Nine years ago when my partner and I were planning our wedding, same-sex marriage was legal in exactly one state and it wasn’t even close to the one we lived in. That was a drag, but we were used to it. Here’s the beautiful thing about being queer, though, especially in the South: If we can survive, we bloom into (often very glittery) steel magnolias (and whatever the genderqueer and masculine versions of that are).
Here’s the second beautiful thing: We question everything, and our families of origin, if they accept us, generally let go of any of their expectations, because we’re already so off their track that they give up trying to impose their conventions on us. This is liberating, but can also be befuddling when it comes to wedding planning. We knew right away we would not be doing any kind of garter belt performance. No, thank you. And we would both be walking ourselves down the aisle, and it wouldn’t be in a church. (Quirky antique store? Yes!)
But when it came to creating a registry, I found that for me, it was a lot like house hunting and baby making—fun to daydream about, but the reality is much more stressful. Making a list of stuff we wanted guests to give us just felt so awkward, and—I admit it—conventional. I wondered what friends and family would think of our choices. We already lived together, so we had the basics, even if our basics were generally grad school crappy. What we came up with was a nervous mishmash of stuff, most of which we either didn’t get or didn’t use.
Luckily many of our friends gave us amazing off-registry things (Dolly Parton thread art, for example). But since then, my partner became a doctor (of philosophy), and we had two kids, moved to the suburbs, and bought the minivan, people. Hello, convention, you’re… not so bad. We’ve also celebrated friends’ weddings and babies, and it turns out I love registries! Giving people the stuff they want and need feels amazing. No more guessing or worrying or searching.
So, without further ado, here’s a roundup of my favorite things that I would happily throw on a registry today if I could find another life event to justify it.
1. coffee from science: Our little family of four, plus a dog and two cats, primarily spend our time in our kitchen and our backyard. The most important item in our kitchen is our siphon coffee pot. It’s the main reason my partner and I have survived parenting for seven years. What’s a siphon pot, you may ask? It’s magic. And/or science.
When our kids were tiny, I went on an anti-BPA rampage. I purged our kitchen of nearly all plastics, which was pretty easy until I remembered that while our coffee carafe was stainless steel, the insides of our cherished automatic coffeemaker were plastic. This was a very dark day indeed. My partner loved that thing. I don’t know how I pried the two of them apart. When I ordered the complicated-looking glass siphon pot, skeptical partner was skeptical, but skeptical partner was wrong.
We’ve been using it ever since. Siphon pot coffee is so delicious and easy. Water goes in the bottom and your grounds go up top. When the water gets hot, it’s siphoned up the tube to the top chamber where the most important magic/science happens. When you move the pot off the burner, your coffee drips back down into the lower carafe while the grounds stay up top. You pop off that top portion and pour yourself a cup of pure joy. The only downside is that because the siphon pot is all glass, it must be handled with care. The good news is you can get replacement parts (instead of having to buy a whole new one if you just break one part), but having a second siphon pot set on hand is never a bad idea.
2. A blender with superpowers: The next most important thing in our kitchen is that from which all smoothies and sauces flow. I’m talking about our Vitamix, y’all. If you don’t have one, you’ve probably watched a demo somewhere and wondered if it was really, really worth all that money. I was you once, and courtesy of my mom’s generous nature, I can tell you the answer is yes, yes it is. If you have kids, Vitamixes are perfect for sneaking vegetables and flax seeds into smoothies completely undetectably. But my favorite thing that my Vitamix can do is make this incredibly silken, almost mousse-ish avocado pesto of my dreams. (It can do a lot more, but I haven’t explored all of those superpowers yet.)
3. our vegetarian-friendly cast iron skillet: Next up is our cast iron skillet. We’re vegetarian, so I sometimes worry that we don’t get enough iron. It turns out cast iron pans leach iron into your food while you cook with them. So not only are they long-lasting and classic, what they leach is actually good for you! We use one main large skillet, but you might want to think about a cast iron grill pan too. Don’t worry—cast iron cookware is not as complicated to maintain as you may have heard, and it’s basically the original nonstick option (without all those nasty chemical fumes and flakes).
4. Doormats for dirty kids: Our kitchen leads out to our screened porch, which leads out to our backyard, which leads me to a discussion of mud. It’s everywhere in my life. My kids are very dirty people, as they should be, but I really do not want that dirt in the house. The best defense I’ve found for this problem is sturdy, thirsty mats. I have one just inside the porch people door, and one just inside the porch dog door, both of which make up my first line of defense. But my secret weapon is the five-foot-long mat I laid out from the kitchen door like a landing strip. There’s literally no way for our kids or our dog to avoid these mats, and thus the mud-tracking rate has been greatly reduced. I’m really proud of myself about this.
5. Hammocks are for snuggling: Moving out of doors, the yard centerpiece of family life is our hammock. Our younger son actually put it on his Christmas list a few years ago, and I’m so glad he did, because it’s become a regular snuggle place for all of us, including our dog. All it takes is one parent to climb in and at least one kid comes running to join in. If you have the space, I recommend getting one with a stand instead of installing the hammock in a stationary spot. We move ours around the yard to chase the shade as needed.
6. string lights (and more string lights): Let’s talk about string lights. There might be no single better way of making an outdoor space more cheerful and homey than by adding cute string lights. Add more string lights, people. You will thank me.
7. backyard = happy place: For even more cheer outside, you can never have enough plant pots and maybe even the bliss that is an elevated garden bed. It’s easier on your back (which will matter to you sooner than you think, if it doesn’t already), and the height makes it harder for bunnies, bugs, and kids to meddle with your food creation dreams. If you’re less anxious than me, you can get a firepit too… or just take your s’mores baskets to the neighbor’s firepit to be your kid’s hero.
8. A cooler, because you’ll need one: Lastly, everyone needs a solid cooler. Even if you aren’t the camping or picnicking or tailgating type, one day you’ll lose power or your fridge will break down and you’ll have to live out of coolers for a few days or weeks (it happened to us). This one even comes with a built-in light for all of your emergencies and adventures and emergency adventures. Be still, my practical heart.
If you told me nine years ago that I would one day have a doormat strategy and feel particularly pleased about it, I’d have probably backed away from you slowly and run to the closest gay bar. Turns out I love my suburban, weirdly conventional life. Who knows where you’re going to be or what appliance crushes you’ll have a decade from now. All I can tell you is it’s probably going to be really great—especially if you add more string lights.
This post was sponsored by Crate and Barrel Wedding Registry. Crate and Barrel understands that a registry isn’t just a shopping list; it’s an opportunity to define what home means with your partner. Whether you’ve been together for years and already have most of the basics, or you’re just getting started, Crate and Barrel has registry options for every 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.