From the very moment you said “yes” to your significant other and signed up for a beautiful future (and wedding!) together, your mind was probably running with a tab of to-dos as a recently engaged person. It’s almost immediate that the wave of unsolicited, yet well-intentioned, commentary and questions start rolling in inquiring over whether or not you’ve done this or that yet. And you are probably thinking “Hold up! I just got engaged.”
One of the topics that friends, family members, colleagues and perfect strangers love to ask you about is your wedding registry—namely, have you started one? If you’ve attended a friend’s wedding, and especially if you’ve been a bridesmaid, you are probably familiar with the concept of wedding registries. It’s a place where engaged couples can create a wishlist of items that they would like guests to purchase for them as a gift for their shower or wedding.
The first store to introduce the idea of a wedding registry was Marshall Fields (now known as Macy’s!) in 1924 in Chicago, according to Kylie Carlson, owner of The Wedding Academy. “Couples could choose china, silver, and crystal items that they wanted their families to purchase as wedding gifts,” she says. “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.”
We’ve come a long way since the dowry or even Marshall Fields being the frontrunner of wedding registries. Now couples can easily set up and manage their wedding registry online thanks to a myriad of wonderful websites.
The pros to using an online wedding registry
Considering the fact that online wedding 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:
With so many moving parts involved in the process of planning a wedding, there’s not many convenient opportunities for guests to flat-out ask a couple what they would like as a gift for their wedding. A 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.
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 wedding 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.
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 wedding registries that provide this type of gifting opportunity. “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.”
They allow fast and easy shipping:
Online registries are wonderful for shipping! For guests that may not want to travel with their gift or might not be able to attend the wedding, they can ship their gift directly to the newlyweds. It is not uncommon for couples to request no gifts at the wedding, especially those that are a destination and prefer the shipping option for ease of travel after the wedding.
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 guests may find online 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 brides and grooms in 2021
There is certainly no shortage of online wedding registries out there for couples, but some are more functional and user-friendly than others. Here is the lowdown on some of the 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.”
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 20 percent off of your registry items left once the wedding is over!”
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.
Most couples are familiar with Target—or admit that they go there every weekend just for fun. Well, buckle up because Target’s online 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 are opting for experience-oriented gifts, Honeyfund is one of the best online wedding registries to choose from. “This website allows you to create a trip itinerary to share with guests, itemizing 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 you other items that are not honeymoon-centered.
Can’t decide between stores? Consider Blueprint as your online wedding registry. “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, and overall home decor,” she says.
Chances are, you are familiar with Amazon—the enormous online retailer that sells just about everything under the sun. Well, it’s no surprise that they an Amazon wedding registry makes it easier than ever to register. “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 wedding 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 wedding registry early shortly after you get engaged. “Start with one room at a time in the house and make a list that appeases both bride and groom,” she says.
Register for items at all different price points:
It’s a good idea to accommodate all of your guests and their varying price points and relation to you, as this will make guests feel comfortable when using the online registry. “Everyone has their own take on how much is appropriate to spend on a wedding gift therefore a variety of options is important,” adds Marbais.
Online invites guests to your online wedding registry:
Most of the time, the only people that should receive info about your wedding registry are those invited to your actual wedding. “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 likely 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.
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 as well!”
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.