Ask Miriam | What’s the Current Registry Etiquette?


Dear Miriam,

My fiancé and I don’t live together and will most likely start looking at houses after our wedding. Creating a registry now for a home we don’t have feels challenging.

How do we register for cookware and appliances when we don’t know how much kitchen space we will have? How do we register for bedding when we don’t know what size bed we will be able to fit in our home? Will we have outdoor space? At the same time, our families are pressuring us to create a registry. I’ve seen friends create a new house fund for wedding gifts or ask for contributions to their honeymoon fund. These seem like great options, but I also know some guests may not be comfortable giving money and really want to give material items. What’s the etiquette here?


Registry Realism

Dear Registry,

First of all, mazel tov! What an exciting time, and I hope your families’ pressure is coming from a place of joy and wanting to celebrate with you rather than a particular notion of one right way to do a wedding. There’s no one right way, and while advice columnists of yore focused deeply on notions of etiquette, that’s not really my thing, largely because it’s not really the 21st century’s thing. A couple’s wedding should reflect that couples’ choices, their interests, their relationship, not their parents’, and this is true now more than ever.

If what you want is money to put toward a new house or a honeymoon, that is what you should ask for. There are sites that do this for you, and all you have to do is search for “wedding” once to get an onslaught of targeted ads, some of which may actually be helpful. I also recommend the site where you can literally register for anything that appears on the internet. This includes gift cards to anywhere as well as material items and experiences you would pay for. It’s a harder forum to use for cash to be put toward a house, but there’s probably a workaround if you start exploring.

I also suggest choosing some material items as well, though. Even though you don’t know exactly how much cabinet space you’ll have, you know you’ll wants pots and pans, dishes, knives, glasses, etc. The need for many of those types of housewares will not be impacted by the exact house you live in, and this really is your best chance to get high-quality items to last a lifetime. Maybe you can’t do bedding or outdoor furniture, but you can register for towels, for small kitchen appliances (hello KitchenAid mixer), for things you know you’ll use no matter where you’ll be living.

I’m not advocating this approach, but I will share what your question brings up for me: When I worked at Crate & Barrel during grad school, I helped many couples register. It was delightful and exciting for me — hopefully also for them.

Numerous couples registered for far more than they wanted, and, post-wedding, they would bring thousands of dollars of household goods back to the store to return them for cash. They got the cash they wanted, and their guests got the pleasure of picking out a tangible gift. There are less-flattering frameworks in which to view this practice, and it certainly was an inconvenient way to retrieve cash, but I saw it almost every week that I worked there.

I know it can feel uncomfortable to tell people what to get you or to request monetary gifts, but, truly, this is what engaged couples do, and you and your guests are better off with your honesty. The direct result of not asking for what you want is that you will get things you do not want, and if they are not off your registry, you may not be able to return them. Starting a life together with dozens of unreturnable decorative bowls is much less convenient than an awkward conversation with your great aunt about why wedding gift etiquette isn’t what she remembers.

All the best for your upcoming wedding, and be well,



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