This Is What Happens When Two Queer Girls Walk Into a Registry Event


How a Crate and Barrel registry event made me rethink weddings

by Victoria Grant

apw x crate and barrel

women at crate and barrel registry event

One day not too long ago, my partner looked at me across the breakfast table, cocked her head to the side, and shyly asked, “So we’re going to get married… right?”

I went blank. I have no question in my mind that I want to marry my girlfriend. Hell, I thought we already had the commitment thing on lock. We have a rad partnership that includes building a home together and being deeply entwined/invested/engaged in each other’s lives. We navigate career challenges, family celebrations, and world travel together. She has my back and I have hers. #lovewins! But when it comes to the actual wedding, the pomp and circumstance, I have absolutely no vision for what I really want.

So when my friend Maddie invited me to dip my little toe into the vast ocean that is wedding planning by heading to a Crate and Barrel Private Registry Event, I was deeply wary. What can a registry offer two queer women who already have a life together? Did we even belong there? I’m a pretty non-traditional human who has never really bought into the trappings of conventional wedding planning. When marriage became legal for same-sex couples I was cheering, but not because I finally got to have a big old traditional wedding that mirrored the ones my straight friends had. I was just psyched on civil rights.

For me, being queer means creating my own rituals, traditions, and ways of existing outside of systems that have never really served me or the relationships I am in. But as the reality of getting married gets closer, I’m having to examine all of my politics and choices, and asking myself what I’m willing to remix if it means that someone more traditional like my grandmother has a way to participate in my ceremony.

items at crate and barrel registry event

White Butter Keeper | Covered Butter Dish | Butter Warmer | Deviled Egg Platter | Nesting Mixing Bowl Set

So this got me thinking about what a registry remix might look like. I thought of what some friends told me they had done, like asking people to donate to a charity or chip in on honeymoon travel. One of the cutest alternatives I heard was two brides asking their guests to take themselves out to dinner in their honor. C’mon. Asking your wedding invitees to treat themselves seems like such a selfless, quirky, and deeply personal thing. It’s basically the opposite of asking for presents.

Despite my reservations, and because my girlfriend is way chiller and not on a radical tirade like I am, we went hand in hand into Crate and Barrel. When we walked inside, the store was refreshingly empty, a very calming harbinger of what was to come. The Crate and Barrel staff was warm and welcoming and the vibe was totally inviting.

women at crate and barrel registry event

All-Clad Stainless 3 Quart Saucepan

I looked around to check out the other couples at the event, imagining that my girlfriend and I would be two queer Irish Coffees in a sea of Pumpkin Spiced Lattes. But I was totally surprised (and totally embarrassed at my ignorant assumptions), when I realized that the majority of the couples there with us were… gay. “Is this… a queer registry event?” my girlfriend asked me. Did the heavens open? Were we privy to a secret Crate and Barrel pride event outside the designated month of Pride?

These couples were relaxed, loving, and moved around the store with a familiarity and ease that evidenced their pro-status at this whole wedding planning thing. So, I talked with them about some of my reservations about exploring these more traditional waters. Here’s what I learned:

items at crate and barrel registry event

Olivewood Spreader | Olivewood Nibble Bowl

LIFE AFTER THE MERGE

Part of the reason I assumed a registry would never be for me is because my girlfriend and I are already building a life together. We both used to live with at least four roommates each, so once it was just us, foraging for domestic needs was our way of creating a personal registry to celebrate our independence. Did we really need to ask for more stuff? One of the couples, Mark and Rick (who looked remarkably put together and wide awake for an early Sunday morning), eased my nerves. They told me they’d been together for nearly a decade, so they weren’t starting from scratch either.

women at crate and barrel registry event

Now that they were finally getting hitched after years of waiting, they were using Crate and Barrel as a way to supplement their stuff. For example, they were adding some new items to their blossoming Le Creuset collection. The classy cast-iron French cookware  just oozes grown woman to me. My girlfriend, the real cook in the relationship, and I both ogled at the “Caribbean” teal set and agreed it would make it onto our list. It was starting to dawn on me—a wedding registry was a vehicle to grown womanhood and an opportunity for your community to help you graduate from the hodgepodge, I-found-this-appliance-on-the-street-and-it-still-works! taste. Maybe a registry is doing everyone a favor when they come to your house and don’t want to eat off a rainbow paper plate that was leftover from your housewarming.

women at crate and barrel registry event

Le Creuset Signature 10” Ink Skillet

It’s Not About You

My bigger concern, and the thing really nagging at me, was how the idea of a registry didn’t seem in line with my politics or my self-expression. At the same time, I’m aware that the idea of two women tying the knot and celebrating it is pretty foreign to most of my extended family. My larger family’s acceptance of my sexuality ranges from when are you two getting married already? to shoulder shrug to disapproving silence. So, the jury is out on which of my family members are going to support my wedding. But, I want to give them a way to opt in and show that they support my relationship.

women at crate and barrel registry event

I was beginning to come to grips with the idea that, even if I wanted to do a magical queer departure from some conventional wedding traditions, my grandmother still wants to buy me linens. Gifting can be a love language for some people, as well as the easiest and least complicated way for them to participate in your wedding, especially if they can’t physically be there. It’s a low-stakes way to say, “I support this!”

With this in mind, I eyed the most popular water pitcher in the Crate and Barrel collection. It reminded me of drinking iced tea in the summer with my grandparents, one of the longest lasting, love-filled marriages I know. I liked the idea of that tradition making an appearance in my own relationship.

items at crate and barrel registry event

doing it for the aunties

After walking out of the event, I felt a refreshing wave of clarity wash over me. My wedding didn’t have to be all one way or another. My wedding (and subsequently, my registry) can take whatever form feels good for me and my partner. If remixing conventional wedding traditions with new magical rituals makes everything more inclusive for the most radical and conservative people in my life that I absolutely adore, then let’s do this thing. I can pick my battles. In fact, I love the idea of my old Italian aunties feeling relief at gifting me an outdoor pizza oven and then hitting the dance floor with a gaggle of my gender non-conforming besties. It might take a few pitchers of limoncello to make it happen, but bottom line: I don’t need to change who I am and my self-expression in order to have a wedding with all the different people I love.

women at crate and barrel registry event

This post was sponsored by Crate and Barrel Wedding Registry. With Crate and Barrel, it doesn’t matter if you’re just starting out, or if you’ve already built a home together, they’ve got something for every stage of your relationship. Plus, get like-price guarantee, free shipping, and exclusive pieces from Crate and Barrel’s artists and designers, when you sign up for a Crate and Barrel Wedding Registry today. Click here to learn more or sign up for a live Crate and Barrel registry event near you.

Victoria Grant

Victoria Grant is a sound-oriented storyteller, writer, and digital strategist. When she isn’t working with sound waves, she’s swimming in the ocean’s waves off the coast of San Francisco.

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  • Lisa

    We really love all of the items we got from our C&B registry. However, my favorite thing to come out of our registry event was one of our closest friendships! We bonded with another couple over the magnitude of the event and trying to pick some damn flatware already. They’re still some of our best friends two years later.

  • Our Crate & Barrel registry experience turned us into lifelong fans of the brand. Registering and maintaining our registry was so easy, and there is so much great stuff! My husband and I used our registry as a time to upgrade things, like our cookware, flatware and stemware. Overwhelmingly our guests bought from C&B over our other registries so we got a ton of kitchen stuff and a clothing steamer, and it’s stuff that we use all the time! Getting stuff that you love and use all the time is like icing on the cake.

  • Sara

    This is totally off topic, but I love that blue dress! What a great color!

  • Erica G

    I had to make this point with my fiance, that there were a few items worth upgrading to the “adult” version. :P

    • sofar

      Him: But we have pots and pans.

      Me: Our pots and pans suck. You got them for your first apartment in 2005.

      • Lizzie

        omg the struggle is so real. I couldn’t convince him of this before the wedding, but now that we’ve cooked one bang-up delicious meal after another in our new All Clad pans, my now-husband has finally accepted (with hard proof!) that the All Clad pans are legit better than his college-era ones. Cause, like, we are good cooks but we didn’t both magically get way better overnight, hah.

      • Sarah

        Agree! And cooking and cleaning with good utensils makes a big difference.

      • My mom bought us a new set of “Emerilware” (China-made All Clad) pots/pans when we moved into our new apartment across the country ~6 months ago. So it’s too soon for new pots and pans, even to upgrade one or two to real All Clad :( Christmas?

        • tr

          Go ahead and register for a real All Clad skillet in a versatile size. For 90% of cooking, “good enough” really is good enough, and you kind of hit the point of diminishing returns after that. But when you’re frying things in a skillet, the skillet can make a real difference.
          If Mom comments, tell her that you feel like you’re having to wash your skillet three times a day because of how much use it gets, and you’d love to have an extra.

    • Lisa

      The knives are my absolute favorite upgrade! That and the fact that we now own more than five plates.

      • We’ve got two nice chopping knives, but even just a good set of Wustof dinner/steak knives is a lovely upgrade!

        • Lisa

          We got a full knife block but no steak knives. I keep joking that I’m going to ask for one each Christmas until we have a full set.

      • Aubry

        C got me one really good (like $200) knife for christmas last year and i freaking love it. Used and appreciated daily.

    • We moved in together 4+ years ago, and just combined our two sets of silverware. WE’RE GONNA HAVE MATCHING SILVERWARE, ERRRRBODY!

      • Cellistec

        True story: we had no gift registry (honeymoon fund only), and we’re still eating off the Dollar Store plates and flatware I got a decade ago. My husband had like one of everything when he moved in with me. I could smack my past engaged self for being too cool to register for dishes.

        • There’s always the holidays?
          I think that’s the plan for the All Clad pan. And the fancy beach towel. And the porcelain cat fountain. And the duvet cover….

  • Lawyerette510

    I’m a huge fan of crate and barrel and we had a great experience having a registry there. One of my favorite things about shopping with them, especially online, is how easy it is to see where things are made. I know that’s not important to everyone, but it is information I like to have as a consumer and they make that easy to see online.

  • cpostrophe

    My partner and I were similarly ambivalent about setting up a registry to ask for more stuff, but a lot of our friends said the same thing about gifting being a love language, and that some people will just want to give us gifts, and it was better for us to find a way to channel that desire.

    Now that our invites have gone out and the replies are rolling in, I’m really feeling this part:

    “Gifting can be a love language for some people, as well as the easiest and least complicated way for them to participate in your wedding, especially if they can’t physically be there. It’s a low-stakes way to say, ‘I support this!’ ”

    More than a few of our out-of-town and international guests have written in with regrets about not being able to attend, but then they’ve also turned around and bought something off the registry, and that was a really sweet gesture. And for a lot of those people who may have known only me but haven’t met my partner, or vice versa, it’s also been a good way for them to say, “I’m doing this because I care about you, and even if I haven’t met your spouse, I’m looking forward to meeting them some day.”

    • sofar

      Yes, some people really do want to give gifts, and it’s important to take a step back and be like, “You know what? I’m going to let them tell me they love me in THEIR language.”

      I’ve also always heard a lot of complaining about guests who go “off-registry,” too — people who buy gifts not on the registry.

      But, honestly, those off-registry presents have been some of the most touching gifts. We’ve gotten a giant fancy veggie-and-dip platter we’ve used a dozen times BEFORE the wedding. We got a yellow tea set that’s so much fun when my friends come over. We got a beautiful water pitcher that was totally made for lemonade on the patio. We registered for NONE of these things. But they’re my favorites, since it basically means a person who loves us very much went through extra effort to get us something special we are WAY too practical to register for. … Or they re-gifted something to us. But I’m choosing to believe the former. :)

      • Sarah

        Ditto. We got some really neat off-registry gifts from older folks…like a Wilton Armatale platter, a handcrafted mirror with our names, wedding date, location engraved on the back, a handmade quilt, etc.

      • Kyla

        I have gone off registry before because I just can’t afford what’s on most people’s registry. Got really lucky once! Bought a hot sauce gift pack from a local Denver craft hot sauce place because we knew the couple liked to cook. Found out at the wedding during the father of the bride speech that the couple collects hot sauce! Score!

      • tr

        Heck, maybe I’m just a total Pollyanna, but I’ve even loved the gifts that were blatantly re-gifted, because they’re usually nicer than what that person would be able to afford, and that’s their way of giving us something nice! I know full and well Cousin Jane can’t afford $70 Pottery Barn wine glasses, so it actually means a lot that she was willing to give up those wineglasses to give us a nice gift! (The fact that doing so meant she didn’t feel obligated to spend $30 on a registry gift just makes the whole thing a win-win for all of us.)

  • Alanna Cartier

    I love love love crate and barrel, but being Canadian makes it a struggle to register there. I would love if the online shopping options for Canadian registries were easier.

    • Booknerd

      I’ve had such a pleasant experience with the Bay, both in store and online. It’s sometimes hard to get help in the physical stores as they don’t seem to staff them well but there’s definitely no pushy sales tactics in my experience! And the sign up process instore was the bomb :)

      • Alanna Cartier

        We ended up registering at William Ashley (we’re in Toronto) the in-store experience was amazing (we got free truffles and a gift!) and the online system is so so so easy to use. Probably only good if you are in TO though, because that’s where their store is.

    • Back in the day, I registered at Crate and Barrel (online) because I knew they had stores in the US and Canada (I was moving from the US to Canada right before the wedding). Unfortunately, I did not know that the two stores are completely separate. So I received a few giftcards from the US one that I found out I couldn’t spend in Canada. But their customer service was kind, understanding and AMAZING and worked it out for me, and then I was able to spend it in the Toronto store. I LOVED what I got from there and I still use it all the time. Ah… I was really pleased with the experience!

  • sofar

    So glad you had a warm and supporting registry experience. We had a hard-selling sales rep following us around where we registered (at a major home supply/decor store). And it ruined the whole experience. At the end, she looked at our registry and was like, “What? No china?” And I told her I was being given my grandmother’s beautiful china. And she said, “OK be honest — do you actually LIKE that china?” My grandmother had died recently. I wanted to be like, “You know what? Cancel the whole registry and let me talk to your boss.”

    • Alanna Cartier

      Ugh. You should have, what a nightmare!

    • Georgina Molinar

      Ugh, that’s not even a good sales technique. If she really wanted you to spend (your friends/family’s) money, her pitch could’ve been, “That’s so lovely. You must be thrilled to keep it in the family. What pattern is it? We have some beautiful pieces that could really make it shine…” Still pushy and sales-y but at least she’s not being a total jerk.

      • Cellistec

        Yes, or “How wonderful! Do you want to save it for special occasions and holidays? We have several modest patterns that would be perfect for everyday use.”

  • emilyg25

    We registered at Crate and Barrel too! It was such a lovely experience. Also, their Aspen dinnerware is gorgeous and surprisingly affordable and sturdy.

  • Alexandra

    Here’s my philosophical and a little corny take on gift registries (that no one asked for), with the caveat that I’m aware that there are other valid ways of looking at it, and that this is very idealized:

    Getting married, at its heart, is a deeply others-centered thing to do. It’s a community event. You are taking your relationship with another person and saying to everyone you know that here, this is a stable thing that you can count on and trust. This person and I are sticking around as a unit for as long as you know us. We are forming a little community ourselves, and it’s going to be an institution that everyone knows about and can rely on.

    The formation of this kind of unit is a big deal. That’s the purpose of a wedding. It’s like the birth of a country or something. Hey, everyone we know! We are a hearth, a home, a welcoming, stable place of peace. Come here for a meal and a listening ear. You can count on us.

    Ok, so marriage doesn’t always quite go this way, and so single people can also offer a welcoming home of stability and peace. BUT symbolically, this is how I’ve always seen marriage.

    AND it follows that your community wants to get in the spirit of this thing and offer gifts to bless a new community. Cash can be great (I give cash all the time), but there’s nothing like buying a really high quality piece of cookware for a couple’s wedding present, being invited over for dinner a year later, and being served cassoulet out of that cookware. It’s kind of magical. I helped stock this place of peace and welcome! I contributed to this happy home! Go you guys! Go me! Community! Family! Love!

    All that to say I think people should register without guilt and with joy, no matter what their kitchenware status is. It’s a rare person who has as much All-Clad and Le Creuset as they’ll ever need.

    Er, making a lot of assumptions about how much cooking people like to do. We’re America’s Test Kitchen fanatics. And this is a sponsored post from Crate and Barrel, after all.

    • sofar

      I agree!

      People say all the time, “Your wedding should reflect YOU. It’s YOUR day.”

      And, yes, obviously, I’m going to choose things I like for my wedding. But I’ve always thought of it not as MY day but our families’ and our cultural community’s day. Honestly, if it were MY day, we’d go to the courthouse without telling anyone and then eat a really nice dinner. So I don’t really think of it as MY day. And recognizing that people want to give tangible gifts is part of that.

      • Totch

        Yeah, I always hide a smirk/grimace when people say that it’s my day or that I should get exactly what I want because it’s my wedding. If it were, we’d have gone to the courthouse a few months ago and be done. But it’s not. It’s our families’ day, and I’m (mostly, usually, I swear) happy to have a wedding for them.

        That said, I will register the exact Haptic Labs quilt I want, because it’s my day.

  • Sarah

    I didn’t register at C&B, as there’s no physical store near most of our guests, but still got a gift card from there that I’ve been spending down over three years. Just finished it off buying a gift for a friend’s new house and a onesie for our baby (Land of Nod is totally precious). They have good online sales near holidays!

    • CMT

      I got a baby shower gift for a friend from Land of Nod and now I’m getting non-stop emails and catalogs from them. Even though I ordered from their registry! Land of Nod knows it wasn’t for me! It’s seriously made me never want to buy anything from them ever again, even though I agree that it is totally precious.

  • Another Meg

    One of the reasons we chose to register at Crate and Barrel was that we’d enjoyed the experience as guests buying off a registry. We’d had a bunch of friends get married in the couple of years before our wedding, and C&B was hands down the most pleasant place to get a gift. I wanted to pass it on to our friends and family. Also, the coolest everyday dishes I could ask for. And their barware. OMFG their barware.

  • the cupboard under the stairs

    This is all well and good, but what I really want to know is, where can I get those black block heels you’re wearing? :)

  • JC

    It’s funny to be in the pre-engaged stage and think about registering, because it’s like a current promise of future love from your gift-giving folks. We were in Williams Sonoma looking for a gift a few weeks ago, and he turned to me and said, “I really like those big mixers, like the red one. They look so retro and cool.” I replied, “Don’t worry babe, my grandma will be getting us one in a few years!” I know the KitchenAid is the cliche example of a registry item, but it’s an important one in many families (and not something he’s ever expressed interest in until that moment), so it was fun to say, “Yep, we’re going to be super loved on the big day, and then we’ll come home and make all the cookies.”

    • JC

      Also, you better believe I did an internal happy dance to discover that he wants a KitchenAid and high-end kitchen appliances now that we’re getting more invested in cooking.

      • 1-year into our relationship, FI got a refurbished professional Kitchen Aid stand mixer. It was a good sign :)

        • Lisa

          We were able to get gently used pro-grade one for $40 at a yard sale. Best $40 spent ever!

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