This is My Best Advice for Building a Registry


Plus get $25 to spend on Zola when you sign up

by Maddie Eisenhart, Chief Revenue Officer

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If you’ve ever read one of those registry must-have lists from the big box retailers, my guess is you’ve probably thought to yourself, “Um, is this real life?” It’s not that they can’t be helpful. It’s just… how can that list possibly apply to the couple that’s been together two years and lives in a small city apartment while also being relevant to the couple that’s been together fifteen years and lives in a house in the ’burbs? (Spoiler alert: probably can’t.) That said, when you’re in the middle of planning a wedding, while also trying to figure out what the hell kind of stuff you might want to have in your house after the wedding, it’s really helpful to have some guidance from folks who have been there. Which is why we’ve partnered with Zola today to bring you a registry guide that is based―wait for it―on your actual life (with some of my own experience thrown in for good measure).

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If you haven’t heard of them yet, Zola is the universal wedding registry that covers everything you could possibly think of, from the old standbys like cookware and home goods to non-traditional registry items like experience gifts, honeymoon funds, and even subscription services to make your life easier. With Zola, you can add items from any retailer online and in real life, and control when they get shipped to you. In short, they let you make a registry that’s one hundred percent reflective of you. So if you’re just getting started thinking about what to add to your own registry, here’s what I’ve learned from both eight years of marriage and five years of listening to y’all say smart things about your own registries:

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Practical Upgrades

Upgrading has gotten a bad rap in the wedding game, probably because it can be used as a slimy sales tactic. (Upgrade everything! Yes, even that totally functional peeler you use once a month. You’re getting married. Buy all the stuff.) But do you know what I’ve learned from packing all my stuff up half a dozen times to move, including that one where I drove across the country? It’s really nice to have stuff that lasts. But how do you separate the practical upgrades from the superfluous ones? How can you possibly know what you’ll actually need in ten years? The short answer is, you don’t and that’s okay. But here’s a tip: start with stuff you already use all the time. Look around your place and ask yourself, “What do we interact with every day?” Do you and your partner love to cook? Is your bookshelf your sanctuary? Do you travel a bunch throughout the year? I live and die for a warm bed, so we registered for a new comforter to replace the one we’d inherited from Michael’s childhood. And surprise, the one from childhood is now in rough shape. And our wedding comforter? Still the coziest.

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Stuff that future you will thank you for

Inherently, registering is a bit of a guessing game. There’s no way to predict exactly what your lives will look like ten years from now. But it’s totally fine to try and make an educated guess. Do you picture lazy Sunday mornings listening to records with a fresh cup of coffee? Do you want to go camping during summer weekends? Great, register for reality and make it happen. Pro tip: Zola actually has a great set of “starter collections” where you can shop by your priorities and interests (in case records and coffee aren’t your jam, they’ve got collections for baking, adventuring, or easy entertaining.) Because while it isn’t always the case, nearly a decade of marriage has taught me that if you build it, they will come: sometimes a small change in your house is enough to spark new traditions and habits.

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anything that makes life easier

It’s scientifically proven that my marriage improves every time we add something to our home that makes life easier. (Y’all know how I feel about my marriage hacks.) This is including, but not limited to, our Blue Apron subscription, the basket where we keep blankets in our living room (seriously, for years they have just lived on the floor in front my couch, why), the mattress that doesn’t transfer motion when I do my sleep kickboxing routine, and a $15 garlic press that doesn’t rust. And the nice thing about Zola is that since you can add items from anywhere (you can even hit up that indie shop down the street with their barcode scanner app on your phone), you’re not limited to some department store’s idea of what’s practical in your everyday life. (But also Zola’s inventory is so deep that all those things I mentioned above are actually already available through their site.)

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SH*t that straight up delights you

There’s a lot of pressure when you’re registering to stick to stuff that’s practical and useful. (See… um… my tips above. #Whoops.) But one of the best parts of building a home together is choosing things that make you happy to live inside them. (Fun fact: For our holiday gifts this year, APW gave each staff member $300 and gave us an hour and a half to spend it on things that delighted us. It was the most fun shopping experience of my life not worrying if what I was buying was practical. All it had to do was make me happy.) So go ahead, register for the cool neon sign. Register for the fun doormat. Or if physical stuff isn’t your priority, add that cheese of the month club subscription (cheese delivered to my house = why would I ever leave my living room?). Because your registry is about your life together, and that includes more than just cooking and sleeping and vacuuming. And if you’re worried about people not getting it? Zola lets you add notes to your registry so that you can inform your guests exactly how you plan on using that instant camera on your honeymoon. You know there’s always one guest who lives for buying you the weird, wacky, and fun stuff (hint: it’s me.).

What questions do you have about registering? Or married folk: what’s your best advice for making your registry work for you? in the meantime, you can set up your zola registry here and leave your questions in the comments!

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This post was sponsored by Zola. Zola is the universal registry that combines form with function. With Zola, you can personalize your registry so that it actually looks and feels like you (and then add items from any retailer, so that it also represents you). And then they’ve packed it with tons of user-friendly features from group gifting to shipping control (aka you tell your registry when you want to receive stuff), and the lowest fee in the industry for cash gifts if you choose to add a cash registry option. You can even register for activities to do with your partner after you’re married, or use the handy Zola app (with barcode scanner) to register for items at your favorite stores. And if you change your mind about something after you’ve registered for it? No problem. Zola makes online exchanges quick and easy. Zola will even help you keep track of thank you notes because that’s one less thing you should have to worry about. Click here for a full list of Zola’s features, and get $25 in Zola credits when you create your Zola account today!*

*YOU WILL RECEIVE $25 TO SPEND ON ZOLA.COM WHEN YOU SET UP YOUR WEDDING REGISTRY ON ZOLA.COM, AND RECEIVE $250 IN ZOLA GIFTS. ZOLA GIFTS WILL BE DEFINED AS ANY PHYSICAL PRODUCTS PURCHASED ON ZOLA.COM. CASH FUNDS OR THIRD PARTY GIFTS FROM OTHER WEBSITES ARE NOT CONSIDERED ZOLA GIFTS. THE $25 ZOLA CREDIT CAN ONLY BE REDEEMED FOR ZOLA GIFTS AND CANNOT BE REDEEMED FOR CASH, CASH FUNDS OR THIRD PARTY GIFTS. CREDITS WILL BE PLACED INTO THE COUPLE’S ZOLA ACCOUNT 4 WEEKS AFTER A COUPLE RECEIVES $250 IN ZOLA GIFTS.

Maddie Eisenhart

Maddie is APW’s Chief Revenue Officer. She’s been writing stories about boys, crushes, and relationships since she was old enough to form shapes into words, but received her formal training (and a BS) from NYU in Entertainment and Mass Media in 2008. She now spends a significant amount of time thinking about trends on the internet and whether flower crowns will be out next year. A Maine native, Maddie currently lives on a pony farm in the Bay Area with her husband, Michael and their mastiff puppy. Current hair color: Purple(ish).

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  • jem

    Question! Is it better to register for sets of items or a la carte? Example: one 12-piece wineglass set vs. two 6-piece wineglass sets vs. 12 individual wine glasses? Usually the sets are a marginally better deal, and they’re more convenient, but they also limit a gift-giver’s options for how much they want to spend.

  • theteenygirl

    I’ll save all my Canadian friends here from making an account and registering for a bunch of things… Zola isn’t available in Canada. Sigh.

    • JillPole

      I used Thankful, which is pretty similar and is available in Canada. You pay a price upfront, and then there aren’t any service fees along the way. I was happy with it, but it doesn’t come with the discounts at the end that in-store registries do.

      • Isabelle

        Yes, I would love advice on Canadian registries! I tried registering with the Bay and the selection was really limited. I would like something similar to Zola which lets us choose from multiple stores – I will look into Thankful. Any other Canadians out there?

  • Katelyn

    There really is something to be said about those upgrades! We recently bought a set of cotton 1000 thread count sheets and they are HEAVEN. Definitely registering for at least one more set. And while it’s hard for me to justify buying $25+ towels myself, it’s a great price point for a gift across all budgets – someone can gift you just one (with a cute little extra something like some soaps) or multiple for a higher budget.

    My other recommendation is looking through The Sweethome for both registry ideas as well as their recommendations for pretty much every home good under the sun (and always adding more). We’ve purchased many items on their advice and have NEVER been disappointed. They also often give suggestions at multiple price points.

    • Katharine Parker

      Yes to the Sweethome! I love their recommendations, and their explanations of why they prefer what they do are really helpful. I put a Miele vacuum on my registry on their recommendation, and I really hope someone buys it. If not, it is going to be the first thing I buy with the completion discount!

      Also, think about the completion discount. It’s unlikely that people will buy every item on your registry, so you may want to buy some of the remaining things after your wedding (did you only get 5 sets of dishes? did no one buy the fancy bin?). Check what you get at each place you register!

    • Katherine

      +1 to the point about sheets. We registered for a really fancy set, and we ended up loving them so much that we saved up to buy another pair.

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  • Alex Eichler

    how can you do Zola and also have a brick and mortar option for those that need it?

    • zana

      You can register with Zola but also register with a brick & mortar store. We did this with Zola + Crate & Barrel.

      If you think your guests are tech savvy, instead you could skip the brick & mortar registration, and just add Crate & Barrel items externally to your Zola registry. HOWEVER, guests won’t be able to walk into a C&B and ask the clerk what’s on your registry. AND if they buy a C&B item not through Zola, but at the brick and mortar C&B, they’ll have to mark the item as ‘purchased elsewhere’ on your Zola registry. Your best bet is really just to register at a second, brick-and-mortar store, and have that listed on your website along with Zola.

      I wrote up our experiences using Zola as a wedding registry, here: http://byov.blogspot.com/2016/12/wedding-review-gift-registries.html

  • Where do people stand on a honeymoon registry with some objects thrown in? I feel a bit strange combining the two, like we’re justifying a honeymoon registry on the basis we don’t need house stuff, but also we’d like some sheets and fancy pots? I feel like we’re trying to have our cake and eat it.

    • Maddie Eisenhart

      Don’t overthink it. Just ask for what you want, and don’t worry about needing to justify anything. People will either buy you what you’ve asked for or they won’t. (Though I think the combo is smart. Because some people will INSIST on buying you physical objects, whether you’ve asked for them or not.)

      • quiet000001

        Plus some people like to do both – my mom gets twitchy about JUST giving money, so she’d be beyond delighted to be able to give someone a small-dollar item from their registry with a larger monetary gift towards the honeymoon or house or whatever they’re saving up for. Bonus points if they can be items that she can tie together. (Ex. a pillowcase set from your registry with a note along the lines of “for sweet dreams about your honeymoon adventures when you get home” or some such.)

    • zana

      We combined, it worked fine. Zola lets you organize stuff on your registry into groups too, so you can separate it a tiny bit on the registry itself, if you like.

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  • Jo March

    Does anyone have recommendations for a UK based registry?