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The Bride's Guide Blog

Etiquette: What if You Don't Register at All?

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I spoke with a bride the other day who refused to register.  Heather told me, "I like the surprise of not knowing what I'm going to get."  She  wasn't worried about whether she and her groom got something they wanted; her goal was for the guests to give something they picked out; she wanted that personal connection between giver and gift.

Though -- Heather cheated a teeny bit. "I'm not opposed to telling people what I want or need if they ask. I know that some people feel like they need a particular direction," she said. "My fiance and I each made 'Mom registries,' and our mothers will give people ideas if they ask."

Before the rise of the department-store registry, this was how gift giving was handled. The gift buyers coordinated among themselves to be sure there were pots and pans, a vacuum cleaner, and something to eat off of. And the bride’s mom knew what the household was going to need.

There is a lot of pressure on brides to register, and Heather got some of that. But the day after her shower, she reported: "People commented on how I would not have gotten so many nice, personal things if I had registered."

Did you register yet? Have you (or did you) consider not doing it?

Comments (5)

  • I haven't registered yet, but I think it makes things easier for everyone involved. It helps guests know what you want and avoids double-gifting. It helps parents direct guests to particular resources, instead of requiring them to list items you want. And it helps the couple set up their home appropriately--otherwise they may end up with three blenders when they already have one. Plus, registries don't require guests to choose from only those items; guests can go off-registry if they have something special in mind.

  • To me this sounds horribly inconsiderate and stress-inducing for your guests! Is it really so difficult to go to a store and pick what you like? People can (and will) obviously choose to go off-registry should they find something so special that they just must get it for you.

  • Author Comment:

    I think "horribly inconsiderate" is pretty strong, no?

    Picking out the gift is the giver's responsibility. They're supposed to invest a little thought in the process actually ("it's the thought that counts" really applies to the choice of gift, and not necessarily to the mere writing of a check or whipping out of a credit card).

    Sure, making a registry is a handy way to give people ideas if they want them.

    I always thought that the main idea behind giving a gift is that it draws the giver and the receiver closer. The time that I have to spend in order to come up with a gift idea is mental energy directed TOWARD that relationship.

    So if the only thing I do is check the registry, I won't have spent that much time thinking about the recipient, and what she'd enjoy, or what her life will be like, and what would be useful.

    As a gift giver, I've done both on- and off-registry gifts. And I've discovered that I feel *much closer to* the brides for whom I chose a nonregistry gift.

  • A few weeks ago I witnessed a quarrel--to an observor it felt rather sharp and damaging--between the prospective bride & groom as they were wandering through a store with their registry checklist in hand. And I thought probably both had had a long and difficult day and they really didn't know, any better than their wedding guests, what they really wanted.

    And to counter the "Is it really so difficult to go to a store and pick what you like?" statement, I would say, "Is it really so hard to return or exchange the very few duplicate items you receive?"
    And sometimes the really ugly or inappropriate gifts you receive become favorite wedding stories, shared for years!

  • And registries themselves can be so loaded. A cousin married and the cheapest thing on her registry was $120 - real crystal and silver, expensive china, designer linens - well, unless you wanted to buy her a hand towel. Whether she wanted it or not, she got a lot of off registry gifts (and then complained about it, Bridezilla in action).

    The best wedding gift we got was a pair of Nerf guns with a personal note "inevitably, you will have a fight, may they all be resolved with these." Not on our registry. Not duplicated, either.

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