Ask Team Practical: Wedding Gifts (When You’re Broke)

How much do I spend? What do I buy?


Q: I’m writing as a wedding guest with two questions about gifts and registries.

One: How much do you expect your guests to spend on gifts? When I was younger, some recently married friends told me it was expected for wedding guests to spend at least $100 per person on gifts (i.e. if you bring a date, spend $200). I have been to many weddings since then and have used it as my guide. However, I only make about $20,000 a year, and with several weddings in a season, that can add up to a serious financial burden to me, especially if I’m also traveling to the weddings.

As actual brides and grooms, what do you honestly expect? Did you feel snubbed if someone didn’t spend much on your gift?

Two: I’m curious what gifts people found to be most and least useful or meaningful, and how you felt about people getting you things NOT on your registry. To be totally honest, I have always found registries to be a wee bit tacky, especially in an age where everyone marries late and has been keeping house for years. Reading this blog has helped me appreciate why they are valuable or meaningful, but I still feel a little weird about them. Especially because sometimes I don’t approve of the things being asked for… maybe I don’t think it’s something they will really use, or they’re asking for a version of something that’s way too expensive, or they’re asking for something I don’t believe in ethically.

When my friends started getting married, I wanted to give them all the most meaningful handmade gifts to show how much I loved them. But ultimately, I’m not crafty. I tried taking a quilting class to make a wedding gift, but never finished the quilt. Giving my friends a set of measuring cups just seems so unimaginative and so unappreciative of how awesome they are. Recently I’ve started trying to buy gifts that are locally handmade and beautiful—I have a friend who makes beautiful wooden cutting boards, which are now my go-to. But now I worry that I’m being arrogant and unhelpful by shopping off the registry. I just can’t win! What should I do??


A: Dear Anonymous,

You’re overthinking it.

I can’t blame you, really. When it comes to weddings, we all get this idea in our heads that there’s a ton of etiquette and tradition that all adds up to an endless list of “musts.” But gift-giving? It’s just a matter of giving a gift. You care about someone, are happy for them, want to celebrate with them, so you give them something appropriate to your relationship and your budget. The end. I know, I know. Depending on where you live and what your family culture is like, you’ll hear random, arbitrary rules like “$100 per person,” or “the cost of your plate” (which… how do you know?) or my favorite go-to, “the cost of a nice dinner for two” (I really like imagining my friends going out to dinner with my money).  But the reality is: how much you spend depends on how much you want to spend, and how much you can. A wedding gift isn’t a debt you owe.

Of course you always feel badly when you want to give your friends lavish and luxurious gifts and you just can’t. Just try to remind yourself that you don’t need to feel badly. There’s no rulebook saying you’re doing it wrong.

Even the registry is just like any old time someone writes you a quick list of gifts they’d like for their birthday or holiday or whatever. They jot down a couple of ideas, but that doesn’t mean they’re mandating that you MUST buy something on this list (or at least they shouldn’t be). Only unlike a birthday list, registries are less about, “I want to make sure I get an ice cream scoop!” and more about, “I want to make sure I don’t get eighteen ice cream scoops.” Rather than seeing registries as some tacky demand for expensive housewares, consider them as a sort of guide so four different aunts don’t buy the same crockpot.

If you do decide to buy something on the registry, remember: boring gifts aren’t boring if people need them and want them and have ASKED FOR THEM. I’ll admit, I have this argument with my dad every Christmas when he asks for blank notebooks and socks. Every. Year. There’s no fun or excitement in buying him this crap! But I always relent, because I know he’ll use them and like them simply because he said he wants them. If your friends need measuring cups, they’ll be thrilled to get measuring cups. Honest.

Also, Meg chimes in that one of her most treasured gifts was (you’ll never believe it) a set of measuring cups they received at their wedding. She thinks of their sweet (very broke at the time) friend every time she uses them, because said friend scrimped and saved and really meant that gift. I can attest that though it may seem silly, whenever I use little items around the house, I fondly remember the loved ones at my wedding.

So, get them whatever your heart desires. There are legends of couples who grow irate over gifts they deem unworthy. I guess those folks exist, I just don’t know ’em (at least I hope I don’t). But rest assured that Emily Post and Miss Manners are not on their side. Gift giving is about showing your loved ones you’re happy for them. It’s not about a checklist or a set of rules or standards.

Team Practical, how do you decide what to give as a wedding gift? Were there any gifts you’ve received that were real stinkers?

Photo by Jessica Schilling.

If you would like to ask Team Practical a question please don’t be shy! You can email Liz at: askteampractical [at] apracticalwedding [dot] com. If you would prefer to not be named, anonymous questions are also accepted. Though it really makes our day when you come up with a clever sign-off!

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  • Caiti_D

    I’m all for getting practical gifts that people will need! If I’m not mistaken, for our friends’ wedding we got them (in addition to something off their registry) some bottles for their little girl. Honestly if something is on their list, they probably want to use it, (wether you think so or not) and if they don’t they can return it and get something they do need.

  • Amy March

    I’ll just say that spending $100 on a gift when you are making 20k seems excessive. Crazy excessive. And for comparison, that is what I spend, and I make 7 times what you do! But I dislike the judgmental attitude about the gifts your friends have chosen. By all means pick something not on their registry because you think they will love it, but most couples think pretty carefully about what they registered for, and I don’t think it’s very nice to decide that they won’t really use it or picked something too expensive. You can decide not to use their registry without deciding that their registry is bad.

    • Anonymous

      I’ve heard horror stories about brides showing up at Bed, Bath, and Beyond and essentially being coerced into adding things to their registry that they don’t really want. Or being pressured by their mother, or whomever. I always wonder when I’m looking at a registry, whether the couple actually wants or needs the things on there.

      • Stephanie B.

        You can’t really know whether the couple wants or needs the things on their registry (unless, I suppose, you ask them, but that would be rude as hell). No guest is obligated to buy a gift off a registry.

      • Jessica

        My husband and I registered at 2 places, tried to put a lot of less expensive things on the list, and added a few really expensive things as an indication that gift cards would be wonderful (and said that in person to a few friends). We wanted to make sure that if people wanted to give us a gift they could find something we wanted in their price range.

        My grandmother is a worrier, and couldn’t figure out how to use the Target registry station, which, for some odd reason, led to my mother asking us to register at a third store (???). Some parents get weird about the registries. In the end my mom went with grandma to Target to help her with the registry stuff.

      • Trust, if they do not need/want it, they will return it and use the money to get something they do need/want! I know it hurts our feelings to think of gifts being returned, but if I buy the 50 dollar stainless steel pot and it turns out they already got one (or don’t need it) and they return it for a 50 dollar vegetable chopper? More power to ’em!

      • Trego walked around BB&B with us trying to get us to register for crazy expensive kitchen mats and telling us about the vacuum he financed (who the crap finances a vacuum??) and not understanding repeatedly that I make quilts and therefore we don’t need to register for a comforter. Despite his insistence, we didn’t register for anything we didn’t want. And he became part of the lore of our wedding planning, as evidenced by the fact that we still remember his name 4 years later.

        • Kat Robertson

          Our BB&B lady tried to get us to register for a ton of stuff I hope I never see again. I mostly just waited for her to walk away and then we just did what we wanted. I edited even more online to avoid the weird pressure-y vibe in the store.

          • Sharon Gorbacz

            we registered at :)

      • Kestrel

        And that is why we are doing everything online! Not to mention that the nearest BB&B is over 2 hours away from me (I currently live in the middle of nowhere).

        But we figured to deal with some of the more ‘traditional’ people we needed to register at a brick-and-mortar store. Otherwise we would have gone exclusively with amazon. And we only went with BB&B because my SO’s mom had given my SO a set of 4 silverware and we’d like another.

      • malkavian

        Huh, we went to BBB as our brick and mortar and they basically took down our info, showed us how to work the scanner, and sent us to wander.

      • KC

        I totally edited our registry after the fact (and this was… a long time ago… and I went in already fairly well “educated” thanks to an awesome list of “basically every household item it is remotely normal for anyone to ever register for” which we went over beforehand and figured out numbers on [no on martini glasses; yes on a gravy boat; this many sets of regular dishes; this many of these kinds of saucepans], so I didn’t get as frozen in the moment and become convinced that perhaps we needed three butter dishes, one for everyday, and two for fancy occasions)(I also hauled along fabulous friends, since my husband-to-be was a couple timezones away, and they were very good at the “BACK OFF” to the salespeople when necessary). But you do still hit decision fatigue at some point in the store unless you are a Super Shopper.

        However, I think pretty much everyone probably knows enough that if they do get shoved into registering for something stupid by a store employee (or by their tired, tired, tired brain), they cancel it out afterwards online before anyone else sees the registry? If they get shoved into registering for something by a family member, that would be more complicated, but probably less common. Anyway, I think it’s safe to assume that at least one of the couple does in fact want any given item on the registry, for all registries that are online-editable (which includes at least Target, Macy’s, BBB, and Amazon) and which have been in place for longer than a week.

    • js

      I agree there seems to be a lot of judgement here about couples living together before they’re married and friends being gold diggers. There’s so much judgement around wedding gifts in general that I always dread this question. While I personally think registries of any kind are tacky, I also realize its not for me; it’s to make things easier for my guests. I like to take an item off a registry and then personalize it a bit. Say, buying margaritas glasses and fun salt or sugar for the rim with my fave recipe for the cocktail. I also think registries are helpful for those whose family and friends do not live close. I would love a cutting board because I love cooking and would find it very useful.

      • copper

        I didn’t love doing a registry. But you know who asked where we were registered every week for a couple of months? My mother in law. We started out undecided on making one, but jesus christ at that point anything to get her off our backs.

        • KL

          Exactly this. We did a registry earlier this week and I needed several attitude adjustments to get through the whole process, but I just needed the badgering to end. Now we just get to hear about how we didn’t register for “enough”. Barf.

  • Rosie

    Where did $100 come from? That’s like £60, seems a lot to me personally! The last wedding I went to I bought a gift which I think was about £20, so $30, and a year or so later they’re still friends with me. When I got married several friends travelled a long way to come, and I didn’t expect them to bring gifts after spending time and money to get there. I think this must be more difficult if you’re invited to the wedding of someone you don’t know very well, but with good friends I doubt they’d mind if you didn’t bring a gift at all, and would be happy that you wanted to get them something.

  • Superfantastic

    I always felt the same way about wedding gifts, like getting something off the registry was too boring, but going off registry was risky. Now I can say from the other side that I do think of the person who gave us the gift when I use the practical things from our registry. And I love and appreciate the off registry gifts we received. (Including a cheese making kit!) I couldn’t have cared less how much people spent or whether they brought us a gift or not, especially since almost everyone had to travel to be there. I think your cutting board idea is a good one. Practical, yet special. And we have four cutting boards and still could stand to have at least one more.

  • Brittany

    I was also given measuring cups. I had registered for basic metal ones, but what I received ended up being one of my favorite gifts. Two of our really good friends, both of whom were in our wedding party, are broke theater-types (one does lighting design and stage managing, the other is a costume designer, both work in food service as their day jobs) and on top of that they were getting married the weekend after us. Needless to say, they didn’t have a lot of extra cash. They gave us measuring cups that were these adorable nesting dolls that are out on a shelf in my kitchen now. I think they cost around ten dollars, but I love those things, and I think of my friends every time I see and use them. Also, getting married has completely changed how I think about wedding gifts. I used to be totally like you- I didn’t want to be the girl who gave two spatulas and a dessert plate. I thought it seemed somehow cheap or lame or tacky. Liz hit the nail on the head with this one though. A gift like that is none of those things if it’s what someone asked for. I love that my dishes came from all sorts of friends and family members. I love taking them out and remembering how my freshman roommates managed to cobble together enough funds to make it to the Midwest for my wedding every time I use the mugs and cookbook they pitched in to give me. I love that my friends from the Newman house at my school each got me a dessert plate because I always used to make desserts for our dinners when we were still in school. I love that my baby sister got me a random assortment of spatulas and spoons, not because they were expensive or extravagant, but because every time I make dinner and reach for a utensil it reminds me of her. All those little “boring” gifts are not so boring when you think of them as an every day reminder of your community’s support of your relationship, which is what they are.

  • Jacky Speck

    The “you have to spend $x on a wedding gift” rules drive me crazy and it’s because of what Liz said: it’s a gift, not a debt. Inviting someone to an event with the expectation that they will repay you in “gifts” seems so disingenuous to me because it seems like you want their money more than you want to spend time with them.

    I made a registry for my wedding to prevent the “getting 18 ice cream scoops” thing, and because people have asked “what should I get you?” But I will appreciate everyone who shows up whether they get a registry gift, off-registry gift, or no gift at all. As far as I’m concerned, bringing a material gift is going above and beyond because the real gift is having them there to celebrate.

  • Elizabeth

    I have a variation on this question. I’m totally owning up to the fact that I was embarrassingly ungenerous when I was younger. I have a few good friends (and a few more people who I have since fallen out of touch with) who have gotten married in the last 5 years but I didn’t get them a wedding gift. Eeep! Some of those people explicitly said that my presence at/in their wedding (which involved me spending several hundreds of dollars) was a gift enough, but I still feel bad. What do I do now? Write them a lovely note and give them a cool anniversary present? Do nothing, but make sure I always send a gift next time? Also, gift giving totally stresses me out so I love the registry, but most of the registries aren’t online any more – I checked. Sooooo, gift ideas for a totally belated wedding present for about 10 couples?

    • jhs

      I think a nice gift at their next big life event (housewarming, kid, new job, anniversary) is a lovely idea! Then you can just shop around whatever that is, whether it’s something for the house or a bottle of champagne or something. Though, if they said your presence was enough and haven’t brought it up since, they probably meant that. I feel like most people (should) understand that sometimes it costs a lot to go to a wedding, with hotels and airfare and clothing, so just being there is gift enough.

    • Amy March

      Honestly, just get over it! I’m sure they have/never thought there was anything to get over. If this concern is a proxy for wanting a greater connection with them, take them out to dinner, but if it’s really just about the gifts wash that out of your head.

    • For those who celebrate Christmas, I think that’s a lovely time to give a belated wedding gift. (An anniversary seems sweet too! I personally would LOVE receiving an anniversary gift from a friend, that sounds so cool/thoughtful.) You can even add a card that said something like, “In my youthful ignorance I didn’t understand how a lot of things worked: tequila, a 401(k), or wedding gifts. I wish I had given this to you at the time, but I hope you’ll accept it now. I’m so glad we’ve stayed friends all these years.” …or something like that. People get it, you know? A lot of us just did not understand wedding etiquette or best practice when those first few friends were getting married.

      • M.

        Exactly. I was just going to say – make a little bit light of it, but let them know you’ve been thinking about them and wanting to celebrate them with a gift. They will totally understand. I think it’s telling (in a good way) that you’re still bothered by it!

      • js

        Some people are also really hard to buy holiday presents for and the registry, particularly in the first year after the wedding, is helpful then, too. “Oh, you still didn’t get your serving dish from the china you registered for…here ya go!” Or, I see they like to cook or they like to play games, let’s go with that idea for the holiday, kind of thing.

    • Understanding that our parents would still be buying us Christmas presents down the line, I turned what was left of our registry into an Amazon wish list for our house after we got married, and have added/subtracted to it as we’ve gone along (like adding CDs from new groups we’ve discovered, etc.). Any chance your friends have something like that?

    • I’m sort of in the same situation- it costs so much to travel fro weddings, and I’m not really rolling in it, so I’ve generally been doing a small thing now, and then hoping/planning to be in at least a slightly better financial situation to do something nice for their first anniversary. but yeah, gift giving and the expectations around it totally stresses me out sometimes.

  • One More Poster

    As someone who is recently married, I’m just thrilled that our guests wanted to share some of their time and love with us. We had folks at our wedding for whom giving us a $18 pair of flexible spatulas was a stretch and one family who wrote a 1k check without blinking an eyelash. We appreciate them both. In fact, we love a card with a handwritten note that someone gave us–because we know that that person sacrificed so much to even make it to the wedding.

    Never would we want our closest family and friends to feel guilty or “less than” because of their gifts (or supposed lack thereof). We really like these people and know that we want them in our lives long after the wedding– for our entire marriage.

    So, deep breath, and relax, knowing that your presence is a gift.

  • april

    As a recent recipient of many lovely wedding gifts, I have to say that – while it’s cheesey – it’s really the thought that counts. While we love the gifts that came off of our registry (seriously, how have we lived this long without an electric kettle?!), the most meaningful ones were the ones that came with a note explaining why that particular person gave that particular gift to us: the pizza stone from a recently widowed aunt, who shared memories of making pizza on the pans she and her husband had received as a wedding gift; the little carving of entwined baobob trees from a friend who had selected it when she heard of our engagement while volunteering in Madagascar; the ceramic bowls made by my friend’s brother …

    So my advice – don’t feel obligated to spend a lot of money (or any money at all! a sincere and heartfelt note is a wonderful gift by itself), but do put some effort into writing a card that explains why you selected what you did (even if it’s just the measuring cups from the registry).

    • moonlitfractal

      Exactly to the notes! If you chose a gift from the registry for a reason (measuring cups for the friend who loves to bake), and include a note explaining why, the registry gift becomes personal and truly meaningful.

      • april

        Alternatively, I love Polygon’s suggestion further up of including a family recipe or something like that (that’s an idea that I may steal).

        • js

          Or a whole recipe book as a gift, with the fruit salad your grandmother always made for all the holidays, etc. You can get these done on websites like shutterfly or blurb for a pro-look or make them yourself.

    • Oh my goodness! I love the idea of a note explaining the significance of the gift! I’m stealing it for all of my future gifts- and can’t imagine why I didn’t think of it before.

    • js

      One of the best wedding favors I have ever seen was a “message in a bottle”, where the couple wrote personal notes to ever.single.guest at the wedding.

    • Lizzie C.

      Absolutely- some guests just gave us lovely cards (the in-laws invited a bunch of their friends who didn’t know us well, or at all, and therefore had no reason to spend money on us), and the wedding wisdom written by older guests was priceless. Those cards have already outlasted some of the gifts we received.

      • Eli

        Yep, this – we have several friends who do not have extra money who just gave us cards with nice notes written inside. I loved their sweet gestures, and also loved knowing that they weren’t spending money on us when they couldn’t afford to. Our wedding was about celebrating our love and partying with our friends – not about what people gave us.

  • KristenForever

    I’m one of those people who honestly appreciate the personal thought put in much more than the actual cost of a gift. That’s why my husband gets away with buying me large quantities of marshmallows for every holiday because he knows how much I love them and he wants me to be happy, not impressed.

    For my wedding, the nicest gift I got was an old fashioned plastic milk crate filled with odd gifts. Cute Easter Island type wood statues that hold my eyeglasses. A “pancake pen” to make crazy pancakes with. A book on distillery and some glass bottles. It meant a lot because it came from a friend I didn’t know especially well, but she knew me enough to know how much my husband and I would appreciate the funky and interesting things she’d found. We loved everything in that crate and while I don’t know what it cost, it doesn’t matter. She could have gone around her house and found all that stuff and given it to us. Wouldn’t have made us love it any less.

    There are people out there who will judge you like crazy for a variety of ridiculous “gift rules” that aren’t rules at all. But honestly, there are people who will judge you for having a tattoo or coloring your hair or wearing that gay marriage tee shirt…I believe we give gifts from our hearts. Whether you buy a boring cookie sheet off the registry or you simply hand-make them a card – it will always be the right gift, if you’re giving it from the right place: your heart.

    • swarmofbees

      Large quantities of marshmallows sounds like the best present. What a lucky person you are!

    • js

      Oooh…happy, not impressed. I’m stealing that one.

  • jhs

    God, the “covering your plate” thing is such nonsense. So that means you’re supposed to spend more money on someone who threw an extravagant five-course dinner party than someone who did a backyard BBQ, just because your meal maybe cost more?

    Gifts are never, ever required. They’re gifts. But if you want to get someone something, do it within your price range. Or, one thing I’ve been doing is going in on a bigger gift with a couple people I know at the wedding. This summer four of us chipped in and got our friends a SodaStream, which was about $100, but much more manageable split up, and the bride and groom were just happy because they love seltzer.

  • Eh

    I know this is going to sound insincere but I appreciated all of the gifts (no matter what they were or how much they cost). I understood that people had different financial situations. For a couple of our guests their presence at our wedding was their gift.

    I will confess that we got a little overwhelmed with the registry. We kept ours relatively small compared to what the store recommended. As a result most of the items on the registry were purchased for us (best advice we got was from a friend who said start with the things you want most and you can always add more later). We registered because we didn’t want to field tons of questions about what we wanted. We understood that the line “your presence is gift enough” would be frustrating to many of our guests who wanted to buy us gifts.

    As for registry gifts vs non-registry gifts: When I look at the quilt my grandmother made for us it means a lot to me because of the love, care and time that went into it, but that doesn’t mean that I value the wine glasses my husband’s friend (who is not crafty or artistic at all) bought us off our registry any less (he knows we love wine). Picking something from the registry or buying something that’s not on the registry can be both being meaningful. For example, my cousin bought us a dip bowl in the shape of a canoe as a reminder of a week I spent with her and her two sons at the cottage; while a friend bought us a tea pot off our registry (we celebrated her separation from her ex with tea so there was a personal connection). I loved the person that suggested a heartfelt message.

    As for a gift as a debt for going to someone’s wedding – I was at a wedding where the bride did think that everyone should spend X amount on a gift and she preferred it in cash (she recently gave me a lecture about how it was X dollars a plate and their DJ cost X dollars and how those things were for the guest and not for the Bride and Groom). This couple was married last year and never sent thank you notes for any of their gifts (they used the excuse that they are two busy as they have three kids) but they also act like they were entitled to the gifts and many people at the wedding were upset about that. (Note: my husband and I spent $300 and helped with their wedding so I we pretty upset about her rant about how much they spent on their wedding).

  • themoderngal

    While I do remember what most people gave us for our wedding (and we had a fairly large one), I certainly don’t have the brain space or desire to think about how much any gift might have cost — even the ones we registered for and had a sense of their cost. I think of the person who gave us whatever item when I use it, right down to the dish towel hanging from the stove or serving spoon. Like everyone else who has responded, I never felt that a gift was mandatory or expected. Any gift was gravy on top of the delicious mashed potatoes of love and friendship.

    That said, when giving a gift I’d encourage you to relax your feelings a bit on registries. I understand that not everyone loves them, and that’s fine. For us, we hoped it would limit gifts to things we actually had room for in our teeny tiny house and things we absolutely knew we would use. Yes, we registered for a Kitchen Aid mixer, and I realize that’s something that might fall into the “maybe I don’t think it’s something they will really use, or they’re asking for a version of something that’s way too expensive” category, but my five aunts went in together to purchase it, and it gets used about once a week.

    The crock-style stoneware mixing bowls that weren’t on our list? Beautiful, yes. Unique, yes. Impractical, extremely and unfortunately so. They were so heavy that I don’t know how anyone would use them as mixing bowls, they were oddly shaped so they don’t nest inside each other and we just didn’t have room for them. Not to mention we also received the far more practical mixing bowls we had registered for and planned on using. I was equally grateful to receive both sets but ultimately had to give the impractical ones away because of lack of room.

    In other words, if you love your friends and think they’re good people, trust that they’ve listed things on their registry that work for them and that they want and plan to use. Limit the judgment to things you find unethical, and even then please be gentle.

    • Meg Keene

      All of this is true. First, I remember each person equally no matter what they spent. I also remember the really good cards that came sans gift, with equal love.

      And, in theory I LOVE off registry gifts. In practice… many of ours were… odd? Or not our taste? Some we gave away, some we are still dutifully trying to use because we love the givers. But trust me, we think just as much about the people who gave us the seemingly generic matching plate sets, which I so desperately wanted.

      • SamiSidewinder

        Boy you guys are thoughtful. I don’t remember much of anything gift wise. A few, sure. But all? Holy cow you ladies have some super duper memories!

    • Erin

      Oh man. One of the most expensive not on the registry gifts we received was a gorgeous teak cutting board. Checkered. I looked it up online and choked at the cost.

      It is so heavy that we have never used it, not once. I cannot imagine why someone would want to heft that thing out and then heft it into the sink to clean it. It’s currently sitting propped against the wall in the house we bought 6 months ago because I don’t even know where to /put/ it.

      I mean. It’s really pretty. It’s very nice quality. But it does not fit our style of living or cooking at all.

  • Laura C

    I want to say up front that I have not yet registered and don’t know how I’ll feel about it as the person with the registry. I have to say that, because I am about to say all the things the etiquette books tell you very very strongly not to feel as a receiver of gifts. As a giver, though, I love the registry and I feel strongly about sticking to it being the act of a good friend. Because most of my friends are getting married when they’ve lived on their own for years then combined two people worth of stuff, leaving them with lots of dishes etc, I want to know that yes, they need or want what I’m giving them. The 18 ice cream scoop concern is a big one, but so, for me, is the “yeah, this decorative object is cute, but where are we putting all 40 decorative objects we’ve just received” worry of going off-registry. Unless, of course, this is my closest friend and I know exactly what she would want. Even more than the registry, I love the honeymoon registry — which I know many people who are fine with registries see as a tacky money grab. I love knowing that I’m helping my friends have an amazing vacation together.

    And if I go off-registry, it will be something that will be used up. A nice bottle of wine. An amazing food basket for when they’re just back from the honeymoon and still settling back into daily life. Whatever. Because among my friends, I’m pretty sure that too much stuff is more of a problem than not enough. If I’m invited to the wedding of two people who’ve never had their own apartments, I’ll adjust accordingly.

    Also, yes, $100 is a lot. Don’t do that. Don’t do anything you can’t afford.

    • Eh

      One of my friends made the comment that she was very excited that we registered because as you mentioned it’s hard to know what to buy someone who has lived on their own for years so they have a house full of stuff. She ended up finding a very meaningful gift on our registry.
      Before registring I read the etiquette books that say you shouldn’t register because it means that your guests don’t have to think (I loved the line that if you can’t think of something meaningful for the bride and groom you don’t know them well enough to be at their wedding) or it makes it look like you are demanding specific things. I know our guests did not feel that it was that way (they were upset with my BIL and SIL who demanded cash when that wasn’t customary in my in-laws family) they appreciated the registry as a suggestion.

    • Meg

      A gift that will be “used up” is such a good idea. People living in urban areas don’t have space in their homes for non-essential things

      • Laura C

        This is actually something a family friend told me: that’s his family’s tradition. Though he also told me he’d learned to be careful, because once he gave some people a really nice bottle of wine, like two weeks of my salary nice, and they didn’t realize how expensive it was and just put it with the rest of their wine and a housesitter drank it all at one sitting!

        • Kayjayoh

          Lucky house sitter!

        • Other C

          One friend gave us a bottle of wine and explained that it was for us to drink on our first anniversary, and another explained that the bottle was true champagne and was a very “special” bottle. Both of those are kind, polite ways of helping clue in us, as the recipients as to their intended purpose (i.e., not weeknight after-work with chili kind of bottles)
          Other friends gave us (less expensive) bottles of wine from wineries they know we like (we live near wine country) That was very thoughtful and much appreciated.

    • Yes yes yes! I hated registering. Like- REALLY HATED IT. I hated asking others to buy us things, and felt like I was being greedy or awful. Then my very smart fiance asked me how I felt about registries when I am a guest. Since we’re trying to make our guests comfortable, giving them an idea of what we would like/ what we already have seems like a natural extension.

      For a lot of my family, this was important. They really like knowing that their gift will be used, and I’m excited because most of the things we registered for will be used at least once a week- which means that we’ll be surrounded by things that remind us of the people we love.

    • We haven’t registered yet. People have been asking. I…don’t know what to do.

      • js

        I’m curious what your concerns are, surrounding registering? Also, I’m not telling you what to do but think you made some very good pro-registry points.

        • So, I like the idea of meaningful wedding gifts…and to me, that’s things you can use for a long time and that feel sort of special, that you’ll love for several years. (It’s kind of the idea of “building the barn” that Meg has talked about.) That’s what I tend to give. So we have all of our home stuff already but what I really would love to register for is…china. And a Dutch oven. Two things that I know we’d use and love forever, but are probably the fastest way to get people pissed off and think “Really, you registered for JUST THAT?” (Except maybe silver.)

          But the thing is, I genuinely don’t expect anyone to give us gifts and I don’t care if they don’t. (Seriously!!) If they want to give us some cheap and funny mugs, or a cool vintage serving bowl (seriously, can I just register for ALL THE JADEITE?), or a locally-made cutting board, I would LOVE that. But I guess my thought is if they ARE going to use the registry or if they WANT to, I’d rather someone gave us, like, one $10 dish from our china set (which I know we’ll use and keep forever) rather than a few spatulas that would wear out within a few years, and that we don’t even need.

          So I guess for me personally, the things that I find meaningful/special aren’t necessarily expensive, but they are kind of not for everyday use, or they aren’t at Bed Bath & Beyond, or they just come across as really luxe even if they aren’t particularly expensive, and I worry that taken at face value, it will be really off-putting.

          For his part, Eric really wanted to register at Lowe’s, which I totally was into…but they don’t do a gift registry.

          • Lucy

            i also felt really ambivalent about registering. However, it is important to my family and my parents’ friends. But one way I solved the problem of not wanting just Bed Bath & Beyond things (i.e. things from Etsy or other handmade sellers) was to use a combined registry. The two I looked at were and Thankful Registry. Both let you add anything from the internet, just like Pinterest! It can be a little bit less intuitive to purchase but I loved being able to build something that more reflected my taste and my buying style (i.e. not just brands from big box).

          • Amber Finkelstein

            My sister used My Registry – mostly because Tractor Supply Company doesn’t do a gift registry either. Opa Joe ended up bringing a salt lick for the sheep to the wedding – it was awesome and hilarious opening the presents. :)

          • Good to know, thank you!

          • js

            Thanks for sharing. I don’t know you or Eric, but it sounds like the people who are invited to your wedding will know that you’re not after being a “wedding gift gold-digger” and will really use the things you ask for, even if you are asking for things that may be more expensive. It sounds like the key here is to register for some of those fun mugs and hand-made artisan whatever, as I’m sure you know. I had a lot of guilt I had to get over about my registry.
            My parents “registered” at a local hardware store, before registering was even a thing. They just walked in and told the guy what they liked and he made up a list. Then they used all the (mostly camping) things they received to pack up and road trip it to Seattle, where they lived for their first year. Best registry story ever.

          • Maybe we should just register for mugs, period! :) We seem to have a thing for eclectic mugs and I told Eric a few weeks ago that if we keep buying them, it will be time to start an official collection.

          • js

            For me, it’s salt and pepper shakers. Turkey ones, Lobster ones, Eyeballs, etc. I love them. My husband makes fun of me because I don’t like to use them and get them “dirty.” I also have a thing for barware: shakers, glasses for every cocktail, ever (hello, copper Moscow mule mugs. Come to Mama…), stir sticks, trays. You name it.

          • KC

            Just a warning that mugs somehow breed (at least in our apartment) at a rate greater than breakage-rate, so *deliberately* collecting them may be a not-so-hot plan unless you’ve got a lot of spare cabinet space…

            (that said, register for whatever the heck you actually want, with an awareness that some people will want to buy you super fancy china and others will be happy to buy you a mug from a thrift store and others will give you the ugliest tile wallhanging known to mankind and you can’t stop them…)

          • Oh they are breeding at a SUPER fast rate for us, that’s why I said we’d need to call it a collection if we kept buying them! Because we don’t NEED that many mugs.

          • KC

            Ah, okay. Just… encouraging people to buy you mugs to add to an already-increasing assemblage/flock/ceramic [what *is* the group noun for mugs?] seems like it would have potential to reduce your space to buy the fun-mugs-you-come-across-later unless you’re willing to cull the whole herd at intervals. A bonus of a mug collection is that you can have mulled wine or cider at giant parties easy-peasy. (and open your guests up for great mockery, depending on the variety of mugs available…) But in general, unless you’re willing to deal with a potential multi-year onslaught, announcing a collection can have traumatic results (because “what should we get Rachel for Christmas/birthday/Arbor Day? Oh, of course! She likes mugs! …” says everyone. Or maybe this is just my relatives?).

            (I say this as someone who, as a child, accidentally ended up with a Beanie Baby collection because one person bought me a really awesome me-specific-cool-animal Beanie Baby for Christmas, and then other people, having seen *that* one, bought me more for my birthday, and then there were enough Beanie Babies ambiently around that people thought I was collecting them [because look how many she has! what a fun collection!], and then it just didn’t end for a few years until I wised up and hid the entire onslaught of them in a bag in the closet and then later gave them all away, and even then they trickled in [high school graduation; *college* graduation… I wish I were kidding.])

          • MDBethann

            Or just pick up mugs at various locations when you travel. I think I doubled our mug collection in December during our Christmas Market tour of Germany (every town with a Christmas market has its own mug & we always bought one).

            Also, small children in your life will very likely pick out mugs for you that say “world’s greatest uncle” and stuff like that.

            Go for the CHINA.

          • Marcela

            Amazon wish list/registry! You can register at any store with an online presence. That’s how we registered for IKEA stuff. (Seriously IKEA get on that.)

          • Laura C

            This is why we are leading with a “the best gift you can give us is your presence on our wedding day” statement on our website. The stuff I most want isn’t so similar to what you want, but I have a similar feeling that … a lot of what I want is not going to be what people expect or want to see for one reason or another, and it’s hard to know how to balance that. Like, really the thing I most want to replace is our crappy Ikea furniture, but I don’t see registering for a $3000 couch. But what about a $700 armchair? Probably not that, either… But the kitchen is actually the room where I’m best equipped — seriously, I had a food processor, we bought a blender, and then A’s mom gave us an immersion blender. To say nothing of my Le Creuset collection, put together over years of Christmas gifts from my parents and then also from A’s mother.

          • Yes! I wish there was a way to tell people “Please contribute to our couch [or whatever] fund, it would seriously mean the world to us.”

            Also I am jealous that you’re so well-stocked on Le Creuset! Maybe I should ask for a piece each year for Christmas!

          • Caroline

            This is why I have nice pots and pans and knives. At 13, I asked for a copper saucepan for the holidays. 14 was a copper frying pan and a cast iron frying pan. 15 was two different sizes of Dutch ovens (sadly not le Creuset and they are now chipping. When mom asked what I wanted this year… Le crueset was top of the list. Hint: the Martha Stewart Dutch Ovens are workhorses, but 7 year workhorses not 50 year workhorses.). 16 was a set of knives. Other years have been various other tools: salad tossers, a salad bowl, pasta maker, beautiful rolling pin, expensive measuring cups.
            Asking for a peice of housewares each year for the holidays is a great strategy.

          • I am super impressed with your teenage taste! Wow.

          • Liz

            Macy’s “Dream Fund” is sort of like that. It’s basically just asking for Macy’s gift cards but meant for people to be able to contribute to a larger purchase. I’m not sure if you can specify through Macy’s what you want to buy with Dream Fund money, but I don’t think it would be tacky, if you’re including any registry links on your wedding website, to say that you’d be thrilled with contributions to a new couch or something like that!

            Also, if you have a Macy’s card, you get pretty good cash rewards while you have a registry open. You get 5% back on a gift card for any registry items that people buy you, and you get 10% back on whatever shopping you do for yourself (with all the weddings I have this year, I’ll be buying lots of registry items from Macy’s for people!). So in addition to any gift cards you may get, you might also have some decent cash rewards for them by the time your wedding rolls around that can go towards furniture!

          • Marcela

            In my family it’s traditional to register for furniture. I was very sad when we ended up renting a furnished unit and had to take down all the pretty West Elm sofa and dining table and chairs.

          • SarahG

            Totally get that — I would love a set of nice dishes; ours are all mismatched, chipped Ikea. I would much rather register for that; like you, I have the spatulas already. I think you should go for it. Just speaking for myself as a guest, when I have seen nice dishes on a registry I don’t think “geez, what’s wrong with you people?” I think, yeah, I could probably buy them a couple of cups and saucers, and they probably have some grandparents that will get them a couple of place settings, or the fancy soup tureen, or whatever. I guess I have never assumed that the couple wanted me to buy a full place setting. I do try to match the numbers of what others have bought (so the couple doesn’t end up with 15 plates but no bowls, etc) but I have never assumed that “here’s a set of dishes we would like” means “hey you, blow next month’s student loan payment on this.” And I would so much rather buy you something you really wanted than spend the same amount of money on a set of spatulas you didn’t really want, but felt would be less likely to be perceived as a grab for bling. Also, if you’re still worried about it, you could also add donations to charity as an option so people can give whatever they feel like to your favorite charity.

          • KC

            There are “combination” registries (Amazon lets you do this, and there are other places, where you “register” an item’s webpage, basically), so you *could* sort of register at Lowe’s. :-) I think some also let you “write in” items.

            (We included scrubby sponges and other “that’s not a wedding gift!” items on our registry. No regrets. Our friends-who-have-massive-senses-of-humor bought us those.)

          • Jenny

            One of my friends registered on a site (alternative registry or my registry or something I think).A lot of what they registered for were local/special pint glasses (as in they registered for pint glasses and said, please get us a glass from your favorite local pub), colorful potholders, etc. You could also put things from all over the web on it (so stuff from Lowes online). That way you could give some guidance about what kinds of meaningful things you’d like (funny mugs) along with china and silver. I think you have to trust your friends and family not to judge you too much about what you choose to register for.

            Good luck!

          • M.

            Some of our friends were slowly renovating the house they’d just bought and asked for Lowe’s gift cards for that specific purpose. That’s what we got them, and they said they got quite a few!

          • Amanda Hollander

            We registered with a local potter to get some beautiful serving platters and bowls that match our everyday use plates, and then we listed some local restaurants that we absolutely loved. We ended up with 10 awesome date nights for our first year of marriage! We are loving our “experience” registry instead of our “stuff” registry. We also got a few things off registry that we never would have asked for, but love.

          • E

            You should definitely check out SoKind Registry (! You can register for your meaningful/special gifts because it’s totally customizable as well as for items from Lowe’s.

          • Meg Keene

            REGISTER FOR CHINA. Go read this thread already. People want to love you and support you, you want stuff that you’ll keep forever and think of people every time you do. I would have registered for china myself, but my grandmother gave us her set for our engagement. And I really really really wanted to register for silver, except the price of silver has gone so far through the roof that it’s not something you can really register for anymore, realistically. BOO.

          • Ann

            Your ALL CAPS command made me laugh. Within 5 minutes of me telling my mom I was getting married, she declared wedding rule number 1: DO NOT REGISTER FOR CHINA. My mom has her wedding set, her parents’ wedding set, and her (now divorced) sister’s wedding set. And never uses any of it. She has warned that, once I have a bigger place, 2 of 3 sets will be sent to me, along with one set of silver.

          • Caroline

            We are definitely registering for China. There is a good chance we will someday inherit my great grandmother’s fine china, but I would love more than almost any other gift, to have china plates. I would use them everyday. If I get great grandma’s, they would be special holiday/fancy occasion plates. (It’s fancy china with gold). But I am a housewares woman (plates, forks, do you want to know the conversations when my mom took me to help her buy a kitchen table after she and my dad split up. All I wanted to look at was forks, knives, and spoons, even though she was getting the wedding gift stainless steelware. I was 12.) and I know it is expensive but simple china plates for everyday would make me so happy. I love housewares to pass on to your grand kids.
            I’d love actual silverware too but as you said, the cost of silver has gone so high I don’t feel it is appropriate to register for. China seems expensive but nominally acceptable. (Like, will 12 people want to give us $100 dollar 5 peice place sets? Maybe. Probably it at least won’t be seen as obscene…)

          • malkavian

            Oh, man. A good Dutch oven is one of the best things.

          • Alyssa M

            Regarding registering at Lowe’s, if it’s tools and such you’re interested in then Sears! They certainly aren’t the fanciest of places, but I’m certain they do registries, and have both china and dutch ovens and home improvement items. Plus they have plenty of less expensive options as well…

          • MDBethann

            I second Sears. We registered there specifically for the good Craftsman tools (hubby was very happy that he got all of the power tools he wanted from the registry) and the small appliances (a FryDaddy – which we use; and a replacement coffee maker for the hubby). Can’t say we were impressed with a lot else at our Sears, but YES to the tools (because if your Craftsman tool breaks or wears out you just take it to Sears and they will replace/exchange it for you).

          • If they have an online store, you could use to set up a list of things you would like from Lowe’s (and anywhere else). Then you share your wishpot list when people want your registry. We did that for Ikea because they didn’t have a registry back when I got married. (No idea if they have one now or not….)

      • Kat

        Rachel, I know you’re not a native Texan, but please, girl. Put china on your registry. That is all anyone from down here will want to give you. Everyone loves a serving piece.
        There’s a group of women in many people’s lives that I refer to as the “church ladies.” In my experience, they’re the ladies from church who taught my Sunday school classes growing up, but they could just as well be your mom’s friends or co-workers, or your aunts, or another group from your community. These are the ladies who will want to throw the traditional ladies’ bridal shower and ask you about your wedding colors and hint embarrassingly (in old-lady fashion) about the honeymoon. All they want to do is to buy you a serving piece for your wedding because they love you and remember when you were a middle schooler in their Sunday school class and aren’t you glad that you got the braces phase over with? Let them be happy.
        This group of ladies also thinks nothing of buying you a nice piece of china or crystal, because it has nothing to do with the cost of your wedding (they all got married in church with non-alcoholic punch and cake in the fellowship hall afterward) and everything to do with helping out some kids who are setting up a house (and yes, you will be “kids setting up a house” even if you are 27 and living together – they’re still in the “remember when you had braces” frame of mind). Bless their hearts. They’ve taken care of you since you were five and they just want to keep doing it!

    • KC

      Amen to going for consumables if off-registry! So much less guilt than getting rid of something decorative and permanent and that you don’t want/need! (and cutting boards, which wear out, are, in my mind, sort-of consumables. :-) )

  • Kendra D

    I hate this mentality around wedding gifts. The only argument I’ve ever had with my husband’s sister was over the obligation to give gifts or not. I’m firmly in the camp that believes that I am inviting you because I want you there, not because of what you might give me. Your gift truly is coming to celebrate with me.

    When my husband and I had to elope in order to stay together, we had no family there with us. I wouldn’t change anything else about my story, besides this. So I do mean it, when I tell people that I just want them to come celebrate when we have our ceremony next year. We won’t be registering, we do not want gifts. We just want our family and friends come together with us to celebrate our love.

    • Amy March

      But wedding gifts really aren’t entirely about what you want. They’re one of the places of your wedding you don’t get control over, because you can’t tell people how to love you. Certainly tell people the best gift is to have them there, but I hope that you’ll be gentle with people who give you gifts anyway.

      • Agreed. I know I’m the kind of person who will bring over candles or fresh baked banana bread the first time I go to a friend’s new apartment, or casseroles when someone is sick- so maybe my perspective is different than others- but I would feel really uncomfortable having the bride and groom tell me how much I mean to them (They invited me to a wedding! And are feeding me! And think that my presence will truly add to their celebration!) without bringing something (even a small something) to tell them how much they mean to me.

      • Kendra D

        I never meant that I would be angry with people who brought me gifts. I hate that people feel that they must bring a gift. I’m not trying to tell people how to love me, simply that if the letter writer were my friend and torn, I would want her to come and not worry about a gift at all.

    • Kats

      Couldn’t agree more – we did not register because to us, the idea of going around and “picking out” what we wanted felt icky (it may work for others; it felt wrong to us). What did feel good was noting that we are passionate about a couple of charities and encouraging folks who asked us to consider keeping in mind either these or other charities of their choosing.

      That doesn’t mean that we weren’t tickled pink by a few friends who decided to give us something anyway. Actually, those were the presents that made us giggle and grin because they were from folks who thought of item X as being exactly right for us. Best wedding present ever? The handmade box made out of chocolate covered bacon with a super thoughtful note inside. Sitting on the floor of our living room, drinking leftover bubbly and eating the box while reading cards and notes from friends the day after our wedding? Absolutely perfect.

  • KT

    those ‘we want your presence not your presents’ poems seem so trite but now i’m planning a wedding i know that i genuinely do not care if people do not give us anything because we simply want to share the day with them.

  • Polygon

    I like the idea of making a gift from the registry personalized in some way. For example, you could get a baking pan and add a favorite recipe of yours, or include a handmade dry mix.

    • M.

      Great idea and great compromise!

    • I’m getting some great ideas for making registry gifts more personal today!

    • Love this idea!

    • Guest

      Great idea! It reminds me of this craft ( which is a great way to personalize a baking dish!

    • Lisa

      This. Most of my friends have something wine-related on their registries so I’ve been buying something small (an aerator or the plastic corks or something) and then purchasing a decent bottle of wine that the couple can save for their fifth anniversary. That way they have something useful for now and something fun to look forward to later!

    • I totally agree with this, as this is something I try to do when I give wedding gifts as well, because I can’t afford th expensive stuff. Sometimes I will buy a few of the smaller registry items and combine them in a gift basket with some other related things I think they would like as well. I try to go for both practical and experiential. For example, some friends asked for a wine glass drying rack, a sink liner, and pot holders on their registry, so I bought those items and combined them with some wine, scone mix, and chocolate which would give the practical items a purpose and add a little fun to the gift.

      As someone with a ton of student debt that I’m trying to pay off, and an income that does not easily facilitate that, I struggle to feel like I’m giving enough when it comes to wedding gifts. My mom, who has 15 years of event planning experience, looked shocked when I told her that I was only planning on giving one $50 gift to a close friend at her shower, but not a second gift to her at the wedding. She told me that I should be giving a gift at the shower AND the wedding and that it should come close to the cost of my dinner. (All this on top of being a bridesmaid in this friend’s wedding, for which I was already spending at least $500.) I politely told her that I don’t give a crap what society thinks I should do, I am giving the most I can in the form of my time and money and I refuse to put myself further into debt over a wedding gift. Any friend who thinks that their gift from me should take financial priority over my personal financial security is not a true friend. When I framed it that way my mom completely agreed.

    • Kirstin

      So my mom does this, but with spices, if she knows the couple enjoys cooking. Some of the fancy spice stores, like Penzey’s have some great gift sets (some with wedding themes), that she has given. One of my friends received this and has said it was her best wedding gift and is now her “go to” gift as well. Now some of these can get pricey as well, but there are some reasonable ones that pair nicely with some of the smaller kitchen gadgets.

    • Erin

      This is my philosophy on gift giving, too! I have a couple different “go to” gifts that are based around common registry items in case people are looking for ideas:

      1. Move Night In gift – If the couple registers for a popcorn popper, I will buy it along with a ceramic movie theater style popcorn bucket, a jar of gourmet popcorn, a set of popcorn seasonings, and a romantic movie on DVD. It’s all they need for a movie night on the couch. This gift has been a huge hit every time I’ve given it. I also once did a popcorn-free spin on this gift for a winter wedding. Instead of the popcorn stuff, I got them his and her oversized coffee mugs with their first initials (sold at Anthropologie), a tin of Godiva hot chocolate mix, a warm blanket to cuddle under, and “Love Actually” on DVD. I moved a few months after this wedding and am no longer close with this couple, but every year I get a sweet Facebook message from the wife around Christmas saying she is watching Love Actually and remembering how I gave her the best wedding gift.

      2. Coffee or Tea gifts – If a couple registers for a teapot or coffee maker, these are really fun basic items to build gifts around. The initial mugs I mentioned above are great, fun and useful items to include, as well as gourmet teas and coffees. At the last wedding I attended, I bought a tea kettle off the registry, then added a tin of loose tea and a set of infuser mugs in the couple’s wedding colors. They got great use out of everything.

    • SamiSidewinder

      I love to do that too, something from the registry and something fun to go with. At least that way you know you are on the right track as far as personal taste. We registered for a nice teapot and the people who got it for us also got us a few of their favorite teas!

      Some of the off the reservation gifts were really really not our taste, or just not that useful to us, or something we already had. But thankfully returns are usually doable and we ended up with the stuff we really wanted anyway. And sadly, some things that can’t be returned will be re-gifted if I can manage to find the right person.

      In terms of a personal gift registry, Etsy registries are a gift from heaven if you ask me. It made the whole registry process kind of fun for me and I got to register for some really fun, personal, cool things. Sadly not as many people bought from that one as they did from the more traditional places, but the things I did receive from Esty are most of my favorites!

  • twofishgirl14

    It looks like we’ll be mainly doing a honeymoon / cash registry. We’ve lived together for three years, and I also inherited a TON of really nice furniture because both of my parents massively downsized their housing in the past two years. However, we’re paying for our own wedding and strapped for cash. There’s no way we can afford to tack a honeymoon on top of the event itself without help, so we’re asking for what we actually need. I also like that it will let my broke friends chip in $10 or $20 or whatever they can afford, without having to dig through a registry trying to find out if we registered for measuring cups. Of course, this also presents a problem if people feel weird about having an exact dollar amount disclosed to us. So all I’ll say is that it will mean more to me that they showed us support, showed up and danced than it would if they busted their budgets trying to buy me a crystal decanter or something.

    • Cat

      This is what we are doing- and to keep organized, we’re using a site that’s built around a honeymoon-as-registry. We have all the “stuff” we need, but will be in the same situation as you after the wedding costs are paid. With the site we can divide up the cost of whatever the experience is into manageable (affordable!!) chunks we know won’t dent anyone’s wallet too much. In the end, it’s about the people who are there with us on that day, and that’s all I want. Our people. Our family. Our love. Done.

  • Bethany

    Giving $100 gifts would be a real hardship on the majority of people we invited to our wedding. I would never expect — or want — them to spend that much money. Some of them didn’t give us anything, and guess what? I still love them! I’ve also never spent that much on a single wedding gift, and I’ve never felt bad about it. I’ve actually never even heard that “rule” or any guideline about how much to spend on a gift. The fact that two people found each other and are getting married seems like a pretty great gift to me.

    We included a variety of price points on our registry, and it seemed to work out fine. We got several items that we really use, and I do somehow remember who gave us what and think of them fondly when I use them. I do think that you should trust your friends’ judgment, though. If they put something on the registry, it’s likely because they will use it. If you just can’t do that, cash or a gift card is good! We got some cash gifts (mostly around $40) and they were really helpful!

    I was actually (stupidly) surprised when people gave us gifts at my bridal shower. I was just excited to have a party with female friends and family members and drink champagne and celebrate love. The gifts were just icing on the cake.

    One of the best wedding gifts we got was a Christmas ornament. It’s a clear glass ball with strips of our cut-up wedding invitation inside. It’s beautiful and so special to us. And I seriously doubt it cost $100.

    • Cara

      I was kind of surprised by how many gifts were given at the bridal showers too! I’d only been to like, one before, and was a young college student who baked the treats served at the shower, so I didn’t even think to give a gift then. And I honestly didn’t need gifts really at my showers either, it was just a great excuse to see people, hang out, drink some fun drinks, and play some games. But some of the best gifts were a piece of art a broke friend gave, and a set of personalized napkin rings an old neighbor had made, super personal and thoughtful, and really sweet. But I still wouldn’t have batted an eye if I hadn’t received a single gift!

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  • EF

    Ugh! $100 per gift when you’re making not much is awwwwful.

    Some very, very close friends of mine got married this past June, and if there was every a couple I’d want to spend hundreds of dollars on, it’s them. But I’m a graduate student and my fiance is an entry-level lab scientist…basically supporting the both of us. My friends both come from well off families, so I knew that anything they really needed would be taken care of. Luckily, they knew enough of their friends are grad students/recently out of university, and had some lower priced items on the registry, too. We got them some bread making tools, I think costing $30ish overall. They’re foodies; they post pictures of the food they’ve made together since the wedding, so I hope they appreciate it. I don’t think there’s any reason to go broke over getting a gift…that’s not the point of having a wedding. Celebrating with your people is.

  • Meg

    Another thing with the registry, they might have been pressured into putting certain things on it by their mom (or might have been pressured to have one period!) So I try not to judge too harshly on what goes on there. Good advice!

    EDIT also I bought some of the funnier things off my friend’s registry like a banana hammock and a lemon zester, like all the little bits people didn’t buy (I did it last minute!) and she was really thankful I remember haha

    • Laura C

      Some of our friends registered for some kind of Star Wars … pancake molds or cookie cutters or something? As soon as we saw that, we pounced, bought them the first day we looked at the registry because no one was going to beat us to those puppies.

  • Diane

    I loved every minute of our wedding — we were surrounded by friends & family. Our friends traveled from all over the country to the tiny town where I grew up. We’re not rich (the spouse finished his PhD five days before the wedding, and I’m a pastor…not the most lucrative job). Neither are our friends. And we knew that some of them incurred significant travel costs. So their presence really was gift enough!!

    Some of our guests made donations in our name to favorite charities — I have no idea how much, just that they did. Other friends gave us just a card or a card with a small bar of chocolate. Still others skipped the card/gift combo entirely. My church pitched in and got us a gift all together, so no individual felt pressure to give any more than they could/wanted. And my parents’ friends (you know, the ones with professional jobs :-)) got us gifts off of our registry. We were grateful for ALL of it.

    Our favorite gift was a small vial labeled “holy water.” It was loose with the other packages, unconnected with a card or other gift. It took us MONTHS to figure out who brought it. Turns out it wasn’t any of our Catholic priest friends… nope, it was a fellow Buffy aficionado! She thought it would be hilarious to rid our marriage of vampires. And since she had already busted her budget flying in from Arizona, a low-cost, high-impact gift was PERFECT.

    • Stephanie B.

      LOVE the “holy water” gift! (HUGE Buffy fan right here, too.)

  • moonlitfractal

    My husband and I made a registry but also suggested that our guests make donations to our favorite charities instead of gifts. We spent so much on the wedding that year that we weren’t able to give as much as we wanted to, so the donations really meant a lot, and I’m still thankful for them when I look back. There were also lots of gifts from the registry that we loved. I bake a LOT, and I think many of our guests know that, so I think that for them, gifting baking supplies was personal as well as practical. A couple of people got me gifts from the registry pared with additional gifts, like the family who got us the bread machine we registered for and threw in a pizza stone that I would have never thought to ask for.

    My very favorite gift that was not on the registry was the pair of wine glasses that one of our friends decorated to look like our wedding invitations. We use them almost every time we drink wine and they are beautiful!

    What I did not like getting were housewares that were not from our registry. Several families gave us duplicates of things we already had, or had received from the registry. We ended up with a lot of ugly beige towels and glassware we didn’t have any place to store. We chose the items we registered very carefully, handling them first in the store in part because I have chronic pain in my hands and it hurts to hold things that are too heavy. We received some glass baking pans that are so heavy I have yet to use them two years down the line.

    Finally, you might not think of it, but the best gift we got on the DAY OF the wedding, like dropped off at the reception were gift cards and cash. We were so exhausted from everything, and transporting tons of physical gifts home was torture, especially since we were leaving for our honeymoon the next morning. And don’t get me started on the checks. Having to drive to our credit-union branch and sign like twenty checks twice with my real name and “Mrs. Hisname” with my achy hands was tortuous on several levels.

    • M.

      Did you find that people did give to the charities you chose? I so want my guests to. If that’s all we got from people who are going to gift us something, I would be so thrilled, but I know not everyone has the same views on if that’s really a gift. I’d be curious to hear how it went for you.

      • moonlitfractal

        Only a handful of people actually made donations out of our 200 or so invitees. I’m still very glad that they did, though.

      • Kats

        We had the majority of our guests give to our charities and we were thrilled. We had woven one of the organizations we supported into our wedding (they are a soup kitchen, and a couple of the chefs who work there catered our rehearsal dinner) so folks knew about the group. We did have to follow up with the charities to get a list of who donated, but it was fairly straightforward (one was more organized than the other). We did write thank you notes to those who supported the charities just like we did to people who sent gifts or cards.

      • LM

        Only a handful of people made donations, which surprised me a little, but it was still worthwhile to the organization. Some people both donated and gave small registry gifts, and others didn’t.

      • Caroline

        We’ve donated to suggested charities as wedding gifts. I like them because when I’m broke, a ten or twenty dollar gift to charity seems more meaningful than a set of measuring cups. And I know it meant a lot to those friends. I’ve also done gifts to shared beloved non-profits for social activist friends who didn’t register. (Admittedly, it would have been strange to register, since they were already married and were finally able to get legalled, but I wanted to get them a gift to celebrate. So I donated in their name to the non-profit where we all met.)

      • Totes McGotes

        We listed six charities as our “registry,” and a few people did donate to them. However, you may also want to have a more traditional registry as a backup for guests who are more traditional about physical gifts or who may not be on board with the particular charities you’ve selected. We had some relatives donate (what to me was) an astronomical sum of money to a charity that, while well-intentioned, goes against most of my/our personal values. At that moment I wished I’d just gone ahead and done the traditional registry and stupid bridal shower.

        • M.

          Oh, yikes!!! Yeah we have a small traditional one, and two animal shelters listed that we have personal connections to. I hope I just get one donation :) That’s my goal.

  • Sara Clark

    I think the gift you have picked out (hand crafted cutting boards) sounds AWESOME. And this comes from someone who received about five cutting boards, none of which I registered for. I can honestly say we use all of them all the time for different things, and I feel very fondly about the people who got them for us. If you go this route, think about telling your friends the “my friend made this” backstory — I loved hearing that kind of stuff!

    • NB

      Right?! We actually got a hand crafted cutting board, and trot that bad boy out alllll the time: “SEE??! Look how pretty it is!”

      Plus, they double as serving boards. Cutting boards for everyone!

  • I would urge the letter writer (and everyone) to try not to judge what couples register for. I mean, if you don’t think something is ethical, fine, don’t buy it. But there seems to be a perception among guests that every gift on a registry is meant for you personally, and not for ALL the guests. Yeah, if you’re broke, you might think a certain gift is too expensive for what it is…but if they registered for it, it’s because they want it, plan to use it, and think someone in their family (maybe an older relative, or their parents) can afford to buy it. (And if they don’t get it, they’ll buy it with some gift cards or they’ll get over it.) I’m not sure where the idea that a list with expensive things is a decree for every last guest came from, but it’s frustrating.

    I personally think going off the registry to buy something local/handmade/awesome is a great idea. I went off registry this summer to buy a friend a really luxe and cozy blanket I thought she and her fiance would like. What I don’t think is a great idea is going off registry to buy a different version of something they registered for. I do think couples put a lot of thought into the brands/prices/etc that they choose, so why buy a different version than the one they asked for? But if it’s something you know they’ll use, or that everyone uses, and there’s something a little special/meaningful about it, that makes for a pretty awesome gift!

    • M.

      “I do think couples put a lot of thought into the brands/prices/etc that they choose” I definitely agree. We were allllll over The Wirecutter and Sweethome. My step-dad actually emailed us recently about an alternative to a set of pots and pans that we registered for, but we had to nicely say we picked the ones we did because they don’t have Teflon. If he’d done it as a surprise, we probably wouldn’t have used them..

    • BreckW

      “I would urge the letter writer (and everyone) to try not to judge what couples register for.”

      Agreeee. I feel like there’s more than enough guilt that goes along with planning a wedding, no need to heap it on. There have certainly been registry items that I’ve briefly side-eyed (I’m looking at you, $200 robes from Macy’s), but then I snap myself back to reality and just scroll past it.

      • KC

        1. Yikes.
        2. Sometimes the scanner-gun-ooh-that-looks-really-nice does not result in the most price/value-conscious decisions. (or, um, maybe they really really wanted a super-luxe bathrobe?)

        • SamiSidewinder

          I’m super with you on #2. I was pressured into registering at Williams Sonoma (MILs friend works there, all friends get discount). There stuff is very nice, yes. But some of it is so overpriced it boggles my mind. Like $30 for a wooden spoon overpriced (and milled from a single piece of reclaimed wood by a blind French artisan trying to get his mother back surgery. In that case maybe $30 is worth it). So off I go into registry fog and start clicking on stuff. Oh yea, we need that. Oh that thingy is totally broken and shitty, lets register for a new one. At a certain point, I just got into the mindset that I had to have options for these people and completely stopped looking a prices. Now that we are using up the gift cards and I’m looking a little more closely, I am astonished (and a little ashamed) that I asked someone to pay $20 for measuring cups (pretty stainless steel) when I could have gotten some for less than half on Amazon.

          But like everyone has been saying, it’s the guests’ choice. If you don’t want to spend said $20, find another option (I had 4 different registries b/c I was so worried people would not have enough options. Overboard, yes I realize that now). I’m not going to open your gift and be outraged that you didn’t buy some other thing on the list.

          • KC

            We got a gift certificate to WS one year for Christmas, and it was very, very odd trying to figure out what to buy with it that was sane and would not make everything else in our kitchen jealous and shabby by comparison.

            (winner: kitchen scale, which was not priced much higher than at other places, and which is awesome.)(runner-up, which I still sort of regret but sort of not because I would probably never have used them but still: ANIMAL CRACKER COOKIE CUTTERS. Augh. Ridiculous, but I *so* wanted those. But, again, I probably would not have used them, or at least not more than once. So I’m glad the scale won.)
            But hey, discount, anyway? And also, a lot of their stuff is really, really good quality, so you are getting durability in addition to the name brand effect? (but yes, I feel you)

    • Eenie

      I know Target gives couples who registered with them one day where they can buy anything off their registry for 10% off or something like that after the wedding. So there’s a chance they knew some things wouldn’t be bought and planned to use gift cards or something on it after the fact.

      • js

        So did Crate and Barrel. Plus they sent coupons as incentives. Lot’s of places like Macy’s give discounts if a certain amount is reached on your registry, I believe.

        • Cara

          Macy’s actually gave us money back for every gift purchased from our registry, like a percentage. It was kind of awesome, but could persuade people to put more expensive things on the registry for the kickback. And they give you like 10-20% off after the wedding for awhile. I was just happy we were able to get a screaming deal on the mixer we didn’t get as a gift.

      • MisterEHolmes

        THAT is a policy I absolutely hate. It just encourages couples to register for things that really are out of reach or don’t “fit” the registry stuff, just so they can get a deeper discount.

    • ktmarie

      Yes – please do not judge what people register for! We had lived together for 4 years when we got married and reiterated to people that they did not need to buy us gifts but we still made a registry for it to be easy for guests. I’m an avid cook so I registered for a lot of things people maybe thought were superfluous or an expensive version of something. But we truly wanted those things even if you (general ‘you’) thought they were silly!! And I love every little kitchen gadget I now use and think of the wedding when I do.

    • Jenny

      I agree on the price of things. One of my friends put a lot of effort into making her registry, only to be told by her grandparents that there wasn’t something expensive enough for them to buy. They wanted more options. It helps to remember that registries are for all guests!

      • Marcela

        This so much. I got several angry phone calls from older relatives who did not approve of the $5-$150 range of our registry gifts. I registered thinking of my type of budget and not taking into consideration that my older guests had more money to spend.

      • copper

        One group of guests (an aunt and uncle who were bringing their three kids) just got us about 10 smaller things when they felt there wasn’t one big thing for them. Which is great in theory, but then there weren’t those smaller things on the registry for those who were looking for that lower price point… registries and gifts just feel like a can’t-win situation sometimes.

    • LM

      Yes. Some of my parents’ friends were very generous, and that’s related to where they are in life, and also maybe reciprocating the kinds of gifts my parents’ gave to their children when they got married. I liked having a registry because we have a very small apartment and so
      we gave a lot of thought into what we needed and what would work. We
      still got several beautiful-but-take-up-a-lot-of-space decorative
      bowls. My favorite non-registry gift was family friends who gave us a weekend at their country house.

    • D

      Yep. People really over-think registries. Just buy the gift that you can afford and stop trying to think about how this list of stuff reflects on the couple. It’s just stuff. Or don’t buy a gift at all, if you prefer.

    • Meg Keene

      I have learned that it’s super important to add a few things to your registry that seem too expensive to you. Because there is always someone (half the time it’s your mom’s best work friend who you’ve met twice) who’s older, established, and important in someone’s life (say a parent). They want to buy you something NICE. I remember my mom’s best work friend’s kid was getting married pretty young, and didn’t have expensive stuff on her registry. My mom actually bought the $50 knife set she had on the registry, then took it to Macy’s, returned it (so it would still show up as purchased on the registry) so she could by a $250 knife set. She didn’t know the bride very well, but the father was so important in her life that she wanted to spend what was a serious amount of money on her. And that, is why people have expensive things on their registry. It’s not to make their broke friends feel bad (or WORSE, to have their broke friends buy them, because you’d be horrified and sad.) It’s for their MIL’s pastor’s wife, who she did 200 hours of community service for this year. Or whatever. (And, so said MIL’s pastor’s wife won’t buy all the cheap things off the registry in frustration, leaving nothing for your broke friends.)

      • KC

        Yep. One of the more expensive things on our registry (a pair of glorious, glorious thick and cushy completely ridiculous but wonderful bath sheets) was bought by an I-don’t-even-know-them extended family friend (who is, um, rolling in cash).

        Most of our registry was focused on “what is basically the cheapest reasonably-durable non-eyeball-lacerating option to fill the gaps left by combining two used-to-have-multiple-roommates households” (while you *can* eat your cereal out of a mug, owning bowls is nice), plus a side of small random things, like scrubby sponges and yummy chocolate. The lower cost or cheaper everyday stuff is more what our friends tended to go for (because they knew we needed more plates), but a number of, um, “financially established” people (who often weren’t actually closely connected to us, but more to our parents) tended to buy the more out-there dream-that-would-just-be-so-*nice* items. Hopefully without any gnashing of teeth on anyone’s part.

        • YPI

          Completely agree. And I have to ask… where are these glorious bath sheets from??

          • KC

            They were from Macy’s, but, um, over 9 years ago, so I’m pretty sure they’ve cycled brands/lines (or if something by the name exists, I wouldn’t be confident they’d necessarily be the same quality). But go in to an actual store and feel up their towels (pro-tip: also poke at the hems to make sure they’re sewn together solidly) and I hope you will find something similarly luxe and enjoy the heck out of them. :-)

            I love the convenience of online, but the durability and softness of towels is probably best assessed in person (as, in my opinion, is the balance of flatware and knives – some of them just fit/work better, and in other cases, a visually attractive design has obliterated comfort).

            (and, relatedly, another lesson learned from wedding registry-ing and time: if registering for low-cost store-brand flatware [or really, anything you really really like and want to be using for a Long Time with “enough” sets of, whatever “enough” is for your sort of dinner party-ish or lifestyle thing], register for or buy enough of it after the wedding that you can keep using it after a few spoons or butterknives vanish, because the pattern will not be in stock any more in a couple of years when you do end up realizing you want to augment your supply.)(I mean, don’t go for enough for “until you retire” or anything insane like that, but enough such that a few disappearances are not dilemma-provoking. We’ve also totally done the “alternate table settings between two different sets of things” thing and that also works just fine, so ymmv.)

            (one particular exception to this “assume some losses” being if it’s something where you’re not specifically over the moon about the design and just go “eh, this’ll work for the next [?] years” and can reasonably expect to eventually entirely replace after enough destruction occurs, like cheap wine or juice glasses or everyday plates. Or if your tastes change every few years. I’m pretty boring.)

          • ypi

            thanks! Yes, I imagine we’ll have to do some foot work- living in nyc, it’s just so much easier to do everything online (have you seen the Macy’s here?!). But this is super helpful, and looks like we have some field trips ahead!

          • KC

            Yes. Oh yes. The Macy’s there is outright terrifying. (although I have only been in it once, so it might get less terrifying with acclimation? Also, having the perfume be a floor instead of just a trap at every entrance means less sneezing for me, so there’s that?) I… might chicken out if it was just towels, but flatware balance is oddly important to me.

            Maybe you could head out to a mall out somewhere in the middle of nowhere-ish that has a slightly less daunting Macy’s plus a wherever-else-you-want-to-register if you do?

            One thing I would *really* suggest is looking over a Suggested List Of Things You Could Register For, before going anywhere, and nail down how many of exactly what kinds of things you realistically see yourself wanting in your current and/or likely future life (depending on things like your tolerance for hauling around “good china” if you will likely be moving repeatedly, whether you can actually fit a bathmat in your current bathroom, whether you host parties of what kind, how many years’ worth of towels you really want, [bonus advice: get an extra pair of washcloths for each set of guest towels, since the washcloths usually fade the fastest or otherwise get destroyed earlier, and the colors tend to change seasonally, so unless you get white or go deliberate-mismatch, getting more later isn’t usually an option] etc.). It *really* helps with the decision overload to at least only be choosing amongst patterns of X, rather than deciding on the spot whether you want the white wine glasses and the red wine glasses and how many of each, etc. (and ditto for *everything else*). So: physical list of The Stuff You Definitely Want with quantities first, then forays either online or in person to sort out which kinds are the right kinds for both of you (note: forays: it does not have to be a marathon; you will most likely have at least one meltdown or near-meltdown over something insane like whether asymmetrical patterns are inherently ugly or not and whether polka-dots are cheerful or simply juvenile. It is okay. It is most likely a combination of decision fatigue and not having 100% the same design ideas as your partner [the degree to which not everyone you like has the same taste is usually surprising on some level to most people][if your partner *has* design ideas at all, that is; some bow out of this, more or less, which leaves the other partner on the hook to decide things, which is sometimes fantastic and sometimes maddening because really, *do* you care enough about your soap dish to choose among the 20 options presented?] and being really tired because work+wedding-planning+rest-of-life and not being sure how much or how to compromise between aesthetics and suddenly being uncertain whether you can really marry someone who does/does not like polka-dots on stemware and what happens when you disagree on *important* things and seriously it can be a bit like premarital counseling in bringing out unexpected warts or communication styles, which is actually *great* maritally but also sucky.)(For us: It was fun in parts. It was not fun in parts. Take the good and don’t drive yourself too far up the wall with the bad.).

            I guess, in not-very-short:
            1. make a list, ideally based loosely off a list online or in a book (because it is *hard* to think of everything spontaneously) of what you actually want, taking into account what you have, your lifestyle and expected lifestyle, and whether you really want this stuff in storage. (if in doubt, set this list aside for a little while and then return to it for clearer “we do not like martinis. Why would we want a full set of martini glasses?” vision)

            2. make forays (if partner is uninterested or unavailable for any given trip, taking along a friend to shut up any *really* pushy salespeople and to talk you out of thinking that you need three butter dishes, even though it isn’t on the list, [and to reassure you that actually, yes, new pillows would be nice, even though you forgot to put them on the list] is a good plan).
            3. make peace with yourself and your partner and the fact that there *isn’t* a perfect [fill in the blank] like you were visualizing it actually for sale in the store.
            4. repeat steps 2 and 3 until you either decide to call it done or you get to the actual end of your list.
            5. revise online registry to adjust any numerical or color screwups and remove “wait, what were we thinking?” and/or “why did my theoretical best friend zap-register us for a vibrator when I wasn’t looking?” items. (see: accidentally registering for 8 bath towels, 3 hand towels, and 4 wash cloths, instead of the set you had expected, plus a neat device they were demonstrating that shucks your corn for you… but neither of you actually like corn… so why… the demonstrator was so nice and it was very impressive really… oh, never mind, just delete it.)

            (of course, I am neither a “gift” person nor a “shopping” person and I was under an enormous amount of stress at the time, so read this with several grains of rose-colored salt! Parts of registering really are fun and dream-of-the-future-y!)

      • Eh

        A similar thing happened with us. One of my dad’s friends didn’t want to get us just a pair of wine glasses (which was on our registry as a “mid-range” gift) so he bought us a whole set (on the registry it said the pair was purchased). My grandmother also surprised us with an expensive gift (actually two) from our registry because she was unable to make the trip (due to her health and not being able to travel alone) so she spent the amount of the air fare from where she lives to where we live on the gift.

  • Liz has given great advice here. And I agree wholeheartedly – it’s not about “how much” or “how expensive” a gift is. One of my favorite gifts we received was a hand-made blanket from a family friend. My cat sits on it every day (when he can wrestle it away from my husband). Another gift we really love: an inexpensive non-stick frying pan, which we use almost every day to make eggs. We also had a set of family friends at our wedding who gave us beautiful card with $20 in and we know that $20 meant a lot to them. Gifts are definitely measured by who gives them, not by some arbitrary standard that everyone, from every walk of life should follow no matter the impact on themselves.

  • M.

    My fiance and I have gone to three weddings as a couple and each time spent about $50 total, and used the registry (make about 110k combined). We have traveled far to all of the weddings, live in expensive NYC and have student loans. The gifts were not quite a hardship, but getting there, so we did what we could. As others have said, if we use the registry that way I at least know they are getting something they want/need! The best gift we ever chose off a registry were REI dog bowls for camping, which was meaningful for my friend, the bride, and I. Do what you can. Use your heart, but don’t feel pressured!

    Our wedding is coming up in April, and we were VERY careful about the registry because we also felt squicky about it, since we live together and coming to the wedding won’t be easy for all our guests. We also followed the Meg Model ™ and couched it as available for those who want it, but not necessary. We truly truly don’t care if we don’t get anything, because we try so hard just to be there for people’s weddings, and that’s the most meaningful part for us. We want to hug everyone, that’s mostly it. :)

    • tashamoes

      Thanks for linking- I hadn’t seen that before!

  • Stephanie B.

    Liz’s advice is super — give a gift that you can afford, not one that you think is required. Include a lovely note with it, and your friends will love it. Or if there’s a simple, inexpensive way to personalize it, do that, and they’ll remember it forever. One of my favorite gifts was from friends who gave us a set of sheets (off our registry), but also tucked 2 old Batman comics in the package, because I am a huge Batman fan. I absolutely LOVED it!

  • moonlitfractal

    I already commented about my favorite/least favorite wedding gifts, but I’d like to add something. My husband and I lived together for a couple of years before we got married. During those years our apartment was stocked with that were either so old our parents were willing to part with them when we moved out, or the lowest end bottom of the line cheap things we could find on our post-college budget. By the time we were ready to get married, many of our things, especially kitchen items, were either breaking (some utensils were literally falling apart) or showing just how inadequate they were for the long term (our only cutting board was about 6″ by 8″). So, while I’m sure many couples have lovely kitchenware when they move in together, sometimes people still need things.

    • Caroline

      Oh yes, we have some very lovely household things but we also have a lot of ancient household things. Like a crockpot which is a decade or two older than I am, and which has lost a foot and requires pliers to turn the stub of the long disappeared knob. It would be nice to have a crockpot with a knob, since we use it once a week. We can get by without, but it sure would be lovely, if people want to get us something.

    • Anne

      Exactly. We moved in together right after college, and had a mishmash of old hand me downs and cheap, cheap plastic kitchen utensils/plates. Not that it all wasn’t functional, but we certainly didn’t own stuff that would last us more than a few years. So even the idea that people who have been living together for a while must somehow have nice stuff is often inaccurate.

    • KH_Tas

      Thanks for saying this. We have a collection of household stuff of this description, and the lived together = everything they need thing was gnawing at me; you have articulated these feelings well

  • Lauren C

    The other thing about expensive stuff on a registry is that sometimes stores offer discounts to couples who want to buy the remaining stuff after the wedding, so it’s possible that the friends are planning on doing that. I second everyone’s opinion to try not to judge too much!

    I’m not married yet, but I’m firmly in the pro-registry camp. Even now, I keep a running Amazon list of stuff I want – I just add things to the list as I come across them throughout the year. It’s partly as a reminder to myself, but I also send the list to other people when gift-giving occasions arise and they ask what I want. Tacky, maybe, but efficient.

    I hate the dance we feel like we have to do around gift giving and receiving. My first priority is to give something I know the couple wants and will use, and the simplest way to do this is if the couple registers to let everyone know exactly what those things are.

    • Josie

      Absolutely — we have a few absolutely ridiculously expensive items on our registry ($500 magical pet hair vacuum, $300 fancy duvet cover) because Macy’s will give you 10% off after the wedding plus a percentage cash back with a Macy’s card from whatever else is purchased on your registry/whatever you spend up to the wedding. I keep telling people that because I don’t want anyone to feel like they have to buy us a wildly expensive pet hair vacuum!

      I liked registering because we did combine two full households, and we had some great high quality stuff and some stuff that needed to be replaced — and I’ve always appreciated the guidance that you get from a registry.


        • Josie

          It’s the Dyson Ball DC41 Animal Vacuum…we will beat the cat at her game. I cannot WAIT to get this thing. If I do end up getting it as a gift I’ll probably pass out from excitement.

          • KC

            We have an earlier Dyson canister vacuum, and while we do not have cats, I loooove:
            1. that it does not require bags
            2. that it eats dust bunnies (or, um, larger dust mammals) for breakfast
            3. that it’s definitely allergen-reducing (no more sneezing when vacuuming!)
            4. that you can actually see when it’s getting full-ish without opening it up (see: sneezing reduction)

            Bonus points for being surprisingly easily disassemble-able for removing thread, string, or hair from the vacuum cleaner head (no having to reach into weird crannies with a pair of super-pointy scissors!), for having a surprisingly long cord that auto-retracts like a dream, and for being actually pretty light in weight while still being sturdy (although this is compared to Vacuum Cleaner My Parents Had When I Was Growing Up, which was duct-taped together and required serious hauling even on flat surfaces, not compared to whatever the modern equivalent would be).

    • Jennifer

      The extra discount is definitely why my fiance and I registered for some expensive items (I’m looking at you, kitchenaid mixer)! I don’t really expect anyone to buy that for us – unless several people pitch in together – but I’ve been wanting one for quite awhile so why not register for it and get the discount?
      And I don’t think the Amazon list is tacky at all, though I’m sure some people do. My sister calls me every November to find out what I want for my December birthday/Christmas, and she was super thankful last year when she found out I had an Amazon list and she didn’t have to rely on me to give her ideas.

      • malkavian

        Oh, the kitchenaid mixer. We used our wedding cash-monies to buy one, and I had never had a stand mixer before in my life. I think it’s changed my life.

        • Stephanie B.

          The KitchenAid mixer is MAGIC. Worth every penny.

      • Jane Patterson

        We keep a public amazon wish list with mostly “universal” (i.e. non-amazon) items for our kids, with comments about which wants what, and the relatives thank me for it every year, especially the ones who don’t see the kids often enough to know that the space obsession has been abandoned in favor of dinosaurs, or what they already have.

        Even though we registered for many sensible things (my family insisted, especially for the family members who would be unable to travel to the wedding), for some reason six different people gave us decorative crystal bowls (what?), which made me wish we had put a few more non-basic things on our registry, not that there was a great selection of such things at J.C. Penney back in the day.

    • malkavian

      Amazon registries are fantastic and not tacky at all. I would just recommend also registering at a brick-and-mortar store, for relatives that are not tech-savvy at all.

      I keep a running wish list on amazon as well, for the same reasons you do. “Oh, this book looks interesting. I’ll have to pick it up when I have more cash moneys.” and whatnot.

      • Cara

        I have like, 7 categorized wish lists on Amazon for that reason too, but worry people will think I’m just greedy (I just want to remember where I saw that cool thing so if someday I really need it, I can find it again! It’s just a bonus that it can work as a wish list for holidays/birthdays, but not at all my original intent when setting it up!)

    • Emily H

      Yay Amazon registry! While I was creating a Macy’s registry, I was looking at Amazon for reviews and realized everything is cheaper on Amazon. In good conscience, I wouldn’t want my guests to spend more for the same item, so I just made the registry directly on Amazon. Just keep in mind that you have to pay for return shipping, so choose things you’re sure about.

      I agree with others that it’s good to supplement with a brick-and-mortar for the old-fashioned folks, and also for the things that might look/feel different in person than online such as linens or dishes.

  • Stephanie B.

    I need to put in a good word for couples who have lived together for years and still registered, since a common reaction to that is “Why did they register, when they already have everything they need, and probably TWO of everything???”

    Maybe they have a high combined income and do already have an entire catalog’s worth of Williams Sonoma kitchen goods and luxury linens. Good for them. Guests are not obligated to buy a gift off a registry (or, indeed, any gift at all) if they think the couple is already drowning in luxury homegoods (or for any reason at all).

    But not all couples, even older couples, even those who have lived together for years, have the well-stocked home some people seem to imagine. My husband and I married in our 40s, after living together for almost 6 years. We DON’T, actually, have a high combined income, and our house isn’t crammed with duplicates of luxury homegoods. We had old pots and pans with the nonstick coating coming off. We had cookie sheets that looked like they survived a blast furnace (sometimes I set the oven temperature too high). Our mismatched set of plates was chipped and cracked. Our blender was plastic and possibly older than television. So we registered for new, nicer versions of our old, worn-out housewares.

    I say all of that not for sympathy — our lives are what they are, and I’m aware we live simpler lives than many people — but just to point out that, unless you intimately know the couple’s life situation, maybe there’s a reason the couple in their 40s registered for a new set of plates from Target.

    We *did* get the occasional barbed question from acquaintances of “You REGISTERED???” (Asked in a tone that implied we punched a puppy or something.) “Don’t you already have EVERYTHING???” And answering that question can be embarrassing. Perhaps it shouldn’t be; perhaps I should be able to say “Husband and I don’t make much money, so no, we don’t already have everything.” But discussing our finances *is* personal, and no one’s business but ours.

    Just something to keep in mind.

    • Jenny

      I agree, we married (in our 30s) after combining, but we had both lived with roommates who had most things, so there were a lot of gaps. The dishes I owned were missmatched and chipped from when I was starting out as an AmeriCorps volunteer. Then when I lived on my own I was in school and working full time. My dinners were sandwiches, eggs and pasta (not a lot of baking dishes and serving dishes were needed).

    • Jessica

      Amen. When my fiance and I moved in together 3 years ago, we had nothing but a mattress and some dishes a recently-married friend handed down to us. We spent all our savings buying the bare minimum, cheapest furnishings and kitchen necessities. It was frustrating that we couldn’t have a registry then–now that we’re engaged I’m happy that we can register because we desperately need to replace the old, chipped, warped pans and dishes.

    • Jennifer

      Agreed!!! My fiance and I moved in together about five months ago, and between us we still don’t have a matching set of dinnerware, we are eating the non-stick coating every time I cook because all the pots and pans we have are cheap-o Walmart ones from back in college, and our nicest sheets (purchased on clearance from BBB) have holes in them. Yes, we technically have everything we need to live, but we would need to replace almost all of it in the next few years if we didn’t register for it. So if all these friends and family want to buy us gifts to celebrate our wedding, why not show them what we actually need? Of course, if they go off-registry we will still be thankful. I just know as a guest I always appreciate having the registry, especially when the wedding is for someone I don’t know very well!
      And I tried to register for a huge variety of items, from measuring cups to a KitchenAid Mixer. I attended lots of weddings in college, and I always felt awful when the couple had only registered for larger, expensive items. Often times I was stuck buying the “cheap” doormat they registered for because I couldn’t afford to buy a $100 setting of china. But I was thankful when the registry had options, and I could buy several smaller items and put them together in a pretty package.

    • THIS. I have yet to meet a couple that buys (or has) a bunch of awesome stuff when they move in together. I assume most newlyweds are just hoping to replace their post-college shit. I also think it’s entirely likely that in the years since college, you’ve learned a thing or two about cooking, using nicer utensils/pots & pans, and taking care of your stuff so it lasts a while…I know I have!

      Also, sounds like our cookie sheets have a LOT in common.

      • Stephanie B.

        I actually took a picture of the old cookie sheets to send the aunt who gave us new ones, so she could see I wasn’t joking when I talked about what a horror the old ones were! (My husband kept the old ones for “projects,” which I don’t want to know anything about!)

      • Erin

        Yes yes yes yes!

        There were a lot of ‘post-college’ things I used the registry to get rid of or to upgrade. My parents will sometimes mention to me that this pan they still use was a wedding gift, or that nice set of silverware came from their wedding. I love that idea – and I’m pretty sure that the pans we registered for and received for our wedding from a very dear group of friends who went together to afford them will be in use twenty years from now. Because they’re quality. We might have bought them for ourselves, but only when it became clear it was /absolutely necessary/.

        We also upgraded furniture – we registered for some simple living room furniture from Target, and people were thrilled to buy that for us. I no longer have to use my mismatched hand-me-down stuff from five different relatives! It’s great!

    • malkavian

      Agreed! My husband and I had enough stuff to get by when we got married, but it was mostly low quality or old and needed replacing. So we registered for nice, durable, kitchenware that would last awhile and do their jobs really well. And we love the crap out of all such things that people got us.

    • copper

      When husband and I moved in together, I had a full-sized bed with decent sheets, he had a queen bed with terrible, holey, frayed, threadbare sheets. We kept the queen bed, and put all the sheets we could ever need on the registry. Sometimes people put off purchases they would otherwise have made because they know it’ll be good registry fodder.

      • Related: I think nice bedding and blankets (and great PILLOWS!) is one of the best wedding gifts! You spend so much time there, and yet how many people splurge on their sheets?

        • Stephanie B.

          Seriously — I made the bed the other night, and realized virtually all the bedding was a wedding gift (comforter, sheets, fleece blanket [it is COLD in Ohio right now!]), and getting in our cozy warm bed, furnished by our friends and family, was like being surrounded by SO MUCH LOVE.

        • Caroline

          I didn’t think we would register for bedding or anything. And then my mom gave us a nice duvet (hand me down, she had gotten a bigger bed), and oh my goodness. It might be a touch faded, but it is so much nicer than our ratty quilt, and made sleeping in the bed and being in the bedroom so much nicer!

        • Yesterday I put new sheets and a new duvet cover on my bed which I
          bought for myself to use after my almost-ex-husband moved his stuff out.
          I bought it so I would have a fresh start and have something to look
          forward to after that sad step that I knew was coming. And, you know, this morning I woke up on my new
          soft white sheets under a fluffy warm duvet in its pretty new white
          cover….and it is felt really good. I felt cozy and cared for (even if I did buy them for myself….though the duvet was a wedding gift)… yeah, bedding is a great wedding gift (or a great divorce gift for anyone in my boat).

    • Sarah

      Word! After we got married was the first time we had a complete silverware set, even after living together for 3 years!

    • Agreed! My husband and I are in our thirties, but between his moving for jobs every six months and my wearing the shit out of all of my 20s-something Walmart kitchenware with all my cooking/baking, we needed new things. We had THREE plates before the wedding, so we registered for a nice (and I think affordable) set of plates/bowls and got SO MUCH SHIT for that. “I can’t believe you registered for PLATES.” Well, we did. Because we had THREE. And I am clumsy and break things a lot.

    • JennyWren

      Also, many people do expect a couple to register and will look askance if you don’t. My fiance has been struggling to come to terms with the idea that when we get married/have a reception we’ll probably have to have a list, just for the older guests who don’t know us terribly well but who will want to bring a gift and feel a bit affronted if we don’t let them.

  • tashamoes

    We haven’t registered yet but are planning to – we haven’t set up a home before (together or apart) and there are definitely things that we would love to have and that would absolutely be put to good use. However, we have a huge and diverse community (350+ invited to the wedding) and some of them struggle to fill their cupboards each week. Others (aunts, parents’ friends, etc) are so excited to get us gifts and were asking about the registry as soon as we were engaged.

    My question: how do you tastefully and tactfully let guests off the hook for bringing a gift, but still share your registry info for those who want to bring something? What language have you used to do this (it’ll go on the wedding website)?

    I’m sure there are gracious ways to communicate it…just not sure what words to use.

    • M.

      Check out Meg’s post on telling people about the registry…it helped a lot of my anxiety – we used very similar language.

    • malkavian

      We had a website, and on the registry page we had a blurb that basically said ‘Your presence is presents enough, but if you want to get us THINGS here’s some stuff we’d like or need.’

  • Jessica

    I’d love some advice from the APW community. We’re getting married in September 2014 in a courthouse ceremony followed by a dinner reception for 60 people. We don’t want to register for a number of reasons: we’re 30+, have our own household stuff, generally don’t like having a lot of “stuff,” and most importantly we’re moving to NYC so space will be an issue. We’re downsizing now.

    Honestly the best gift people can give us is being at our wedding to celebrate with us. We don’t want to do an experience registry or a registry for our honeymoon etc. But we also don’t want people to feel like we’re asking for cash… cause again, the best gift to us is just celebrating with us. So we think we will not register.

    Am I over thinking this? Did others not register? How did that work & how did you set expectations with your guests?

    • YPI

      We are in a sort of similar boat. We live in nyc now, so the space thing is a big consideration. And we don’t want to ask for things just to have them- I seriously hate clutter. Not to mention our wedding will be in my home across the country, so the effort for anyone to travel is more than enough.

      That said, we were originally not going to register, but, one thing i’ve learned, is that some people will really want to get you (the general you, not You specifically) something that you will use/like. So we decided to create a Thankful registry, and just put some things up we could genuinely use.

      Even though we are almost 30, been living together for 3 or so years. We are going to make a note to family and friends that ask, that if they really really want to get us something, we’ve created a place for them to do so. Otherwise, them being there is plenty gift enough. Not sure if that is helpful, but know you’re not alone in the deliberation and whatever you do is right for you.

    • Marcela

      As has been said so many times here, people will buy you things. Maybe a limited registry where you specify that you do have space constraints and a big move coming up so you don’t get two giant kitchenaid mixers with no gift receipts and no way to return them (happened to a friend of mine).
      We have friends who are moving to Texas soon after their wedding and they registered for moving supplies, u-haul rental, boxes, bubble wrap. They made it a cute thing with a funny quote about us helping them move forward in their marriage.

    • Jessica

      We are having a similar situation and we are going to put something on our website about how their presence is their present & we live in nyc and don’t have room for a lot of stuff etc, and then register for a very small number of items. Some people will definitely want to buy a gift and really want the registry list, but keeping it very small I think sends the message that you are not expecting/wanting a lot gifts. Or, honestly, if you don’t register people may just ask you about it–with 60 people, it’s likely you are close enough to speak to all of them fairly regularly–and when they say, ‘hey, are you registered somewhere?’ you can explain you are thinking you don’t want gifts. My wedding will involve a flight for most of my friends, so when it’s come up in conversation I’ve also let it be known that I’d totally rather have them help set up day-of or help me diy projects as their gift, because that’s what I need most, and that I will just be super grateful if they show up.

    • Kayjayoh

      You probably are over thinking just a wee bit, but not unreasonably so. Just don’t register. Some folks will still get you things (as noted before, you can’t stop people from giving you a gift if they want to) but nothing says you need to register.

    • Amber Finkelstein

      if people are insisting, there is that super awesome “experience” registry out there. I think it was featured here on APW or Offbeat Bride.

    • Other C

      We similarly had a small reception, had established households, and didn’t want stuff, and just wanted people to come and celebrate with us. We declined to register at first but, after a number of guests inquired, we relented and created a limited online registry from one of those sites that lets you combine multiple stores, and put on only small and mid-range items. We also added a couple of experience items, which were selected by our friends really quickly (a wine-tasting class, tickets to a play).
      It worked out really well. We added a disclaimer that we didn’t expect any gifts, that any cash received would go towards a down payment on a home, but that we were creating this registry based on inquiries we had received. And we only registered for things that were small and/or replacement items (nicer corkscrew, new sheets, etc.) It made the experience easier for our guests who were desperately trying to figure out what we wanted, and I think it reduced the number of “random stuff” gifts we received (although there were still a couple of doozies).

    • KC

      A note for any random household items you may receive and can’t return-for-store-credit: domestic violence shelters are usually in need of pretty much everything household-y, to pass along as people try to get back on their feet usually without having been able to take much with them except the clothes on their backs. So! Heartwarming place to send a shiny new blender or a shower curtain or plates or that third set of towels, potentially, and to send a “you’re worth it!” message to someone who’s been beaten down by life.

      (of course, this is against any “but you should keep wedding presents foooorrreeeeveer!” people. But people who love you should probably want you to be happy more than they want you to keep their presents, in theory, yes?)

  • Jenny

    I spent a lot of time on our registry, specifically crafting it so that it had a mix of practical things that we needed (hello baking sheets and measuring cups), and things we didn’t NEED, but that would be nice and get used a lot (food processor and espresso machine), and just things that were fun and we would like (games, camping things, experiences (renting bikes on our honeymoon). Honestly the most meaningful thing was that people came to our wedding. I fondly remember people when I think of the gifts that we got, like at Thanksgiving when pretty much all of our serving dishes got used, and on Sundays when we make waffles with the waffle maker that his brother got us. But I fondly think of those people anyway, the material goods just serve as a physical reminder.

    The most useful things I got were things from the registry and money (especially our camping stuff, and frankly money because we were pretty broke that summer and just because you are having a wedding doesn’t make the rent any less due- not that I expected it, but it was very useful), the least useful were practical things that weren’t on the registry (I already had lots of mixing bowls/ 9×9 pans so I hadn’t put them on the registry). The most meaningful were people coming to the wedding (it wasn’t cheap and I would have rather had them there than anything on our registry), a quilt from my mom, and a hand written recipe for a cheesecake that my coworker makes that I love and a pan to make it in.

    Also there were a few people who gave us cash/checks that were VERY generous, but knowing how much (or guessing), I sometimes felt guilty. I didn’t want them to feel like there was a minimum value purchase on gifts.

    If people care about the price of your gift more than the motivation behind you giving it, the problem isn’t you, it’s them.

    • Gina

      Ahhhh yes to the camping stuff!! We registered at REI and people loved getting us that stuff, plus we use it SO much. And while my husband couldn’t have cared less about how many measuring cups we got, he was ecstatic to get cams for rock climbing.

    • Stephanie B.

      We registered for some camping stuff, because my husband and his family LOVE to camp, while I am…lukewarm at best about camping. But I love his family, and they make everything fun, so I’m happy to camp with them. So my husband’s idea was to register for some things that would make camping more comfortable for me, like a big air mattress to sleep on. Fantastic idea!

      Actually, now that I think about it, my favorite off-registry gift was from one of his brothers (the one who camps as often as possible). At the last camping trip before the wedding, we were all sitting around the fire in those nylon chairs that come in their own bag. Husband and I were laughing about how our chairs were older (but in perfect shape), so they didn’t even have those armrests with beverage holders in them. A couple of weeks after the camping trip, a GIANT box was delivered, and I was wondering what on earth it could be, since we didn’t register for anything that big. It was 2 really nice camping chairs that have the beverage-holder armrests and actually recline. I loved it because we’ll use them, but also because his brother clearly saw something that could make camping nicer for us, and got it for us.

  • lady brett

    so, etiquette is not my forte (i love reading it, but i’m never clear on how to implement it), but i can at least share my experience with getting wedding gifts.

    we did not register and explicitly told anyone who asked that we didn’t need a thing, which was true. for the folks who pushed back i amended, “well, we don’t need anything but dirt and sheetrock” (we were in a new house with a lot of repairs to do). to my everlasting joy, we actually got both dirt and sheetrock as wedding presents.

    the other thing we got by not giving folks any guidance was artwork! which, if you have an idea of folks’ taste, is an *amazing* gift that i had not even thought of before. but the thing is, most folks i know (with the exception of the artists) who are totally flush with home goods still don’t have a lot of art on the walls (it’s something most people love, but it doesn’t tend to get priority the way measuring cups do). Also, booze. and one tacky weird thing (which, despite our very different taste, we got because our friend thought it was lovely and wants us to have lovely things).

    also, while cash isn’t the most thoughtful or unique gift, it is still an awesome gift (our cash gifts took all the money/budget stress out of our honeymoon, rendering it best vacation ever).

    but mostly? you’re invited to weddings ’cause folks want you there. the gifts are a side, and a way of showing you’re excited for them – something you can do by showing up or writing a sweet note.

    • Marcela

      We had a set of friends gift us a picnic basket filled with scrapbooking material (I scrapbook) and booze. It was fantastic.

    • Kathleen

      I have to say, the artwork we got for our wedding mostly did not rank among my favorite gifts. Please don’t give art if you DON’T know the couple’s taste! Some were hits, but some were definite misses and are still in a box under our bed.

  • YPI

    I’m really glad this came up, because I’ve been grappling with a gift giving question lately. I recently attended a wedding across the country, and after travel costs, hotel, car, bridal shower gift etc, I spent well over $1k. I decided to get the couple a really nice card, and leave it at that. I just couldn’t afford a gift on top of everything else. Was I wrong in doing so? Was it rude, unthoughful or tacky? They really appreciated my presence- and especially after last minute my fiancé couldn’t join and had to cancel his flights, adding to the stress. I just need a second opinion. Should I explain my reasoning to the couple? It’s not for a lack of love, it’s just sometimes you need to know your limits. Thanks xx

    • MisterEHolmes

      I’ve always been taught to bring a “token” gift, at least (my default is a cookie sheet and some wooden spoons, about $5). So your nice card might qualify as that. That being said… I don’t think it would help anyone to explain. It could come off as complaining that you spent so much to attend, rather than the kind way you mean it.

    • Caroline

      No. Really, really truely, the best gift our broke friends could give us is comin to the wedding. We know it will cost some of them 500-1000 dollars in airfare and hotels. We know that it means taking a day or two or more off work. We know they have little vacation time and little money. Absolutely, if they showed up, and didn’t give us a gift, their presence would be the best gift possible. A thoughtful note or card would be extra delightful. A ten dollar gift would be fine. But so is no gift. We just want them there to celebrate if at all possible.

    • Marcela

      I think a nice heartfelt card is a great gift. I loved collecting all of our cards and making them into a book after the wedding. It’s a great pick-me-up when I’m having a bad day to go through and read all of this love people memorialized for us in cards.

    • malkavian

      I’m sure the couple understands if you were traveling from out of state. If someone throws a fit about not getting a gift from you when you are spending that much money to attend, they need to sit down, have a coffee and chill the hell out. A card is fine, and we found ourselves treasuring some of the more creative/funny cards or cards with personalized notes.

    • Sarah

      WORD. My wife just went to a wedding that involved the following expenses:
      -Bridesmaids dress + alterations = $200+
      -Destination bachelorette, accommodations, food, etc = $500+ (She didn’t HAVE to go, but she chose to. I was NOT a fan.)
      -Travel to and accommodations for wedding = $200 (we shared with friends a lot)

      We were definitely close to $1K, and then our mutual friend said she was giving $200 for a gift (for her and her boyfriend), and did we want to go in together on some $400 thing on the registry? My frugal self nearly short-circuited!

  • Gina

    First, I think it’s important to say that gifts aren’t (or shouldn’t be) expected. I did not keep track of who gave us a gift at our wedding and who didn’t. I felt overwhelmingly grateful for the time and money people spent attending our wedding, and that was more than enough.

    Second, I think locally handmade gifts are beautiful. And I completely understand your hesitance to shop from the registry because it can feel impersonal. One way I’ve approached this in the past is to get one thing from the registry and one thing that reflects my personal connection to the couple. When I was in law school I had so little $$ that I shopped around at TJ Maxx and Marshall’s and put together a themed “gift basket” for a wedding present–my theme was breakfast in bed (pancake mix, bowl, nice coffee, mugs) but you could do movie night or kitchen or outdoors too! If your present reflects your connection to the couple, I don’t think the $$ value matters.

  • js

    For going “off registry”, I really like the variations on wine/candle baskets out there on some of the other wedding blogs. For the wine basket, you gift bottles of wine for the first fight, a bottle of wine to share after all the guests have left the first time you entertain together, a bottle of champagne for the first anniversary, etc. This isn’t exactly cheap, but it would be extremely meaningful and appreciated buy a wine enthusiast friend. It’s also like the person who gave you the gift is there, being a giant cheerleader for your relationship and the first, sometimes hardest, year of marriage. The candle basket could be a slightly cheaper version of the same idea, and the “candle poem” is all over the internet.
    For my bridal shower, one of my friends gave us hand-made sugar scrub and a dry-erase board she made that says, “I love you because…”, that we use to send little love notes to each other every day.

  • Kayjayoh

    I often give off-registry if I know the couple well, but I usually use their registry as a guide for what kinds of things they need and want, and their taste. For two couples, I noted that they were getting bar and glassware, but no shot glasses. Knowing that it wasn’t going to duplicate another gift, I got them each a set of hand-painted tall shot glasses off of Etsy. In one case they had 4-seasons trees and in the other they were all spring cherry trees, since that couple’s first date was cherry tree season in DC.

    For our own registry, we are using SoKind, which isn’t linked with one particular store. We have a combination of types of things and price points, including donations for marriage equality, DVDs, and options for second hand or handmade goods. For example, I have a set of dishes I like well enough, obtained in pieces over months at a thrift store. We are just missing a few, so I have a registry listing for the bits we are missing via We have registered for people to help setting up and/or taking down the reception area.

    I like the flexibility to not be tied to a particular store (though you can include links) and to be able to have secondhand, new, new or secondhand, handmade, time, experience, skill share, charity, gift card/funds, day-of-event help, and other as categories. It gives guest guidance without dictating and it has been super easy to set up and work with.

    • Anna

      Oh my gosh, thanks for mentioning SoKind. Will definitely be doing this!

  • Courtney

    I had a registry. I find them useful for things like showers, and I know that there is an expectation (in my circle) that you will have one. In my circle it is also customary to spend a fair bit on a wedding gift. That said, two of my favorite wedding gifts were an expensive blender (because it really is the best blender I’ve ever used/owned), and inexpensive coffee mugs (because I use them I don’t value my friends or family more or less for having purchased expensive or inexpensive gifts for us. I appreciated that they even wanted to give us something. Best gift of all though: my siblings traveling from overseas to be at my wedding (sans physical gift).

  • Brenda

    I was just married this year:

    As actual brides and grooms, what do you honestly expect? Our friends and family to come to the wedding.

    Did you feel snubbed if someone didn’t spend much on your gift? Absolutely not.

    And addendums:

    Did I feel snubbed if someone didn’t get us a gift? No. Many people didn’t.

    Did we have a registry: No.

    We had two weddings – very small civil ceremony for immigration, and family wedding. Did we expect gifts for both? No, and no one gave us any for the first one.

    What was the best gift? The ones people made for us. And an awesome mixing bowl. I love that bowl. It probably cost £15 max.

    I absolutely hate the whole “you have to give a gift, it has to cost this much, it has to be from the registry.” I’m an adult. I don’t need gifts for my life events. They’re lovely if you want to give them, but they’re always gifts, and not expectations.

    I have gone to weddings and not given a gift, and I don’t feel bad about it. I fly across an ocean for your wedding, I drive for five hours and get a hotel, I learn how to wear a sari – you don’t need some plates to know I love you. Except for that one time I found some really great plates, not on the registry, that they’re still using six years later.

  • jami

    A nice, thoughtful note might say exactly how you feel about the friend/couple and may be super appreciated.

  • We registered for things we needed, and we tried to register for things from $5 (potholders and avocado slicer (the slicer is a joke among my group of friends)), to $300 (bedding and luggage) so that there would be a variety. We had no expectations at all for gifts. If someone got us a gift, we were grateful as it helped us fill the gaps in our household (and in one instance, made it far easier for my jet-setting husband to travel, as the wheels on our largest suitcase broke off while he was in Japan last year for business). The biggest gift we got from our friends and family was really their presence at our wedding. From folks who couldn’t attend we loved the sentimental cards we got in the mail, or the emails and phone calls they sent – it was so.. amazing to know how many people loved us and had our back. I loved the gift cards we got that weren’t for household items – like for starbucks and iTunes – because they weren’t what you would think of as household-building, but they were for things to h elp us keep our sanity (I am not a coherent person before caffeine, and we both love music). they also reminded us to have fun! I don’t think a gift needs to be big, and i do think it’s the thought behind it that counts.

  • We were lucky that my husband’s culture dictates that most of our gifts were cash. When you’re saving up to buy a house, cash and checks are wonderfully helpful

    However, about the gifts we did receive, we really do appreciate them all. I have a dear college friend (unemployed at the time), who found us an awesome cast iron pan for not too much expense. We use that puppy all the time, and I think of her when we do. I think those cutting boards you mention sound awesome- I love the bamboo ones we received (environmentally responsible, and they won’t dull your knives!). Honestly, buying off the registry isn’t necessarily boring (I was so excited to get those nice, fluffy towels). But we had other heartfelt gifts from friends that were not from the registry, and they were lovely as well (a nice bottle of wine can be a really fun reminder of the wedding).

    • Mai

      Yes! In my culture, cash is the norm and I am so thankful. It’s not just because money can buy you pretty things, but because money can provide a great sense of comfort and security. The day after we returned from our honeymoon, we opened a joint savings and deposited all the money we got. That was one of the best feelings ever. It felt like we were starting life off on the right foot. I used to think it was impersonal, but as I get older, I always give couples cash and a sincere wish that it helps them fulfill their dreams together.

  • Amanda L

    You’ve gotten some good advice, so I will just say this. If you find that after the cost of travel and hotel, that you really cannot afford a gift, please, PLEASE buy a card. I was more miffed that after watching us say our ‘I dos’, so many of our guests didn’t acknowledge the occasion with a ‘congratulations and good luck!’.

    Also, I will say that I was probably one of the worst wedding guests from 1997-2009… I hope to make up for that at future weddings!

    • Other C

      I second this – PLEASE bring a card. We got a kick out of the cards we received and the thoughtful / funny / kind messages in them. One of the things that still hurts me about our wedding is actually that my husband’s parents, who had legitimate reasons for not contributing financially didn’t give a small “token” gift of any sort but more importantly, DIDN’T GIVE A CARD.

    • MDBethann

      I second the card too. The box for cards was put out late so there was a bit of a mess on the gift table for awhile. When I was reading through all of the well wishes, I had a mini panic attack when I didn’t see a card from one of my friends who was definitely at our wedding. I was so terribly afraid it had been lost. And it was terribly weird to figure out how to ask her if she’d sent a card, because I didn’t want to NOT send her a thank you note if she had given us a card & it had been lost (and if you give a gift, tuck the card inside the wrapping paper or bag so it doesn’t get separated & they know whom to thank for the gift).

      The card also helps the couple remember years later who was at their wedding. All of our cards are tucked away in a box in my closet for me to bring and out & read through when the mood strikes me.

  • Nikki

    We’re known in our circle of friends as the people who make cocktails. When I see cocktail glasses on someone’s list I immediately snap them up, and then we pair them with the recipe and ingredients of a cocktail that we think they’ll love. That way we’re covered by getting something they actually want, but adding our own personal twist which requires thought. Personal yet practical!

  • kcaudad

    Alot of these comments are great, but only ‘in a perfect world’. Honestly, when we registered, I gave my husband the scanner ‘gun’ and let him go to town. It was the only way he would be somewhat happy participating in making the registry! Which, made it kinda funny at my bridal shower when I had no idea that the ‘random’ gifts people bought were actually from the registry items he picked out! Also, we had several people who must have bought things from the registries and did not tell the store associate, so we go several duplicate items. Finally, no offense, but your gift might get returned because they get a duplicate or they realize that they don’t actually need that item(s) after all. We probably took back about 1/4 of our wedding presents from the registry stores and got gift cards. Then, we used then over the next year to get things for ‘free’ that we realized we actually needed.

    • js

      I’m not trying to be…difficult, but this is some of what I personally dislike about registries. It’s often seen as one of the only things the “poor, silly groom” is interested in. Like it’s awful for him to be getting married so he ought to have some fun and get to play with the “gun” or registry scanner. Like people just run through the store and scan whatever they want, without research into products or care and thought about their guests. I don’t speak for everyone, but I researched the crap out of the things for my registry. I also can’t stand when people use their registry to try and recoup some of their “losses” from what they’ve spent on other people’s registry gifts. Getting a duplicate item is “real life” as you say. Registries aren’t fool proof, they’re just meant to help. I think putting time into thinking about what you’ll really use helps prevent having to take back 1/4 of what you’ve registered for. I also think being able to take things back and realizing there are some things you didn’t know you needed is one of the cool things about a registry.

  • D

    This advice is spot on. As a recently married gal who had a registry, yeah, it really is just a guide; and although the stuff listed on there isn’t very exciting, it’s stuff that the two of us could really use to help us build a comfortable home for ourselves, which is important for a baby family. Especially as someone who loves to cook, anything for the kitchen is a well appreciated gift. As for how much to spend, the slender metal measuring spoons (which I really really wanted) that my cousin bought me for about $10 bucks has gotten a lot more use than the $100 dollar cooking pans a rich aunt bought us. And I appreciate the $10 spoons because I know that $10 was harder to come by in my cousin’s case. It really isn’t about the money.

    APW sure has made it hard for me to work lately! All the posts in the last few days have really hit a chord with me.

  • Meg

    While many of the readers here are not traditional, we can’t forget many of our relatives are. As much as I’m for experiential gifts – honeymoon registries, tickets to games or shows, wine for the anniversary, charity donations – my older relatives will always want to give a physical gift. When you don’t have a spacious home, a registry helps ensure you’re not wasting your relatives’ time and money. How sad would it be to get dozens of personalized gifts or duplicate housewares you never use and hide in storage? That’s just a mess of guilt for you and a waste of your Aunt Cathy’s good will and effort. Help guide them towards the gifts that you will really love and use over the years.

    In defense of measuring cups, I bake a lot, and I can tell you that good measuring cups and spoons really make a difference. I have gone through several different sets – some that are hard to store, some that are awkward for scooping, some that lose the labeling and make you guess if you are using 1/3 or 1/4 cup – and I cannot WAIT to get my fancy (ok, $20) measuring cups. There is also SPACE for them in our teeny 1 bedroom apartment.

    The moral of the story is – buy the gift that seems right to you, and let’s all stop judging each other so much!

    • vegankitchendiaries

      Hear, hear!

    • jashshea

      Same – my measuring cups that INCLUDE A TWO CUP OPTION are the among my fave gifts. Unrelated, when we moved into our house unpacked everything from our tiny condo + storage we found we had five (5) sets of measuring cups, including the wedding ones. Oy.

      • Rebecca

        I think we have 4 sets of measuring spoons, all liberated from the tyranny of the rings holding them together, and we still run out of tablespoons sometimes. Also, oval shaped measuring spoons are totally superior to round ones for fitting into spice jars and things.

        • Me too! I have 4 sets of measuring cups and 3 sets of measuring spoons and sometimes run out when cooking a lot. (Only one of each came from the wedding, the others were hand-me-downs, but they all get used.)

    • Meg Keene

      YES. Yesyesyes.

      To be honest, much as I run a not always traditional site, I really want to give physical wedding gifts too. I want to give something that you’ll have in the retirement home. So yes, people want to do that, in a sense, registries are a way to allow people to love you the way that they know how.

    • Please recommend your favorite measuring cups!!

      • Caroline

        So, this may sounds completely and utterly crazy, because it is so much money for measuring cups, but they are worth every penny. They are built like tiny pots, with the handles riveted on. They are heavier and thicker than some pots I’ve used in comercial kitchens. They are amazing. So heavy duty, long lasting, and they stack really well and you can use them as tiny pots. (I melt butter on the stove in the 1 c. one all the time and it is awesome). Seriously, for the person who cooks a lot, these are worth the money. (The measuring spoons are awesome too.) We went through several sets of measuring cups and spoons in seeral years that were just crap, they would bend, or break or the handle would come off… But these are the best measuring cups ever.

        • That’s awesome, thanks for sharing! I love the tiny pots part! Our measuring cups and spoons are all cheap and we use them a TON. These sound like an awesome wedding gift!

          • Caroline

            I mean, who was sitting in the design department saying, “You know what we should make to supplement our line of top quality pots and pans? Tiny pans disguised as measuring cup. With rivets and everything. There is a strong demand for 1/4 cup pots.” but they are the best!

        • Sarah

          They are WONDERFUL! And…as part of our registry “kickback” of registering at Macy’s, we got a set of “odd sized ones” – 1.5 cups, 3/4 cup, 2 TBSP, 1.5 tsp, etc. for free! And I love love love them.

      • I like the ones I got from Crate and Barrel.

  • Marcela

    As someone whose love language is gifts in a big way, I was actually hurt by some of our guests who did not give us a present at our wedding. Or gave something way below what my upbringing dictates as appropriate wedding gifts.
    However, I realize this has more to do with my own personal giving style (I personally make over 50 jars of truffles each year as co-worker gifts, and would never not give a gift to a wedding, new baby, housewarming..etc) and I need to let go. I always feel awful when this sort of thing comes up because I guess I fall into the dreaded bride who “feels irate about presents they deem unworthy” category. His older sister never gave us a gift or card and I can’t help but feel like it was a sign of how little she values us as a couple and our marriage.
    Gifts are hard.

    • KC

      That’s really rough. I’m a gifts-are-really-really-really-not-my-love-languages person; do you have suggestions for how it would be best to communicate with someone like you, to figure out where the expectations are?

      (I ask this because I have at least one gifts-are-love-language friend and I’ve been trying like crazy to figure out how to do the gifts thing in a way that communicates properly, since I know that for “words of affirmation” people, repeating “you have nice shoes” “you have nice shoes” robotically doesn’t hit the button, and gifts are not my natural language)

      I’m also wondering if you can reframe things-that-people-did-for-you as gifts of their time/energy/love, to be more at peace about missing physical gifts? (but honestly really don’t know how/whether that can work)

      • Marcela

        Even small gifts make a difference for me. A college friend got us a “dirty joke” laundry hamper as a wedding gift and wrote all over the packaging dirty jokes and penis drawings and awful puns and limmirks. It might have cost $10 but I will never forgot the look on my mother’s face when we unwrapped the gift and read out loud all of the hilarious things. This friend and I share a rather juvenile sense of humor and it was a great gift, not because of what she gave but because of the connection she made. I had another friend organize my going away party at my old job and she had everyone bring me Coca-cola products as going away gifts since I drank Coke every day at my desk.
        For your friend, try to think of things that will have meaning, even if it is as little as a coke. Does she like stationary? Get her some pretty post-its. My feet are always cold so cozy socks would be a welcome gift. For me the gift serves as a tangible manifestation of the love and thought that person has for me. It’s important to me to look around my home and see all of these representations of love. It feels like getting a nice warm hug!

        • KC

          Thank you! I’m not used to thinking in that direction, so I guess I will need to stretch that muscle a bit (what objects can be associated with a person) and think outside the box. (or, er, *in* the box in this case :-) )

        • Completely agree! Gifts are my love language and small is not a big deal…in fact, small gifts are DELIGHTFUL. So KC, I’d say, think “treats.”…anything she probably wouldn’t buy for herself because it’s a tiny splurge.

      • Jennifer

        I think this is also where the idea of just giving a card comes in! Just something to show that you care. I spent my 25th birthday on a cruise for a good friend’s wedding. I was her MOH, shelled out thousands of dollars on airfare, cruise costs, and other wedding related expenses, and she didn’t even bother to give me a birthday card…and only told me happy birthday after her parents said it to me. I didn’t expect her to make a big deal out of it, and totally didn’t expect a gift. But after all the time, effort, and hard-earned money (I was fresh out of college and broke!) it would have been nice to have been acknowledged in some way. A card would have been lovely :)
        Then again, I don’t think she sent a single thank you note to anyone who attended the wedding or sent a gift, so maybe that’s just her…

    • Brenda

      It might be that she doesn’t value you (I don’t know your sister-in-law), or it might just be that gifts are not her love language. Gifts really stress me out. I want to give something PERFECT and MEANINGFUL and if I can’t find the perfect thing, then I just think, what’s the point, will they want this, will they use it, will they like it. I work myself into a tizzy and then it’s too late. Plus I’m usually stressed about money.

      Same thing with cards – I won’t buy the generic one, it has to be cute and perfect and beautiful, and sometimes I can’t find it. And then it too late.

      If she’s a generally nice person and shows you how she values you in her way, then try not to get hung up on her not showing you in your way. And if she’s not, then gifts are not the problem.

    • LM

      Gifts are not my love language, but I felt hurt when we didn’t receive gifts from a couple people, so I really empathize. I think part of my upset was feeling like if I were more important, they wouldn’t have forgotten/chosen not to give/whatever, which reflects more on my own issues than anything else. But, I also found it situational — my sister didn’t give a wedding gift, but that was fine with me because we never buy each other gifts and that’s not how we express love to each other. Similarly, an old friend didn’t give anything, but she planned by bachelorette and that was way more meaningful to me than something tangible (I’m an “acts of service” person). However, two adult cousins of my husband didn’t give gifts and somehow in my head they are ‘adults’ so they should have. I also don’t know them well, so I don’t have the background that allows me to feel more compassion and understanding that while my wedding was super important to me, they may have other stuff going on that I don’t even know about so it is not on their radar in the same way. But it is complicated and can be hard to quiet the voice that says, “but I gave your son a gift for his bar mitzvah.”

      • Marcela

        YES! I felt this way too. We have some friends who did not get us any gifts but I know that they are in dire financial straits so just the fact that they took off work to be with us on our wedding day was a gift in and of itself. But some of the other people who are established in their careers and are “adults” as you put it, I felt similarly to you.

    • JenClaireM

      I appreciate you sharing this because gifts are one of my love languages
      too, and I have felt bad that it made me sad when some people didn’t give us gifts for our wedding. Logically, I know that it wasn’t anything personal, and of course, I wouldn’t want someone to spend in a way that isn’t comfortable for them. But giving gifts is so meaningful to me that when really close people (like my husband’s siblings) didn’t give one, I was challenged to not take it personally. I realize that people are just different and prioritize differently, but it’s still good to hear that I’m not the only one who has this reaction.

  • malkavian

    You should only spend what you can afford on a gift. Buying gifts for someone should not put an undue burden on you, and honestly, if someone gets angry because you didn’t spend ‘enough’ on a gift that’s rude and selfish.

    The most appreciated gifts we got off our registry are all the nice kitchenware we asked for, in particular the knife set that my grad school friends (who didn’t attend but were kind enough to buy a gift anyway) pooled their resources for, and the le crueset dutch oven husband’s mom got that we now use ALL THE TIME. But event he smaller gifts (for example, a microplane from my husband’s co-workers) were greatly appreciated. Basically if someone got us a kitchen gift we’re using it and loving it.

    The best unexpected gift we got (not on the registry) was from one of my two bridesmaids. It was a groupon for a stay at a local hotel with a wine tasting and food and spa credit. Maybe consider an ‘experience’ for an off-registry gift?

    The only real disappointments I had were when people didn’t even get us cards.

    • vegankitchendiaries


  • KC

    Okay, up there on the “favorite gifts” list is actually a pair of really nice chicken shears (for cutting apart meat). It had a receipt tucked inside the inner box (there was an outer box saying what it was, then an inner box, then the little “nest” for the shears). From, oh, 27 or so years ago… riiight around when that couple got married. :-)

    But I totally used those shears, and them knowing that I’m more “kitcheny” than they are [and had registered for cheapo kitchen shears], it seemed totally appropriate, from one good marriage to another, to get those. :-)

    Plus, like, biggest laugh ever when I opened them up to use them. I never confessed to them, though, that whoever gave them those shears had thoughtfully included the receipt… :-)

  • jashshea

    I struggled with our registry. We were both in our mid/early 30s and had lived independently for years prior to marriage. We’re also people who do a ton of research on purchases and like things to last for a long time (which generally means $$$). I tried to put things on our list that were in a variety of price categories and we also did a honeymoon registry where everything was under $40 (i.e the whole experience/event might have been $300, but I broke that up into $25 chunks).

    When I was much younger, I would give quirky gifts that were affordable and fun (if I knew someone was getting married AND buying a house, I would buy them board games and puzzles so they could do game nights). Cash is really common as a gift in my area, so I gradually switched over to that, giving what I could. If I was broke and/or had to travel to the wedding, the amount was smaller. Now that I’m older (which also means “invited to fewer weddings per year”), I do cash at the wedding +registry gift prior. If I know someone particularly well, I try to pick something meaningful, but I don’t stress.

    Long story short, I think you give if and what you’re able to. I was extremely grateful for the gifts we did receive but the best gift was chatting and dancing with people at the reception (and the various bridal parties). For what it’s worth, I do remember who gave what and think of everyone fondly when I use “their” gift (regardless of monetary value).

  • copper

    I just got married a couple of months ago, and did not receive gifts from many guests. I noticed mostly just because I entered the gifts we did receive on our guest list spreadsheet so that we can write appropriately specific thank-you notes and it stood out that many of the rows had a blank in that spot. There was only one that specifically stung, and that was my grandmother not getting us a gift. I know I shouldn’t have expectations, but she put my only cousin through college (did not do the same for me) and has given him substantial gifts at his not one but two weddings. I felt snubbed by that one. Everyone else? Not worried about. And that’s including a couple whose wedding we recently attended who gave us two bowls totaling under $20. Grandma was the only one that stung. So unless you’re breaking pattern in some hugely noticeable way AND are really in the inner circle of the couple, I doubt they will give 1/10th as much thought to this as you are.

    • Eh

      I did not put the gifts we recieved in our guest list spreadsheet because I didn’t want to know who didn’t get us a gift (that said, almost all of the people that came to our wedding got us gifts and many of my relatives who couldn’t come did too). There were a few guests that didn’t get us gifts and the only reason I noticed was because my husband was printing address labels for the thank you notes and he asked me if so-and-so gave us a gift and it turned out they didn’t but until he asked me I hadn’t even noticed. (As we opened the gifts my friend wrote what the gifts were into the cards to keep track of what we got.)
      Like you there was one absent gift that did sting – my husband’s brother didn’t give us a gift. He was supposed to be our best man and he decided that he couldn’t do that last minute (he was on the fence about being our best man the month before our wedding and he told us he probably wasn’t coming to our wedding 4 days before). His mother had to go to his house the morning of our wedding to ask him to come to our ceremony (he did not go to our reception and his wife hadn’t even booked the day off work). When they got married we helped with their wedding and we bought them a gift and they didn’t feel we did “enough” for their wedding so as “payback” they did nothing for our wedding.

      • copper

        collective lesson to the letter writer: Unless the missing or small gift is part of some overall dynamic that it feeds into, it’s no big deal!

  • jashshea

    Also, reading everyone’s answers is TOTALLY helping me out with Christmas ideas for my husband.

  • Cara

    Thoughtless gifts were the only ones that were “bad”, in my mind. We registered for a sweet stick blender, and someone gave us a much lesser quality one that seemed like a regift. Or the stuff that didn’t look like our style at all, like a bunch of happy face utensils, when we didn’t need cheap versions of things we already had. I appreciate that these people wanted to show us love with a gift, but it would have been better to get a small thing from the registry or something more personal.

    But the best gifts were either the personal ones or insanely useful ones! A friend (pretty broke) gave us candles she personalized with our names, and they are so cool! Or the cheese boards that fit together like yin and yang, and are beautiful. Or honestly, dish towels, I love nice dish towels! And the handmade cutting board would be such a beautiful gift to receive, it doesn’t take up too much room, and would be nice to have (and maybe replace older plastic ones).

    Lately, though, I’ve just been giving cash money (or a check) because it’s easy and appreciated! That and a nice card with a heartfelt message.

  • Sarah

    Gifts I have given, at various stages of income:
    -Donation to a charity that was close to the heart of the couple, in their name (I was so, so, broke at this time. I think I gave $10 but was too ashamed to use it on a gift, so I donated it instead.)
    -Gifts off the registry that were meaningful to my relationship with my friend (cookie sheets and cookie racks for someone I cooked with a lot)
    -Wooden cutting board for the couple with their names and wedding date on it (thanks, etsy!)
    -Group gift with friends for something big on the registry (wine cooler)

    Gifts I received at my own wedding that I loved:
    -A beautiful photo taken by a good friend (not a professional photographer), framed and signed.
    -Scuba-diving lessons and gift certificate for gear (our friend loved to scuba; this was his way of sharing that with us)
    -KitchenAid off my registry that I had lusted over for years from four of my best high school friends
    -Suitcases off our registry that have helped us to travel the world and not break our backs (it is ALL about the four-wheelers!)
    -box of amazing spices from local neighborhoods in the city where my wife went to grad school
    -a bottle of sweet wine left by our bed from friends who helped a LOT during the wedding
    -a crockpot off our registry from another couple with kids with a note that it was life-changing for their relationship and family
    -trip to a B&B from a group (we used this in our first year of marriage and it was SO wonderful!)
    -a set of gorgeous thank you notes (couldn’t have cost THAT much, but they were beautiful and we totally used them!!)

    I really didn’t care about how much people gave. I think $100/person is bullshit if you make $20K a year, especially if you are in full-blown “wedding season.” I would be comfortable giving $25 or even less! Making it meaningful and personal is so much more important. There are folks who gave us only the gift of their time and energy, and I count that just as much as a regular gift! There are folks who just wrote us a beautiful card who flew from across the country. What mattered to me is that somewhere, it was clear that the guest thought of us and made some sort of “special effort,” either by writing a thoughtful card, picking a thoughtful gift, or even just showing up despite distance, money, or difficult situations. That’s what made me feel loved.

  • KerryMarie

    Does anyone have a recommendation for a registry service that allows you to choose from anywhere across the internets? that also includes a “honeymoon” section? I know there are several out there, but I’ve never heard personal endorsements for any of them. APW roundup?

    • Nikki

      I recently signed up for because it does all that and looks pretty, too. You create your own sections (so you can make a honeymoon section), and you can even put an expensive item and have people contribute to its cost (like, say, a mattress) and the money just goes to your paypal account. It costs $35 for a year, and there are no ads (less cluttered!). However, we’re still in the process of adding things to it, so it remains to be seen how easy-to-use our guests find it.

      I’m wondering if we need to also have a registry at a store like Target or Macy’s or something so that people can go to the store, put our names in the little machine, and be able to buy it there. Is that important to people?

      • KerryMarie

        Thanks for the recommendation! I love the clean aesthetic of Merci Registry.

        As to the need for actually physically registering at a store…I imagine it would depend on your demographic. Most of our guest list is fairly technologically literate, so I’m hoping an online registry will work fine. I am, however, planning on asking a couple family members to help Grandma out if she needs it!

        • Eh

          Getting someone to help grandma is a great idea. We went with a registry from a large national department store because my family lives all over the country. Unfortunately I didn’t realize there was not a store for this department store in the city most of my family lives in until after I registered. The store does have a website (which was pretty easy to use) so one of my aunts helped my Grandma.
          Another thing to consider if you should register at a physical store or not is if lots of guests are travelling. If most of your guests are travelling (i.e., destination wedding or family that is all over the country) then it’s probably less important since they probably don’t want to bring the gifts with them.

    • Kayjayoh, which is what I am using, allows that. I’m liking it so far.

    • JenClaireM

      We used my registry:
      It was really easy to use and highly customizable. Worked great – gifts were purchased without problem and arrived with out incident.

    • is what we used.

  • I don’t understand where this habit of judging people from their registry comes from. (And, like Liz says; it’s the same thing as a Christmas list in many ways.) If your friend wants a set of tacky napkin rings, and you can afford them and want to buy your friend a gift, buy the napkin rings! Don’t judge your friend for having different taste to you! Maybe your friend really likes those napkin rings!

    Like – no person HAS to get a present for a wedding couple (though I’d argue it’s polite, if you can afford to do it). But if you feel like you have to, and the couple has a registry, then why not shop off it? I very much doubt your friend would be like, “man, I cannot BELIEVE Susan bought me these towels that I said I needed/wanted and didn’t hand-carve me a replica of a fertility goddess using wood sourced from her own backyard* instead! That bitch!”

    *I mean, if you CAN give a hand carved replica of a fertility goddess using wood sourced from your own backyard, and you’d like to do that, awesome! I’m just saying that I doubt anyone will be upset NOT to get that.

  • NB

    Registries are awfully handy, and I still remember fondly the friends who bought us registry gifts—people tend to be drawn to what is a personal connection between you, anyway, so registry gifts don’t *have* to be impersonal.

    2.5 years later, I could not tell you what each guest spent on gifts (or really, even who gave gifts at all!). If $100/person is a bit high for your household (it is high for mine!), it is totally, 100% appropriate to spend far less. In fact, one of the sweetest gifts we received was a $20 pie plate. I love that thing.

    If you aren’t feeling the registry (or, like me, you wait til the last minute to order a gift, and all of a sudden you’re down to the random dish towels and scrub brushes, which don’t do it for me), alternative options that we got that were quite sweet: (1) small pieces of art for our home; (2) a lovely vase; (3) champagne flutes; (4) a snuggly throw blanket.

    Finally, one thing that I do for some of my dear friends, when I remember: a very nice letter or email, to arrive in the week before the wedding, reminding them that they are wonderfully loved, and that we absolutely cannot wait to celebrate with them and hug their faces off. That, paired with flowers delivered the week of the wedding, was one of the sweetest and most heartfelt wedding gifts that we got. Now, I try to pay it forward!

    • I absolutely love your last idea there. I would love to do that for people even if they aren’t getting married. Who doesn’t appreciate that kind of sentiment?

      • p.

        Great point! Unexpected gifts or cards can really mean a lot. My MIL randomly sent us a tin of cookies last year and it was such a wonderful and unexpected treat.

        One of the best wedding gifts we got was a text from a friend the day before our wedding that simply said: “You’re doing great.” At that point, we certainly didn’t feel like we were doing great, but his text relieved some of our stress and reminded us that we had really lovely people in our lives. I have no idea if that friend gave us a gift off our registry, but I will probably always remember the text.

  • For our wedding I knew our friends were broke and our aunts and uncles were established. I would’ve been foolish to expect them to spend the same on gifts.

    We registered for things we needed. We married late and had two of some things and others had already worn out or, like my iron, broke right before the wedding (we didn’t register for an iron, but got one anyway and I remember the blind foresight of that guest every time we use it). We got several things not on our registry too. We are not the type to throw parties, but I’m real glad someone decided to get us a layered serving plate every year when we throw our one party for the year (our Pi party).

  • EM

    For those of you who are unhappy with the registry options out there, you definitely have to check out the new registry service called SoKind ( This is how they describe themselves: “SoKind is a registry service that encourages the giving of homemade gifts, charitable donations, secondhand goods, experiences, time, day-of-event help, and more. Here’s to more fun and less stuff!” It’s cool because you can register for traditional gifts from any store you want, but you can also register for gift cards, help with wedding-related tasks, housing for guests, anything you want really.

    • Kayjayoh

      I’m using them, and I love their interface.

  • Crayfish Kate

    Kinda surprised this hasn’t come up more, but people on serious budgets – do not dismiss the homemade card! Seriously, it hardly costs a thing, and SO EASY to personalize, plus being really thoughtful. You can buy blank cards & envelopes (I get mine from, or just get some sheets of cardstock & cut/fold them yourself. You can draw a silly cartoon featuring the couple, or if you like lettering, write some fancy calligraphy or something on the front. Or, if you have a really sweet or silly photo of the couple, glue that to the front :-)

    I’ve been making origami figures since forever, so my go-to is usually folding some cranes from fancy, pretty patterned origami paper & glueing them to the front. Then you can write your own heartfelt message inside – no worries about it being too cheesy, too fancy, not funny enough, etc.

    • Totes McGotes

      This. Or if you have kids have them make a card. One of my favorite things I received for my wedding was a homemade card from our friend’s six-year-old daughter. She had decorated it with stickers, nice messages, and drew a picture inside of us with our dogs. It seriously gave me ALL THE FEELS and I’ll treasure it forever!

  • lildutchgrrl

    Even with the registry, you can end up with duplicates — and the registry has a special hidden function! Strangely enough, my aunt DID buy us a crockpot… and so did a friend who found one at a local thrift shop. We were happy to have one, but didn’t need two. The registry (through Amazon, in our case) meant that we were able to return the crockpot purchased there, without hurting any feelings, and put the refund credit toward another item that we later bought for ourselves. We still have a crockpot; it works great, and we appreciated the thoughtfulness and generosity of both gift-givers. (The thank-you note to my aunt said that, without mentioning the return, and noted some of the awesome things we can make with our crockpot.)

  • emilyg25

    One of the most meaningful gifts from our wedding were the cookie sheet and single wine glass (both off the registry) from my super broke friend, with a note saying that now the essentials (cookies and wine) are covered. We really didn’t care what people got us, or if they got us anything at all. I think most people are like that, at least the ones you’d want to be friends with.

  • Heather

    I think one of the best takeaways I have from my wedding is how to be a better wedding guest. I can recall agonizing over what the bride would think of the gift I got her when I went to weddings. Now I know that she has way more to think about than how much money I spent or whether or not I got the “right” type of gift. Two specific things I learned: one, if you get something off the registry buy it early and have it sent to the house so the wedding party has less to load into the car afterward, and second is that there is nothing wrong with cash. I LOVED the people who gave us cash and I was grateful for any amount. We had just spent so much money and were heading off to our honeymoon. We used the cash gifts to pay for a nice dinner and other things during our trip. So nice. Another thought is the gift of time or labor. I didn’t always feel comfortable asking for help with wedding set up or coordination. I was so grateful for the people who offered to help out as part of their gift to me.

  • Helen

    One of my favorite gifts we received at our wedding was a honeymoon basket (for our driving honeymoon- this wouldn’t work so well for someone flying to a destination), with special wine, candles, chocolate and massage oil. It didn’t cost much but was beautifully put together, and was from one of our struggling theatre friends. I know he put a lot of thought into it and that’s what made it so special. I can see a similar ‘welcome home’ basket for post-honeymoon being really lovely, too.

    Personally, if it is someone I know really well, I tend to go off-registry for something meaningful (but not just another version of something they registered for.) If it is someone I know a little less well, I stick to the registry.

  • bsc

    This is a great post and I just might forward it to my MIL! My fiance and I have lived together for almost 2 years now and are not in need of much “home wise”. If we do see something we need, we usually just buy it. For our wedding, we created a Honeymoon registry because we love to travel and a good honeymoon is important to us. We are financing most of the wedding ourselves so we thought a honeymoon registry would be a unique way for our guests to contribute to something we do actually want and that we can remember for a lifetime. My MIL, however, is fairly disappointed at our registry because in her eyes “it’s just money” that we’ve registered for. Our reasoning? Instead of asking our guests to bring a $20 set of dish towels, why not put $20 toward our honeymoon? The registry is even broken down into segments to look like a traditional registry. Guests can contribute toward a romantic dinner or a trip to the spa or toward part of our airfare. I’m excited about it and nervous at the same time! I just want my MIL to stop talking negatively about it to her friends and side of family. I don’t want to come off as a greedy, selfish bride! I just don’t need much for my home!

  • Kat Robertson

    I am SO used to being the broke friend on the guest list! A couple things I have done: cheaper baking supplies from the registry with a cake/cookie mix and a note, ladles/serving spoons inside of the oven mitt with a soup mix/fun-shaped pasta, bottle of wine and set of glasses or bottle opener from registry, gift card for whatever amount I could afford in a nice card. For a friend who I was a bridesmaid for I Facebook stalked her and made her a photo album of pictures of her and her new husband and wrote out captions that told their love story. I would definitely agree with others that a gift should not feel like an obligation or be some sort of reimbursement for dinner, though. It should be a genuine act of generosity, proportional to what the giver can afford.
    Now that I’m getting married I have received some big ticket gifts from wealthier guests that have blown me away, but I have a very special place in my heart for the cookie sheet/ladle guests because I know exactly the kind of sacrifices they’re making to give me anything at all. :-)

  • Jana D

    Oh thank god for this post! I have purchased many a wedding gift but recently decided to see just how far off I was on the price tag according to popular beliefs. Yeah, I was off by a lot. I had a moment of real insecurity, even though I knew that buying a well thought out gift that fit in my budget was perfectly reasonable. I just always worry that I will look cheap when really my fiance and I would love to give more but are totally broke. I don’t know why I feel that way because I wouldn’t judge my friends based on the monetary value of their gift so I’m not sure why others would (but maybe it’s because I definitely have family members that do just that).

  • snowmentality

    Seriously. Spend what you want to and can afford, and give something you think they’ll really enjoy, on or off the registry. It truly is the thought that counts.

    When we got married, and people gave us wedding gifts, I can honestly say that I did not give any thought to whose gift was more expensive or less expensive. I was just overwhelmed by everyone’s thoughtfulness and kindness. Some of our friends simply gave us cards with meaningful, heartfelt messages written in them, and those truly did mean as much to me as anything else we got. I wanted to cry happily and hug the people who wrote them, because they really showed their love for us.

  • Ashley Meredith

    For once I’m being lazy and not reading the entire comment thread before posting to make sure someone hasn’t already said what I’m about to. (Hey, I totally get it about overthinking things.)

    A group of researchers did a study to see what gifts people found most “thoughtful” and “meaningful”. The results were, in order of most to least thoughtful: “exactly what the person wanted” (registries are hugely helpful in this regard), “money,” and last, “an item the giver picked out on their own.” Counterintuitive, perhaps, and also possibly not universal, but there’s the general rule of how our brains worked.

    As for the old, “people have been keeping house a long time,” that doesn’t mean they’ve had the money to buy things they want/need/would use regularly. I hadn’t. If somebody has, and their registry is consequently full of expensive/completely discretionary luxury items, I agree that would be off-putting… but most of the time I think there should be something on the registry that works, or which can be found elsewhere in a way that meets the buyer’s values.

    • Emilie

      I’m super skeptical of this. But then again I am not a gift person. Wonder who sponsored the study? Probably Macy’s.

      • Ashley Meredith

        It was in a heavily research-based book I read (though I don’t remember specifically which one) and was, as I recall, a non-sponsored academic study. It makes sense to me. I’m not a gift person either, which is why I would really rather get something I actually need than something that’s just going to have to be stored or disposed of.

        To answer another comment I got a notification about but don’t see here: the study was structured so that the “receiver” had to choose an item within a certain budget. An anonymous “giver” (also a study participant, not someone personally known by the recipient) could then choose to “give” that gift, money, or something else. And yes, it’s absolutely amazing when someone gives you the perfect thing without input, but it has happened only once to me in my life and then by someone who was only really an acquaintance. So… whatever.

        • KC

          Amen to the getting-something-you-need-not-just-something-to-store-or-get-rid-of.

          Thanks so much for posting more about the study!

          I think having the giver/receiver pairs be anonymous takes a lot out of the potential thoughtfulness or emotive power of the gift – of *course* you’d rather have preferred-item rather than entirely-random-chosen-by-stranger-item, because while a stranger can be thoughtful, you don’t have a relationship with them so much. (although I’d strongly prefer the cash instead in the context of an anonymous study, but that may still have societal ingraining as “crass” or possibly the gifts were indulgences that the person would, gut-level, rather have but intellectually knew that cash, if given, should really go towards the student loans, or something like that?)

          (and yeah, the “perfect gift you didn’t specifically ask for”… well, I’ve seen more bald eagles in the wild.)

    • KC

      I wonder if “exactly what the person wanted” was including the concept that the giver “just knew” exactly what the person wanted, not just picking it off a list? Because that *seriously* ups the giving stakes for me – if someone does or gives something that is *just right* without actual recent “please give me this” input, I am over the moon because it means they know me and thought enough about me and understand me enough to hit the bullseye. (note: I do not *ever* expect this kind of mind-reading from anyone. But sometimes it happens! And it’s beyond amazing when it does!)

      • KC

        (and for context, this particular “over the moon” is from me, someone who is normally very, very “meh” about gifts. So. There’s that. In other love languages, this might be “spontaneous hug at just the right time when got news of death in extended family” vs. “I just told my husband, who was blithely oblivious to my emotional state and would otherwise not have hugged me at this time, that I would probably start crying and/or put hot sauce in his breakfast cereal if he did not hug me now”? Because these are two different creatures.)

  • Amanda N

    I just got married and did a registry to offer suggestions to our guests. We are “older”, aka living together with sometimes 2 of things, but wanted to upgrade. We mostly registered for kitchen items, we cook/bake a lot and wanted quality items that we would use. Yes, we could afford them on our own and make more money than some of our guests but were also grateful for whatever gift our guests gave. Overall, people gave money and were generous. But we made a point not to judge. And for those that got us gifts that seem ridiculous to some… I assure you that my husband will use the ice cream maker that we got and we will think of the friend that gave us the gift when we use it.

    My main suggestion would be to keep the couple in mind, if you get/give a standard gift to everyone it may not be appreciated. Not everyone has the same tastes/interests. A registry can give you an idea (and hopefully help those guests that you have to invite that don’t know you at all). So, yes, it is ok to go with your own idea and if it is thoughtful than it will be appreciated.

    I don’t think that there is a set amount that you should give. What you can afford, how close you are to the couple, what other expenses you had (travel, etc.) can all be factors. Not that all couples do this but we made a point to think we weren’t going to get very much, so when people were generous we were even more greatful.

    On a side note… the “they have everything” idea was why I didn’t have a traditional wedding shower. I got some push-back but in the end it was what we were comfortable with.

  • Emilie

    How do you tell people you’re not doing a registry? We’re just super lazy and don’t feel like it. But it’s like a… Thing. People expect them. How do you respond to the angst?

    • Kayjayoh

      Pull out your tiniest violin and play them a sad song?

  • JenClaireM

    I never really liked registries until about eight years ago when a dear friend who was getting married told me how excited she and her fiance got every time someone sent them something from their registry because it was all stuff they really wanted. That was kind of a revelation for me – and the beginning of my real fondness for registries. But I think if you have something different and personal that you like to give and you prefer doing that, that’s great too. To me, a beautiful handmade cutting board is a great gift – it’s personal, attractive AND useful.

    My now-husband and I really valued useful gifts. We’re older-ish (30s) and already had a lot of stuff – but not everything – so it was so great to get the stuff we wanted and still needed. And because space for us is at a premium, gifts we could use a lot have been favorites. Some of those favorites: our crockpot (so useful!), a small scanpan pan, a SodaStream, glass tupperware, matching utensils, and nice sheets. Stuff that I thought was SO boring when I used to look at people’s registries – like sheets – I really treasured receiving because they were items we really wanted and that we use all the time. And I totally think of the people who gave them to us and appreciate that gift when using them, so it is still personal.

    All that being said, people also gave us stuff off our registry that was amazing. Some favorite gifts were a painting by a dear friend whose art I adore, a couples’ massage on our honeymoon, framed vintage postcards from the place we got married, and two months of a CSA produce box. My MOH sent us a list of possible gifts (not on the registry) she wanted to get us and asked us to pick the one we liked best, which was really amazing. We also registered with a nonprofit (Heifers International), and having people make gifts to it in our honor was something we particularly loved.

    Really though, we were touched by the thoughtfulness of people’s gifts more than anything else – and how much people spent wasn’t what mattered in that. Of course, generous gifts were great and appreciated, but so were the small, thoughtful tokens – and the heartfelt cards! Really, I think as long as you’re being thoughtful – which clearly you are – you can’t go wrong.

    • Crayfish Kate

      The CSA box is an AWESOME idea! Wish I’d thought of it, haha. I’m definitely going to keep that one in mind :-)

  • MEM

    My friend got married over the summer and I took her to lunch and my favorite lingerie store to buy something for the honeymoon. She and I have always been comfortable discussing the bedroom with each other and I knew she’d never take herself, so it seemed like a fun girls day. She has thanked me so many times and it was fun to have part of the gift be a girls outing.

  • ammaring

    While I agree that gifts are not necessary, if you meant enough to someone that they invited you to their wedding and you attended, you should do SOMETHING….help out! take on a task! help with a before/after event! make something homemade! even write a really thoughtful letter if you travelled from far away, take some pics and make sure to send them to the bride and groom…just SOMETHING. We received amazing gifts (large and small) both from our registry and not, and the most memorable were the thoughtful ones not from the registry (like the framed watercolour print painted from the location where we got engaged – AHMAZING! the homemade shot-ski! the manpower in setting up/cleaning up of the reception and drinking scotch beforehand with my groom! Not so much the 3 different ‘candle holders’ that we truly don’t need.!).

    But my point today is this….you should do SOMETHING. We had friends that we invited to our local wedding (friends whose wedding we FLEW across the country for a thousand dollars the year before, AND gave amazing gifts for, AND helped out at the wedding and the day-after event)….and we didn’t even get a congratulations card (while they can afford to do something, with 2 awesome jobs +). Not a lick of help, not even showing up at events to show us love (like the bachelor party), not even a card. We aren’t petty, but we do feel hurt that they couldn’t even be bothered.

  • Amanda Michele Rhaesa

    My go-to wedding gift for friends is melted crayon art with a silhouette of the bride and groom under an umbrella in a melted crayon rainstorm. It’s cute, personal, and costs less than $20. I am a crafty person, so this may not be for everyone.

  • Jacob Wadsworth

    The price really doesn’t matter as long as the couple will be able to use it to start their married life. There are no rules in giving gifts. The receiver should even be thankful that they are given. –

  • Sharon Gorbacz

    I do wonder if anyone I’ve invited is not coming to my wedding because they feel that they can’t afford to give a gift on top of whatever travel costs they may be incurring. I honestly don’t expect gifts from anyone, and certainly not as generous as my fiance and myself have been in gifting to those that have gotten married in the past 5 years.

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