Why most couples use a wedding registry today
Couples are getting married at a later age than ever before. Women want to see their careers get established – and get that vital maternity benefit – before they take time out to have a child. And many couples only decide to get married when they agree that it’s time to start a family together. This means that typically a couple will already be living together or each will have their own apartment before tying the knot.
What has all this got to do with wedding registries? Well most couples already have all the basic items for setting up a home. So that auntie’s toaster or, god forbid, that cousin’s fondue set just don’t hit the mark anymore. If either of the couple eats toast you can be pretty sure they already have a toaster. And they probably have a very cool one that Auntie Flo would never have chosen in a hundred years.
Smaller living spaces mean fewer homewares
And as for the fondue set, well, where on earth are they going to store it for the 364 days of the year when it is not being used? With house prices increasing year after year even two-salary professional couples are living in much tinier spaces than their successful parents did. For some couples, for example teachers in London or New York, they may never be able to afford to buy or even rent an apartment with the sort of kitchen area that allows for fondue set storage. Or certainly not for years anyway. So anything Cousin Jean thought was a cute dinner party accessory is now likely to be thought of as a waste of space.
So when you take away all those setting-up-your-first-home items what is left on a gift list? Who knows? Possibly your daughter’s best friends know exactly what to buy but, frankly, most of us haven’t a clue.
That’s where the wedding gift list or registry comes in.
Today a typical wedding registry will include some very stylish homewares from specific brands and possibly some treats for the couple they can enjoy on their honeymoon or early days of their marriage. You see, it’s not about basic necessities anymore, it’s about fun and spoiling oneself and having a taste of the luxury lifestyle. Now I think you’ll agree that most of us need some pretty clear help on which brands to consider, as well as what constitutes fun and luxury for our daughters.
Simplify your choice of registry
My daughter asked me to look into wedding registries and cash funds as she couldn’t find the right one for what she needed. I was delighted to help. So here are the results of my research.
There’s a lot of choice out there and evaluating all the different options is what takes the time. Time my daughter doesn’t have. I’m guessing your daughter works too and that you’ll want to take off her shoulders any tasks you can, in the run up to the wedding. So why not offer to help her choose a gift registry? Click through to get the full details on whichever site on my list looks promising and make your daughter a shortlist of perhaps two. That way she can spend a few minutes rather than a few hours finalising which is right for her.
How to select a gift list service – Answer these questions
- Do you want guests to buy products or give money or both?
Compiling a gift list gets rid of the worry that guests will spend money on items the couple don’t need or want. So asking for products, for example homewares, should not be a problem. If the couple want the thrill of unwrapping then they should definitely ask for products. And selecting a registry that offers gift wrapping will make that unwrapping all the more fun.
If unwrapping is not a deal-breaker then you can look at registries which offer guests a list of items they can ‘buy’ but which are actually purchased by the couple themselves, with the money sent in. So in effect this type of list is really a cash-collection service with photos and ideas of how the cash might be spent. It’s up to the couple whether they decide to buy those exact items or spend their cash on something different.
Most younger guests will understand this second type of registry. But when I read about it I was pretty shocked. I didn’t even realize that’s what happened. If I were a guest using a list I would spend a long time trying to choose the right thing to buy from it. I think I’d feel let down if the couple did not actually purchase that gift with the money I’d paid. I think many older guests will feel as I do. So although these registries are popular, if the couple worries that givers might be disappointed, it would be well to leave them aside.
- Do you want to build a honeymoon fund?
In many countries there has until recently been a tradition of giving cash at a wedding. I’ve seen films of people pinning money on the bride’s dress in Greece – though this might just be Hollywood’s take! In Australia there is a tradition of the ‘wishing well’ which used to be a physical receptacle into which guests at the reception popped envelopes of cash. Based on this idea, several online registries have sprung up to offer better security – one never knows if Uncle Fred’s gambling habit will lead him to purloin the cash whilst the rest of the party are helping themselves from the buffet – and offer greater privacy to the giver.
These are basically fundraising sites aimed at wedding guests. The guest is either given a picture of a product (as I mention above) or of ‘an experience’. The latter is usually something the couple would like to do during their honeymoon. (No, not that, that’s free!) These sites, or ‘honeyfunds’, are increasing in popularity with couples who already have masses of stuff and very little extra space but would love to have a luxury honeymoon and create fabulous memories.
As with products, some funds act as intermediaries with travel agents for the honeymoon experiences, but most just store the cash for the couple. When the registry closes the money is transferred to their bank account so they can pay off the credit card debt they incurred in booking the honeymoon months ago.
- Are you unsure about asking for money?
Looking through forums online I note that people are split over whether asking guests to pay for the honeymoon, with what might be their very slim resources, is downright shameless or a welcome update on the fondue set. Love it once, take the photo, and it doesn’t even need any storage space in the kitchen cabinets.
The likelihood is that colleagues at work would find a honeyfund realistic whereas relatives might be less keen to give. I think it’s the fact that once the experience – dinner for two in a restaurant you’d never normally be able to afford or being pampered at a top-end spa – is over, there’s no trace of the gift. But young people, used to living their lives at least partially through social media, don’t expect stuff to last long, whether it’s the toaster or the taste of the champagne. It will be the shared photos that younger guests will look forward to.
If the couple want to collect cash towards paying for their honeymoon or want to offer a mix of products and experiences that can be taken as money, my advice is to note which of their guests is likely to be a more traditional giver. Anything selected by these guests should be purchased and, whether it’s a product or an experience, the couple should take some photos to include with the thank you note. For the other guests social media and phone calls might be what they prefer as a thank-you from the couple for the gift of ‘some wonderful memories.’
If you think of it from the viewpoint of the giver it’s clear how to make people feel good about their gift. Most people either want to give a couple ‘something really useful or something they will treasure, perhaps something a bit beyond their means’ or they say ‘we just want the couple to have a really great time before real life, work and babies take over. We want to give them lovely memories’.
Registries that don’t do cash offer gift cards. The Amazon gift card, on account of the millions of items it can buy, is almost equivalent of cash.
|John Lewis & Partners||UK||Yes|
|The Wedding Shop||UK||Yes|
|My Registry free||Int||Yes|
|My Registry paid||Int||Yes|
|The Knot ex USA||Int||Yes|
|The Knot USA only||US||Yes|
My Registry free
|My Registry paid||Int||Yes|
|Not Another Toaster||UK,US,OZ||Yes|
|Wedding Gifts Direct||OZ||Yes|
|The Wedding List Co||OZ||Yes|
- Do you want to add some very expensive items to your gift list?
According to wedding sites many couples wish they had asked for fewer basic items and concentrated on getting just a few things that were well out of their price bracket.
The way to do this is to choose a registry that offers guests the opportunity to part-pay for an item. This method of raising money is used today to fund start-ups, films, plays, music albums, research and a myriad of other things. It is crowd-funding. It gives lots of people the chance to support something they think is worthwhile without having to be millionaires. And for wedding guests it takes the place of the long-time practice of relatives getting together to fund a really worthwhile but very expensive present. The couple will be told who contributed what, whilst nobody else needs know how much each person could afford.
|John Lewis & Partners||Yes, via gift cards|
Yes, via gift cards
|The Wedding Shop|| |
Yes, via gift cards
|My Registry free|
|My Registry paid||Yes|
|The Knot ex USA|
|The Knot USA only||Yes|
|Amazon||Yes via gift cards|
|My Gift Registry free||Yes|
|My Gift Registry paid||Yes|
|Not Another Toaster||Yes|
|Wedding Gifts Direct||Yes|
|The Wedding List Co||Yes|
My personal take on this is that it’s a useful feature for even us traditional-type givers as long as two conditions are met: the couple actually purchase the item and the item is something designed to last. So I would definitely put in something, probably as an extra gift, to help my daughter buy a nice piece of furniture but I probably wouldn’t put in, or not as much, if the goal was to upgrade her honeymoon flights to first class.
- Do you want guests to donate to a charity?
Any site offering a cash building fund or cash instead of a gift or experience, can of course be used to also ask for money for any charity. Other registries where there is no cash collected but which offer a charity contribution feature are: John Lewis – Cancer Research UK only, Prezola and The Wedding Shop.
- Do you want the basics or something more stylish?
Most registries basically act as online retailers. They buy wholesale from a set of suppliers and put these items up for sale at the retail price via wedding gift lists. Once the items are paid for they get the supplier to send them the order to send on to the couple or they get the supplier to dropship the order direct to the couple’s address. Just like a bricks and mortar shop they make their money through the margin between what an item costs and what the guest pays for it.
It’s important that the couple agree on the style and price point of their list so they can select the right registry. Some registries cater for mid-price and mid-style couples and work with suppliers such as Crate and Barrel and Bed, Bath and Beyond. Others have a more upmarket, style-driven set of suppliers, whilst some cater for couples with a taste for luxury, such as Amara. A lot depends on whether the couple are looking for the basics or whether they have most things covered but want better.
Most lists, even the most style-driven, will be able to offer some articles that even grandparents will be familiar with and think are worth buying. So it’s important that the bride includes some of these items in her selection.
If the couple want more stylish or luxury items: Prezola has partnered with Soho Home. Amara for stylish home accessories. The Wedding Shop – add anything at all and they source. Wedding Wire, My Registry, The Knot and My Gift Registry – add anything and guest buys direct. Zola add anything online.
- Does your one favourite store have enough choice?
Until recently it was individual stores that put together the wedding list. The couple chose their favourite store and went round the various departments picking out things they’d love to have. Remember that scene in Three Weddings and a Funeral when one impoverished guest nearly passed out when he entered the wedding list shop and asked the prices? The couple need to select a store that has items at many different prices.
But what if the couple doesn’t have a favourite store or if the set of suppliers used by an online registry doesn’t include all of the things they’d love to own? Some services offer a universal list where any product from any online store can be added to the basic list. As most stores have an online presence this is great news for brides. Obviously if the service just gives the couple the cash they can buy anything they want, anywhere, but lists also exist which will then source the item you added and get it sent on to you.
|Registry||Add items from other retailers|
|John Lewis & Partners||Only travel through Kuoni|
|The Wedding Shop||Yes and they source and deliver|
|Prezola paid||Yes, you receive cash|
|Wedding Wire||Add any item and guests buy direct from that retailer|
|My Registry free||Add any item and guests buy direct from that retailer|
|My Registry paid||Add any item and guests buy direct from that retailer|
|The Knot ex USA||No|
|The Knot USA only||Yes, you receive cash|
|Amazon||Add any online item|
|My Gift Registry free||Yes, you receive cash|
|My Gift Registry paid||Yes, your receive cash|
|Tendr||Cash for any item|
|Honeyfund||Cash for any item|
|Zankyou||Cash for any item|
|Not Another Toaster||Cash for any item|
|Zola||Add any online item|
|Wedding Gifts Direct||Yes add up to 10 gifts|
|The Wedding List Co||Cash for any item|
- Do you want the wedding registry to sit within a wedding website?
Most registries want to make giving as much fun as possible. Rather than just send out a list, brides now send a link to their wedding website designed with cute themes to match the spirit and style of their event. The wedding site usually gives the background story to the couples and how they met plus dates and times of the wedding and pre-wedding events, the wedding venue, how to get there and where to stay. Some sites also include wedding planning features for the couple, such as guest lists.
Some registries offer pretty invitations that include the website address of the registry/couple’s website to encourage gift-giving. All of these extras not only enhance the experience of the guests but seem to push up the amount they are willing to spend too.
- Do you want a free wedding registry or are you willing to pay for this service?
Both are available. I’ve become a believer in paying for something if you want it done well. The small amounts required to get a good registry with a great website are dwarfed by comparison with most of the other wedding costs.
Free listings have to make all their money through the margin between buying and selling an item. So they can’t also offer sales or discounts. They usually offer ‘the recommended retail price suggested by the supplier’. But today few people expect to pay that. Some registries offer a price-match guarantee but the small print says they’ll only consider the prices on other wedding registries. If the couple wants their guests to be able to source the best price for each gift then there’s really only one name that stands out – Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com
On free registries where cash is collected there will be handling fees for the cash. There may be Paypal fees when they transfer the money to you. There may be credit card processing fees.
|Registry||Set up costs||What you get|
|John Lewis & Partners||Free||Listing|
|The Wedding Shop||Free||Listing|
|Prezola free||Free||Listing + website|
|Prezola paid||£57 upgrade currently free (Jan 2019)||Listing including cash fund + website|
|Wedding Wire||Free||Listing + website with tools|
|My Registry free||Free||Listing for products only|
|My Registry paid||$5 per gift + credit card fee||Listing including cash fund|
|The Knot ex USA||Free||Listing products only + website with tools|
|The Knot USA only||Free||Listing including cash fund + website with tools|
|My Gift Registry free||Free||Listing|
|My Gift Registry paid||$45 to upgrade||Listing including cash fund|
|Tendr||$5 per gift + credit card fee||Listing + page|
|Honeyfund||Free/£29.99 upgrade currently free (Jan 2019)||Listing/Upgrade + website|
|Zankyou||Free/£55 to upgrade||Listing/ Upgrade + website|
|Not Another Toaster||$150 + credit card fee||Listing|
|Wedding Gifts Direct||$4.95 payable by each guest/$99 to add cash fund if guets do not buy $2500 min.||Listing/ including cash fund|
|The Wedding List Co||$9.95 – $12.95 payable by each guest + Set up fee (not stated)||Listing including cash fund|
- Can you take delivery of your gifts soon after the wedding?
A small number of registries have warehousing and can offer to store gifts for a while. This is useful if the couple is taking a world tour or moving house. But most registries need to shift the gifts as soon as possible. Cash can of course be transferred at any time. Check costs if storage is needed. Also check costs for delivery. Most registries deliver free domestically but if the couple are moving abroad fees can mount up.
Gift storage: The Wedding Shop gives 6 months free storage.
- Do you want the flexibility to swap or return items purchased from your gift list?
Perhaps things have changed since putting together the wedding list. Moving home? Seen something much nicer? Someone already gave a similar item off-list. Each registry has their own rules about this but most are reasonably generous. Many sites expect you to confirm your list before they purchase the gifts and deliver them to you. Products from these sites cannot usually be exchanged for cash either before or after your registry closes.
Amazon, of course, offers swaps and refunds even after your list has been delivered. Sites like Zola that just send you the cash value are super-flexible. You just buy whatever you want with the money your guests have gifted.
- How will you decide which registries are trustworthy?
An online wedding registry is a very simple service to set up. And offering to collect cash instead of gifts is even less hassle. So beware of newcomers or any site that doesn’t have plenty of reviews. Some sites are backed by banks, some are not. Some promise to ring-fence your funds, some do not.
If this doesn’t seem important, remember it only needs something to be mismanaged for the registry to go out of business. If your cash is on their books it might disappear to creditors or evaporate. In my research this week I have come across various registries that have been sold, amalgamated or ceased to exist. A honeyfund is basically acting as a temporary bank for you and your guests. Just offering security from hackers through ‘full encryption’ is not enough. It’s like having security guards at the entrance to the bank but giving the manager and his staff keys to your safe deposit box. So read the terms and conditions and the FAQ’s of any registry you favour before making your final decision.
Trust: The Wedding Shop ring-fence your cash fund. All the registries I mention have been in business for quite a time and have lots of reviews.
- Which of these extras are important to you?
The possibility to create a personal wedding website with lots of design themes to play with and ideas to inspire and planning tools.
Gift wrapping: Most stores do this at an added cost. The Wedding Shop delivers your gifts in stylish boxes.
Suggested photos and prices to use for a honeymoon or other cash building list: Cash sites offer this. Choose any of the gallery of photos eg jet skiing, edit the suggested price, then spend the money any way you wish.
Gift cards redeemable for any gift on the site, for guests who just don’t know what to choose. Available from all registries selling products.
|Registry||Discount on unbought gifts|
|John Lewis & Partners||No|
|The Wedding Shop||10%|
|My Registry free||0|
|My Registry paid||0|
|The Knot ex USA||0|
|The Knot USA only||0|
|Amazon||10% or Prime 20%|
|My Gift Registry free||0|
|My Gift Registry paid||0|
|Not Another Toaster||0|
|Wedding Gifts Direct||20%|
|The Wedding List Co||25%|
The New Rules of Giving
I have always felt a gift should be something that reflects the taste or personality of the giver and the interests of the receiver. In other words you make discreet enquiries to find what the couple may need for their aspirational lifestyle and then go out and find something you really like. But I know that I haven’t been on the same wavelength as my daughter for years and years where style and aspiration are concerned. So I have lost confidence in selecting a gift she will love.
I still have the silverware my mother gave me when I got married and I still use it every time I have people round to dinner. And every time I open the wooden box I recall my dear departed mamma. My sister, whose taste I have always admired, gave me a beautiful Persian kelim rug as she was living in Iran when I got married. I have found a spot for that rug in every single one of my many homes ever since. I would really love to offer my daughter something that will prompt memories of her wedding day, and of me, every time she uses it.
Talking to other mothers I get the impression that most of us feel exactly the same.
But times have changed and there are new rules about giving wedding gifts just as there are about most other things. But many of the registries I have included here offer some beautiful homewares that could become heirlooms. Once your daughter has decided which registry to go with, why not sit down with her and view some of the items that appeal to you and subtly discover if she also sees them as special? The more you get to know her style the closer you will both become. You may end up buying something you hadn’t expected to. But in return you will have started to understand her world just that little bit better.