Once you've gotten engaged and set a date, your friends will want to celebrate you with engagement parties and bridal showers. As etiquette goes, your family and friends should be planning those events for you–but those who'll attend won't do so empty handed.
As your loved ones look to shop for gifts, they'll immediately turn to your registry (which you can list on your wedding website)–so it's best to get yours together ASAP. Don't let the idea of a registry overwhelm you; yes, you can register at multiple places and for items in a wide range of price points. And, the process of compiling all the items you'll list is one of the few wedding planning tasks that grooms prefer to participate in, so you shouldn't have to go it alone.
To sort out the challenges that can arise when you are asked to quickly decorate, furnish, or adorn the spaces you'll enjoy together in your next chapter, we tapped Jung Lee of Fête, one of BAZAAR's top wedding planners and creator of new registry concept, Slowdance, who has been designing events for decades and helping couples customize the perfect registries to suit their lifestyles. Here, the registry and décor guru let us in on her top tips for relieving registry stress.
1. Don't Wait Too Long to Register.
Building your wedding registry is one of the first things you should do. And to be certain, make sure it is complete before save-the-dates go out or engagement parties and showers are scheduled. People will buy you gifts, and punctual folks will look to do so immediately, so make sure you’ve at least compiled the bones of what you need and desire.
2. Be Honest. Do You LOVE It?
Register only for items that you will use and love. If that bar set, cookware, or traditional gravy boat has no place in your lifestyle, find something else you will use with greater frequency. Just like planning your wedding, never choose something you think is what you are supposed to do but that doesn't actually feel right.
3. Opt for Heirlooms
Couples should register for items that will withstand the test of time in style–and in quality. This isn't a time for disposable products or impulse purchases. This may mean combining a registry of many items into a smaller list of pieces at a higher price point–and that's okay. These products will endure and live with you over time (long after the blender you registered for has died); but register with a place that lets you shift your credit (or group gifting) to give you the ability to make adjustments to your registry along the way.
4. Create a "Hold" Registry.
I strongly recommend a "hold" registry, one that sends you a notification each time you receive a gift but doesn't ship the items until you are ready. This way you can control what you receive and when. Receiving gifts throughout the wedding planning process is chaotic; during that time you are juggling so many wedding planning details. and things can get misplaced in the mix. Also, considering you can always return items from your registry should you later decide against them, each gift is technically just an amount of store credit. With a hold registry, you can decide to exchange certain gifts before they've ever been sent to you, which makes it easier to control which items you ultimately end up with.
5. Don't Go It Alone.
This isn't about just getting support from your partner. Find a place to register where they guide you properly through the process. They can help you to better understand which products will match your aesthetic and what will work best with how you live your life. If you aren't excited about your selections, something is wrong. Couples should always be almost as excited about their registry as they are about their wedding.
6. Plan Ahead for Entertaining.
Think about products you'll want when your lifestyle changes. Couples tend to entertain at home much more as they get older (less clubbing!). Think about hosting your closest friends, what drinks you'll be serving, and what glasses and stemware you will want to use when the time comes. Even for casual gatherings, you'll also likely serve simple cocktail foods, but arranged nicely on a platter or in a bowl–so consider servingware as well.
7. Play with Prints. And Color. And Texture.
The best registries are a collection of products that work together. Review your selections and edit them as a collection. Mix and match your dinnerware. Select 4 place settings, each of 4 different patterns, which will give you 16 sets in total when you mix them all together. You don't have to commit to just one style; inject variety into your dinnerware. An assorted, layered tabletop is far more interesting and visually captivating for both you to enjoy and for the guests you'll impress and entertain.
8. Go for Items You Can Use In Multiple Ways
Register for products that are multi-purpose. A footed glass isn't just for drinks; it can hold a single stem or be a vessel for cheese sticks when entertaining. The more uses an item has, the more value it will have for you in your home.
9. Don't Save China for Special Occasions.
Nothing is too precious. Every single one of your registry items should be accessible all the time and not be stuck in storage–even fine china. And, like with fashion, you can mix high and low so to ensure a sophisticated look still feels casual when the occasion calls for a laid-back feel.“For many of our couples, we bring in the registered place setting for the head table at the wedding (instead of rental stuff that’s ordinary & not personal),” notes Lee. “It's an incredible way to start off your first meal as a married couple using your wedding registry. I love that these pieces will then be that much more special and sentimental.”
10. Forget the Rules.
Do not feel the need to register for all the items that your Mother or MIL say you “need” to register for. “I'm a big believer of getting great items to last you throughout your life together, but they should also be reflective of who you are as a couple.” If you love to entertain but prefer to do so in a casual way, make sure to register for plenty of serving platters and dishes but perhaps forgo the 5 (or 7) piece place setting and opt for just dinner and salad plates.
11. But, Don't Register for ONLY Essentials.
There will be guests who want to give you something memorable and special, and if you don’t want them going off-registry, make sure you request a few items that break the mold.
12. Upgrade Your Pre-Marriage Gear.
Most couples these days live together before marriage, and both often bring a mix of items from college or their first apartments to their pre-marital nest. Use your wedding registry as an excuse to donate your mismatched or cheapy dishes to a younger sibling, or your local Salvation Army. See this as an opportunity to outfit your abode with well-made items to last you throughout your life together.
13. A Mix of High & Low.
Your guests will likely be more comfortable if you provide them with a range of price points to choose from. This doesn’t mean that you have to register for cheaply made items, but rather break up expensive items (China, crystal, flatware) into individual pieces so that people can build up to a price-point they are comfortable with.
14. Look to the Future.
Don’t consider only what you will use now, but also things you will want to use down the road. Hosting Thanksgiving may not be in your two year plan, but in a few years you’ll be wishing you had registered for that gravy boat, or those larger pieces of cookware. Additionally, now is the time to stock up on bed linens. Your city condo may have you snuggled up in a queen for the next few years, but if a bigger home (and bed) is in the future, consider registering for your favorite linens in multiple sizes.
15. Don't Forget Decor.
Look beyond linens, tableware and kitchen gadgets. A nice mirror, a lamp, throws, and pillows will help make your marital house feel like a home, and guest will love seeing their gifts in daily use.