February 13, 2008

Planning Your Own: The Registry

Posted in Planning Your Own Wedding: Step by Step at 10:32 am by Jess

Ah, the Registry. I am not quite sure how to approach this subject. It might sound silly to you, but I am a little emotional about the subject.
It started when I mentioned the Registry and its need to be accomplished to Jon. He looked at me with the blankest of stares. He had of course never heard of a registry. I had to go through the process of explaining the most couples open a registry, and it is a way for people to give gifts to the couple. Sometimes it is only given to those people invited, sometimes it is given to a slew of people that you announce the wedding to, but don’t actually invite. “That seems a little squirrly,” he said. I have to agree. Then I explained that registries were typically for household items, fifty percent kitchen items, but big items like a bed, or a dresser too. “But we already live together. We already have a bed, blender, toaster, Dyson and Kitchen Aid.”

He makes a broader point: Many of today’s couples have lived together before the marriage, sometimes for years. They often have most of the essentials between the two of them. On the other hand, a friend once said to me, “We had all of our parents hand-me-down China and other appliances. It just felt good to get our own set of everything, to mark our new life together.”
I showed Jon a hypothetical list, and the suggestions, on WilliamsSonoma.com. Crafty girl that I am, I chose this site as my “demo” because he loves this store like he loves a good Swiss cheese. And still he was not swayed, “We have all this. And we don’t need a nut chopping machine. You just bought me knives. I am the nut chopping machine (True).  We don’t need a new Vacuum cleaner – the Dyson I pulled out of a dumpster with the faulty cord works perfect now.” And on and on. He shot down, with good logic I have to say, all of my excited ideas.

So what do the Swiss do? They ask for money. I have heard that registries used to exist, but they were in-store only, and have really faded out because the Swiss tend to not even marry anymore (like so many Europeans) and if they do it is well into their thirties and after they’ve lived together for years, sometimes a decade. So, they just ask for money.

This really surprised me because the Swiss are the world’s most discrete and private culture when it comes to money. It’s the whole anonymous bank accounts being the linchpin of their natinonal security thing. Given that, how is it that we received an invitation and inside there was a BILL? A bill with blank spaces where we could put our account info (it’s safe to give out here) and the amount we wanted to donate to the couple’s honeymoon!? In the invitation!?

Jon’s only explanation to these seemingly paradoxical facts was that it is simply logical to ask for money, and since you are not asking for a specific sum it is alright.

We compromise. We decide to ask all of the Swiss to donate to our wedding, but not in the invitation.  I built a wedding website, and wrote up a post specifically about the registries. In the French version we asked our friends to donate to our dream of going to Australia and Tasmania. For the Americans – mostly because they would expect it, but also because we hope to move back to America and buy a house soon – we opened up two regular registries.

So this is when it gets emotional.

Jon left me to do the registry myself. At least I assumed, because after the first discussion he never mentioned it again. I spent a whole week searching, filing and debating products, all of which I did on the internet for the obvious reasons, and finally on Friday I presented him with the final registries. He scrolled about two seconds and said, “We don’t need that stuff.” He hadn’t even really looked. And when I urged him to take a deeper look (Please Mr. M, because I might just throw this computer at your head if you don’t pretend to be interested), he immediately disagreed with my choice in colors and quantity for things. He flat our refused to let me put flatware on the list, and when I wanted to know why, the real answer to the whole thing came out: “Because Americas make crap!”

“What?!” I yelped like a dog who has had its tail stepped on.

“Yes, crap. It all comes from China and the breaks within a month so that lo and behold you can call up some service man to fix it who arrives late, doesn’t fix it the first time, or the second, and charges you half what the thing cost for his time and labor.”

“So where do you suggest we register? For whose products?” I asked.

“German products, Italian….Swiss. I’m getting MY flatware here in Switzerland.”

I had to remind myself that my fiancé is probably more American at heart than I am. He loves my country. He pines after it. He searches it with GoogleMap as a morning ritual. He worships it. But, the wedding stress touches us all a different way, and here he was, spouting off about the crap quality we produce and how he was not going to be had by it.

I stormed off. But later, I went back to the registry and I let my eyes gaze down the list. My eyes passed over at least five things in succession that I instantly realized that we do not need. We do not need a giant cookie spatula. Not for ten bucks. Not for two bucks. My normal spatula works Just Fine. My eyes came to rest on the Slow Cooker next. What makes me think that I NEED a slow cooker? The fact that I saw one woman who had it and she made me one dish from it that wasn’t even spectacular but seemed reasonably good and it was clear that the appliance did work and…and suddenly it is on my registry. And I bet it has a warranty too.

Over the past few months I have been slowly, methodically taking things off our registries. I closed one entirely, realizing that my Dad could hand me down the entire registry of camping stuff we had made. Every last item. For daily plates and such, I agree with my friend, having our own set is a must,if only for the psychological reasons, but when it comes to camping gear, hand me downs are no problem for us.

I have also been reflecting on the powerful industry that is the Wedding Industry. The Registry facet of it is just one facet, but it is a good example, and one that strikes me the most poignantly: This is a business, designed to make money off of you. I do want my day to be special, and I am spending enough money to buy an automobile or a round-the-world trip. I’m not saying that it shouldn’t be that way. I am consciously and freely following many of the industry’s must-do’s without much thought behind them. I’m okay with that, to a point. But I am sort of tired of receiving these emails that show me the “Made Just For Me” list of “Often Forgotten But Totally Necessary” registry items that I must just run and sign up for toute de suite. I feel that I am being marketed to, and played. Played because they know I am a bride, and that if I think that it is supposed to be done, that I will do it, probably without thinking.

As I am simultaneously making non-wedding related strides to de-clutter and re-center my personal life and space with Mr. M, we have finally decided to trim down our registries to the bare essentials plus one splurge item on each list. That something we want that we are sure we would only use once. We are trying to live our lives by the motto: Less is More. And we are moving countries often, it seems, so there is really a pragmatism behind that. I secretly feel that I am winning something. Like I’ve seen the trap, and avoided it. We are also now asking our American guests to give money instead, if they prefer. Of course a trip is just a one-time thing as well, but the memories will last for a lifetime and we hope to add a volunteer aspect to it as well.

So, now that I have spilled my heart out to you, I am asking you: How do you feel about registries? Is there anything about planning your wedding right now that has you feeling a little taken advantage of?

For any brave souls out there: Try giving your list a second look. And, look to see if you can tell where the products are made. As I clarified to Jon, it’s completely illogical to say that Americans make crap products if they all come from elsewhere. I support buying local and buying American, if you can.

Here are just a few tips for opening your registry, so that you get the most out of it:

~ http://www.myregistry.com is a service that allows you to open a registry across many different stores!

~Check the expiration date of your registry

~Find out if there is an incentive program that gives you a discount if you buy all the unpurchased items in bulk after the wedding.

~Look around the site, there should be a box to indicate whether or not you would like to receive gift certificates.

Postscript: I wrote this at Starbucks. When I got home I had an email from my registry company that said “You’ve chosen the perfect gown, but will it help you dress up the table?”

Le Sigh

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5 Comments »

  1. rswb said,

    Registries suck, I think, but since he and I are getting married in Australia and we live in Switzy and we really can’t take presents back on the plane, we really didn’t have a choice. Which is annoying, but it is working well for us (we built our own website so as not to be tied to one shop), and I think there’s a lot to be said for not getting useless junk for your wedding. Especially when you really do need stuff, as we do (seriously. In spite of both being adults and having lived together for some time, we really have no stuff. All mine being onthe other side of the world doesn’t help).

    What’s flatware?

  2. Jess said,

    Flatware is silverware. Or that is what I call it. I had to look up the term when I started a registry. I think saying no to the useless junk that the sites inherently try to swindle you into putting on your registry is key. My mom thinks NO ONE will buy anything from our registries, because we dont have a house in America (what!?) and that they will give us money. We were hoping that they would purchase things that could stay in my mom’s basement until we move back in two years.

  3. rswb said,

    We would call it cutlery, in that case. I remember being pretty confused the first time I was in the USA and I was at a food court type cafe and someone was talking about the silverware being over there and they were pointing and all I could see was substandard plastic cutlery.

    I was quite worried that everyone would hate the registry thing that we did, but in the end almost everyone embraced it. A few really good friends have given us actual stuff, but they have all said they would post their presents over to us in Switzy (after kindly allowing us to open them and see what we got before the lengthy postage period!).

  4. Jess said,

    lol, that is pretty funny. nope its not usually silver, is it. Cutlery to us is knives.

    im pretty sure no one is going to buy us anything off our registry 🙂 oh well. less to move.
    I know (from reading) that you are jaded by the wedding exp. but I would love sometime to ask you about the experience of trying to plan your expat wedding, maybe when you’ve had some distance from it 🙂

  5. rswb said,

    I could actually rant for hours about this topic, and now that the wedding is over (last weekend, hurrah) and it was totally fantastically (beyond anything I would have expected, actually. Everything that could have gone wrong went fantastically right, and even the bits that were wrong, such as where there was another wedding just near our wedding and some of my guests inadvertently and hilariously got a bit caught up in the other wedding instead of mine, were completely great) I am much more enthusiastic about the whole topic. I was in a restaurant this afternoon and it was half set up for a wedding that will apparently be occurring on Thursday night and it led Reto (my husband) and I to have a ridiculously long conversation about seat covers* that we would never have tolerated before the wedding. I feel so liberated!

    * Seat covers are completely ridiculous and a total waste of time. The seats would have to be reeeeeeally ugly for seat covers to make them look better.


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