NEW YORK -- (
) -- A wedding registry is such a guilt-free opportunity for couples to get the things they want that sometimes what they need gets lost somewhere behind the espresso machine.
Wedding site TheKnot, part of the
of Web properties, put together a registry study last year and determined that 1.5 million couples registered for gifts each year. Nearly 70% of couples strongly prefer getting gifts from their registry and their guests, for the most part, are more than willing to stick to the list in exchange for a free meal. Last year, about 54% of wedding gifts came from couples' registries.
Getting the stuff is the easy part. Setting up the registry is the portion of wedding planning where everybody feels they can weigh in. More than 80% of couples said family was somewhat to very influential in helping them pick out gifts, while little less than 80% relied on the Internet to build their gift list. Perhaps it would be a different story if more than 44% of fiances were extremely involved in picking out registry items, but couples that would never post an online poll asking "What do I want this holiday season?" are suddenly crowdsourcing their registries.
When 38% of couples have their mom picking out wedding gifts for them and another 20% are leaving the window shopping up to friends, there's a strong chance a few things folks actually getting married need or want are going to get left out of the mix. That couple is going to be told to make sure there's a lot of variety in the price of its items, which is how 72% of couples determined how many gift ideas to put on the registry. They're going to be told to consider the number of guests they invited (as 50% did) or just to shut up and listen to your mother (as 30% did). About 65% put some thought into what it would actually take to equip their homes, but that's just another voice in a cloud of noise whiter than most bridal gowns.
That jambalaya of input has a big impact on where a couple is going to do its shopping. When 91% of couples say they're picking a place based on the breadth and diversity of its selection, this is how
Bed, Bath and Beyond
and its racks of "as seen on TV" products becomes the most popular registry destination in America, with 61% of couples surveyed filling out their list in its square main aisle. Who's No. 2? That would be discount-chic
with 51% of registered couples, followed by
Crate & Barrel
at 26% and
with 11%. Places where people might spend a fair amount of time shopping once the rings are on --
-- checked in between 6% and 3%.
It's just not that simple. In those months leading up to the wedding, couples have visions of mixers, blenders and coffee makers (44% consider them the most important items) as well as baking sheets and multicolored pots and Dutch ovens (37%). Few (11%) consider that they might have to vacuum a rug or carpet sometime after the honeymoon. Only 16% seem to think they'll ever have to repair or install something during their bout of wedded bliss, as power tools rank just above movies, books, games and personal care items on registry lists dominated by bakeware (on 91% of all registries), kitchen appliances (90%) and kitchen accessories (87%).
With help from a crack team of wedding experts including WeddingWire editor Kim Forrest and Sharon Naylor, the author of more than 35 wedding books including
The Ultimate Wedding Registry Workbook
(Citadel, 2005), we've come up with 10 items most couples aren't registering for, but probably should:
Couples will want to clear the air before they get married, and we don't mean going into that long story about what happened at Senor Frogs during senior year.
Items such as bathroom accessories, irons and vacuum cleaners don't exactly get couples fired up about filling out their registries, but they come in handier than that double boiler they registered for and will clearly use once, if at all. If they're living in a house with pets and their rugs and carpets are laden with enough fur to be declared another species of mammal, picking up a high-powered vacuum or air purifiers for each room will go a long way toward calming the post-honeymoon coughing spells and keeping guests from begging for Benadryl.
"An anti-allergen vacuum cleaner is a brilliant choice for a bridal registry, since today's new models are excellent at removing pollens, dust and other allergens from carpets, couches and curtains," Naylor says. "Breathing easily is a top priority for newlyweds, no matter how severe their own allergies are."
No, a garbage pail on tracks that slides out from beneath the sink isn't exactly a showstopper wedding item, but couples who get it should be grateful.
Why? Because they'll use it daily -- which is more than can be said for their milkshake maker -- and because it moves their home one step further from the
style landfill of miscellany it was before they got married. They day a couple gets together is the day the great merging of stuff begins. You have yours, they have theirs and it all suddenly has to fit into a place that until recently housed just one of you.
Once you get rid of all of the duplicates, the dollar-store items from your first place and the detritus of your old lives that now just looks like the stolen contents of an old man's liquor cabinet and a DVD retrospective of the past decade in romantic comedies, you're finally in a place that's a perfect balance of the merged pieces of a couple's existence. Then, just when everything's found its place, the wedding comes and dumps a completely different life's worth of stuff in their lap. Unless that couple has all the space they're going to need for the rest of their lives going into the wedding, they're going to need something to get them from now to the bigger place.
"Organizing is a hot topic for newlyweds, whether or not they've lived together before marriage," Naylor says. "We all drool over those great magazine features showing super-organized kitchens, so be sure to add those great metal racks for your pantry, an upgraded spice rack and fabric storage bins for the tops of closets, as well as lidded plastic storage containers for the basement. No more cardboard boxes holding lots of stuff ... everything is organized in matching bins, which gives a great sense of order for the home."
Unless a couple declares its new love next to a museum and keeps everything remotely fragile under laser tripwires and glass, it's going to break things.
Think about it: If a couple just got married, chances are they're going to move sometime down the road. That means glassware and delicate China patterns are going to spend some time getting lugged up stairs or loaded onto trucks by movers. If all of those items survive the move, there are still dinners, parties and regular use and cleaning to worry about. If there are children coming into the picture at any point, that's going to require at least one place setting taking one for the team during that child's lifespan.
"Register for more china than you think you'll need," Forrest says. "China patterns are often discontinued and dishes do break, so register for 8 to 12 sets, more if you have a big family -- it may seem like a lot, but it will be worth it."
Couples are going to be spending a big chunk of their marriage in bed, so it may as well be comfortable. Reply "bow chicka wow wow" all you want, but on nights when it's chilly and everybody involved has had a tough day, the comfort of a couple's blanket and sheets can count a whole lot more than anything that's going on underneath them.
"Brides and grooms often forget to register for every season, so if you live in a region that gets some chilly nights, a great, cozy throw blanket is perfect for cuddling up together while watching a movie," Naylor says. "Register for sheets for all seasons, such as light, jersey fabric sheets for summer and heavier, flannel sheets for winter."
Don't forget pillows, too. They're the one item you won't be struggling for more of during the night and that can be tailored to the tastes of those on each side of the bed. A couple may have to compromise on flannel sheets, but if one person prefers a down pillow while another likes Tempurpedic, everyone can rest their heads peacefully at the end of the day.
With nine out of 10 couples registering for kitchen appliances, nobody's forgetting about toasters, blenders and slow cookers.
Then again, nearly half of couples consider those items of utmost importance. When it comes to getting their hands on a good set of knives, though, 70% of couples register for them but only 13% give them any sense of priority. Couples should keep this in mind on their one-year anniversary, when their bargain-rack utility knife fails to puncture a tomato.
"I love the idea of upgrading to higher-quality, chef-style cutlery, since knives dull over time and dishwasher steam can weaken handles on knives," Naylor says. "You might even want the gleaming silver knife block as opposed to the wooden one to coordinate with those great countertop kitchen appliances."
Even something much smaller than an expensive set of knives can make a huge difference in a kitchen depending on who's doing the cooking. Naylor still cherishes her julienne peeler that juliennes carrots, zucchini, eggplant and other vegetables for healthy cooking without having to pull out a larger contraption. If peeling the fine, flaky skin off a clove of garlic amounts to slow torture for a home cook, there's a narrow, cannoli-shaped plastic tube that does the job with far less mess and aggravation. Even something as simple as registering for multiple cutting boards can help cut down on mess and mayhem while contributing to a healthier marriage.
"Chefs use a blue one for cutting veggies and a yellow one for cutting raw meats, which is a smart and safe way to cook," Naylor says. "But when it comes to preparing holiday meals or entertaining, when you'll have several people cooking -- or just when the bride and groom want to cook together, it's easier to have more than one cutting board."
Of all of the items listed in The Knot's registry survey, only one segment grew more popular year over year: grilling and barbecue equipment. A full 43% of couples registered for outdoor items, more than those who registered for luggage (36%) or fine china (32%).
"Consider the entire calendar when you register," Forrest says. "Even if you're picking out gifts in the middle of winter, you should still register for barbecue sets and gardening tools -- it will be warm out soon enough."
Those forward-looking couples are making a big difference in where people register as well. The percentage of couples registered at
grew to 10% from 9% within the past year, while Home Depot registries have risen from 2% of overall registries to 3%.
"And think about holidays, too -- if you're registering in June, don't forget to consider Christmas ornaments, menorahs, holiday-themed china, etc.," Forrest says. "Just be aware that some stores won't stock these seasonal items year-round, so you may need to revisit your registry several times throughout your engagement to add holiday-related gifts."
There's a school of thought that you shouldn't register for Blu-ray players, cameras or other tech toys because they won't stand the test of time. To couples facing this registry dilemma, we suggest going to your parents' or grandparents' house and asking them if you can see that sweet olive green electric knife they registered for in the '70s.
Only 16% of engaged couples register for movies, books and games, with only 20% more registering for sports or outdoor gear. That said, if a guest is aware a couple is going to use those items more than they're going to break out a set of crystal wine glasses, why not make it happen? Those items are usually cheap and, if the couple has opted for DVD seasons of old WB network shows instead of kitchen items, it's not like you have to cook for them to atone for your purchase.
"Yes, it is totally acceptable to register for electronics like DVD players, cameras, and speakers, and for entertaining items like board games and DVDs," Forrest says. "Just don't go too overboard with these types of gifts ... only register for a few, carefully chosen 'fun' items."
Perhaps a decade ago this idea would have turned heads, but 11% of engaged couples now have honeymoon registries to cover the cost of their post-nuptial excursion.
There are a
that allow couples to hit up guests to pay a share of the cost for airfare, hotel accommodations, car rentals and activities such as spa services, meals and snorkeling. While the concept isn't new, wedding professionals acknowledge it's still taking wedding guests a little time to come around to the concept.
"Other guests wrinkle their noses at the idea of giving you a 'share' of something -- they'd rather give you an experience, such as a romantic private dinner on the beach, the chance to swim with dolphins, a couples' massage or a zipline tour of the rainforest -- so be sure you add in experiences," Naylor says. "And be sure to mention that gift cards to your resort are always welcome ... those are great for room service, or gift shop shopping, or meals, what have you."
Of course, there are guests that will turn up their nose to the idea altogether. Forrest says its best to pad the registry with more traditional items for those folks, while maintaining a honeymoon registry for guests who'd be on board with giving couples a nontraditional gift.
"While younger, more Internet-savvy guests will totally 'get' the honeymoon registry concept, be sure to register for physical, home-related gifts for guests who would prefer to go to a store and pick out a vase or flatware set for you," Forrest says.
If couples are going to make the guests flinch anyway, they may as well get some freebies out of it.
For couples willing to press the issue and test guests' comfort levels, Naylor suggests asking them to chip in and cover wedding costs as a gift. Couples can announce on their personal wedding Web site's registry page that they welcome gift cards to their photographer, videographer, floral designer and beauty salon. Whether this gambit actually works and reduces the cost of the wedding by any degree is in question, but you don't get an open bar tab covered without trying.
"These gift cards can cut down your wedding expenses and allow you to get those extra things you wanted added on to your order down the road," Naylor says. "Guests don't
to get you these -- so you don't have to worry about anyone being offended -- they're just there with your traditional gift lists."
If all of the above seem like the most self-absorbed solutions imaginable, that's kind of the point. Your registry is perhaps the most inherently selfish portion of your wedding and the one time in life people won't shake their heads at you for trying to shake them down for gifts.
Then again, it doesn't have to be all about you if your heart is all about something else. Charity wedding registries such as those set up by the
I Do Foundation
either donate a percentage of all gift purchases to the charity of your choosing or substitute wedding favors with charitable donations.
Just be warned that two can play at this game. Guests also have the option of ignoring a couple's registry altogether and buying a gift card from a charity card giver such as
for use at the charity of their choosing.
"If you're a couple who truly has everything, you might consider setting up a registry that will allow your guests to donate to a cause that's near and dear to your heart," Forrest says. "Some couples ask guests to make charitable donations in lieu of gifts, others include it in addition to a more traditional gift registry."
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Jason Notte is a reporter for TheStreet. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Huffington Post, Esquire.com, Time Out New York, the Boston Herald, the Boston Phoenix, the Metro newspaper and the Colorado Springs Independent. He previously served as the political and global affairs editor for Metro U.S., layout editor for Boston Now, assistant news editor for the Herald News of West Paterson, N.J., editor of Go Out! Magazine in Hoboken, N.J., and copy editor and lifestyle editor at the Jersey Journal in Jersey City, N.J.