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Wedding Registry 101: How to Set Up Your Registry

Registering for your wedding should be a fun experience, and this simple how-to guide will help make that a reality! From accepted etiquette to popular places to register and everything in between, we’ve got you covered on how to set up your wedding registry.

how to start a wedding registry

The History Behind Your Wedding Registry

Wedding gifts have been around as long as weddings themselves, but wedding registries have a unique origin that’s not as old as you may think. It’s reported that in the 1920s Marshall Fields (now Macy’s) created the first wedding registry as we know it with other stores quickly following the marketing idea. In the 1930s the depression hit and the number of marriages dropped, but in the ’40s with the world at war, marriages began to skyrocket, especially for young folks. According to experts, from the late ’40s to the mid-70’s the average couple getting married was in their early twenties. This meant that they needed a whole list of basic household supplies to start their home together, including dishes, appliances, etc. 

Flash forward to today when many couples getting married are a little older than that and have been living independently. While some couples still register for those much-needed household items or upgrades, they are now adding some non-traditional elements. These include charitable giving, honeymoon funds and even new house payment contributions for those getting a new home. One of the biggest changes is from items to experiences like trips, tours, concerts and more. 

From the ever-popular Kitchenaid mixer to that electric bike you’ve had your eye on, your wedding registry can be as unique as you need it to be. 


How to Set Up Your Wedding Registry

It’s never too early to start your wedding registry unless you’re not engaged yet. In fact, many etiquette experts recommend having at least part of it set up within two weeks of your engagement so that family and friends can select from the registry for early events such as engagement parties and the like. 

Now, let’s talk about how to set up your wedding registry.

  • Talk with your partner about expectations.

Talk with your partner about how they see the process going. They may have a strong opinion or preference as well as expectations of what they think you will be registering for. 

  • Assess your needs — and wants. (Make a list.)

Are you a young couple who’s never had your own place before? Are you digital nomads that work from home? Are you wanting to get funding for your honeymoon more than traditional gifts? In addition to the big questions, then you’ll want to take stock of what you need. Go into as much or as little detail as you want here. For example, if you’re looking for new towel sets, do you think three will be enough per person? Would you want both face and hand towels to match? 

In addition to what you think you need, keep in mind how much you think you need of any one item. 

Areas to Consider When Making Your Wedding Registry List

  • Kitchen and Dining
  • Bedding
  • Bath
  • Home Decor
  • Home Appliances
  • Storage and Organization
  • Home Improvement
  • Patio and Gardening
  • Sports and Outdoor Equipment
  • Luggage and Travel
  • Smart Home and Electronics
  • Charitable Organizations
  • Honeymoon 

Quick Tips for Registering 

  • Register for more gifts than you have wedding guests. A total of  2-3 gifts per guest as a good rule of thumb. 
  • Make sure your items come in a wide range of pricing. Don’t be afraid to register for expensive items, just be sure you include a variety. 
  • Look at other couples’ registries to see if there is anything you aren’t thinking of and consider asking friends and family that have already been married.
  • Select two to three places to register.

You’ll want to do more than one store in order to have a wide price selection for all budgets as well as to cover all the items that you may need. 

One recommendation we have is to choose both a big-box store as well as a local shop with a personalized wedding registry process. (Here’s a list of local shop vendors in your area.) 

Popular wedding registry stores such as Pottery Barn, Target and Bed Bath and Beyond have a one-registry solution that makes multiple stores available within a single registry to manage. For instance, Pottery Barn registries also include Williams-Sonoma and West Elm. 

Three Things to Keep In Mind When Selection Your Registry Locations

  • Do they have a good return policy? 
  • What is their completion program? (Many stores give between 10-20% discounts to complete wedding registry purchases after your wedding.) 
  • Do they have other perks such as honeymoon or experience funds?

Some of our favorite perks are Target’s group gifting feature, Pottery Barn’s personalized registry experience with help from a staff designer and Bloomingdale’s rewards on their clothing when couples register for home items. 

When you’re picking where you want to register, don’t overlook anything. If you’re needing furniture to set up your new home, look at furniture stores and don’t be afraid of registering for basics like storage and organization items. 


Schedule a one-on-one appointment.

You could go it alone and get your wedding registry done online, but you’ll miss out on a lot of good things. For places like Amazon or Wayfair, online is a convenient option, but when you have the option, utilize all the expert help and get all the extra perks. From staff designers that can help blend your two styles in home decor to a complementary glass of wine while you shop, there’s no reason not to register in person when you can. 

To schedule your appointment, visit the store’s site and begin the wedding registry process. For local stores that may not have an online process, call ahead and book your appointment. 

Review your registry.

Once your registry is live, go back and look it over. Be sure you didn’t accidentally scan 20 avocado slicers or only have hand towels listed and so on. Also, make sure your wedding registry was made public. 

Let people know about the wedding registry.

Let family and close friends know where you’ve registered, so they can answer people when they ask. Add it to your wedding website, if you have one. Etiquette experts recommend not having a link to your registry and not the store names on the homepage of your website. Most people today will do a Google search of your name to find your wedding registry. 


Wedding Registry Etiquette

  • Never list your registry on your wedding invitations. 

While many former etiquette “faux pas” are no longer taboo, it is still considered inappropriate to list your registry on your wedding invitations. It is considered okay for friends hosting events for your wedding to share where you’re registered.

  • Have your registry finished at least three to six months before the wedding. 

It’s polite to give guests at least this much time in order to be able to purchase a gift at their convenience. But the earlier you register, the better. 

  • Your thank you’s should go out as quickly as possible and no later than 3 months after the event itself. 

There’s no need to pause politeness for a specific timeline. You can send thank you’s as soon as you receive gifts, but it’s highly recommended that you send them no later than three months after your wedding. 

  • Give people plenty of choices.

Give your guests plenty of choices at different price points and be sure there are more items you’ve registered for than guests. Not only does this allow people to buy multiple items, but it also allows you to enjoy the discount to complete your registry after the wedding. 


Pro Tips for Your Wedding Registry

  • Make sure you have the best address listed for items to ship to — and consider using shipping pauses if needed. 
  • Don’t overlook storage and organization items.
  • Register for more gifts than you have guests.
  • Think further down the road and register for items you need in the future.
  • Don’t forget about adding home decor. 
  • Have items in a range of prices. 
  • Think about your entertaining habits and needs.
  • Select pieces that could become heirlooms. 
  • Try to select items that have multiple purposes. 

Remember that a registry is simply a convenience for your guests and they aren’t required to purchase something from it. This is just one part of a very special time in your life.

You’ve got all you need to have an amazing registry and a great experience registering. Happy Registering!