Find the solutions to common wedding registry dilemmas.
Photography: Kana Okada1 of 16
Creating your ultimate wish list can be fun, but can lead to touchy etiquette issues. When do you write thank-you notes? If you set up a honeymoon registry, do you need to have a traditional one too? Can you buy off-registry? Get the answer to these wedding registry questions and more.
Photography: Bryan Gardner2 of 16
I'd like to set up a down-payment fund to purchase a house. How should I approach this?
Asking for cash is still a definite no-no, says editorial director Darcy Miller. But there are websites now, like Hatch My House, that make it easy to create a registry that directs gift-giving toward a bigger goal. There will still be guests who want to give you a physical present, so have at least one traditional registry available. Think of what else you could use for a new home: A gift card to Home Depot, for example, will help offset costs that you would otherwise incur buying light fixtures or gardening gear. What you save there will ultimately allow you to allocate more of your funds toward purchasing your home.
Photography: Kana Okada3 of 16
How do you structure a joint monogram? Is it different for stationery, linens, and silverware?
If the bride is taking the groom's last name, the monogram for stationery consists of her first initial, his last initial, then his first initial, placed in a line from left to right, says contributing editor Claudia Hanlin, founder of the Wedding Library in New York City. The middle letter is larger than those on the sides. Linens feature the bride's first initial, her maiden initial, and the groom's last initial. The rules for monogramming flatware are more flexible. Traditionally, the bride would begin collecting her silver as a girl, and have it engraved with her new name after marrying. "Modern brides often inadvertently honor an eclectic monogramming tradition by mixing their own silver with heirloom and flea-market finds," says Claudia.
Photography: Kana Okada4 of 16
There's one china pattern that I absolutely love, but it's pricey. Can I register for it anyway—or will guests think I'm rude?
As long as your list has other options in several price points, go ahead and add it. You'll have your wedding china for life (maybe even longer, if your kids fall hard for it, too), so there's no reason to settle for something you aren't crazy about. Plus, expensive patterns are often sold by the piece, which means that someone with a small budget can still buy a teacup or a dessert plate. One caveat: Since a full set of china has many components, it's unlikely that you'll receive them all (unless, of course, your guest list is huge). To avoid having to purchase everything you don't get right after the wedding, contact the manufacturer and verify that your pattern will be available well into the future. Then you can add to it whenever you're able to—or ask for a piece at every holiday or birthday.
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To warmly express your gratitude for her generosity while it's still fresh, pop a letter in the mail within a week of receiving the notification. Once you've gotten the china, all you need to do is shoot her a quick email telling her how much you love it. The store may let her know when they ship the package, so send it right away. That way, she won't have to worry about whether you've received it.
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Photography: Bryan Gardner6 of 16
Can I register for my second wedding, but his first wedding?
First time, second time, thirteenth time—when you invite guests to a wedding, they're going to want to give you presents in return. Creating a registry is how you let them know what you want and what you need. As for showers, etiquette says to keep it small. But if dear friends who have been with you for the blow-by-blow want to fete you, relax and enjoy it.
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Forty-five people are attending our ceremony, after which we'll go out for a nice dinner. A week later, we're hosting a reception for 150. Is it taboo to set up a registry for reception guests?
While only ceremony attendees are expected to give presents, chances are that
reception-goers will want to bestow gifts, too. It's a good idea to beef up your registry with enough items, in a variety of price points, to accommodate everyone. Your bridal party and family can discreetly share where you're registered with anyone who asks (whether they're reception-only or not), and you can include the info on your website, if you have one.
Photography: Kana Okada8 of 16
Should a bride register if she's getting married in Las Vegas or at city hall but not hosting a celebration?
The short answer: Yes. There will still be friends and family who want to give you a wedding gift, even if there's no reception for them to attend, and many people find buying off the registry to be the easiest option. Just keep in mind that the expectation is not for the same kind of gift-giving that accompanies a full-blown ceremony and reception. Most shoppers will be looking for thoughtful tokens rather than larger presents. For this reason, it would be appropriate for you to select a greater variety of smaller gifts for loved ones to browse.
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My fiancé is British and I'm from California. Can we register with stores in the U.S. and in the U.K.?
You can have as many registries as you want—it makes selecting gifts more convenient for your guests. It's also not uncommon, since many brides and grooms hail from different states or countries. Your best bet is to register where you have enclaves of friends—where you currently live, for example, and where each of you grew up. Then throw in some nationwide or international retailers (with online-ordering options) for attendees who live neither here nor there.
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We often suggest that couples register for gifts that they want, to make shopping easier for invitees who will purchase something anyway (it happens—a lot). But in your case, "It's fine to not set up a standard wish list," says senior style editor Naomi deMañana. "People who hope to contribute something they know you want can go to the honeymoon registry." That said, some guests like to give an item they can envision you having for decades to come, and may bring presents to your ceremony if they aren't given another option. To sidestep this, ask friends and family to spread the word that you're forgoing gifts, and include a footnote on your wedding website near the honeymoon info. "Say something like, 'Because of international shipping headaches, we politely decline gifts; your presence is present enough,'" suggests Naomi. Or, setup a more classic registry on a site such as Amazon, which ships worldwide. If people still buy you something—whether they mail it to your home or bring it to your event—accept it graciously and send a thank-you note.
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Photography: Bryan Gardner11 of 16
I've noticed that some stores let couples put "gift cards welcome" at the bottom of their registries. Should I sign up for this?
Pass, since it might look like you're asking for cash, and you don't want to offend guests right when they're feeling generous. People know that a gift card is always a solid option, and if they've found your registry, then they realize you're a fan of that store.
Photography: Bryan Gardner12 of 16
Can I buy off-registry? My niece registered for inexpensive measuring spoons and cups, and I'd like to get her the same items, only more high-end and longer-lasting.
If you're close to the newlyweds and know their style well enough to pick something you're sure they'd love, go for it. After all, a registry exists to provide well-wishers with guidance, not demands; we're all for surprising couples. But you might want to be wary of upgrading a pair's picks. "It could come off as vaguely insulting, as if you disapproved of your niece's taste," managing editor Lindsay Brown points out. Also, someone else, seeing that the items on the registry are still available, will probably snap those right up, leaving the bride and groom with two sets and a trip to return one of them. The safest option is to buy a pricier item on their wishlist, or look for an unexpected present that doesn't conflict with their registry picks.
Photography: Courtesy of Jura13 of 16
One of our guests recently lost his job. How do I tell him and his wife that they don't need to get us a wedding gift?
Your heart's in the right place, but just as you wouldn't demand that people buy you a present, it's also inappropriate to tell them not to give you one. Instead, mention what a gift it is to have them attend, hope they catch on, and leave it at that. And if they end up sending you a pricey new espresso maker, don't feel bad. Trust that they know their own budget, and enjoy that cup of joe!
Photography: Lauren Krysti14 of 16
Do I send out thank-you notes as gifts arrive before the wedding, or wait until after the ceremony?
Sending thanks as soon as possible is not only the most polite course of action, it's also the most efficient, as it will help keep you from being overwhelmed later. The bigger question is: Will you use the same stationery before and after the event? Either option is acceptable, though it is customary to use stationery with the bride's maiden name for her to thank gift-givers before the wedding, and 'married' thank-you cards with the new last name for after.
Photography: Kana Okada15 of 16
How do I handle gifts without a card?
It's best to approach this sort of debacle with straightforwardness and some humor. Let's say the gift in question is a vase. If you're somewhat certain of the giver's identity, reach out by phone or e-mail and say something along the lines of, "A guest gave us this gorgeous (describe vase), and we couldn't find a card. We have a hunch it's from you—true? We love it and want to make sure whoever gave it to us gets credit for having such great taste, as well as a thank-you note!" If you're truly clueless, send the same message to your top suspects. Even if none of them were the generous party, one might know who was.
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Photography: David Meredith16 of 16
We'd like only gifts made in countries with worker-friendly labor laws, how do we include that on our website?
While we totally applaud your efforts, the key is to present guests with a solution, not a problem, when they're trying to buy you a present. Curate a registry that's populated exclusively with items that meet that criteria, and they're likely to shop from it (universal registries like MyRegistry.com, let you add gift ideas from any online store). You can include a note on your wedding website explaining why you chose the items, and that it's important to you to support goods made in countries that promote healthy-worker agendas. If you come off well-meaning, not preachy, your guests will sympathize. Many people are buying more consciously these days, supporting eco-friendly or made-in-the-USA products (check out Martha Stewart's American Made Market on Amazon.com, for example). And if someone misses the message, skips the registry, and purchases something with a provenance you're not sure of? Send them a gracious thank-you note, then return the gift to the store, or even sell it and donate the proceeds to workers' rights charities without the giver ever knowing.