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The No-Registry Conundrum

By Amalah

Dear Amalah,

First I want to fawn a little bit and say I love the column! I’ve been a huge fan for over a year now.

Secondly– help! I am getting married in six months. My fiance and I reside in Florida, but our families and friends are scattered throughout the country and world. We have a teeny-tiny wedding budget, so we are just doing a civil ceremony with a small (20 person) dinner party after for immediate family and a few friends. After the wedding we were planning on sending announcements to our 200-plus friends and family that will not be invited to the wedding. (We would love to have them there, but we honestly just cannot afford to throw a party that big.)

We also are not doing a gift registry because we’ve been living together for two years and do not need anymore linens or kitchen gadgets (he’s a chef, we already have too many gadgets.) What we really want is a honeymoon. In fact we have one planned to Buenos Aires (airfare supplied through a gift from his grandmother), but we can’t foot the bill all ourselves.

How do we ask for cash gifts without being completely tacky? I know you can register for honeymoons online, but those websites take 7-10% off the top, which seems a little ridiculous to me. Is there any way around this? I know by not registering for anything I run the risk of getting some really weird presents, but I wish there was a way to just let everyone know they can give us money for the honeymoon. Or money for a new refrigerator, we need one of those, too. I’d rather that then receive tupperware or coolers or other household gifts that we do not need, nor do we have the room for in our small house.
I hope I am not sounding completely ungrateful. The practical side of me just can’t justify using a website registry that takes 10% of our friends and families’ money.

Dreaming of a honeymoon that isn’t charged to the Visa,

Is there a non-tacky way to ask for cash instead of gifts? No. No, there is not. I’m sorry.

That said, we also did not register before our wedding, despite being young and moving into our very first unfurnished apartment ever. We probably owned six dishes and two pots between us, but we still did not register because we were only going to live in that apartment for one college semester before moving again. And at the time we were unsure of whether that move would be across the state or across the country, and how long we’d be in THAT apartment either. (Jason was about to graduate and was contemplating several job offers.) (Oh, the early days of the dot-com boom! If you knew how to turn a computer on, you were money.) (Of course we ended up moving to an area with an insanely high cost of living, so we’re still using dishes from Ikea.)

So…we just admitted that the timing was off for a lot of breakable, heavy, pain-in-the-butt-to-unwrap-and-rewrap wedding gifts. We quietly hoped for some starting-out money, but never, ever said so. When people contacted our mothers to ask about a registry, they simply explained the moving situation and left it at that. Most people understood, read between the (broke-ass college student) lines, and gave us gift cards and checks. Other people still sent us crystal candlesticks and serving trays shaped like turkeys. We did indeed end up with a LOT of identical casserole dish sets. We returned what we could, re-gifted the nicer stuff to our fellow just-starting-out college friends and donated a lot of the useless/weirder things to charities that ran thrift stores (Lupus Foundation, Salvation Army, etc.) I think my brother got the turkey platter as a gag gift that Christmas. And you know what? All those extra casserole dishes are still a really handy thing to have.

But everybody got a heartfelt thank-you for everything, because registry or not, you cannot dictate to guests what they are *supposed* to get you. I once had a recently-married friend go off on a TIRADE because a number of her guests had bought “off-registry” gifts that she disliked. I was like, duuuude. Most guests just want to buy you something that you will like and find useful. Sometimes they miss the mark, but duuuude. You are not entitled to something just because you zapped it with a scanner at Crate & Barrel.

So. You have two choices. One, you stick with the no-registry plan, and have your families or another point-of-contact friend explain to anyone who asks that you simply have everything you need for your household. They could, possibly, tell really really REALLY close friends and family about the honeymoon thing at their discretion, or they could organize some kind of (optional) group gift. “They really don’t want anything but your congratulations, thank you! However, if you’re interested, the bridal party and some family members plan to help them out with their honeymoon. We’d love to include you in the gift!”

Of course, not everyone will call once they notice the lack of registry info. Which…I know a lot of people now include in the invitations, but I personally still find that inappropriate. Showers are one thing, wedding invitations are another, and considering you’re just sending announcements, you should leave off any registry info ANYWAY. Even invited wedding guests should not be thought of as “obligated” to bring a gift. People who are getting announcements after the fact even less so. Chances are, some people will still want to give you something, and will send a check, gift card or cash. (We got a surprisingly high amount of cash at our wedding, from people who specifically wanted to give us some money to spend on our honeymoon.) Giving money as a gift is no longer considered tacky, but expressly requesting it sure as hell is. Thus, the crapshoot side of this option: you may get some of the money you want, along with stuff you don’t.

Your other choice is to go with the honeymoon registry website. Instead of being concerned about the commission charges coming from your friends and families’ money, look at it as making sure they aren’t just flat-out wasting their money on “stuff” that you don’t want or need. People WANT to make you happy, and if the honeymoon is it, a registry is a slightly more socially acceptable way to let them know. (Devil’s advocate moment on that in a bit, though.) Disregard any needling selfish urges that really just want to “keep” that 7% to 10% , because I promise you: it’s probably worth the cost to keep an older relative on a limited budget from buying you a really ugly vase at a store with a no-returns policy, and you just KNOW she spent too much on it and it kind of breaks your heart to look at it, and of course you can’t get rid of it while Nana is alive and even after that…oh, Nana, her intentions were so good, if her taste more than a little questionable.
However, take note: Many people consider registering for a honeymoon tacky in and of itself. (Check out the comments.) A further sign of registries gone mad and couples looking at their weddings as a cash-machine-fairy-godmother. If you don’t really know those 200 announcement-receiving people that well, be aware that you may offend some people. Others might think it’s a terrific idea. Personally, I would be grossed out by any registry info — kitchen gadgets or otherwise — included on an announcement of a wedding that I was not invited to, so if you do go with the registry, keep in mind that it should be shared only with anyone who specifically calls and asks.

Photo by goat_girl_photos

Published September 7, 2009. Last updated April 23, 2017.
About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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