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Wedding Registry Etiquette - Creating a Thoughtful Wish List

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If the phrase "wedding registry" sends you in a tailspin, have no fear! We understand, asking your closest friends and family for hand selected gifts would make anyone uncomfortable, but it doesn't have to. As long as you follow some simple etiquette guidelines and take your time creating a personal, thoughtful and reasonable registry, there is no reason why this wedding to-do should unravel you. 

This guide will help you create the wedding wish list of your dreams, without offending any of your guests to be. To help you get started, we've answered the most common registry questions below. 

wedding registry etiquette cards and gifts

Do we have to have a registry? 

Yes, or no. But let us tell you why you should. It can be tempting to just forget the whole registry thing and let your guests fend for themselves. But the registry doesn't just exist for you. In addition to providing your guests with a wide range of price points for gifts you will ACTUALLY use, they also help prevent every guest from purchasing the exact same salad spinner. 

Our advice? Sit down, take some time, and build a thoughtful registry full of things you're excited about. 

Can we register for cash?

Not exactly. You don't want to just say that you're accepting cash gifts. Because that comes off a bit, well, greedy. But there is also no reason to fill your house full of new tableware if you're already stocked up. So what do you do?

Cue the honeymoon fund! There are many registries that put the focus on "experiences" instead of the gifts. So get creative! Your guests will like to know that they are contributing to something specific, so create a registry that allows them to pitch in for date nights, cooking classes, a honeymoon fund, a big future purchase, or even your monthly gym membership. 

Is it okay to put big ticket items on our registry?

Yes, within reason. Most wedding experts say 2-3 big ticket items are perfectly acceptable on your wedding registry, as long as there is a good mix of price points for guests to choose from. And many sites offer the option to pitch in on a big ticket item, like art, furniture or a stand mixer, as a group. 

cards and gifts wedding registry etiquette ideas

How do we tell people where to find it?

Word of mouth is the old fashioned way of spreading registry information, as that responsibility usually falls to the mother of the bride and the bridal party. So tell your girls to spread the word! It's also fine to include your registry information on your wedding website (include a link!) or bridal shower invitations but whatever you do keep it OFF of your formal save the date and wedding invitations. 

We're eloping, should we still create a registry?

Even if you're choosing to elope and send out announcements, many of your friends and family members may want to send a congratulatory gift anyway. Creating a simple registry or a honeymoon fund to share when asked gives them that option without any expectation. But here's the catch - ONLY share this information if asked, or if you are hosting a reception or party with guests after the wedding day.

When are registry gifts exchanged?

Typically registry gifts are given at the bridal shower and the wedding day itself. But they can trickle in at any time in the wedding planning process. Keep your thank you notes handy! It's always easier to respond to gifts as they come in than to save them all up for after the wedding.

(Keep in mind that gifts are not expected at the engagement party or the bachelorette party.)

Is the bridal party supposed to gift from the registry?

Giving a gift from a registry is not a requirement for anybody attending your wedding, including the bridal party. The registry is there to help guests who would like an idea of what to gift, and to convey your personal taste. But if your maid of honor has her eye on something off list, she's more than welcome to gift as she pleases. 

Can we keep our registry up after the wedding?

Keeping your registry live for the month following your big day is a good idea. But any longer than that is unnecessary. 

cards and gifts wedding registry etiquette ideas

Can we return registry gifts?

Go for it! But make sure you write a heartfelt thank you note for the original gift FIRST. There's no shame in returning duplicates or exchanging gifts for something you'll use more often, but your guests don't need to know that you've done so.

When do we send out thank you's for registry gifts?

Etiquette dictates that thank you notes should be sent within 2 weeks of the bridal shower (have your MOH keep a list of who gifted what during the unwrapping) and within 3 months of the wedding day.

Which is why we recommend stocking up on quality thank you notes early on. It is so much more enjoyable to write a sweet note of thanks as the gifts come in than to wait until you have 200+ to reply to at once. Not only will your hand thank you for avoiding carpal tunnel, but your responses will naturally be more sincere.

Get your custom thank you cards here!

We don't want gifts. Seriously. What should we do instead?

We get it, we all have so much stuff. So what if you really don't want guests to bring a gift? Chances are, some people will ignore this request altogether. Because choosing gifts for people we love is fun! So give them another option. Consider asking your guests to donate what they would have spent on a wedding gift to a charity close to your heart instead. Or ask that everyone bring a bag of food, treats or toys to donate to your local animal shelter. The skies the limit! 

Follow the guidelines above and you're sure to be delighted with the whole registry experience. And if nothing else remember these simple rules: choose easy to access pieces or places, offer a wide range of price points and provide a clear understanding of where the items can be purchased. Happy Wedding!

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