COVID Has Changed the Way Couples Register for Gifts—Here's How

Spoiler alert: gifts are better than ever.
sarah hanlon associate editor the knot
Sarah Hanlon
sarah hanlon associate editor the knot
Sarah Hanlon
Associate Editor
  • Sarah is an Associate Digital Editor for The Knot, with special focuses on features, pop culture and wedding trends.
  • Before joining The Knot Worldwide, Sarah was a contributing writer for Bravo at NBC Universal.
  • Sarah has a degree in journalism and resides in New York City.
Updated Mar 26, 2021

After a year where so many wedding traditions changed, some things stayed the same—like registering for gifts. Amid the coronavirus pandemic, couples around the world pivoted their wedding plans to keep loved ones safe. One thing that hasn't changed, though, is the importance of wedding gifts. Making a registry and receiving gifts is, understandably, one of the most exciting parts of planning a wedding. While a registry helps fulfill newlywed nest needs, it also helps couples celebrate the start of married life. And during a time when so many had to alter their original plans, receiving gifts offered a sense of normalcy.

That's not to say that COVID-19 hasn't affected the way couples register—in fact, it's the opposite. The pandemic has drastically revamped the registry experience. A year of social distancing at home has helped couples identify what's most important, and registry selections will reflect that. We spoke to industry experts to learn exactly what registry gifts will look like in 2021. From an increase in lifestyle-centric gifts to a rise of cash funds, here's how the pandemic has positively changed the wedding registry experience.

Cash & Experience Funds May Replace Some Physical Gifts

It's no secret that cash and experience funds are common registry additions. While physical gifts still make up the majority of wishlists, more couples are adding cash donations to help support everything from honeymoon excursions to a puppy fund. As a result of the pandemic, more couples will be interested in experiential gifts to enjoy with their S.O. outside of the home. "In 2021, more registries will include experiential and monetary gifts," says wedding planner Ryan Abney, noting that the pandemic isn't the only reason for this shift. "The pandemic has altered how couples are registering, but the generation getting married now also favor experiences over items."

Travel will be a top consideration for couples making their registries, especially as the vaccine rollout progresses in the US. After over a year spent social distancing, to-be-weds will look to support their future travels through their registry. "The desire to travel has definitely been reignited over the past year," say Lisandra Dammerman and Nayla Geerman, members of the wedding and events team at Hilton Aruba Caribbean Resort. "They also want to enjoy unique experiences together as newlyweds, which will create shared memories to look back on." Because of this, honeymoon funds will be more prevalent than ever. While road trip honeymoons saw a spike in popularity amid the pandemic, people will also want to travel internationally when it's safe to do so—and a designated fund will support everything from airline fees to couple's massages.

Couples are also looking for ways to give back to their communities and support small businesses. Gifting options like charity funds will also allow to-be-weds to give back in a meaningful way. "The pandemic has highlighted how much local businesses need the support of the community," Abney adds. "Because of this, I expect to see couples support local and BIPOC-owned businesses, as well as charitable organizations, through their registries."

Registry Gifts Will Be Lifestyle-Centric

As online registry tools evolve, couples have more options to make their wishlist feel tailored to their needs. Gone are the days of registering for home products that'll rarely be used. Instead, couples can select items that reflect their lifestyle needs. "We've seen couples adding more entertainment and home office items to their registries given the many lifestyle shifts in the past year," says Samara Tuchband, VP of Merchandising at Crate & Barrel. "Couples are looking to turn their house into a home, so investment products are definitely standouts."

Those who've perfected their culinary skills during the pandemic, for example, might benefit from a registry full of new cookware and cash funds for local cooking classes. Or, couples who've taken an interest in hiking nearby trails might prefer to register for coolers or backpacks for future adventures. Thanks to universal registries (like The Knot Registry), couples can add gifts from any store to one wishlist. Not only is this easier to manage, it simplifies the buying process too.

In 2021, more couples will register for gift cards too. This up-and-coming gift trend is perfect for couples with niche interests. And, thanks to universal marketplaces like The Knot Registry Store, it's easy to add gift cards from top retailers to your wishlist. Avid travelers can register for Airbnb gift cards, while amateur movie critics can add Hulu credits to their wishlist so they never miss a blockbuster. Now, wedding gifts are more creative (and personalized) thanks to modern registry aggregators that make it easy to ask for gifts that'll actually get used.

Physical Gifts Will Revolve Around Entertaining

After over a year of social distancing, registry gifts will reflect couples' desires to host loved ones in their newlywed nest. "Couples are thinking about their homes differently, and entertaining continues to be an important area when registering," says Tuchband. "While larger get-togethers with friends and family may still be a ways off, we still see a strong interest in entertaining items. We encourage couples to purchase items now in preparation for the return of more at-home entertaining in the future."

Entertaining gifts aren't uncommon registry selections. In fact, our data proves that some of the most popular wedding gifts are fit for dinner party connoisseurs and frequent holiday hosts. And while more couples will register for cash funds and experiences, physical wedding gifts won't go away. Instead, couples will be more intentional about registering for practical gifts that create experiences, like hosting necessities.

"Couples are becoming more invested in experiences, both as a form of entertaining and memory building," explains Abney. As a result, they'll opt for items that help create memorable experiences, like serving plates, wine glass sets, outdoor patio furniture or even coffee table games. With a focus on gifts that serve a purpose, registries will fulfill both practical home needs and the desire to reconnect with friends and family after time apart.

Couples Will Register for Elevated Home Gifts

In addition to hosting necessities, couples have a newfound desire for elevated home gifts. After spending over a year at home, more people are committed to renovation and redecoration projects that make their home reflective of their lifestyles and personalities. "As people spend more time at home, we've seen our customers and couples place a greater emphasis on investing in their home space," says Tuchband. "Aside from the traditional kitchen essentials for a registry, more and more couples are selecting furniture and decor pieces that bring new life and dimension into their home. We're seeing more couples think about their outdoor spaces as well, with everything from planters to outdoor games so they can enjoy nature regardless of the size of their space."

Even couples living together before the wedding can benefit from a home design refresh. Marriage signifies a new chapter, and it's one that's deserving of a space that's functional and intentional. It's for this reason that couples will be more interested in registry gifts that are made well and serve a purpose. "The word 'luxury' will be reframed to mean something worth investing in," says Muriel Solomon, co-founder of homeware brand førs studio. "Couples want better quality products that last longer. Having multifunctional objects with sustainable and high-quality materials are essential considerations."

Now, couples aren't as interested in registering for extra bath towels or fancy china that will sit largely unused. Instead, gift selections will be centered around intentional and practical needs. While this will result in a better buying experience for guests, it also means that wedding registry gifts will be more fulfilling for the couples receiving them than ever before.

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