Shortly after I got engaged, I was telling one of my besties about how much fun it was to set up a registry — to run around a giant store with a clicker gun, saying, “Ooh! I want that! Zap!” It was, as I’ve said before, like going on a shopping spree and not spending a cent.
So, said bestie and I decided to set up a fictional registry and have some more fun. We searched for the most expensive or most opulent looking items in each category and added them to “our” registry. I dare anyone to create a more ridiculous, less practical wish list than that!
Which leads us to the alternative: Creating a good registry. After all, if you’re lucky, you’ll only get married once, so this will be the one time your friends and family fling copious amounts of household items your way. Make the most of it and get exactly what you need to set up your home comfortably.
Go through this questionnaire with your fiance/fiancee so you’re prepared before you walk into the store and get your hands on the clicker gun (which will, I promise, make you suddenly want to zap every item in the store, even if you hate it).
1. Take stock of what you already have in your kitchen. Create a list, divided into three categories: Must Replace; Might Replace; Will Definitely Keep. Then add a fourth category: Don’t Yet Have. (Don’t shy away from deciding to replace things that are in working condition but you don’t like, such as hand-me-down silverware or cooking tools from your college days.) Also take into consideration the size of the kitchen you’ll have, especially the amount of counter and storage space.
2. Describe the way you cook and work in your kitchen. Are you a heavy-duty baker who could really use a stand mixer, like the Kitchen-Aid pictured above, or someone who prefers a quick trip to the bakery? Don’t think that just because you register for a fancy new kitchen tool you’ll suddenly change the way you approach food — so stick to registering for things that would make your work easier, not things that will guilt you into spending more time in the kitchen!
3. Pay a visit to the kitchens of several good cooks among your circle of friends. If you can’t actually visit, just get their opinions: What tools have been most indispensable for them? Which just take up counter or cabinet space? Which need to be top-of-the-line and which can be budget-friendly? (My two cents: Don’t register for cheap knives or pots and pans — you will regret it when you have to replace them in just a few years; Do register for cheap measuring cups, spoons, and the like.)
4.Research the electronics you’re interested in. Check out what Consumer Reports has to say about your favorite brands, and what ratings reviewers give different items online. That way, you won’t accidentally register for the one blender known to overheat or a toaster with a notoriously short-lived spring.
China, silverware & other fancy-schmancy stuff
1. While I definitely advocate getting fine china — and getting microwave and dishwasher safe bone china so you can put it to use anytime, not just special occasions — there are people who just plain don’t want it or won’t have a use fore it. Figure out whether you’ll ever host elegant dinner parties, or if your entertaining will be limited to casual affairs better served by less formal dishes, such as the fun set pictured. Register accordingly.
2. If you do want to get good china, choosing a pattern can be the hardest part. Narrow down your preferences together: silver or gold; colored or white; patterned or plain. Also figure out which shapes you prefer — classic, modern, or the architectural whimsy of contemporary design. Which will fit best in the style home you envision yourselves in — twenty years from now?
3. Your silverware should coordinate well with your china, and chances are, even if you’re registering for fine china and everyday dinnerware, you don’t want to juggle two sets of silverware. Decide what’s right for you: An all-in-one set of silverware, or individual place settings, like the Dansk set pictured. Don’t buy silverware without getting a feel for it in your hand — you will find you definitely prefer certain shapes and weights.
4. If you’re going for all-out glamor, you’ll probably want some crystal, some candlesticks, and other items that fancify your gatherings. Decide which items fit your personality, which would look out of place in your house, and which would just gather dust in a cabinet.
Living spaces and bathrooms
1. Do you already know how you plan to decorate? If not, that’s the first step you need to take before registering for things like shower curtains, kitchen rugs and bedding. Once you have a basic feel (beachy, traditional, or Asian-inspired, for example) and color palette, you can register for items that coordinate. If you’re not ready to decide on your decor, stick to the basics: subtle or neutral colors, simple prints — and very few home decorating items.
2. If you have a solid home decorating plan in place, now might just be the perfect time to register for some smaller furniture items, such as barstools, side tables, and bookshelves.
3. As with your kitchen, take stock of your current bathroom situation. What do you like? What needs to go? What have you been wanting for a really long time? What has always just seemed to be in the way? Don’t register for items that will seem like hassles — such as a full set of matching soap dishes and toothbrush holders if you prefer to tuck all your toiletries into your medicine cabinet. Stay true to your own preferences rather than registering for what “everybody” gets.
Housekeeping, Cleaning & Organizing
(I thought this part of the registry wouldn’t be much fun. I was wrong.)
1. Again, take stock of your current cleaning supplies. Anything that you don’t think will last you another five years you ought to register to replace. Anything that’s sub-par in terms of quality (I’m looking at you, Swiffer-wannabe) you ought to register to replace. Anything that’s obviously missing you really ought to register for so you don’t have to run out to the store and buy it the first time you and your new Mister decide to do a Saturday deep clean.
2. To all but the most cleanliness challenged, a good vacuum cleaner is going to be very near and dear to your heart. If you need a new one, definitely check Consumer Reports before registering. Also decide what type of vacuum suits your home’s needs, and what you’re willing to work with. Are you willing to change bags? Do you want something lightweight that swivels and pivots easily? If your home is filled with hard surfaces or you already have a solid vacuum, you might want to consider a quick-sweeper or a steam mop that will make quick work of kitchen spills and dirty entryways.
3. Are you a duster, a washer or a sweeper? Maybe you’re all three. But however you like cleaning your home’s surfaces, you want to have the right tools on hand. Next time you tidy up your home, assess. Are damp rags okay for you, or would you really like a nice set of microfiber towels? At first you might feel silly registering for such simple cleaning tools, but, trust me, plenty of married women acquaintances will understand — and buy them for you!
4. Think about how you currently store your belongings, from hair accessories to kitchen sponges to spare sheets. Browse the storage and organization sections at several local home stores, and even home improvement stores. Be prepared for a wave of new ideas, from simple shelves you can assemble yourself to stackable baskets to under-cabinet wine glass hangers to neat cupboard separators to keep your pots and pans in place. Note your favorite items, and then try to picture them in your home — or, if you’ll be moving into a new place, try to envision yourself using them on a regular basis. Would they help you function more efficiently or just clog your house? Register accordingly.
Outside the Home
If you’ve already got your dream home dressed to the nines and want to register for non-homey things, like vacations . . . then I have no advice for you. Sorry. That’s not my area of expertise.
But I’ve heard of couples registering with a charity when they feel they already have all the material goods they need. If that sounds like the right idea for you, don’t solicit donations — simply let inquiring guests know that you’re listed with a charity close to your heart and leave them to make their own decision about whether to donate, and in what amount.
I hope this registry planning worksheet — long overdue — is even just a little bit helpful to someone out there who’s not sure how to navigate the registry process. It can be overwhelming, sure, but if you tackle it methodically, I guarantee it will be some of the most fun you have before your honeymoon!