it all (Hint #1: Maybe register online? Hint #2: The registry isn’t exactly for you, so it’s still probably worth doing, your own way). Let’s dive in:

Due to the joy of one-year leases and unexpected elopement, Ian and I spent our first year of marriage in the master suite of a three-bedroom apartment with my brother-in-law and one of my husband’s friends. Nesting wasn’t possible as we were essentially living inside the saying, “This is why we can’t have nice things.”

So imagine how much fun I thought it would be to work at Bed Bath & Beyond* as a bridal consultant. I’d get to help people build their new homes, help them pick out everything they could possibly ever need or want. For two months, between helping customers and climbing up and down ten-foot ladders, I took classes on housewares. From bakeware to window treatments, I learned it all. My whole life was thread counts, cast iron, and place settings and I loved it. The problem, however, came once I completed my training and became an official registry consultant.

The idea of a bridal consultant is different in practice than it is in theory. In theory I was there to help customers pick out what they wanted. In practice however, consultants are judged by their numbers, and there’s a lot of pressure to build “good” registries, although there’s no real reward for doing so. (Other than the happy feeling of helping someone make good choices. That doesn’t pay the rent though, unfortunately.)

So what makes a good registry? Well…

  • Our goal for the number of items on your registry is the number of your wedding guests times two. At least. In theory this is to make it easier for your guests to shop, but really the higher the number, the better of a job we’ve done. The total dollar amount of your registry is another number we’re judged on, so we’re always going to steer you towards higher quality items.
  • We want to register you for fine china. Twelve place settings. Formal and casual if possible, which makes twenty-four place settings. And flatware and glassware and napkins and napkin rings and placemats, also times twelve. (Or twenty-four if we’re lucky.)
  • A certain percentage of your registry should be from the fine china department for our numbers to be good. If you don’t want china, we will walk you around the room and offer you everything that sparkles until we hit that number. Toasting flutes, crystal vases, cake cutting sets, all wedding themed with hearts and pearls and bows. Some of those things will cost more than what I made in a month; you will probably use them once.
  • We need you to register for luggage. Even if you don’t want luggage, even if hardly anyone ever buys luggage off a registry, we can’t have a zero in that category. We sell you on luggage by asking you how much you travel. If you say you don’t travel much, we ask how much you plan to travel in the future, and it works every time, because who doesn’t want to go on vacation?
  • We’re not just selling you on the items you register for, we’re selling your guests as well. When they come in, we print your registry on colored paper and all of us in the store are supposed to keep an eye out so we can swoop down like helpful little locusts. Bridal consultants get judged on how much of your registry is purchased for you, too.

Most of the WIC wants to sell you a wedding. Registry consultants want to sell you on the idea of an entirely new home, whether you’re moving after your wedding or not. New sheets and coffeemakers and chef’s knives and shower heads and tissue holders and wall art and cleaning supplies. And yes, you probably will want some of that! But if you don’t want all of it, don’t feel pressured to register for it. Because, as we like to say around here, marriage is the thing.

*Before I go on, I would just like to add that I genuinely believe that Bed Bath & Beyond is one of the best places to register. The consultants really do know their stuff, there’s a huge product selection so you can get everything done in one store, and the return policy is fantastic.

Photo by Emily Takes Photos

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