If someone gifted me with a gravy boat, I’d most likely use it as a last resort for my morning coffee when all my other mugs were being held captive in the dishwasher. The chances of seeing said gravy boat in all its glory, center court on my lavishly decorated Thanksgiving Day table spread, are slim to none. Not only would that require me knowing how to set a table, but also other minor details — like how to cook a turkey without giving everyone salmonella.
When I got engaged I was prepared to answer the squealing questions about how he proposed, where we met, when the date was, and the like. I was not prepared for the question that would become the first Pandora’s Box in the world of wedding madness:
“Where are you going to register?”
My first issue wasn’t the “where” part – it was the “why.” News flash: I’ve lived on my own for more than 10 years, with my fiancée for more than two, and in that time I’ve had my fair share of toasters, coffee makers, bed sheets, towels, utensils, blenders, and George Foreman grills. Don’t get me wrong – I like new things, especially shiny, new things for the kitchen. I’m just not sure I need any of it.
I know I’m not alone. Many women of the past two generations may know how to cook, but they’re not exactly Betty Crockers who serve four-course meals on formal china that beautifully matches the table linens. (Linens? What’s wrong with paper towels?) These women (um, me) would be happy with a few matching plates and silverware that’s not plastic. Wedding registries simply won’t have it.
The instant a girlfriend becomes a fiancée, she’s sucked in to the materialistic vortex of the registry. The home stores and department stores are just the beginning. Sign up somewhere and you’re likely going to be handed off to partner stores who will harass you to register with them, too. And if you take the web approach thinking you’re making things easy, think again. The inbreeding is even more intense online. One of the most popular wedding registry sites, weddingchannel.com, requires you to fill out at least one registry, then pretty much guilts you in to having at least one more (their “browse for suggestions” link basically sticks out its tongue and says, “Everyone else is doing it!”).
The pressure doesn’t stop there. Each registry has its own suggested number of items any self-respecting bride would add to her list. And if you don’t meet the quota, they’ll send emails suggesting you “complete” your registry in time for the wedding, lest you devastate your guests by not giving them enough options.
I’m averse to not only all the pressure to build a big list, but also to the price tags on everything. Our guest list primarily consists of our same-age friends, whose incomes vary from what I would classify as “starving artist” to “pretty good” to “damn, you’re, like, all grown up!” Once I started eyeballing possibilities and the price tags associated with them, it seemed a little ridiculous. Why would I ask a wedding guest to buy us a Waterford crystal vase I’d never use, would likely break, and would cost ten times more than my dress? Also, our friends have scattered across the country and many of them would already be shelling out the cost to travel to the wedding. Wasn’t that a gift in itself?
It’s time for a revolution. We needn’t be harassed in to registering for silly gadgets we won’t use, expensive crystal our guests can’t afford, and monogrammed stemware that’s just plain tacky. Here, some alternatives to the traditional wedding registry:
One store, period.
You’ll need some willpower to avoid the invitations to register at partner stores, but if you know you can find everything you need in one place, stick to it! I set up a traditional registry at Bed, Bath & Beyond (do it online to avoid the price-tag taser gun and need to shower afterwards). Nearly all of the items I selected fell within the $30 to $40 range, and I was even able to find some more unusual items as well, including a sno-cone machine, a back massager, and a lovely orange teapot. Places like BB&B also have an excellent selection of everyday plates for girls like me who have no business being anywhere near fine china.
Create your own registry.
We created a wedding website through WeddingWindow.com, and their templates allow you to not only link to traditional registries but also create a “Wish List” category. All you need to provide is the website address to the store of your choice and write corresponding text to guide your guests towards what to buy. The possibilities are numerous, and you can easily tailor your choices around your own interests and tastes. My fiancée and I are big pop culture fanatics, so we suggested gift certificates for Tower Records and Best Buy. We also added IKEA to the gift certificates list so we can get enough shelving for all those CDs, books, and DVDs. Think about it: combine one $25 IKEA gift card here, another $50 IKEA gift card there, and pretty soon you’ve redecorated your entire living room.
TheKnot.com offers a similar “Wish List” option through their “Create a Gift” function, which can include everything from personal spa services to big-ticket items like contributing to a down payment on a house. The site walks you through the process, allowing you to provide a basic description for your gift, and then assists with breaking down the full amount into affordable denominations for your guests. If you’re eyeballing a flat screen TV for $4,000, you could set it up in contributions of $50 or $100 to go toward that, and so on. One thing to note: Some of these services tack on an additional service and handling fees (usually $5), so that $50 donation really ends up being $55.
Let your guests help you pay for the wedding.
Well, maybe not the wedding, but at least the honeymoon. Honeymoons can often end up becoming one of your largest expenses, and having guests help make a dent in the costs of your dream trip might prove far more worthwhile than a fancy crockpot. Sites like Honeyluna.com and Honeyfund.com are specifically geared toward contributing to the couples’ honeymoon, offering guests the option of contributing to different components of the trip, be it the plane tickets, the hotel, romantic dinners, spending money, or activities such as sailing or scuba diving.
Give to charity.
For those who really, truly want for nothing, there’s the cause-oriented registry to consider. Many organizations such as JustGive.org provide couples with a customized web page to encourage contributions to their favorite charities. There are more than 1 million to choose from to fit everyone, including animal rights organizations, medical research, homeless shelters, and environmental issues. The package also includes tools to announce your registry, view donations, and make updates as needed.
Register for cash.
Look, it may seem tacky, but it’s what any newly-married couple needs most and the only thing we won’t ask for. Ask for it! That whole promise that your wedding is “for you” gets debunked with every action that caters to pleasing your guests – including letting them have “fun” picking out pottery and china that you really don’t want or need. The most tasteful and simple way to do this is to include a short note on your wedding website or in your invitations that says something like, “In lieu of traditional gifts, the bride and groom welcome your monetary contributions to their new life.” Keep things simple so guests don’t feel pressured. They’ll either send you a check or slip you cash at the wedding. Some may even feel relieved that you’ve given them an easy way out of shopping. And if a few guests punk out altogether (because you’re not tracking them via wedding-registry surveillance, another intrusive element to the whole process), who cares? They were the ones eyeing that useless gravy boat anyway.