A few days ago, I received an interesting email from a person I vaguely knew from college. This person “rediscovered” me via The Simple Dollar, befriended me on Facebook, and sent me one or two emails.
Out of nowhere, though, the person emailed me a link to their wedding registry. It had been emailed to a lot of people, apparently – everyone in their email address book. The email included a generic invitation to pick out one of the hundreds of items they had selected.
I deleted the email. This was greed, pure and simple.
After receiving it, though, the issue of gift registries stuck in my mind. What exactly is tasteful behavior for a gift registry? Also, what kind of items should one put on such a registry?
Here are some of my accumulated thoughts on the matter.
Should I Have A Registry At All?
Over the years, a few readers have emailed me asking whether or not they should even have a gift registry for their wedding or baby shower. Usually, their concern was tackiness – isn’t it tacky to make a big list of the stuff you want? Didn’t we outgrow making gift wish lists when we were kids?
To tell the truth, I’m completely in favor of gift registries for such occasions. Most people have large social networks that want to buy gifts for weddings or for new babies, but they might not necessarily know what a good gift is. By making a registry, you help them out – and also (partially) ensure that you don’t get redundant items.
How Should I Let People Know Tastefully About the Registry?
Similarly, I have no objection to letting people know about the registry under one condition: they’re invited to some sort of celebration of the event.
For example, if a person isn’t invited to your wedding or reception, they should not be told about your wedding registry. Similarly, if a person is not invited to a baby shower of some sort, they shouldn’t be told about your baby registry.
Thus, I find the appropriate place to mention a registry is in an invitation. Include a simple extra slip of paper that simply says, “For your convenience, there is a gift registry at Target” or whatever location is useful to you and to your guests.
Do not suggest people buy gifts from your registry if they’re not close to you – or at least not close enough to receive invitations to your event. Doing so will not get you more gifts, but it will ensure that those people look poorly upon you.
What Should I Ask For?
Many people simply put everything they could think of that they could possibly want on their registry. I know we did this – we simply walked down the aisles at Target and put literally hundreds of items on the registry.
Bad strategy. We wound up getting a bunch of things that we didn’t really need on our wedding day.
Instead, the best place to start is with a list at home. Over a period of time, identify the things you would actually use. Look for things that really need to be replaced if you’re making a wedding registry. If you’re doing a baby registry, ask parents, particularly those with kids under the age of four or so, because there are many baby items that seem like a good idea, but are actually pretty useless in practice.
Also, make sure you have a wide variety of values on the list – and have more less-expensive items than very expensive items. Don’t load your registry down with a bunch of $300 items – not many guests will be able to easily afford those items. Instead, seek out items with a wide price range – it’s fine to put a few big items on it, but have more inexpensive items on it. Think of it this way: even if someone is intending to spend quite a bit on you for a gift, they can always grab multiples of the less expensive items.
A final tip: if you choose items of direct and immediate use to you, there are several benefits. First, it becomes much easier to write thank you notes for the item, because you can comment truthfully on how you’re using the item instead of having to find tactful things to say. Second, if it’s something you’re actually using, it’s made your life easier and saved you money and probably time, which is what gifts in these situations usually hope for. Finally, it’s much easier to show your item in use to gift-givers should they stop in – for example, if you ask for a pan you’ll actually use, you don’t have to “drag it out” to impress someone.
In short, if you’re authentic from the start about what you want and need, that authenticity follows all the way through, from the gift itself to saying thank you for it and when you’re actually using it. And that’s the best outcome of all, for both the giver and the recipient.
Any other thoughts on gift registries?