10 Things Every Bride Should Know. . . Before Registering

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Wedding planning is a hot topic today. With wedding companies spending millions on marketing, most brides realize the importance of having a plan before they enter a dress store or wedding venue. Without clearly defined boundaries, it’s easy to spend a small (or large) fortune unintentionally.

There are articles everywhere on how to budget and strategize wedding planning, but the online world seems to be silent on one major topic these days.

Registry planning.

While setting up a registry is a fun experience, it can also be frustrating . You’re bombarded with everything from kitchen gadgets to complicated hanger systems—not to mention the friendly sales pitch about “completing” your set and saving 10%.

It’s a complicated business.

My husband and I talked enough before registering to know we wanted a simple life. I’m not saying we wanted to eat beans and rice every day of the week and only shower on Sunday.

We wanted simplicity in a fundamental sense. We wanted to have what we needed in our home to complete our lifestyle. We wanted the ability to pursue and enjoy the things that are most important to us without being hindered by “stuff.”

We needed a strategy.

After starting our first registry and almost hyperventilating from choice overload, we realized we needed to guide this whole process with a firm hand. What is most important? What should we keep? Where do we register? What makes up a good registry?

Here is a collection of things we learned along the way (some by trial and error) that helped us make registering and returning gifts easier.

1. Talk.

Before you plant your feet on that asphalt parking lot, take time to talk. Talk through the kind of lifestyle you both want, and make sure you agree. Write it out if you need to.

Ask each other questions like: Do you want to entertain? Football parties or five course dinners? Those football parties may call for a lot of plastic, or a more refined taste may nix all plastic from your home. My husband is not picky, but he did not want one one plastic plate or cup. He wanted real plates and real cups so his preference narrowed down that choice.

The key is to talk and agree on a lifestyle because that frees you to make decisions together.


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2. Find Stores that are User Friendly.

Not every store is “user friendly.” Some stores limit returns to 30 days. Others will tell you damaged goods are your problem or completely neglect you when you need help with the registry gun. We started a registry at one store that proved so difficult to use (from the registry gun to finding a sales associates) that we didn’t end up using the store.

Talk to married friends. Look up reviews online and exploring their return policy. Ask specific questions. Don’t be afraid to walk away if a policy doesn’t work for you. The store’s goal should be to make this a pleasant experience.

3. Strategize the Location.

Save yourself some long drives. You won’t keep every gift you receive (even though you’re grateful!). No one really does. 

We made an hour drive one night to return and purchase items we really needed, but when we got there the store was closed. We had a great date night, but our gas budget didn’t appreciate the trips. 

Lessons learned. First, call ahead. Second, don’t register at a store if your new home isn’t located conventiently near one of their branches.

4. Limit Where You Register.

Save yourself some legwork. Don’t register at every store you visit. It’s a fun idea, but resist the urge. It’s good to use one, maybe two, national chains (especially if a substantial number of wedding guests are out of state) and a couple of local or regional stores. But don’t wear yourself out. You have far more important things to do.

Another quick reason to limit your registries is to have more credit to work with for bigger purchases. Not many wedding guests go in for that mattress or expensive vacuum. You may need more credit to buy bigger necessities so don’t spread yourself too thin


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5. Love Your Guests.

The lovely people coming to your wedding will want to buy you beautiful gifts, but remember weddings get expensive for guests. Some friends may have a tight budget so make sure you include a good variety of price points.

Remember. If a guest can’t afford to buy something from your registry, you may end up with that fuzzy pink lamp shade or owl-shaped measuring spoons. It’s best to have as many selections in the 5-10 dollar range as you can (oven mitts, small towels, inexpensive cups, plates, salad tongs, etc.). Your guests will thank you . . . and, well, you’ll thank yourself later.

6. Coupon Through Your Registry.

Everyone is talking about couponing these days, and I found that couponing with my registry worked like a charm. I took back over half of the gifts we received from one store and started watching their coupons online and through the mail. I returned to the store multiple times to buy items with coupons. Coupons saved me hundreds!

Never be afraid to return an item to a store and turn around and repurchase it with a coupon. Girl, you’ve got to use this credit to set up a house! Make every penny count.

7. Keep Only What You Love.

It’s always a good idea to have items on your registry that are inexpensive, but realize you aren’t required to keep any wedding present (and most of your lovely guests wouldn’t want you to feel obligated to keep things you don’t want or need!) We keep too much in our homes today, and all the generous weddings gifts we receive are tempting to pack away in closets and drawers because “it is a wedding present!” or it does some highly specific task quickly.

This is a whole other topic, but simplicity—especially in the kitchen—is your best bet. Buy good knives, a set of measuring utensils, bowls, pots and pans, storage containers, and you’re set. Keep what really matters and what you know you will use; return the gifts that don’t meet your standards or lifestyle goals (point 1).


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8. Return the Gadgets.

Don’t waste your time with gadgets—though you may want a few on your registry for price points. They tend to be expensive, troublesome, bulky, and easily broken. Keep only the good quality gadgets you know you will use often. You can always repurchase later.

Countertop gadgets (bagel makers, yogurt makers, personal blenders, countertop grills, vegetable choppers, and sandwich makers) may sound fun and quick, but they rarely save you time, and honestly you will save yourself some time and expense later by making crockpot yogurt, buying a larger multipurpose blender, chopping vegetables by hand, and toasting your sandwiches in the oven. Keeping life simple is a good thing. Plus, you will have less stuff to clean!

9. Keep the Gadgets.

Honestly, there are some gadgets that are wonderful. I must admit I have fallen deeply in love with my multipurpose veggie chopper/immersion blender. It is incredibly easy to use, I can wipe it clean with a sponge, and with a little broth or water, I can easily make our dinner into baby food for a baby Simpson someday. For a while, this was the only “gadget” we had in our little kitchen other than our KitchenAid (coupon purchase) and our toaster oven (another coupon purchase). Since then I have only added a blender to our gadget list, and I still haven’t bought any lemon squeezers, specialty graters, or yogurt makers. And we’re still happy!

10. Remember Your Man.

Engagement is a busy time. I remember. I was planning our wedding and my husband was finishing up a busy senior year at college. It’s easy to get in a rush and just get whatever you want. Take the time to find out what your man wants or doesn’t want. My husband wanted some things that I wouldn’t have even thought about twice, but I had to remember that his perspective brings balance to our home.  Registering is a chance to practice the art of compromising, and that makes the whole process worth the time.

Don’t feel stressed about registering. This is a time when people get to give you wonderful gifts you’ll enjoy! So relax and enjoy the process.

The key is to plan beforehand so you’re both prepared to ask questions and make good decisions with as little effort as possible.





  1. Elena says:

    Yes! I wish these there things I knew when David and I were first creating our registry, but thankfully, they are lessons that we are continually learning along the way. It’s so helpful to have the big picture before registering.

  2. Emily says:

    Good thoughts, especially about remembering your man! I think registering for wedding gifts was probably the first source of conflict for Nathan and me after we were engaged! We started at Target, stood in line to receive our scanner gun and the huge catalog full of things Target knew we’d need, and didn’t make it past the first aisle – towels – before I was in tears. Thankfully, Nathan said we were finished with registering for the day. We left and ended up having a date instead. :) And we had conversations before we registered for anything else and when we returned things, too. We learned the hard way, but it was a good experience to prepare us for marriage. :)

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