10 Registry Dos and Don'ts

By: Natalie Kilgore

Image Gallery: Wedding Registry Basics For wedding gifts you actually need and want, you've got to create a registry. See pictures of wedding registry basics.
Image Gallery: Wedding Registry Basics For wedding gifts you actually need and want, you've got to create a registry. See pictures of wedding registry basics.

If you're trying to decide whether to open a wedding registry, our advice is to do it! Your guests will thank you for taking the time to make gift buying easy and stress-free for them; after all, they want to give you something you really want. Choosing not to register could result in receiving multiples of an item, and no one needs five toasters.

Some department stores even host registry parties complete with appetizers, wine and a gift bag. Get excited and prepare to have a great time! Registering can be a fun activity for every couple -- that is, if you plan accordingly. To help ease your stress level when registering for wedding gifts, we've organized a list of dos and don'ts to help guide you through the process seamlessly.


10: Do Your Research

Do your homework when deciding where to register. Find out which stores offer extra incentives for registering with them, since certain department stores offer reward programs where a percentage of guests' spending goes into a gift card that you'll receive later on. After my wedding, I received a $225 gift card from Macy's as a result of points accumulated by guests' purchases. I was elated to have some extra spending money to buy the expensive "pet hair eraser" vacuum that my husband and I had our eyes on, and we even had a little money left over for a few kitchen gadgets! Some stores also offer completion programs, discounting the gifts that remain on your registry after the wedding.

Remember to inquire about stores' return policies. Some are stricter than others, and they may have a deadline for returning seasonal items. Also, some stores will give you cash when you return an item, while others will only issue a store credit. Finally, don't forget to register for gift cards if retailers offer them. Be sure to ask when they will expire and if cards depreciate in value if you don't use them right away.


9: Do Register Right Away

Determine the dates of your big bridal events, and ensure that your registry is well-stocked with gifts before they occur.
Determine the dates of your big bridal events, and ensure that your registry is well-stocked with gifts before they occur.

Narrow down your list to two or three stores that reflect your style, and take a moment to consider your guests when making a final decision about where you'd like to register. If many of your friends and family live in a remote area, you might want to include a local specialty shop in addition to one or two department stores. Make sure at least one store offers your full registry online so that guests are able to point, click and easily purchase a gift from home. Ask if online registries update immediately when a gift is purchased. If they don't, be sure to check your registry regularly and mark off the items you've received.

Aim to register at least four to six months before your wedding so guests have plenty of time to buy you shower and wedding gifts. If a friend or family member is hosting an engagement party, you can register for a few items before the event takes place in case guests want to bring a gift. Don't worry about finalizing your registry right away; you can usually edit it as many times as you like throughout your engagement.


Finally, keep in mind that you should never publicize your registry on your wedding stationery. Guests can contact someone in the bridal party or one of your parents to find out where you're registered, and bridesmaids or friends hosting showers can certainly print it on those invites. Even though some department stores offer tiny insert cards stating where you are registered, resist the temptation to include them in your invitations. However, if you wish, it's always appropriate to add registry information on your wedding Web site.

8: Do Make a List before You Register

Sit down with your fiancé before registering and decide what staples you need and extras you would like to have, and take an inventory of what both of you already own. Divide up the list; your fiancé may be the electronics expert, and you might know more about what gadgets are needed for the kitchen. Creating a list will help you feel less overwhelmed when you enter the store and fire up the scan gun.

Don't register for inexpensive items like ketchup or makeup. I knew a girl who registered for mascara and 3 toilet brushes at a big-box retailer, and I remember wondering if she and her fiancé were taking the registry seriously. These are everyday items that you regularly purchase, and while you should have fun shopping, stick to registering for traditional items like bed linens, dinnerware and bath towels.


7: Do Keep Your Registry Manageable

It's great to give your guests choices, but a 10-page registry isn't necessary. Consider the size of your guest list and the number of gift-giving events you'll be attending leading up to your wedding. If your guest list includes more than 500 people and you're having four bridal showers, be sure to include a variety of items for guests.

However, if you're having a small wedding and only one couple's shower, a large registry is excessive. When I graduated college, a lot of my girlfriends were getting engaged and planning their weddings. Many of their registries were large and lavish, leaving guests like me, right out of college with an entry-level salary, with little to choose from. Needless to say, it was tough for me to find something on their registries that wouldn't break the bank! Keep your registry at a manageable size, consider your guests' means and, in return, your guests will thank you.


6: Don't Limit Yourself

Registries are for everyone! Even if you're older than the average bride and already own household essentials like bath towels and cookware doesn't mean you can't open a registry. You can always upgrade your toaster oven to the newest model, or register for gifts like sterling silverware.

If your idea of a party is having friends over for pizza and beer, you shouldn't necessarily shy away from registering for gifts like china or crystal just because you don't think you'll use them. You're more likely to use these items when you're older when you entertain family and friends. Believe me, you'll be thankful later in life that wedding guests purchased these entertaining staples for you to use at special occasions.


5: Do Mix Traditional and Nontraditional Gifts

Honeymooning in Italy? Register for an excursion through the streets of Italia in a sporty red convertible!
Honeymooning in Italy? Register for an excursion through the streets of Italia in a sporty red convertible!

Giving your guests an assortment of gifts to choose from is nice; everyone likes to express his or her personality through a gift. Your co-worker might opt for a set of luxury bath towels, but one of your groomsmen would prefer to give you and your husband-to-be that set of Beatles pint glasses you registered for.

If you're a nontraditional bride and have an eclectic home, mix and match fine china on your registry. There are so many china patterns out there to choose from, and several of them would look fantastic together, creating a one-of-a-kind table setting.


If you like the occasional competitive game night with friends, a game of Pictionary or Scattergories might be a fun registry item for friends to purchase as a gift. Or you might want to include a 32-inch flat screen TV on your registry. Prices are comparable to a stand mixer, and you never know what your guests might like to give you!

4: Don't Underestimate the Basics

While it's a lot of fun to register for unique items like board games, electronics and honeymoon excursions, don't forget to register for the basic household items you'll need after the wedding. Towels, bed linens and everyday dishes are essential for a fully stocked home.

When registering for bed linens, remember that couples usually need at least three sets of bed sheets; when one set is dirty and in the wash, you'll have a couple of clean sets available. Register for high thread counts that you wouldn't normally buy for yourself -- guests enjoy buying fine items like these as wedding gifts. Also add several sets of bath towels to your registry that are extra-thick and generously sized. If you don't have a color scheme in mind, register for neutral colors that can serve as towels for houseguests later on.


Finally, if you don't already have any, register for a set of dishes that you can use for everyday occasions. Be sure to register for plenty of heavy-duty kitchen towels and pot holders to keep on hand for all the baking and cooking you'll be doing with your husband as newlyweds.

3: Do Think Beyond Fine China and Crystal

Wish No. 1: Vacuum. Wish No. 2: That your new hubby will use it. A registry can grant at least one of these wishes.
Wish No. 1: Vacuum. Wish No. 2: That your new hubby will use it. A registry can grant at least one of these wishes.

While fine china, crystal and other kitchen items may make up the bulk of your wedding registry, don't forget about other great gift ideas. Add plenty of frames to display your wedding photos, and choose his and hers matching luggage to take on your fabulous honeymoon! You can always add a nice camera to your registry, too, to document pre-wedding festivities and your first trip as husband and wife.

Don't forget about other household items and gadgets outside of the kitchen. If you're in need of lighting, register for a pair of lamps to use on your bedroom nightstands, or a floor lamp to brighten a living room. If you have a yard, you'll need a rake for fall leaves, and a lawn mower to keep your grass trim and neat.


If you're saving for the honeymoon of your dreams and need a little help, sites like The Honeymoon make it possible to register for excursions and create a memorable honeymoon experience. I have friends who planned a two-week honeymoon through Europe and registered for excursions in every city they were visiting. I purchased a walking tour of Mount Vesuvius for them in the partially buried town of Pompeii, Italy. They loved the gift, and I got to see pictures from their amazing trip when they returned home!

2: Do Take Chances

Don't talk yourself out of registering for a fabulous item because you think it's too expensive. The platter and teapot in your china pattern might seem a little steep to you, but one of your guests might want to spoil you on this special occasion. I thought I would never get my sky blue kitchen mixer, but I was pleasantly surprised when a close family friend sent it to me as an early wedding gift!

While you shouldn't limit yourself, keep in mind that it's probably not in your best interests to register for a specialty coffeemaker that costs more than $1,000 or several pieces of expensive furniture. If you want to add a pricey item that you really want, take a chance and add it, but don't be surprised if it's the only remaining item on your registry when you return from the honeymoon.


1: Do Write Thank You Notes

Writing thank you notes for every wedding gift is a must! If you can manage it, try to write a thank you note as soon as the gift arrives. If you start feeling overwhelmed, keep a guest list handy, and write gift descriptions next to names to help you stay organized.

At bridal showers, make sure one of your bridesmaids writes down gifts and a name next to each so you can easily write thank you notes to guests after the party. Taking the time to write a thoughtful thank you note after receiving a gift makes guests feel appreciated and special.

If you start feeling stressed with wedding duties and responsibilities in the weeks leading up to your wedding, make time after the honeymoon to sit down and send thank you notes right away. Set a goal to have all of your thank you notes in the mail within three months after your wedding. You can always enlist the help of your new husband if you have a lot of notes to write!

Lots More Information

Related Articles

  • Charli, Penn. "Ultimate Wedding Registry Checklist." Wedding Channel. July 16, 2009. (Oct. 6, 2010). http://weddings.weddingchannel.com/wedding-registry-ideas/bridal-registry-guide/articles/registry-checklist.aspx?MsdVisit=1
  • Elliot, Sara. "10 Gifts That Should Be On Your Wedding Registry." TLC Weddings. No date. (Oct. 6, 2010). https://tlc.howstuffworks.com/weddings/wedding-registry-wedding-gifts.htm
  • Elliot, Sara. "Ultimate Guide to Alternative Wedding Registries." TLC Weddings. (Oct. 7, 2010).https://tlc.howstuffworks.com/weddings/alternative-wedding-registries.htm
  • Farhat, Sally. "The New Wedding Registry Trend is all about What You Want." The New York Daily News. March 30, 2008. (Oct. 7, 2010).http://www.nydailynews.com/lifestyle/2008/03/31/2008-03-31_the_new_wedding_registry_trend_is_all_ab-1.html
  • Grant, Kelli B. "Stores Add Rewards to Gift Registries." Smart Money. Oct. 12, 2010. (Oct. 12, 2010). http://www.smartmoney.com/spending/for-the-home/stores-entice-gift-registries-with-rewards/