What to Put On (and Leave Off) Your Wedding Registry

By Camilla Cheung on 29 January 2013 (Updated 20 August 2013) 7 comments

In a perfect world, everyone would give you cash for your wedding. Depending on the background and traditions of your guests, however, there is a very good chance that there will be at least a few people who prefer to give a gift. In fact, when I go to weddings, I prefer to give a gift so that people can’t put a monetary value on my good wishes. Having a lot of good choices on your wedding registry helps to prevent receiving four pairs of hideous salad tongs, and it’s a great opportunity to get those big-ticket items that will serve you for years to come. (See also: Alternative Wedding Registry Ideas)

Register for…

These are items most of us can’t afford to purchase all at once, such as cutlery and tableware, as well as nice things every household should have, but that are often low on the need-to-buy-list, such as luggage.

Classic (White) Dishes

A complete set of quality dishes is expensive, and your wedding is your one chance to get a full and complete dinner setting.

Register for high-quality white dishes that will stand the test of time and won’t look dated in a few years (you can always add colorful accent plates). For the best bang for your guests’ buck, register for a quality set of everyday dinnerware instead of a fancy set of fine china that you’ll only use a few times a year. The wedding gift I use the most is a set of white Villeroy & Boch dinnerware given to me by my mother-in-law. It is sturdy enough for everyday use yet pretty enough for fancy dinners.

Sturdy Flatware

Sure, you’ve done fine using your set of IKEA flatware for the past few years, but your wedding is your chance to get something a bit higher quality for all those fancy dinner parties you’ll be hosting. You’ll probably never find a reason to splurge on top-quality flatware again, so put some thought into the set you add to your registry. Go for something dishwasher safe and sturdy, in a clean and classic design.

Oven-to-Table-to-Freezer Casserole Set

In your life as a married person, you’ll probably be toting casseroles to a lot of potlucks and game nights, so add a set of casserole dishes to your registry. These handy lidded containers can go from the oven to the table and straight to the fridge or freezer. Whether you choose Pyrex, Corningware, or something a little fancier, this set of casseroles will be useful for years to come.

Open Stock Pots and Pans

Forget the 10-piece sets of cookware that come in a huge box. Chances are that the quality of each piece won’t be the highest, and you’ll get far more cookware than you need.

Instead, register for a couple frying pans (a 10-inch and a 12-inch), a medium saucepan, and a large pot for soups and stews. Choose them based on functionality instead of how well they match. For example, the most-used pots in my kitchen are my 5.5-quart enameled cast-iron Le Creuset pot, a medium stainless steel saucepan, and a couple of nonstick, anodized aluminum, ceramic coated frying pans. Think about how you like to cook, and register accordingly.

Knives

Again, forgo the box set and choose a solidly made, quality forged chef’s knife. This is your chance to get a Wusthof or a Shun, so be sure to add it to your list. You can always buy cheaper paring knives and steak knives later, but be sure to add the knife of a lifetime to your registry.

Sheets

My husband and I never splurge on sheets for ourselves — most of our sheet sets are from TJ Maxx or Ikea — but we still love the quality set of sheets we received for our wedding. They cost $100 for a queen set but four years later, they are still the softest sheets we own. So while you wouldn’t necessarily spend a lot on sheets for yourself, you might want to put a good set on the registry.

Small Appliances

A blender, a hand mixer, a kettle, a slow cooker, and a coffee maker are all mid-priced appliances that guests appreciate seeing on a registry, and they are all kitchen essentials. (See also: The 5 Best Mixers)

Suitcases

Quality luggage costs a pretty penny, but will save you so many headaches when rolling them to and fro in airports. Have you ever tried to roll a cheap, 50-pound suitcase with broken wheels on the subway? I have, and I don’t care to repeat the experience.

Camping Gear

If you’re the outdoorsy type, consider registering for gear that will help you make family memories. Register for a nice spacious tent and a couple warm sleeping bags so you can camp in style.

Basic Tools

Even if you aren’t the handiest couple, a power drill, a couple of screwdrivers, a set of socket wrenches, and a hammer will come in handy when putting up your new bookshelves and your framed wedding photos.

Think Twice About…

Think twice about gifts that you may not need, or have the space for, or are really just clutter.

Stand Mixer

Before registering for a stand mixer, think carefully. Yes, your wedding might be your best chance to get one of these expensive babies, but how essential is it?

A heavy stand mixer is most useful when you can leave it out on the counter, but do you have the counter space (when you factor in the blender, the coffee maker, and the microwave)? Do you bake often enough that a stand mixer will be that much more useful than a hand mixer? If so, go for it. Otherwise? Think it over.

Crystal Glasses

You know the thing about wine glasses? When they see a lot of use, they tend to break. So go ahead and register for them, but don’t get something so expensive you’ll be heartbroken when it breaks. My husband and I prefer to buy a wine glass at a winery every time we go wine tasting — it’s a fun and inexpensive souvenir, and we can use them later at home.

Decorations and Knick-Knacks

It’s fun to register for home décor items, but don’t go overboard. Your style might change in a few years, so hold off on registering for that deer's head wall sculpture, those vases in multiple colors, or that plethora of candle holders. It’s easy to scan lots of random home décor items when you’re registering, but they won’t necessarily form a cohesive whole in your home.

The exception? Quality art prints or original art. This is your chance to get some REAL art to replace those college band posters you’ve had up on your walls the last few years.

One of the best things about a gift registry is that you can often return or exchange items for store credit or cash, so don't worry too much if you change your mind later!

What were your favorite wedding registry gifts?

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Guest's picture

This is a great list! We've lived together for 6 years, so we've been wondering what we would put on ours. I think we're just going to replace a lot of our things with nicer stuff.

Guest's picture
Aubrey

I disagree on nixing the stand mixer, but then again I will always make space for it since I love how handy it is in the kitchen for so many things! I probably wouldn't have one if I hadn't registered for one, but I use it enough to make it worthwhile; it's the only wedding gift I refused to give up in my divorce.

I would say avoid GLASSWARE. I registered/received champagne glasses, wine glasses, tumblers, water goblets, brandy snifters, margarita glasses, beer mugs, and more. This later made moving pretty painful; I sold most of them in yard sales and kept the cheap (and sturdy) stuff only.

I agree on the knives though, as well as the sheets. Always ask for more towels than you need, and save them for later too. Think about how different kitchenware (and other items) has to be cleaned; if you're dishwasher-only people, don't register for non-dishwasher safe china. Same goes for silver that needs polishing. The additional chore will discourage you from using it at all.

Last bit of advice I'd give, go for the Le Creuset. That is, go for a few quality pots and pans (and pricey cast iron) because they'll last forever. Better than going cheap.

Camilla Cheung's picture

Hi Aubrey, thanks for your thoughts!
Yes, I think the stand mixer is one of those things that's a must for some people and not so much for others. I know people who make it a priority to keep it on their counter and use it often, and others who never use it because it's stored away in a cabinet and weighs about a million pounds. It's just good to think twice about whether registering for something else would be more worthwhile.
I agree, I love my Le Creuset pots, and they should last a lifetime, though there is definitely less expensive enameled cast iron that does the job well.
Camilla

Guest's picture

As someone who's getting married in the fall, I would *love* to receive all cash gifts to help offset the costs of the wedding!

We're going to be careful -- and selective -- about what we choose to register for.

Guest's picture
Cathy

Great list! The absolute best thing I registered for were my All-clad pots and pans. Ten years later they still shine!

Guest's picture
Jaci

We signed up for Wedding Republic (our registry is at www.weddingrepublic.com/oyeager). It works just like cash, but it feels more special to your guests because they can see your "bucket list" so to speak, and how you envision using the money. Best of all, you're not locked into using your gifts for anything specific. You can use it for a new TV, a far flung vacation, liposuction, paying down your credit cards - whatever! The sky's the limit, and your guests will never know the difference.

I'm not associated with Wedding Republic at all. I just think it's a great idea. Now that so many couples live together before getting married, the "pots and pans and blenders" traditional wedding registry often doesn't apply. It's time to bring this tradition into the 21st century.

Camilla Cheung's picture

Hmm that does sound like a great idea. However, I think there's still a place for more traditional wedding registries (remember...not so many years ago a wedding registry was a novelty), because they bridge the gap between traditional gifts and cold hard cash. Many older (or simply more traditional) people I know don't feel comfortable giving cash or even a gift card. Also, with a gift registry, guests who aren't super good at using the Internet to send you money can walk into a brick-and-mortar store and have an associate help them print out a list of gifts.