Registry Regrets

By Kristen Castillo

February 1, 2016 5 min read

Let's take a quiz: Registering for gifts is A) exciting, B) exhausting, C) overwhelming, D) a dream come true or E) all of the above? Chances are you answered E.

Registering for gifts involves a bundle of emotions. "From what to register for to how to notify wedding guests, registries can cause a lot of angst," says Sara Margulis, founder and CEO of wedding registry site Honeyfund.com, who says etiquette is the No. 1 concern for couples.

Still, the registry process can be very rewarding, especially if you're detailed in preselecting items and experiences that are a fit for you and your spouse.

"Couples should focus on what they use regularly or what they frequently wish they had," says Laura Holliday, CMO of Zola, a modern registry platform that combines gifts, experiences and cash. "The same rule that applies to clothes applies here: If you don't use it for over a year, you should get rid of it. Or in this case, don't get it in the first place!"

While it's easy to sign up for lots of stuff, you need to make sure you really want and will use the gifts you receive. Some items are fun but you'll never use them; others are practical but not your style.

"Your registry is a place to ask for the gifts you'd never buy yourself, as well as to upgrade what you already have and use," says Lizzy Ellingson, founder of Blueprint Registry, which creates a customized wish list based on the couple's home.

No matter what you ask for, make sure your registry choices are spot-on. Gift-giving experts share their advice on how to avoid registry regrets.

*Registering for things you think you'll need in the future (but end up never using).

When Einat Naveh, founder and CEO of Bridal Boost, got married seven years ago, she registered for a variety of things even through she didn't have enough space to store them.

"We were in a tiny one-bedroom apartment in the West Village when we got married, so I registered for a wine fridge, among other items," she says. "That wine fridge is still in my parents' attic," she adds.

Naveh suggests registering for high-quality pots, pans, knives and small kitchen appliances, which can be used every day.

*Not registering for big pieces.

While you don't want to register for big-ticket items you won't use or won't be able to store, you should consider your party and holiday entertaining needs.

"When it's just you and your fiance at home, it's easy to forget that one day you might be hosting 15 people for Thanksgiving," says event planner Alexandria Proko of Alexandria Catherine Events. "Go ahead and add some items that would be useful in these situations, such as large serving pieces or sets of matching china -- you'll have them for a long time and won't need to splurge on them later!"

*Not requesting nontraditional items you'll really use.

Many couples shy away asking for nontraditional things such as outdoor equipment or money toward a new mattress. It's OK to register for unusual gifts.

"Your guests would rather give you something you will use, not just what tradition says should be on your registry," says Ellingson.

*Feeling obligated to register for certain things.

Did you register for a gravy boat because you feel like every couple needs one? Did you ask for a blender even though you already have one? Don't register for what your mom wants you to have.

"When couples have regrets about the gifts they receive, it's usually because they registered for what they think they should register for, and not what they really want," says Holliday, who admits she has a box of platters in her basement -- wedding gifts from five years ago that were never used.

"If I could do it over again, I would do it very differently."

*Feeling awkward about wanting money.

Whether you don't need household items or you're simply saving for your future, sometimes cash gifts are what you want most.

"If you prefer cash, create a Honeyfund wish list of items you will spend it on," says Margulis. "It makes guests feel more connected to you and excited to contribute toward something you will use or do together."

No matter what gifts you get, "Receive every gift with grace and gratitude, even if you don't need or want it," says Margulis. "The act of giving and receiving is a special interaction between people, and should be treated with care."

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