Let her tell you what's essential for every Southern bride—and what you'll never, ever use.

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woman counting on fingers
She knows you'll never use that cotton table cloth again, once you iron it for the first time.
| Credit: H. Armstrong Roberts/Getty

We're getting into prime wedding season in the South, and that means lots of brides are busy registering. Mama has bought more than her share of wedding gifts—after studying registries that sometimes left her shaking her head and doing a mental "bless her heart" for the bride-to-be. And yet, Mama is sympathetic because she wasn't born knowing absolutely everything. No, she learned by doing things her way, making mistakes, and eventually developing sense enough to listen to her mama. So let's save everybody some pain and cut that $500 coffeemaker off at the pass. (Nobody's going to buy that for you. And you don't need it nearly as much as you need a slow cooker, a microwave, and a 4-slice toaster.)

We put some wedding registry ideas under the Mama microscope to see what she might have to say. Hang onto your egg cubers. Mama's about to hold forth.

Fine China

"Well, we are civilized, aren't we?" Mama says. "I know this new generation is more casual than mine, but still. How do you know what your entertaining style will be when you're 40 and no longer living in rental property? I will concede this, however. You don't need all those expensive serving pieces because who among us wants an entire table that looks all matchy-matchy? Assuming you follow my advice (and I think it's best if you do), register for enough place settings so that you don't have to dismantle your china cabinet display to serve guests. OR register for enough place settings to fill your display and then just register for additional plates if that's all you think you'll use."

Taco Holders, Hot Dog Toasters, Butter Softeners, and Other Odd Gadgetry

"No, no, no. All that nonsense takes up valuable kitchen space. You'll never use it, and you definitely don't need it. (I mean really? You can't hold your own taco, bless your heart?) However, I wholly support the salad spinner."

A $700, 10-Piece Set of Cookware

"Heavens, no!! Once you learn your way around the kitchen, you'll find that you don't buy much of anything in sets. A friend gave me a 12-inch cast iron skillet, which I use all the time. So I got carried away and bought a huge one big enough to fry two chickens and a teeny-tiny one because it was just precious. I never use either one. The tiny one isn't good for anything, and the big one is too heavy to lift and too hard to clean. You'll need a few good-quality sauce pans—small, medium, and large. And a good Dutch oven. I splurged on Le Creuset because it will outlive me—and Baby Girl. But I also have a lightweight, inexpensive one and a few nonstick skillets—mostly in the 10- to 12-inch range."

Knife Blocks

"Again, I'm not much for sets," Mama says. "I didn't like the steak knives that came with my knife block, so I ended up buying a different style—and there are other knives in that block that I never use. They'll be going to the next yard sale. You need a good chef's knife, paring knive, and long seraded knife. And something that can make short work of peeling tomatoes—I've got a sharp little seraded knife for that. And, of course, you need good steak knives, unlike the ones I was stuck with for a while. Now, the block itself is really handy for quick access, but you can register for an empty one and fill it however you like."

Hotel-Style Linen Tablecloth for 10 Place Settings

"Iron just one of those things and then we'll talk," says The Boss. "There are all kinds of wrinkle-resistant table linens out there, things that look lovely and elegant on your table. Register for at least some of those. When I break out the white linen, I just resign myself to a dry cleaning bill because there's no way I'm ironing a tablecloth as big as a football field."

Lots of Decorative Dispensers and Tissue Boxes for Your Bath

"Towels and sheets, sheets and towels," Mama says. "Register for good quality and lots of it. You'll go through bed and bath linens faster than anything on your registry. By the time the new wears off of your decorative soap dispenser, it will just be an aggravation to clean and refill."

Baking Tools

"All depends," says She Who Knows All. "Do you love to bake cakes, pies, and cookies, or do you primarily use your oven for brownies and casseroles? Every experienced cook appreciates the quality and performance of a Kitchen Aid stand mixer. Pray your Mama buys you one. And everybody needs a good handheld mixer. Register for good quality baking pans in several sizes (ask your Mama what she uses), a cookie sheet, a rolling pin, flour sifter, and measuring tools. Beginning cooks will frequently use 9X13 Pyrex baking dishes for casseroles and sheet cakes, and it's a good idea to have a larger one for crowds and then that little square one—what is that, 9X9? Also, you'll never regret owning pretty oven-to-table bakeware in nice colors and patterns. Oh! I almost forgot. Register for casserole carriers to ferry your covered dishes to potlucks and church socials. I'm thinking of having mine monogrammed!"

Parting Thoughts, Mama?

"Ask your shower hostesses if they might include, in all the invitations, a personal and polite request for each guest to share a recipe with you," she recommends. "You'll gather ideas from some of the best cooks in your hometown, and even if you never make all of them, you'll enjoy looking at all those hand-written cards from friends and family."

Now that you've got your registry all sorted out, check out what you'll see ONLY at a Southern wedding:

A Southern bride would monogram her lawn mower if she could figure out how to pull that off. And there's no such thing as too much seersucker.