How I Tamed The Registry

As regular readers know, I’ve been struggling with registry ennui. A registry was right for us (it isn’t for everyone!) since it was going to let our family members help us celebrate in a way that made them happy, but I just couldn’t get my arms around it. Getting new and fancy stuff didn’t feel quite right to me.

Then last week, I decided to take a trip to the store we are registered at on my own. I started wandering around, picking things up, thinking about them. And then, of course, I started getting chatty with the salespeople, because that’s just how I roll. Suddenly questions were piling out of my mouth – questions I never expected to ask.

“How sturdy are these plates? Because you know kids, they drop things.”
“I like this toaster, it seems solidly built. Will it last? Does it come in a four slice model, so the whole family isn’t waiting on toast?”
“Tell me about these pots. Will we take them with us to the retirement home?”
“This table cloth – is it big enough for the extended family at the holidays?”

And then I got it. The registry has nothing to do with the wedding. Our great-aunts and grandmothers are on to something when they insist that you register so they know what pots you want. The registry is not about the wedding, the registry is about the marriage. For us, we hope that means a long life with a passel of kids, a ton of family gatherings, and lots of cooking. So for us, that’s what a registry is about – letting our friends and loved ones build that home for us. The registry is like a barn raising.

Do we have dishes now? We do. They look just fine, but we got them when we were young and poor, and if you look cross eyed at them they break. Not great for a lifetime with kids. I’m still figuring out what to do with our old dishes. I’m thinking we might give them to a battered women’s shelter. I worked at a shelter years ago, and I know those women need some dishes.

And of course, we’re still registering for goats.

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  • Excellent. I love how you:

    1. Effectively figured out why registeries are actually good, not a PITA.

    2. Opened up an alternative use for your old goods.

    3. Goats. Hellz yes.

  • This is good… We haven’t gotten to the registry stage yet (far from it), but I’ve been struggling with getting new stuff when we already have fine stuff.
    This gives me another perspective to consider!
    Thanks :)

  • Yep I think registries are good for that exact reason. We have everything we need and we like the kind of things you can’t buy from a department store, so it doesn’t work for us, as you say, they don’t work for everyone.
    This is coupled with the fact that most of our guests are starving artists and musicians, well not quite starving but definitely not the kind of folks who can afford the kinds of things you have a registry for.

    It’s working out better than fine, just the other day one of our friends told us a few of them were putting in to make an outdoor setting for us from recycled wood and that we need to choose the bits of wood that we’d like it to be made from.
    Tables and chairs made with love by our closest friends, how lucky are we!

  • Gotta love those little “aha!” moments.

    And I still love the goats.

  • Ach, yet again you made me wish I’d been more honest on our website, that we wanted cash for a deposit on a house, not for our honeymoon fund.

    Ah well, live and learn.

  • Registries are hard. I’m glad you tackled it and so successfully! :)

  • Roxanne

    That is an amazing thought process! Thank you! As someone else who was struggling with the concept of a registry, you have finally made it make sense. I can handle the idea of my loved ones helping me build a home.

  • You got to use the word “passel” right before referring to both a barn raising and goats, AND you’re registering for things that will make your life the kind of life you want it to be. Hooray for Meg.

  • Much like goats there is another charity that I helped with a bit at ISU to provide a goat to a family in some African countries.

    As for registries, it’s funny but even after putting tons of work and time into ours in the end about 3 people bought us wedding presents off it.

    At least all that work will pay off later when you decide to buy the stuff yourself.

  • This was awesome, you managed to sum up why I feel a little defensive about my registry, and why I’ve put some pricier things on there that I would never buy for myself (I don’t buy much for the home that doesn’t come from TJ Maxx). People want to give you things that will last as long as you hope the marriage does. Things I’ll look at for years and think, “Aunt so and so gave us this tablecloth with our new initials embroidered on it when we got married. And I still love it.” It’s not about the stuff.

  • I like the idea of giving your dishes to a shelter. I know alot of people sell their old stuff, and thats fine. But somewhere in my head I’m thinking “I got this new plate for free, so why shouldn’t I give the old plate to someone else for free?”
    I love the insight of the registry being about the marriage not the wedding, very well said.

  • Oh, thank you, Meg. This registry concept has been eating a big hole in my head, and this post helps. I’m still not sure if we’ll do it, but I like this idea, the barn raising. Very smart to make sure you have a reason, too. I’m also trying to really hear some fo your other posters, who say that registries have been quite a relief for them as guests. And I do really want to make the weekend fun and beautiful and relaxed for our guests. So maybe so, registry, maybe so.

    thanks for your wonderful blog – it’s the first I’ve visited every day!

  • Yay! I finally don’t feel alone anymore! It seemed like all the wedding blogs were ganging up the idea of a registry as something greedy and selfish – but this is EXACTLY what was going through my head while I was registering for stuff. Yay!

  • So very true :) When I look at my registry stuff, I don’t see everyday life with just Byan and I (that is what our Ikea plates are for) instead I see Thanksgiving and people everywhere and kids running around. Sure, I will only use that huge platter *maybe* once a year, but when I do it will be perfect and I will be surrounded by those I love!

  • I totally agree, and that’s what’s got me a bit intimidated by our registry. Making decisions for a lifetime of use is a big committment… color schemes, design themes… we have to make some long term plans to fit our goods into. But its also quite fun!

  • Well-said. I know we made a point of registering specifically because we already have a number of things and wanted to help folks to not give us things we won’t use or have room for. In addition to the typical department store, we also did an REI registry which supports us camping and biking together….very good for the marriage.

    We also set up a registry with the I Do Foundation that pointed to 3 different charities that were important to us…it was thrilling to watch the donations add up!

  • I’m glad you came around about registries. I also like that you are thinking about what you can have forever, not just what you want. That is the great part of a registry.

  • Just got an email yesterday saying someone bought a goat in my name! I couldn’t think of anything I wanted for Christmas. I can’t wait to see the picture!

  • I’m so inspired by this post. Thank you for writing it and putting into words what I feel.

  • I’m completely torn on how a registry fits my particular relationship. Being a lesbian who wants children we have fairly limited options. The one that appeals to us the most is sperm donation – specifically from CA’s non-profit sperm bank. However it’s an incredibly costly process. I would love to register for a baby fund, but I can’t see how to make that not tacky. We don’t need plates or pots and pans (I’m still using my grandmother’s from the 30’s!) we need a down payment on a family. How do you register for that?

  • you’re completely right (as usual) about the registry being about marriage. i received a half an hour lecture when i registered (solo as well) at one of our stores, and the guy was right – as you get older, your role in the family changes and you’ll want things like china that you might not want or need now.

  • Meg

    Oh Sarah-
    There has got to be a way to set that up. Normally I don’t love the idea of asking for money for a wedding, but this is a totally different situation. Set up a fund somewhere (that’s usually not my gig, so I’m fuzzy on the details) and link to it from your wedding website (if you have one). Or, have your mom call around and tell people what it’s for. And call it a downpayment on a family, It’s such a good name. Anyone who’s cool enough to attend your wedding, will totally go for this. In fact, it will make them cry, I guarantee. Update me on how it goes, I’d love to post about it.


    PS It’s not tacky, it’s sticky (ha!)

    • atypicallyengaged

      I’m curious about why some folks are fine with gift registries and not cash registries. Do people feel cash is more greedy or crass than home items? I don’t really understand the difference, especially if it’s a couple that is barely scraping by and they would benefit much more from having, for example, an extra $300 in the bank for a car repair than having a kitchenaid mixer on the counter…

      My partner and I are not wealthy, but he wants very much to have a fun party for our wedding. So we are basically using our health-emergency savings to pay for our (modest) wedding. What we’d really love is to build back that emergency fund, so monetary gifts at our wedding would make us soooo happy. Is it so wrong to simply ask for a little marriage money to rebuild a cushion for catastrophes?

  • It’s great to discover meaning in all of this. I know I had moments where I thought to myself, we should just elope.

  • Stephanie

    Oh my god. Yes, Meg. Thank you.

    This is exactly what I discovered last week when I took out my our plates. We think of my uncle every day when we use them, and of everyone else who gave us these things we will use forever.

    Also, now all our other poor young friends have hand-me-down plates, pots and serving utensils.

  • I totally agree with your post and have struggles with our registry and debating do we need it or just go with a charity registry.
    Then recently I was at home helping my mom put things away in he basement. Every once in awhile we ran across things that she would fondly recall ” oh we got that from so and so for our wedding”. I want to have those moments, not necessarily the stuff, but the moments when I can use and everyday or special item and remember the day I got married.

  • A post about registries that made me cry. Truthfully, I’ve gotten choked up and teary thinking or reading about registries before, but for totally different reasons. This is a lovely post.

  • “The registry is like a barn raising.” Wow. I just got it. What a fabulous way to think about it!

  • Our registry worked out well for us. We ended up getting a ton of placesettings, so we are now stocked up there. We also got some great looking and well made casserole dishes, bakers, etc. – being young and poor we just had a couple of corningwares that were chipped. But I think one of the BEST things we got was a massive 12-inch skillet pan. It is fab. I’ve never had a pan that’s so well made – balanced, heavy, stainless (so the non-stick won’t eventually flake off!). It was an expensive pan that we probably would have never bought for ourselves, but I’m SO proud to have it now. I do see it coming to the retirement home with us!

    The other thing from our registry that worked out for us is that we were able to get a coffee table!!! A nice coffee table that I see easily lasting through kids. We put it on our registry (which allowed us to get 10% off) and told our family and friends that any gift cards received would be used towards its purchase. So last week I walked in and purchased our new coffee table for $68.34. Yay!!

    You’re absolutely right – the registry is a way for people (who wish to) to help set you up for your married life together. I had a hard time setting my registry up too, it made me feel so materialistic and kind of greedy. But, I’m glad to hear that you’re a little more okay with it now.

    By the way – if you’d like to see (non) pro pics of our wedding, feel free to head over to my site or EAD. ;-)

  • Oh, and yes, we are donating much of our “older” and mis-matched things to a resale shop that benefits a local women’s shelter.

  • To Sarah and Meg (re: the baby registry idea):

    Check out Smartypig (, which would probably work really well for this. It’s an FDIC insured bank that allows you to create a goal-oriented online savings account that… other people can contribute to! And it’s high-yield! You state your goal, your goal amount, and other folks can contribute. Best of all, there’s no commission or fee, since it’s just a bank with a unique account contribution option.

    Somce to think of it, this would be an EXCELLENT honeymoon or house downpayment registry option for folks who want to take that route and who get ticked off by registry fees.

  • Well done Meg! Great post. Our grandmothers do know a thing or two about marriage… and quality wares (given in love)that will undoubtedly echo many a memory over the years with family. I love that my mom still uses out the same pot that her Nana made spaghetti in… ah, how I love Nana’s spaghetti :) Cheers!

  • Becca:
    Thanks so much for the link! I’d started researching cash registry sites and they all had fees or really sleazy websites. Thanks again!

    And Meg, thanks for the reassuring words and I’ll certainly keep you posted if anything comes of this.

  • JAR

    Hi Meg,
    I’ve been reading your blog for months (since getting engaged) but have never commented.
    I am catching up on some older posts, having been too busy to handle wedding stuff for the last few weeks.
    I just wanted to say that this post is incredible, and really helped explain to my fiance why we’re registering. I have always known we’d register (I have the kind of family that would never have taken no for an answer) but he has had some serious trouble with it.
    So thank you, for again, explaining the practical solution!
    Happy Chanukah!

  • A registry wasn’t right for us (we live abroad and had no way to get the stuff back here, and nowhere to store it in the USA) but it is so true that for a certain planned lifestyle – ie a family-centric one with kids that doesn’t involve a lot of moving around – that a registry can be a really smart idea…even if – no, when – it feels like a PITA.

    I’m still happy we didn’t register though…

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  • Diana Lauren

    I’m planning to NOT register anywhere. I don’t feel right telling people what to give as a gift, and it feels better to me to not register, and to say “I have everything I need, and if you can attend our wedding, that would be the best gift possible,” which is true. Is this so crazy? To me, it seems more appropriate to let people decide what they want to do for a gift, and to not express any expectation. I’m not criticizing anyone who has done registries, but this is my own personal plan. Thoughts?

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  • TeaforTwo

    A friend who is a wedding graduate pointed me in the direction of this post when I was dead set against registering, and it totally changed my mind, so thank you, Meg. We decided that we would only register for things that we plan to still be using on our 25th anniversary, so that we can point to the everyday objects that in our family life and say “your great-aunt so-and-so bought that for us as a wedding gift.” For decades to come, I want to remember the beautiful community that surrounds us as we go about our everyday life, and I want our kids to grow up knowing how loved they are by that community that provided for them before they were even born.

    And then, when we were setting up the registry, this happened:

    The salesperson was showing us a roasting pan that would hold a 14lb turkey, and my fiance turned to me and asked, “how many people will that feed? Will 14lbs be enough for our family?”

    And then one of us cried in the department store. So thank you for this post.