How to Register for Wedding Gifts Without Driving Each Other Crazy

Work through any registry disagreements thanks to tips from a relationship expert.
by Rachel Torgerson
Engaged couple shopping
Aubrey L. Stopa Photography

Can you think of anything more fun than walking around a store, scanner gun in hand, picking out all the items you've always wanted but could never afford? It's hard to imagine how a scenario like this could blow up in your face, but most couples will tell you that throughout the wedding planning process, registering for gifts actually fueled fights the most. To get to the bottom of the bickering we talked to Tammy Nelson, PhD, a licensed relationship therapist, board-certified sexologist and author of The New Monogamy and Getting the Sex You Want, about what to do when registry-related tensions rise.

The Types of Registry Fights

You fight over the style and colors.

You two have very different aesthetics—maybe one of you loves the minimalistic, modern look and the other loves a good vintage tchotchke. Figuring out how to compromise to come up with a look that's distinctly both of you can be difficult.

You fight over the price point.

Where you choose to spend money says a lot about you, and you might find out a lot about each other that you didn't know until you shopped together. Maybe your future spouse is a thread-count snob or an early adapter of kitchen appliances, and you'd rather spend money on camping equipment.

You fight over the usefulness of a particular thing.

While you might love the idea of having formal china in your home, your partner may think that having guests spend money on something you'll rarely use doesn't make a whole lot of sense. You might say the same of your partner's insistence on that deluxe juicer.

You fight over including family in everything.

Is it starting to feel like your mother-in-law is picking out every dish or piece of furniture in your soon-to-be new home? Even if she has impeccable taste, it may not make you particularly happy to see her face on every item in your living space. Maybe you want things that remind you of just the two of you. That doesn't mean your partner agrees.

How to Solve Wedding-Planning-Related Fights in Four Easy Steps

1. Create a fictional "narrative" of your thoughts.

It may sound a bit out-there, but Nelson says, when fights like this start, it's good to create a narrative about exactly what you're thinking. "We all make up stories about what our partner is saying, and most of the time, the story is totally different than what he or she is thinking," she says. Saying the words out loud may make you realize you could be overreacting, or it may get your partner to understand where you're coming from.

For example, say you really want a juicer on your registry, but your partner doesn't love the idea. You might have a conversation that goes something like this: "So, the story I'm making up in my head right now is that you don't value our health as a couple, and you'd rather add things to our registry that don't promote eating right." While your partner might say, "What I hear when you say that is I don't understand how to be healthy, and you think I'm fat and lazy and might let myself go." Hopefully by this point in the conversation, says Nelson, you might both start laughing about where you are from where you started.

But even if the stories have made you angrier at one another, that doesn't mean they aren't productive. If you sense that one of you may be truly hurt by the story, then it's time to employ one of the other communication-based answers below.

2. Use "I" statements.

When you're discussing all things registry, have your statements begin with the word "I" instead of "you." Sentences that start with the "you" can sound accusatory and automatically make someone defensive. Already, says Nelson, the problem is intensified. "Most people are more open to hearing feelings when they feel some empathy coming at them instead of pure criticism and anger."

You could try saying something like this: "I understand you want the lawn mower; it makes sense. I know you like to work on the lawn, and if we put it on our registry, maybe people would buy it for us. And I really want the juicer—you know how I like my juice. I'm afraid that if we get the lawn mower, no one will buy us the other things we really need, like the juicer, or towels, knives and forks!" This kind of speech opens up a helpful, conversational mind-set that often results in compromise.

3. Show your appreciation.

Even if you're not bickering over the registry, it's good to remember to show your love for the person you're about to marry, especially in the midst of wedding planning. "Throughout this very stressful process, you should make sure to give your partner appreciation at least once a day," says Nelson. "Forget about the list of things you have to do, and tell them something you really like about them as a person."

For instance: "I know we argue about the color of the walls and the type of furniture we should buy, but I want you to know that I appreciate all of the work you've done to make this new apartment feel like a home for both of us. Thank you."

4. Don't just live in the "now."

"Remember, long after the guests have gone home and the juicer is sitting in the closet with the rest of the wedding gifts, you'll have to live with the choices you make today," Nelson says. "Treat each other with empathy and appreciation and you might survive long enough to make up a story about a long and happy life together."

Think about this: Try to mentally take yourself out of a fight and see the big picture. Is this juicer really worth the fight it is causing? Can you potentially live without the item you don't agree on, or can you live with it? Consider letting up on the issue. Once one person bends, it's much easier for the other to bend in appreciation.

Start your registry with The Knot here.

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