It’s a rite of passage: Couple get engaged, set a wedding date, then compile their ultimate wish list for household loot. Welcome to that great American tradition: the wedding registry. It’s a prime opportunity to get some nice things for your home and new life together as a couple. So why is it that so many couples grow to loathe the very things they asked for?
That’s right—talk to married couples and they’ll all fess up to at least one (or more) things they once pined for and put on their wedding registry, only to eventually regret it big-time. And so, in the interest of helping clue in young couples and their wedding guests to items they might want to avoid, here’s a list of some of the worst gifts that couples admit to putting on their wedding registries. Please peruse and steer clear!
1. Fancy stuff that absolutely no one needs
First of all, there are the items you add because they seem like something every married couple should have, such as fine china.
Or, as Becky Bracken of Phoenix admits, “No one needs that many crystal bowls.” Does anyone really need even one?
2. One-off kitchen gadgets
“I most regret the random kitchen gadgets and one-use items, like a breakfast sandwich maker,” says Katka Lapelosova of Brooklyn, NY. Same goes for salad spinners, banana hammocks, and other such examples of weirdly useless or unnecessary culinary clutter.
3. Stuff you can’t use immediately
Take the pot rack Tiffany Hagler-Geard of Brooklyn, NY, requested. No really, take it, please.
“We never put it up,” she says, because “you can’t put one up in rental apartments. Lame.”
The take-home lesson: Even if you plan to own a home soon, it’s best if your wedding gifts can be used immediately rather than be that thing you might use someday.
4. Too much china
While registering for a china set is all fine and good, couples often overdo the quantity. For instance, while Marcia Jackson of Brooklyn, NY, loves the china she picked, she regrets registering for so much of it.
“Place setting for 12? I will never use that many good dishes,” she says.
5. Aspirational appliances
If neither of you has ever baked anything more elaborate than a frozen pizza, it might be time to rethink that “must-have” professional-quality standing mixer. Just ask Adrian Holguin of Denver, who has his own regrets getting what he’s dubbed “that f—ing juicer.”
“We lugged it to three different houses before I threw it out, still in the box,” he admits. “I don’t know why we thought we would suddenly start juicing after 27 years of living without homemade juice. And the food dehydration system? Jesus.”
6. Cheap stuff just so your friends can afford it
Although she compiled her registry with the best of intentions, Kaci Carpenter regrets requesting “cheap crap that didn’t last.”
She explains, “I wanted my registry to have stuff that even my broke friends could get me. But I shouldn’t have compromised quality on the items just to make the registry more affordable.”
Holly Mulcahy of Chicago has the same regrets. “Just because I was on a Target budget, that doesn’t mean our guests would also be on that budget.”
Mulcahy says she’s celebrating her 20th wedding anniversary by purging all that “low- to mid-level cooking crap” she’s been holding onto all this time.
7. Random stuff that seems fun to try, someday
Mulcahy also regrets the camping gear. “A tent? A target?” She and her husband do not camp. And she is not an archer.
So what should you put on a wedding registry?
According to Dan Post of the Emily Post Institute: “The main rule is not to feel like you have to list a bunch of junk that you don’t want.”
If you want to keep things budget-friendly, he says, you could establish a china pattern or monogram style. Then guests could purchase something as simple as a teacup or salt and pepper shakers from that pattern—that way, no one feels obligated to splurge on that expensive platter or a full set of 12 plates. It’s a simple solution for a traditional-minded couple.
Less traditional is a honeymoon registry, says Post: “This is a way your guests can contribute to a bigger gift that has some meaning and significance to the couple.”
When Post married, his friends and family were invited to contribute cash toward a fund so he and his wife could visit her family in India and see people there who would have liked to attend the wedding. For those who preferred to present a physical gift, they registered at a local glass studio where people could pick out something special, regardless of price.
All in all, Post adds a gentle reminder that it’s helpful to remember that a registry is just a suggestion—not an expectation.
“It’s something that’s offered in a spirit of ‘if this is helpful,’” he says. “If someone chooses not to use it, that’s their prerogative.”
He also reminds couples that “there is a certain art to receiving a gift well.”
I recall returning gingham kitchen towels decorated with appliqué cows we definitely didn’t register for and the store clerk shaking her head disapprovingly. “Someday you’ll wish you’d kept these,” she said.
For the record, I never once, ever, regretted returning those towels. But with time, I did come to appreciate the intention with which they were given.
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