From the very moment you say “yes” to your significant other, your mind will probably start running with a tab of to-dos. Not only will you have hundreds of your own questions, but this is also around the time those unsolicited yet well-intentioned comments start rolling in from potential wedding guests. Goodies like “When’s your wedding date?,” Did you find a venue yet?” and “Who’s your Maid of Honor?!” will be questions you’ll hear a lot. And one of the biggest will be, “Where is your wedding registry?!”
Chances are you’ve shopped a wedding registry—a wishlist of items couples create for their shower and wedding—a few times In fact, they’ve been around so long they’re sort of engrained in our daily lives.
The first store to introduce the idea of a wedding registry was Marshall Fields (now known as Macy’s!) in 1924 in Chicago.
“Couples could choose china, silver, and crystal items that they wanted their families to purchase as wedding gifts,” says Kylie Carlson, owner of The Wedding Academy. “Before that, marriage gifts were typically in the form of a dowry, which was essentially a ‘price’ paid by the groom to the bride’s family given in the form of land, money, or other material assets.”
Thankfully we’ve come a long way since then. Now, couples can easily set up and manage their wedding registry online thanks to a myriad of wonderful websites. And while you can still choose to register exclusively at a brick and mortar store (though most of them have their own shoppable sites these days, too), there are a lot of reasons to register online, instead.
The pros to using an online wedding registry
Considering the fact that online registries are the most common type nowadays, it’s clear that there are many perks to using them. Here are a few.
They let your guests know exactly what you want:
While this is true of both online and offline wedding registries, it helps to know why you need one in the first place! With so many moving parts involved in the process of planning (and attending) a wedding, there’s not many convenient opportunities for guests to see exactly what you’re looking for. An online wedding registry simplifies this process. “Instead of putting a couple on the spot, a registry shows you exactly what they’re looking for without any of the awkward conversations,” says Carlson. It also helps that a guest can sort potential wedding gifts by price online, eliminating any weird encounters about budget in a store.
They’re easy for both couples and their guests:
“Your guests can shop your wedding registry from the comfort of their own home, and you get to have everything shipped directly to you,” says Leah Weinberg of Color Pop Events in Long Island City, New York and author of The Wedding Roller Coaster. “Your guests no longer have to schlep gifts to the wedding, and you no longer have to schlep them home—it’s a win-win for everyone,” she says. “Plus, some registries allow you to delay shipment of gifts, so let’s say you have plans to move into a larger space after the wedding, you can keep the gifts from shipping to you until after you’ve moved.”
WGM Says: The best place to tell guests about your registry is on your personal wedding website. You can create a “Registry” section and link to the stores/registries you’re using. Just be sure to include your wedding website url on your Save the Dates. That way guests can have all your important info in one place.
You can include products from several different stores:
Unlike old-school registries of the past, online wedding registries allow you to incorporate your favorite products from many different stores. “It used to be that couples would only register with one or two different stores and would be limited by that store’s brands and inventory. But today, if something is available online, there’s a good chance you can add it to your registry,” says Weinberg. This means your wedding registry can become a one-stop shop for everything from stand mixers to bath towels and even sofas.
They offer an opportunity for non-material gifts:
Some couples don’t want “stuff” for their wedding, but instead prefer experiences. Luckily, there are several online registries that allow you to register for cash funds for your dream honeymoon, house down payment, or anything else you might need. You can also find a registry (several of which are listed below) where you can register for both cash AND tangible gifts.
“Many couples find that spending money on a wedding and then spending money on a vacation back-to-back can be financially overwhelming,” says Carlson. “Because of this, creating a honeymoon fund can alleviate the stress of expenses, all while ensuring that the couple has the honeymoon they deserve.”
They keep everything organized:
An online wedding registry is the most efficient way for couples to keep everything all in one place, check the status of purchasing, and adjust the list as they see fit, explains Bri Marbais, of the Bridal Stylist, The Bridal Finery in Winter Park, Florida. “Each registry has its own system, but typically they are all going to be about the same.”
Look for a wedding registry that offers a suite of tools, including group gifting, a thank-you note manager, and registry completion discounts, which can often go as high as 20%.
They allow fast and easy shipping:
Just like with regular online shopping, you can get your gifts shipped super fast. (And your gift-givers don’t have to worry about dragging a big box to your wedding). And as Weinberg mentioned above, several online registries will also give you the option to “hold” your gifts in case you want to wait to have them shipped until after your honeymoon, or you move into a new home.
The cons to using an online wedding registry
Of course with any major decision you choose, it’s important to point out any drawbacks. Here are some of the ones experts think are worth noting.
You don’t always get to see items in-person:
Unless you’re traveling to every store, you won’t know exactly what the quality, look and feel of that item is. But this is true for anything you buy online. “I know a lot of couples get excited at the thought of going to a store and using one of the registry tools to scan things and add them to their registry,” says Weinberg. “With so much happening online, couples don’t always get to see items in person before adding them to their registry.”
It limits what guests feel like they can buy you:
While this is an advantageous thing for you, many couples don’t want to put too much pressure on loved ones regarding gifts. “If you’ve ever purchased from a registry, you know that oftentimes there is a limit placed on the quantity of each item listed. If a guest waits too long to purchase from the registry, there may only be high-price items or items that are too low,” explains Carlson. “As a result, the item(s) left could be way above what they were hoping to spend, or likewise, insultingly under budget.”
It can be seen as impersonal:
Marbais points out that some people may find online wedding registry shopping for an engaged couple to be rather impersonal. “Online registries will put guests into a small box of options when it’s time to shop,” she says. “The flipside is the couple possibly ending up with the majority of gifts they did not ask for nor do they need if the guests stray away from using the registry.”
The best online wedding registries for couples in 2022
While there is certainly no shortage of online registries out there for couples, some are more functional and user-friendly than others. Here is the lowdown on some of the best online wedding registries that experts recommend to their clients.
Since 2018, Zola has shot up as one of the most popular online resources for creating a wedding registry. “It is an extremely innovative company that is constantly progressing,” notes Marbais. “Couples will enjoy the aesthetic of the website and the close to 500 brands they can search and add to their registry,” including favorites like Kitchenaid and Dyson.
Carlson agrees that Zola is a top contender, adding that the site is user-friendly for a curated online registry. “They include a free thank-you note tool to help you manage the list every step of the way, plus free shipping. It also allows the unique option of exchanging any gift before it ships,” she says. “You and your spouse also receive a 20 percent completion discount of your remaining items once the wedding is over!”
Zola also offers one of the best cash funds you’ll find on a registry, allowing you to choose from pre-selected cash gift ideas (such as a 60-minute couples massage on your honeymoon), or you can create a cash fund for whatever you want (like a down payment for a new home!).
Even with this glowing review, Marbais recommends spending a decent amount of time perusing the site to get a feel for it before you decide this is the one for you. We personally love their selection of fine china, flatware, appliances, vases, and more!
Most couples are familiar with Target—or admit that they go there every weekend just for fun. Well, buckle up because Target’s wedding registry provides an experience that’s akin to their in-store experience.
“Their online registry gives couples access to all of the brands and products they carry in their stores and is an especially great place to stock up on basics like kitchenware and linens,” says Weinberg. “When I got married, my husband and I added fancy, noise-cancelling headphones from Target to our registry.”
In addition to their online resource, couples can also shop in person at one of their locations. “This is useful for guests who prefer an in-person shopping experience rather than an online resource,” says Marbais. “Target also offers a one-year return policy which is extremely useful.”
If you’re more interested in money instead of wedding gifts, Honeyfund is one of the best honeymoon registries to choose from. “This website allows you to create a trip itinerary to share with guests. You can itemize things such as transportation passes, museum tickets, dinners, and more so that each person can choose what to gift you with,” says Carlson. “Better yet, they have an open-ended gift card registry if loved ones want to purchase something different.” Her all-time favorite detail is that the site allows you to link to an online store registry as well so your guests can also purchase physical items. In other words? You can make your Honeyfund page super versatile!
Can’t decide between stores? Consider Blueprint as the online registry for all your favorite brands. “You create a universal registry with gifts from various stores of your choice, and there’s a neat feature where you can view any item in your home with AR technology,” says Carlson. “Blueprint offers group gifting as well so that friends and family can go in on larger gifts together!”
Crate and Barrel and their sister brand CB2 are some of Weinberg’s favorite stores for home furnishings, so she says she can’t help but recommend them as great online wedding registries. “You can’t get everything on your registry at these places, but you can add some solid items for your kitchen, bath, dining room, and overall home decor,” she says. If you’re looking more furniture options, you might also consider tried-and-true Pottery Barn and Williams-Sonoma.
You might have heard of this small, boutique retailer called Amazon. LOL. Well, it’s no surprise that their Amazon wedding registry makes it easier than ever to register for everything from appliances to dishes and even lawnmowers. “It’s a brand that most everyone knows, loves, and is comfortable with,” says Marbais. “Amazon Prime is applicable to items being purchased off of the registry, which is wonderful for any last-minute shoppers—and usually includes free shipping!”
Wedding registry etiquette tips
Before you start creating your registry, consider these etiquette tips shared by experts.
Don’t register at the last minute:
Even though your wedding may seem far away, get ahead of the curve by starting your registry shortly after you get engaged. “Start with one room at a time in the house and make a list that works for you and your partner,” she says.
Register for items at all different price points:
It’s important to not only make sure that your wedding registry has enough gifts (aim to register for 2-3 gifts per guest) but you should also make sure that you have gifts across all price points. “Everyone has their own take on how much is appropriate to spend on a gift therefore a variety of options is important,” says Marbais.
As a general rule, you should aim to have the majority of your gifts in the $50-$150+ range, with a handful under $50 to accommodate all budgets. To do this you can aim for an equal mix of gifts split between $50-$100 and $100-$150. You can also add in a few big-ticket items (such as that $1,000 espresso machine) if group-gifting is an option.
Only invite guests to your online wedding registry:
Most of the time, the only people that should receive info about your registry are those you send wedding invites to. “Asking for gifts without extending the offer to attend your big day can be incredibly off-putting, and you don’t want to put anyone in a tough situation,” warns Carlson. “Additionally, if it’s a matter of someone letting you know that they are unable to attend the wedding, it’s best that you don’t send the registry link to them after they decline.” Unless a person specifically reaches out to you to request access to your online wedding registry, such as your boss or a co-worker, Carlson recommends leaving the gift talk out of the equation.
Also, remember that the best place to put your wedding registry information is on your wedding website, and never on your invite! The url of your website, however, is completely fine (and even recommended). This should go on the back of your invite or on a separate insert.
Plan for thank yous:
It can seem like a daunting task after months of wedding planning, but Carlson urges couples to make sure they have a plan in place for sending thank-you notes to anyone who sent you a gift. “Some couples tend to forget this, and it can rub families and friends the wrong way,” she says. “There are a handful of registries that will do this for you, but a handwritten card can go a long way!” And if you created a cash registry, don’t forget to make your thank-you cards specific. For instance, don’t just say “thank you so much for the generous gift.” Instead, focus on what you plan on using it towards.
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No matter where you decide to register, just make sure you keep these important tips in mind so you and your guests can have the best experience possible.
Wedding Registry FAQ
Even though it used to be that you would never dream of asking for cash on your registry, this has completely changed with the invention of tasteful cash funds. So while cash is now OK, when it comes to physical gifts you’ll want to steer clear from anything too personal and not related to you as a couple. That means avoiding things like clothes, fashion accessories, beauty products, etc.
Yes! If you register online almost all registries will include the gift-givers name in your registry dashboard. So unless they choose to send it anonymously (which is always possible) you’ll know who sent you what.
When it comes to cash, you’ll want to create one or several cash funds that can go to something big (like a house down payment or honeymoon fund), or ideally break them up into several funds for various experiences like “two first class tickets to Paris” or “7-night stay in Bora Bora.” The more specific you can make your cash gifts, the better! In terms of amounts you should let guests contribute what they want, and not put a set dollar amount you’re hoping to raise.