I’ll admit, even though we try to focus on the real reality of weddings at APW, sometimes this job makes it easy to get caught up in the frivolities of wedding planning. It’s much more fun to talk about wedding dress shopping and guest list politics than it is the hard realities of creating a shared life with your partner. It’s why we try to focus on the joy so much. Life is hard enough without us complicating things. So, when we set out to partner with Crate and Barrel this summer to give away an amazing, huge, $2,500 registry package to one APW couple, we did what we always do. We focused on the fun. What if we did competing registries?! And let the readers vote?! And maybe even do some kind of digital scavenger hunt to boot?! Wouldn’t that be SO. MUCH. FUN?! Needless to say, I was not expecting the following email when I reached out to Jessi and Steve, the winners of our campaign. (Warning: tears ahead.) But given that APW has never shied away from discussing the hard stuff (and the fact that most of the staff have dealt with significant loss ourselves) it feels serendipitously fitting that these guys won:
I wanted to explain to you how incredible your offer is and why the timing is so fortuitous.
Last month, Steve’s (my fiancé) dad was transferred into hospice care after a two-year battle with kidney cancer. When Steve proposed in January, we started planning immediately for an early August wedding, thinking we had at least another year but also knowing there was always a chance his health could deteriorate. Still, we were certain August would guarantee us his presence at our wedding.
As the focus shifted from treatment to making him as comfortable as possible, it became clear that he wasn’t going to be here to attend our wedding. Both of my parents have passed, and I’ve been pretty much adopted by his family from the moment I was introduced to them. The idea of having neither of our dads at our wedding was heartbreaking for us both.
A week into hospice care, we decided there was no reason to wait. We luckily already had our marriage license because it’s good for sixty days, and I am crazy about crossing to-dos off my lists as soon as I’m able. Steve’s mom called a pastor from her church, and I ran to a nearby Target to grab some flowers, a bottle of Prosecco, and some new clothes for Steve, since he was in his trademark sweats and flip flops. The pastor did a few prayers and a short ceremony in English and Korean. His dad placed the rings on our fingers—that wasn’t the plan but once we handed him the rings he held on so tightly to them with this beautiful look on his face, and him putting them on our fingers is something I’ll never forget. My new sister-in-law, brother-in-law, mom, dad, and husband toasted with Prosecco in plastic cups. It was perfect and heartbreaking.
His dad passed away mid-June, and in the midst of grieving we are feeling overwhelmed with the final wedding details left to accomplish before August 4th. On top of that, we are moving in with Steve’s mom, as she’s having a really hard time adjusting to living alone. Because of that, and to avoid the cost of movers/storage and to get some cash to pay the final wedding costs, we’re selling all of our mid-level IKEA furniture that has seen us through the first few years of our relationship.
So this now super long email is all to say—your offer is worth much more than $2,500. It’s a bit of excitement and joy and good fortune when it is needed most.
When I get an email like the one above, I’m reminded that weddings are so much more than a party. Weddings are about building a family, and honoring your roots, and lifting each other up—and sometimes, they are about giving you an opportunity to celebrate when it feels like that might be the hardest thing to do. And I’m so grateful that we have a chance to do that for these humans right now.
So now I have made it my mission to make sure Jessi and Steve get a kick-ass registry, filled with lots of things that bring them everyday joy. And I’d love your help doing it. I had a chance to get on the phone with both of them the other week, to get a sense of their personal taste and the things they are going to need in their new home. And no surprise, they are our people. Jessi and Steve gave us a little guidance, but mostly said, we trust you, do your thing. (No pressure.) We’ll be pulling together two registry options on Thursday that you’ll get to vote on. And because we still want this to be fun for you (obvs), if you vote on your favorite, you’ll automatically be entered into a drawing for a chance to win a $200 gift card to Crate and Barrel. But before we do the full reveal, there are definitely a few must-haves that are making it onto the list:
Beautiful Dinnerware: I started out by asking Jessi and Steve if they had any important day-to-day rituals, and I loved what they had to say about the significance of mealtimes in their home. Both Jessi and Steve are big cooks (and Jessi loves to bake), so they’ve cultivated a community around holiday meals, including a big ol’ friendsgiving with Steve’s childhood friends (the kind who are more like family):
We cook a lot and love cooking together. Steve is a total grill master and makes excellent Korean food. His favorite dish that I make is shakshuka or any dessert. We make breakfast together most Saturdays. For little celebrations or silly holidays like Valentine’s Day we like to cook a fancy meal together. For example, last Valentine’s we made pasta together—a first for us both. But Thanksgiving is our biggest holiday. We do the entire meal for his family. We pull out all the stops—including making the rolls and other bread from scratch.
I want to get them a dinnerware set that makes the holidays feel extra special, but as always, I can’t decide between practicality and pizzazz. I am feeling Crate and Barrel’s more organic styles like the Marin dinnerware collection (the practical part of my brain says it would be versatile for both everyday and special occasions). But also, hi, look at this Caspian dinnerware set in blue. Do any of you use separate china for everyday use and special occasions?
A smoker: I asked Jessi and Steve if there was any technology that would make their lives easier, and they enthusiastically said a smoker. Jessi explained:
I’m a Texan, and Steve loves to grill. I promised one day I’d buy him a smoker. Now that we are moving to his mom’s place in the suburbs, we wouldn’t have neighbors calling the fire department on us for smoke pluming off our tiny little balcony!
So clearly a Weber smoker is going on the list. Do any of y’all have these? Is there a practical reason for getting the 18″ version over the 22″ version? How much smoked meat is too much? (Trick question, I’m assuming. Is there even such a thing?)
A cool bar cart: Nothing made me feel like more of a put-together adult human than when I got a bar cart. Maybe I’ve watched too much of a certain ’60s-set advertising show? So when Jessi and Steve told me they wanted a bar cart for their home, it was a done deal. Plus, I feel like decorative items often get pushed off the registry because they aren’t as “practical” as say, a toaster. But I enjoy my bar cart significantly more than my toaster. I was originally thinking a more traditional bar cart was in order, but then I found this leaning bar cabinet and now I’m conflicted.
Serveware that does double duty: Since Jessi and Steve both love to cook and entertain, I wanted to get them a few items that could do double duty, like serveware that can go straight from the oven to the tabletop. Jessi mentioned her favorite color is green, and Steve really likes dark accents, so this series of baking dishes caught my eye. But like I said, those organic shapes in the Marin line are really doing it for me right now, and lo and behold, they come with matching serveware.
Something just for fun: The biggest challenge I had putting together this registry is the same one I had putting together my own registry. Do I stick with the practical everyday items? Or pick a few things that are just for fun? For example, when Jessi mentioned she and Steve wanted to expand their bartending skills, we thought… does Steve’s love of smoked meats extend to smoked cocktails too? Would they want to explore pasta making more frequently with a pasta attachment for Jessi’s KitchenAid stand mixer? In any case, I think every registry deserves a few just for fun items you normally wouldn’t buy for yourself.
So come back here on Thursday to see what we put together. And don’t forget to vote, and enter for a chance to win that $200 gift card to Crate and Barrel. In the meantime, I’d love your collective advice on what you think makes for a great registry. What items did you put on yours that have ended up being the most worthwhile? What did you think you were going to use, but ended up collecting dust? What has been surprisingly delightful in your married life? Because I want to nail this one.
What items would you put on a registry for two people who love to cook and entertain, and who want to up their bartending game?
This post was sponsored by Crate and Barrel. Crate and Barrel is joining us this summer in making registering a little more fun. With Crate and Barrel, you not only get stylish on-trend housewares alongside your keep-forever pieces, but you also get like-price guarantee, free shipping, and exclusive pieces from Crate and Barrel’s artists and designers. Click here to learn more or sign up for a live Crate and Barrel registry event near you. We just co-hosted one in the San Francisco store and it was super fun. You get to register privately with just a handful of other couples while the store team answers any questions you throw at them, plus there are swag bags and door prizes, all just for showing up! Find one near you.