Back when we were registering for our wedding ten years ago (TEN! YEARS!), I remember being really focused on two things: basics and classics. I figured that we needed to make sure we had plates that would last for the rest of our lives (which was smart). But beyond that, I figured we should just keep it simple. Trends change, and I didn’t want to be stuck with stuff that felt super dated. And while I do fully endorse keeping it simple when it comes to your day-to-day china, a decade into being married, I’ve decided I was wrong about the rest of it. In forcing myself to pick things that felt classic and timeless, I stopped myself from having fun… and left our kitchen feeling remarkably devoid of personality.
Which is why we’ve partnered up with Zola today to talk about how I would do it all over again if I could. When we first started working with Zola, they were a brand-new company trying to make the registry process easier with features that just… made sense (like being able to choose when your packages get shipped to you, for example). These days they have a whole suite of tools designed to make your life easier—think a checklist, registry, and guest list all in one app, plus thank you cards that practically write themselves. But it wasn’t until I started putting together this roundup, that I realized just how good their range of products really is. While traditional registries often force you to compromise between the basics and the fun stuff you want, Zola is an all-in-one registry that allows you to register for products, experiences, and cash funds in the same place, from staple items your Grandmother wants you to have to up and coming brands you’ve probably never heard of.
When my RISD-trained grandmother with impeccable taste died two years ago, nobody else in my family was very interested in inheriting all of the dinnerware and serveware she’d collected over the years. Since we were moving into a house with big closets and space for entertaining, it all landed at my house. (Poor me, right?) And as it turned out, my grandmother didn’t do basics. Instead, she did beautiful things. And that means I ended up with a tea set painted with beautiful Japanese fall maples, a cut-glass punch bowl with cut-glass cups in a variety of patterns, a beautiful green and gold patterned china set, and too many beautiful little things to count. (Lovely silver sugar bowl? Check.)
Becoming a Real Grown-up
This year, we hosted both Thanksgiving and Christmas for the second time. And because we were past the panic and freak out of the first hosting, we started to step into our role as real adults in the family. Real adults who bring out the good china, and the cut glass, and the big serving dishes to host the big holiday meals. As we did that, I started to realize the gaps in our collection. We had beautiful interesting smaller pieces from my grandmother, but all the serveware I had picked was deadly boring (and dullAF is really not my jam).
But more than that, the only table linens we had registered for were white. With white napkins. And white plates. (Not to mention the tablecloth we’d gotten for our teeny-tiny apartment table doesn’t even fit our full-sized family table.) After Christmas, I vowed that 2018 was the year that I’d start collecting more things that would make me feel like an adult when I hosted meals. My hope is that by getting good table linens, I might actually work up the nerve to host real-life dinner parties. (My friend Jordan does dinner parties in a way that I always envy but have yet to emulate.)
When I was registering a decade ago, the traditions I’d want to create with my family never crossed my mind. I’m fond of the Waldorf educational ideas, and one of their foundational rules is that kids love traditions… and they have a bunch of their own (secularly Christian–based) traditions. When I read about it, I realized that we don’t need Waldorf rituals, because we’re Jewish (and I’m a WASP by birth), and both Jews and WASPs live and die by tradition. That means we have plenty of our own rituals to pull from. But Waldorf is right that traditions, rituals, and celebrations are great for kids. And, no surprise, given my line of work, we really love holidays and celebrations in our house. (My kids will make a party for literally anything… those apples didn’t fall far from the tree.)
All of that means I’ve started to be really thoughtful about small traditions I can create for my kids throughout our weeks and our years. So after Christmas, I snatched up some good deals on red napkins and plates for holiday breakfasts, and our kids adore them. I want to build on that with things like special heart napkins for our Valentine’s Day breakfast, and a beautiful Seder plate for Passover. And given that my kids came into this world ready for a celebration—one on the Fourth of July, and one on Thanksgiving weekend—we’re always ready to make those holidays super special.
So, inspired by my grandmother and the lack of excitement in my own kitchen, here is what I would register for today if I knew then what I know now. If you’re just starting to think about your own registry and aren’t sure what where to start, I recommend checking out Zola’s starter guides. They’re beautifully curated and have you covered on the essentials and the fun stuff. (Am I saying you need these pillows in your life? Yes I am.) You’ll want to include a mix of price points on your registry, but don’t be afraid to include a few higher priced items. You never know whose love language is gifting, or which of your friend groups is going to want to go in on a big group gift (which, yes, you can do easily with Zola). So with that, here are my picks for beautiful serveware that is not at all basic, things to make holidays feel extra special, and a few other things to usher us into proper adulthood. (Because we did register for nice roller suitcases, and those legit have made our lives better ever since.)
Not Timeless, Beautiful
I’m in love with Kate Spade’s Birch Way collection, so I was thrilled to see that Zola carries it. It’s not super cheap, but that’s fine, because I don’t need the whole set (plus if your guests ever find something cheaper at a different online retailer, Zola will actually match the price). I really want their sugar bowl and creamer to make my breakfast table a little more beautiful. And I’m really into mixing and matching on the dinner table (see: all of the beautiful cups and plates I inherited and want to use), so I’m also into the serving bowl. As it turns out, you can never have enough serving bowls.
Let’s up our style game and mix patterns. This is a perfect bowl for serving vegetables, and the pencil sketch mixed with gold is everything.
I have learned over the years that I like anything I can ROYGBIV. Because putting things in rainbow order is the most satisfying feeling there is. So I want these rainbow tapas bowls, so I can ROYGBIV them over and over for the rest of my life.
I’m clearly into lush botanicals right now, but it goes with all my grandmother’s stuff, so I’m not mad about it. This tray is perfect for serving things at brunch. Though as my grandmother taught me, life is short, so eat off your bone china whenever you feel like it.
Practical Things I Never Thought To Get
If you’re tired of seeing the same options over and over again, Zola carries a ton of designers that you’d never find in a big box store, which means they have some really interesting and unique pieces to register for. I’m a tea drinker, but David makes himself drip coffee every morning. And somehow it never seems to not be on our counter. The one we have looks decent, but I’d like to kick it up a notch with something designed to be on display—and something that will always be clean, once you throw the coffee filter out and toss the mug in the sink.
So, trivets. Turns out those are a thing you really need, whenever you’re serving a decent-sized meal. They also are one of those things you never think to register for, so you end up with something ugly, or plopping lovely serving dishes on towels. I’m on the hunt for more of them, because no trivets made it onto our registry, and this one is striking… and about the right cost for your college roommate who’s still working on their acting career to buy you.
The thing about trivets is you need lots of them (one is never close to enough), and I’m big into mix and match. This marble and copper trivet brings some minimalism to the table, which is helpful with all my patterned dishes.
And while we’re on trivets with metal accents, I’m deeply in love with these simple brass circles.
I love that this serving bowl has personality, but is also enough of a neutral that I can pair it with other wild patterns as a simpler note. It comes in a variety of colors, but I’m really feeling this blue-on-blue toned dish.
As I mentioned, I’ve recently gotten really into table linens. We use placemats every day (it’s the cheaters way to keep your table clean and your breakfast feeling impeccable), and I want more tablecloths for days we have a little something to celebrate. This watercolor pattern looks perfect both ways.
Remember how I said you can never have enough serving bowls? This is a universal rule. And while I want some of my serving bowls to be beautiful ones to make my celebratory table a little lovlier, I also want some nice day-to-day bowls that still have a little extra visual interest. These do both, plus the set of six bowls hits all my size needs, and nests for easy storage.
Turns out, when you have little kids, they pick a lot of flowers for you. (And if you don’t have little kids, you should take a note from those love bugs and pick a lot of flowers for yourself.) I never seem to have enough small vases for those sweaty handfuls of flowers, and this vase is so lovely.
Make space for what you want in this world, and one of the things I want is more fresh flowers. This vase is simple and lovely, and looks nothing like the cheap vases that you get from the supermarket or bodega, that always seem to stick around.
And while we’re talking vases, over the years I have learned that you need one in all the sizes, including huge. The plum trees in my yard are in bloom, and this weekend I’m going to cut a few branches and put them in a giant vase. This one has a modernist origami look that I’m really digging.
What I hate more than anything is a salad that hasn’t been pre-mixed. So everything in my life got better when we got a proper salad bowl and started using it. We inherited one from my grandmother with a leaf shape, but I like to vary it up a little. And this black-bottomed wooden bowl is the kind of Scandinavian minimalism that I’m all over.
Right now we have exactly one set of placemats, which means when they’re in the wash, we’re out of luck. They’re also cheap placemats, which I discovered shrink… and shrink and shrink and shrink. So it’s time to level up to a couple of sets of placemats, and these textured linen-look placemats in rose are just perfect.
I’m also here for multiple tablecloths, and this irregular polka dot print is really giving me effortless but stylish vibes. Perfect for a Sunday brunch.
I’ve found that it’s really helpful to have a pitcher or two on hand, so we can easily refill water at more formal dinners or serve a bunch of kids some fresh lemonade on a hot summer day. This pitcher is a great version of a classic shape. It comes in white, which is nice to have around, but I’m big into black accents on all my home goods, so I like the modern feel of the ebony version.
I like having a small pitcher on hand, for family celebratory breakfasts where I don’t feel like plopping a jug of milk on the table, but I also don’t need to serve an army. This diminutive pitcher is casual but impactful in a way I can really get behind.
Making Traditions & Memories
Movie night is a very, very big deal in my household, and I’m always into giving the kids a little more tradition, and helping them celebrate the everyday… or once a week. So clearly I need this admit one ticket dish.
Again, movie night. But this 3D glasses tray is so good it deserved its own mention.
I get really excited when I see fresh, modern Judaica. Because there are two rules for Judaica: at least half the time it’s awful, and there are about three styles in existence, so take your pick. I’m not shocked that the quintessentially New York Kate Spade is the brand who decided to solve this problem, and I need this Seder plate in my life badly.
On the same note, I’m always looking for a good pair of Shabbat candles, and they’re not easy to find. Kate Spade delivers beautifully, in a way that lets me add ritual to our family life… and look really stylish while doing it.
We really love a good holiday… but finding holiday napkins that are not horrifically ugly is a lot harder than you’d think. These heart napkins are perfect for my kids’ love of Valentine’s Day and my love of tasteful minimalism.
I have a kid born on the Fourth of July, so it’s become a really big holiday in our house. These gold star napkins are on deck to become her new birthday napkins.
I already own these napkins, and I love them. They’re perfect for our secular, kind-of-Jewish Christmas breakfasts. They feel festive but have nothing to do with Santa.
I have a little boy who loves collecting treasures wherever he goes, and I recently realized that we needed a place to display both his treasures and family treasures… so they stay special and don’t become junk. I couldn’t afford this shelf from Ferm Living without saving up for it (though Zola makes it super easy to facilitate group gifting by letting your guests contribute small amounts to bigger gifts) but it’s very high on my wish list right now. It’s perfect for displaying treasures. Right now those might be treasures leftover from your wedding day, and one day they might be the collection of heart shaped rocks you find on special outings.
I don’t think my kids know they can bring me breakfast in bed yet. But trust me, when they find out, they are going to be beyond jazzed. I know I need a breakfast in bed tray to make the Mother’s Day magic really happen, and this one is stylish and collapsible. Double score.
My mom had these intensely beautiful woodland paper plates left over from a birthday party, and on special days we got to eat grilled cheese sandwiches off them. Clearly they left an impression, because more than thirty years later I’m telling you about them. Sadly, they were paper, so at some point we used them all up. I want to have similar make-a-random-day-special plates for my kids, and these we can use and reuse.
Adulting, Leveled Up
A place for everything, and everything in its place. It’s the maximum I live and die by at home. And having a letter holder is a key part of that. We’re currently using a toast rack that we got on our honeymoon (which I love). But this brass letter holder gives me vibes of my High WASP great-grandmother’s breakfast table, and I want it on mine.
You know how I said I never have enough serving bowls? Well, I somehow also never have enough clocks. I work hard to get us to step away from our cell phones when we’re at home, and that means we need good old-fashioned wall clocks. This marble one is wildly expensive, but I want it for my bathroom (because, the morning rush). But this affordable and simple one belongs in my kitchen.
I grew up using only cloth napkins, and I run our house the same way. While we have special sets of napkins for holidays, and white ones that stay white because we only use them for dinner parties, we also keep a bunch of everyday sets on hand. But the older I get, the more I like to make every day fancy by going beyond the plain white napkins. These give me wholesome farmhouse breakfast vibes, without feeling shabby chic.
My great-aunt has an excellent cloth napkin trick (because yes, WASPs are really into their cloth napkins). She has a variety of napkin rings, and she mismatches them. That way everyone in the family knows their napkin ring of the moment, so they can put their napkins and placemats on the sideboard after dinner, and pick out their own napkin in the morning at breakfast. (Because you can’t be washing them after every single use.) The problem is everyday napkin rings are not really in vogue right now, and I’ve been struggling to find styles I like. I adore these pinstripe napkin rings though, so they’re going to join my collection soon.
David likes to buy ugly cheap kitchen towels from wherever he happens to be shopping at the moment, and I’m not here for it. Life is too short, and we hang our kitchen towels out to dry where we can see them, after all. I like to have a variety of patterns, from really simple to more elaborate, so I can pick whatever I’m in the mood for. The only problem with these botanical towels is I might always be in the mood for them, and they will have to get washed.
I have learned that most effective way to eliminate bathroom mess is to have a place for the welter of toothbrushes and soap. I love the old-world feeling of this brass bathroom trio. They give your bathroom a sense of having been here forever, but you can still move them from house to house. The Victorians knew how to do some things right, and this is one of them.
I have heard nothing but good things about Parachute sheets, and I’ve been dying for a linen set. People rarely think to register for sheets, but this is a thing you should do. Not just sheets, but high quality linen sheets.
One of my home goals is to get properly set up for houseguests. We don’t have a guest room, but we can still take care of the little things. And a bedside (or couchside) carafe for water is one of those super thoughtful details.
Bedside lamps are that thing that you think you don’t really need (there are enough different light sources in a bedroom right?) but in fact you really, really do. I read before bed, but I also read to my kids every night before bed. But still, my bedside lamp game is weak. This one is unusual and beautiful, and I love it. Plus it has a dimmer, which is just so clutch.
Remember how I said that high quality roller suitcases changed our lives? Well, hard sided suitcases have made our lives even better, and Zola’s luggage game is on point. These suitcases are the best of both worlds (and you can get them in pink!).
David loses his key and wallet every other day, which makes me crazy, because if you just put them in the same place every day you wouldn’t lose them. Does he listen to me? No. So I’ve been meaning to get a catchall tray to remind him. I love this one, because we are both people who wait far too long before we burn a bridge. So reminding ourselves to take a risk (but not with, you know, our keys) seems just perfect.
While I’m not always loving the Boy Scouts’ politics, I do really adore this soap dish. My kids are just starting to read, and I feel reminding them of the values I want them to live (while getting them to wash their hands) is never a bad thing.
Yup, it’s another trivet. It’s hard to have too many. But this one is a solid mix of fun and practical, with a list of seasonal fruits and veggies, in a seriously great design.
I feel like you should always put one dreamy big ask on your registry. It’s perfect for a group gift… or possibly your Nana’s loaded friend who you’ve never met and isn’t invited to the wedding, but loves her BFF. Zola is fun, because they have all sorts of gift certificates that you can register for. And my favorite is the Homepolish gift certificate. Interior design is my jam, but I’d love ten hours with a pro to help me level up. As a wedding present? Sign me up.
This post was sponsored by Zola. With Zola, you can build the registry you actually want; add items from a selection of over 50,000 gifts (plus add from any store) or if physical objects aren’t your style, register for experiences and subscriptions—heck, with Zola you can even register for your blowout. (They just partnered up with Drybar, and I’m not mad about it.) And with Zola Weddings, now you can manage your wedding checklist and your guest list too. Other perks include group gifting, shipping control (aka you tell your registry when you want to receive stuff), and the lowest credit card processing fee in the industry for cash gifts—check out a full list of Zola’s features here!
CLICK HERE TO Sign up for Zola to get a $50 credit toward your registry when you receive $500 in gifts.