Let’s Retire The Registry

It’s an outdated concept that does more harm than good.

Wedding registries are one of the most obvious examples of how the weddings we have don’t reflect the times we live in.

Originally, a registry was a way for a couple to establish a household. They needed to do this because, typically, neither party had ever lived outside of their family’s home. Dishes, bedding, pots and pans — it’s expensive to start a life and a wedding registry was a socially OK way to ask for what you needed.

We don’t live that way anymore. Nearly 8 million couples were unmarried and living together as of the 2012 Census (that’s up from 2.9 million in 1996). You can’t live together without buying at least a set of dishes. Chances are good you even have two sets.

And yet we register — not that we want to.

In fact, it’s one of the most common questions I get from my clients: “Do we have to register?”

I know a bride whose soon-to-be sister-in-law literally took the bride to coffee to tell her, “You have to register. People will get angry if you don’t.”

But there was only one thing this bride and her fiancé actually wanted: money. So they did what many modern couples do: They set up a registry where guests could contribute toward an experience (e.g. a dinner out, the honeymoon, a down payment). But the bride also felt compelled to throw in a few material items: your standard kitchenware, glassware, etc.

Guess which people bought first?

The bride wasn’t mad. She liked the stuff. That’s why she’d picked it. But she knew she didn’t need it. What she needed was someone — anyone — to contribute toward the $15,000 wedding she was planning. Not to mention student loans and credit card debt to pay off, a house to save for, and future kids to think about. And here she was, up to her eyeballs in rose gold stemware.

I know another couple who have a silver egg sitting on their kitchen counter. What else could an entire set of silver be but a wedding gift? In what other scenario would perfectly rational relatives who love and respect you buy you something so frivolous and unnecessary?

The couple appreciates this egg or rather, what it stands for: the loved ones who support and love them. But the silverware it houses? They’ve never used it. They never will use it. It’s the 21st century and the butler has officially retired.

Let’s do the same for the wedding registry. It’s an outdated concept that does more harm than good. Engaged couples don’t need more stuff. They need cold hard cash. Give it to them. They deserve it.

Elisabeth Kramer is a day-of wedding coordinator and writer based in the Pacific Northwest. Read more of her work about the Wedding Industrial Complex.

This originally appeared on Unwed: Not Your Typical Wedding Blog. There you’ll also find a Q&A series with women who’ve planned their weddings and a series about nontraditional wedding planning resources.