Registries suck. Before I launch into a tirade, let me be clear that:
- I place no blame on the soon-to-be-married. I get it – people find it uncomfortable to straight out ask “hey, what could I get you as a wedding present?”
- a wedding registry is well-organized. The thought of deciding, on their own, what an appropriate/needed gift would be, is intimidating for old people. Maybe newly weds DO want a popcorn popper. The registry is a great way to let others know it’s already been purchased.
A registry is a great opportunity to shower newlyweds with gifts (perhaps $10,000 worth of gifts) that are often beyond the financial reach of a young couple. The crappy result of the registry is that newlyweds end up with a bunch of junk they don’t really need.
The REAL heart of the problem is that the socially acceptable dollar amount for the middle class to spend on a wedding gift ranges between $50-150, and people feel impersonal giving CASH. I have limited social awareness, so I give cash all the time. It has never been refused.
In an effort to give a more “personal” gift, people want to buy something tangible. Since we prefer the easy way out, the following happens:
- Middle Class American: “Hello?”
- Williams Sonoma: “Hi, my name is William. May I speak with someone attending the Johnson/Garcia wedding?”
- MCA: “This is s/he. Is everything OK?”
- WS: “Oh, everything is fine. I asked Johnson/Garcia for ideas on wedding gifts they want. Then, I listed these items on a website. We’ll remove items as they are purchased – so you know there are no duplicates. Have confidence your wedding present will be exactly what they need.”
- MCA: “Oh, William, that is WONDERFUL! That’s always an uncomfortable conversation! Wait… this website only lets me buy things from your store – Williams Sonoma.”
- WS: “Uh. Yes, that’s correct. And let me remind you that this is a list that your friends getting married CREATED. If the product is not on here, they probably don’t want it. Don’t bother looking anywhere else.”
- MCA: “Oh. OK. Wait… they want $75 dinner plates? William, are you SURE they wouldn’t like season tickets to that comedy club, or 2 tickets to see their favorite team play?”
- WS: “They didn’t indicate that on the list we provided for them. You run a HUGE risk if you get a different present.”
- MCA: “Actually, that’s only what your website said. But, I’ll take your word for it. These things are right in that $50-150 range – how convenient!”
Williams Sonoma and Pottery Barn, then Target (for people who have poor friends/family, or at least think their family/friends are poor), have seized this emotional event as an opportunity to present the wedding couple with a buffet of things they don’t even want, but are all in the socially acceptable price range. Couples who get married after 18 years old, already have the crappy version of whatever silverware set, linens, cookware that was requested on a registry.
Picture the following scenario instead:
1. 200 guests are invited to a wedding. 50% give $100 cash = $10,000.
2. With this money, newlyweds can do any of the following:
REGISTRY: get all the cookware/table settings/linens they could ever want (see previous scenario)
RESPONSIBLE: can pay off loans, pay for some of the wedding, make a down payment on a house.
ENJOYABLE: buy a nice used car, take a cruise, fund some of their honeymoon,
In comparison, the ONLY result of Williams Sonoma registry is a table full of Williams Sonoma things. I don’t actually know people who really buy things from Williams Sonoma, other than during a registry event.
The cost of this social guilt is that newlyweds end up with lots of junk they will rarely use.
My suggestion: Think outside the box. Try the following:
1. Give money, and write a 1 page letter to both parties, expressing how happy you are for them, and why they mean so much to you.
2. Join forces with 10 friends, ask the couple what $1,000 gift they want, and then go get it for them.
Oh well. No one reading this will take this advice – which will frustrate the hell out of anyone reading this who might get married someday.