Q: My fiancé and I have been engaged for about a year now, and we have fourteen months to go. A lot of stuff is already taken care of, but one topic that has come up recently is asking for gifts. We really do not want “stuff.” In fact, we just held a yard sale because we already have way too much stuff after having lived together for four years. Really if people feel the need to give us things, the most helpful would be money, especially because we will be moving soon after the wedding. Certainly I am uncomfortable saying “just give us cash,” and someone suggested just having the mothers of the bride and groom spread the word that we don’t want “stuff” when people call asking for registry information. But the more I talk with people about it, the more people seem to think that actually having a registry is an absolute requirement. What is the protocol on this? I know the point of a registry is to give people a chance to get things you really want and will use, but since there aren’t things we want and if we would use it we probably already have it, even on the registry I would be picking out things we don’t really want. Is it okay to jettison the registry entirely and try to discreetly spread the word not to get us things?
A: Dear Sam,
Spend enough time on this site, and you’ve probably figured out that there’s very little about a wedding that’s an “absolute requirement.” A registry definitely is not. If you just flat out don’t want gifts, of course don’t kill yourself picking out a bunch of things you don’t want.
So why do folks defend the registry so ardently? Well, if they’re like me, they want to make sure you’re not just feeling shy about picking out things you like (hint: it doesn’t make you look “greedy”). Also, registries are helpful for friends who want to give you an actual thing. Some people like to think they’re contributing to your home, building the life around you a bit, and that you’ll remember them by these little items that surround you. That’s all the easier when you have an entire list of the things someone wants.
Of course, those rationales may not matter to you all that much. You’re not afraid of being greedy; you just don’t want stuff! And grown-ups have been buying gifts for people without any sort of handy checklist for ages. It’s totally okay to skip the registry.
Your idea to spread the word via moms is perfect, assuming that guests will call your mom. A few of them will. But, I’m guessing, most of them won’t.
More likely, not having a registry ups the likelihood of two possibilities already in existence: getting cash (yay!) and getting tacky things you don’t want (…oh). Some friends will see there’s no registry and just write a check. Others will use this as an opportunity to find some “creative” gift that you’d have never thought to ask for! (Often, for good reason.)
The point is, end of the day, people will give gifts however they give gifts, and your control over that is pretty minimal. My advice? Go ahead and skip the registry. Let mom know to spread the word that you’re really trying to avoid “stuff.” And then embrace the fact that folks will give you what they’d like, and that’s one small piece of this planning process that you can’t control (nor should you).