The Dos and Don'ts of Wedding Registries

Photo: Walter B. McKenzie

You've been requesting and receiving gifts all your life (on birthdays, holidays, and just about every occasion in between), but when it comes to asking for and receiving wedding gifts, the exchange is a little more nuanced. No matter where you register, understanding a few basic dos and don'ts will simplify the process.

That's where we come in. To help you navigate this surprisingly involved process (who knew adding gifts to a website could prompt so many questions?), we went ahead and shared some of our best wedding registry advice, all of which is etiquette-approved. We explain exactly what to put on your registry—and how to go about it at each and every step.

01 of 14

Do Register Ahead of Time

woman writing to-do list in notebook
LaylaBird / Getty Images

Complete your registry four to six months before the wedding. This will give guests time to purchase gifts for the big day, and will ensure that gifts are also accessible ahead of your bridal shower.

02 of 14

Don't Tell Guests Where You're Registered on Your Invitation

custom wedding invitation suite with watercolor illustration
Oliver Fly

Once you have registered, give the information to immediate family and the wedding party; let them spread the word. If you are asked where you have registered, it is fine to share—but it is not etiquette-approved to include registry information on a wedding invitation. Registry details can be included on a wedding website, which you can drive guests to on a details card.

03 of 14

Do Register for Enough Gifts

Courtesy of Best Buy

Register for more gifts than you have guests, so there will be plenty of items to choose from. Think about who your attendees are, and register for presents in a wide range of prices—or choose individual items rather than sets (this is common for pots and pans). While it is perfectly fine to include expensive items on your registry (they make great group gifts!), balance them with equally lovely options that are more affordable.

04 of 14

Don't Ask for Money


While it's still taboo to ask for money directly, financial registries can make this less awkward. For example, couples can now register for stocks or sign up for a honeymoon fund. And if you're saving up for a house? Some banks have programs that allow couples to establish a special account for a down payment, which guests can then contribute to.

05 of 14

Do Review Your Registry

Bryan Gardner

If your registry doesn't automatically notify you when a gift has been purchased, review your list every few weeks, and more frequently as the wedding approaches. Doing so will help you keep up with writing thank-you notes. Try to pen your thanks as soon as a new gift notification comes in.

06 of 14

Don't Limit Your Registry

Chinoiserie-inspired Theoni dinnerware
Billye Donya Photography

As you register, think beyond your current lifestyle. Entertaining-centric items, like platters and Champagne glasses (which you will use in your very first home or when you make your hosting debut), will come in handy during every special occasion.

07 of 14

Do Write Thank-You Notes Right Away

janelle stephen wedding thank you notes
Sposto Photography

Ideally, you should acknowledge every present immediately; writing a note the day you receive it is best, but sending it within two weeks is also acceptable. Of course, the period surrounding your wedding is a busy time; if you fall behind, just make every effort to send a thank-you card as soon as you can—but no later than three months after the event.

08 of 14

Don't Worry If You Don't Get Everything on Your Registry


If you don't receive everything you registered for, don't fret. Many stores have a completion program, which offers a discount on remaining items, or will keep the registry active for anywhere from a few months to a few years, so friends and relatives can continue to purchase gifts from it as other joyous occasions arise.

09 of 14

Do Involve Your Partner

Meghan Kay Sadler for Zola

Your partner might not be invested in your bouquet, the ceremony backdrop, or the hotel blocks for guests, but they should absolutely be involved in curating your registry. Enlist his or her help while you fill it out—and remember that there's always room for more general options, like yard tools, whiskey glasses, sports equipment (within reason), and collectible books.

10 of 14

Don't Hesitate to Return Things

Jonny Valiant

It happens to all of us: We order items online, positive they'll fit, feel, or look as great as the picture indicates. Then, the package arrives, and the conclusion is unanimous: return it. The same can happen for products on your registry. Don't feel obligated to notify the gift giver of your exchange, but know that it's allowed—and common—to replace ho-hum choices with ones you totally love.

11 of 14

Do Merge All Your Registries in One Place

Courtesy of NewlyWish

Even if you request vintage selects from an antique store, china from your local design shop, and kitchenware from Macy's, you can still group all of your requests in one all-inclusive registry. Doing so not only makes your life easier (you'll be managing one list, rather than multiple separate ones) but your guests', too; they will only have to search one spot to find the just-right gift. Online registry sites make combining gift lists a cinch, and you can always include a picture and description for that specialty item that's only available in-store to raise money for it, and then buy it later.

12 of 14

Don't Ignore Gifts That Aren't Products

Courtesy of SimpleRegistry

Charitable donations, experiences, and contributions to a down payment, stock portfolio, or honeymoon (check out Honeyfund) are all valid gift requests. Just be sure to include some physical presents on your wish list, too, to keep your great-aunt and traditionalists happy.

13 of 14

Do Tailor the Shipping Settings

couple moving in to home
monkeybusinessimages / Getty Images

Many online registries let you select when you want to receive your gifts by mail (either as they're purchased, in bulk shipments, or at a later date entirely). For example, if you and your spouse-to-be have a move on the horizon (into a house or to a brand new city) it might be advantageous to have presents sent to your home after you've arrived. Similarly, if you have to take a trip to the post office or local shipping company to pick up packages, then it's practical to have gifts arrive in groups. Request email notifications when gifts are bought to stay on top of thank-you notes (that's right, those should still be sent within two weeks of the giver's purchase regardless of when the gift lands on your doorstep!).

14 of 14

Don't Only Register for Fine China, Crystal, and Silverware

Courtesy of Annie Schlechter

Fill your future home with items that feel personal and useful to you and the groom; otherwise, you'll feel like you're living in a grand museum featuring someone else's beautiful objects. Along with building your collection of family-holiday-worthy pieces (looking at you, gravy boat), leave room for the fun stuff, like a bright stand mixer, funky mirror for your entryway, and professional camera for those trips abroad.

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