Part of planning for the wedding is planning for your lives together after the marriage ceremony. Since many couples live together before the wedding, and since many brides and grooms are waiting until they're older before they take the leap into marriage, many people feel that registries might be a thing of the past. Who needs dishes and silverware these days? Of course, you know very well that there's always something missing from any house, and that every house eventually needs repair.
Some very practical registries are popping up these days. Hardware and home-improvement stores, for example, very often have a registry for engaged couples who don't need tableware but do need a miter saw. Outdoor stores also often have registries for brides and grooms who need (or want) new skis instead of new linens.
Where to Register
This is a highly personal choice. The big-box stores have everything you need under one roof, which is really convenient for you. However, if your tastes tend to be more unique, you might want to go with a local, smaller shop instead. There are pros and cons to each decision.
Before you commit to any store, check its policies for returning damaged items. If you receive three slow cookers, for example, will you be given a cash refund, or will you receive a store credit instead? If an item is shipped to your doorstep and arrives broken, will the store pay for the item to be picked up, shipped back, replaced, and reshipped, or will you have to do all the legwork yourself?
It's best to have a feel for the store you're working with. A pleasant return-or-replace policy should be in place for engaged couples for two big reasons: First, by registering with a store, you're bringing in a decent amount of business, so the store should try to be as accommodating as possible. Second, every registry runs the risk of repeat gifts, even in this age of computerized gift-giving. If you sense that replacing an item is going to be beyond frustrating, move on to another shop.
When you register, the store will give you registry cards to include in shower invitations. (They don't go in the wedding invitations as a rule of etiquette.) Bigger stores will also put your registry on their Web sites, which makes giving — and receiving —
Some registry Web sites are not automatically updated, which makes it look as though you haven't received a gift when you already have. Also, gift buyers don't always use registries correctly. They may check your list to see what you've chosen, but if they don't let the salesperson know that they've purchased an item for you, the item will remain on your registry.
Because more stores of all types are adding registries, it's worth your while to check out all of the options before committing to any one of them. If you honestly don't need a thing for the house, then get creative. For instance, your travel agent may be able to set up a honeymoon fund registry, or perhaps a car dealer would be willing to work with you to set up a car fund for your wedding. Couples who don't need anything at all often choose a favorite charity in order for donations to be made in their name.
It can't ever hurt to be inquisitive about unique registries; you may not get what you want, but you'll know you gave it your best shot.
What if you do want and need the standard stuff for your new home? What, exactly, is this stuff, how much will you need, and what will people realistically be willing to purchase for you?
First things first: Take a good, honest look at your lifestyle. Do you love to throw big parties, or do you have just a few close friends? Do you already have the basic countertop appliances, or is there something you really, truly need? Your registry is not so much a free-for-all wish list as it is a plea for the housewares you're lacking. Now, this isn't to say that a few big-ticket fancy items can't make the list, but for the most part, you shouldn't be going way, way overboard choosing things you'll never use. That's a waste of money. (And if you're like a lot of newlyweds, without tons of money to throw around, you might come to regret your choice of $200 candlesticks when you really could have used a food processor.)
Even if you'd really prefer to receive money for your shower and wedding gifts, there's no polite way to say this, so don't even think about slipping this request into any invitations. Your mother can attempt to pass the word among relatives, but that's about the most you can (politely) do.
In keeping with the theme of organization, here's a breakdown to help you organize your thoughts. Your registry may include items such as:
Dishware. You need everyday dishes for sure. Choose something neutral if you're renting right now. (You don't want to move into a new home only to find that your dishes clash horribly with the new countertops.) Fine china is something you'll never buy for yourself, so register for it now. Ten place settings should suffice. Tableware. In addition to dishes, you'll need to decide on platters, a soup tureen, candlesticks, a butter dish, chafing dishes — anything you'll need to set the table completely. Choose wisely here and imagine your cooking style and what you could really use. If you never serve soup, for example, skip the tureen. Flatware. Everyday silverware is a must (no more using plastic utensils). Good silver is another one of those things you'll never want to spend the money on, so choose it now. A good set of kitchen knives is a must if you cook a lot. They aren't cheap, but the better brands are worth every penny. Glassware. You'll need glasses for your soda and iced tea (long and tall), and for your gin-and-tonics (rocks glasses — short and stout). You may want pilsner glasses for beer, or mugs to serve that purpose. If you entertain a lot, you'll need a substantial set of glasses for this purpose. Crystal wineglasses, water goblets, and champagne flutes are for setting your formal table; the number of these should match the number of china settings you've chosen. Bakeware/cookware. Casserole dishes and pots and pans. Bakeware that is dishwasher-, microwave-, and oven-safe is very practical for the average cook. Standard, nonstick pots, pans, and cookie sheets are fine, but do your research on brands before you make a final decision. Cheaper pots sometimes lose their nonstick surface more quickly. You also want something that heats evenly. Linens. Towels, sheets, tablecloths, napkins. Choose a color scheme for each room and stick with it! If you're renting, your best bet is to stick with neutral colors for your linens. (You just never know where you're going to end up next — or what color the bathroom walls may be!) Monogramming linens personalizes your choices and gives everything a more formal feel. Canisters. For coffee, sugar, tea, pasta. Small appliances. Toaster. Coffeemaker. Sandwich grill. Electric can opener. Toaster oven. Electric griddle. Iron. Blender. Vacuum. Carpet cleaner. It's these little things that make life in the kitchen (and the rest of the house) so much easier, so choose wisely. Décor. Vases, framed artwork, mirrors, lamps, or whatever will dress up your home and make it feel inviting.
These are really the basics; there are many other things you can add. Again, the most important thing about the registry is to