The Ultimate Guide to Wedding Registry Etiquette
Every question about what’s appropriate, and what’s not, answered—whether you’re a bride or a guest.
If you or someone close to you has gotten married in the last 5 years, you know that wedding registries are handled much differently today than they were 20 years ago. From the items included to where you can shop for them, the Internet has been the biggest influencer in modernizing the wedding registry process (along with almost every other aspect of weddings).
But even as things change and evolve, the rules of etiquette still apply. And when it comes to registries, folks on either side of the process have lots of questions about what is appropriate and yes, lots of opinions about it as well. So, in hopes of minimizing stress and managing expectations—for both brides doing the registering and guests doing the shopping—we’ve gathered all of your registry-etiquette questions and answered them once and for all.
What’s the polite way to share our wedding registry with guests?
You never want to be the one to directly tell your guests about your registry, since that can come across as overtly asking for gifts, but do be sure to tell your bridal party and close relatives so that they can spread the word. Anyone hosting a shower in your honor can also include registry details on the invitation and if you have a wedding website, tucking your registry away on a separate tab provides direct links to your online registries.
Is asking our guests to contribute to a honeymoon fund as tacky as directly asking for cash?
Directly asking for cash as part of your registry is (and always has been) a no-no. That said, a lot of modern registries include experiential gifts and other large financial contribution-based items like a honeymoon or first-house fund. In these situations, the line between tactful and tacky is thin, but the more concrete of a description of what the money will be used for, the better. And steer clear of any funds for things that are really only for one of you (like a car), or that are unnecessary upgrades as opposed to starter-level essentials (like a beach house).
Do I really need to register for formal china?
We imagine your mother will have a more important opinion on this subject than us, but since you asked: No, you do not need to register for formal china if you know it’s too fussy for your lifestyle (or maybe you’ve been promised your grandmother’s set). That said, you certainly should include plenty of more traditional items on your registry (silverware, servingware, glassware, etc.) to appease your more formal and traditionally minded guests.
How many gifts should we register for? And at how many stores?
Determining how big of a registry you and your fiancé should create is important, and no, it has nothing to do with you being greedy. In fact, you want to make sure there are more than enough options for guests to select from—especially when you consider showers and engagement parties happening before the wedding.
Two or three stores is a good rule of thumb for your registry—including both local and national options is encouraged and convenient for your guests. Anything more than four registries will look a bit excessive and be overwhelming for guests.
Be sure to maintain your registries throughout your engagement (and after the honeymoon too): Make sure completed purchases are reflected in all the online stores, and if more than half of your registry has been purchased and your wedding is still at least a month away, you should add more items.
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Is it okay to give a couple something that isn’t on their registry?
The short answer is no. The registry is there for a reason, and by going off-registry, you’re increasing the chances that the couple won’t like or won’t need what you’ve given them—even if you think it’s great. However, there are a few notable exceptions.
How much should I spend on a wedding gift?
This is a personal decision that will depend on several factors, including how close you are to the couple, your age, and whether you’ve also purchased an engagement or bridal shower gift. On average, folks spend between $50 and $150. Ideally the registry covers a wide range of price points so that you’re able to spend what you’re comfortable with. If not, you can always go in on a more expensive gift with a friend or two.
How long do I have to purchase a wedding gift?
The sooner you pick out a gift for the happy couple (registries are typically completed 4-6 months before the wedding), the more options you’ll have to choose from. But you do have up until three months after the wedding to send a gift.
Do I need to buy a gift if I’m not attending the wedding?
This is a tricky question there really isn’t a hard and fast rule on. Sometimes wedding invitations take us by surprise when they’re from someone we’re not that close to. In those situations, you may not feel obligated to attend and if so, you don’t have to send a gift—although even something small would be appropriate. However, you should reach out to the bride or groom to congratulate them (aside from the RSVP card). On the other hand, if you can’t attend a wedding because of scheduling conflicts (but otherwise would), you should feel inclined to send the couple a gift despite your absence.