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10 Big Registry Etiquette Mistakes to Avoid

Plus, our tips on how to get the gifts you want most.
Modern kitchen registry items and appliances
Oksana.Bondar/Shutterstock.com
sarah hanlon associate editor the knot
by Sarah Hanlon
sarah hanlon associate editor the knot
Sarah Hanlon
Associate Editor
  • Sarah is an Associate Digital Editor for The Knot, with special focuses in fashion, 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 06, 2019

Making a wedding registry is one of the first planning tasks you and your S.O. should tackle after getting engaged. A gift wishlist is one of the most important resources for wedding guests leading up to the big day, so it requires thoughtful thinking about what you want (and need) to begin married life. While registries usually include household appliances and decorations, you can also ask for modern gifts, like cash funds or charity donations too. There are plenty of ways to personalize your wedding registry so that it fits your lifestyle. 

But as fun as it is to create your dream wedding registry, it's important to follow proper wedding registry etiquette—and if you find yourself questioning exactly what that is, we've got you covered. Below, we explain everything to know about wedding registries. And, to give your guests the best experience (and to get the gifts you want most), we also share the most common wedding registry etiquette mistakes to avoid.

What is a Wedding Registry? 

Before you start shopping, you might ask yourself, "What is a wedding registry?" Simply put, a registry is a curated list of wedding gifts for guests. In the past, it was common to register at traditional department stores like Macy's, Nordstrom, Bed Bath & Beyond and Target. While in-store registries are still an option, most engaged couples make lists online. Universal registries (like The Knot Registry) allow to-be-weds to aggregate gifts from any store in one spot. 

Guests will use your registry to shop for your engagement party, bridal shower and wedding day. In fact, loved ones will want to buy you congratulatory gifts from the moment you get engaged, so it's important to make your registry as soon as possible. A wedding registry will ensure help purchase presents you actually want. Without an updated wishlist, loved ones may shop off-registry for items you already have or don't need. 

Now that you know what a wedding registry is, familiarize yourself with proper wedding gift etiquette. Find the most common mistakes below, along with our best tips to avoid them. 

Mistake 1: Not Registering at All

Registering for wedding gifts isn't tacky—it's a vital planning task. While you might feel some wedding registry guilt, remember that guests want to celebrate your love. In fact, a registry list will tip guests off to your secret desire for new throw pillows or a stand mixer that matches your dish towels. If you already have mostly everything you need for the home, register for alternative experiences instead. There are plenty of honeymoon registry sites that allow you to register for experiences on your postwedding vacation, like a couples' massage or a local excursion. You can also use a cash registry for practical gifts, like cooking classes, money for a home renovation or a puppy fund.

Registry etiquette can also be confusing for various celebrations like a sequel weddinga postponed wedding or a microwedding. Be sure to register for any kind of ceremony, whether you have a large guest list or you're only saying "I do" in front of immediate family. (If you're not sure how to register amid COVID-19, we've got you covered.) 

Mistake 2: Waiting Too Long to Register

Set up a registry shortly after you're engaged, especially if you're planning an engagement party. Even if a soirée hasn't been added to the calendar, you may be surprised by the number of people who want to give you a token of congratulations (like champagne glasses or a nice picture frame for your engagement photos). You can always update your list and add more items at any time—it's encouraged to check in regularly and make sure there are plenty of options remaining. (Not sure how many gifts to add to your registry? Find the simple equation here.) Most of your guests will make purchases shortly before the wedding day, so add additional items as needed. 

Modern living room registry items in home
Followtheflow/Shutterstock.com

Mistake 3: Not Taking Inventory of Your Own Stuff

Register for gifts you and your S.O. will both enjoy. To decide what you need, take inventory of the items you already have and talk about the style of the home you'd like to share. Consider your entertaining style, your hobbies and what your life may look like a few years from now. (Perhaps you do need a nice gravy boat for holiday hosting or new serving plates for frequent dinner parties). Or, if you and your fiancé have been living together for years, don't feel pressured to register for traditional gifts if you already have them. Instead, ask for gifts that excite you and fit your newlywed needs. 

Mistake 4: Not Using a Universal Registry

Do yourself (and your guests) a favor and set up a universal registry. In the past, it was common to register and three to four big-box retailers. Now, thanks to the convenience of online registries, you can organize everything on one gift list. This is especially ideal for couples with various interests. With a universal registry, you can add everything from hiking gear to charcuterie board tools in one spot. 

Mistake 5: Skipping the Fine Print

Read about gifting policies from your preferred retailers as you select items. Confirm that each gift can be shipped to your address, and look into their exchange and return policies. This step is crucial—you don't want to be stuck with duplicate gifts, or find out you only have days to exchange items you don't want. 

Plenty of registry sites also have incentive programs and perks, like a discount on the remaining gifts on your list. Some stores will even hold purchased gifts and ship them all at once after the wedding. Since details vary among stores, familiarize yourself with their rules as you go.

Mistake 6: Not Registering for Enough Items in a Range of Prices

Having great wedding registry etiquette means keeping your guests' best interests in mind, so your list should have plenty of options and cater to various budgets. There's actually a secret formula to help you determine how many gifts to add to your registry: simply multiply your guest list by two, and add a few extras. Over-registering will give loved ones plenty of options, especially as items start to get purchased. Plus, your friends and family may be purchasing multiple gifts, while some will be looking to splurge on a big-ticket item. To cover all the bases, register for gifts that fall between $50 and $200 or more. Guests will have no problem using your gift registry when it has plenty of ideas at all price ranges.

Mistake 7: Only Registering for the Essentials

Physical gifts like china, linens and flatware are longstanding registry asks, but you can also ask for anything from furniture and gift cards to luggage or even cash funds. Take advantage of your options and register for items you'll really use. If you're both in agreement about a pricier object, like a new grill or down payment for a future house, put it on the registry. A wedding registry isn't one-size-fits-all for every couple, so register for things that best fit your needs. 

Engaged couple using laptop at home
Dean Drobot/Shutterstock.com

Mistake 8: Not Putting Your Registry on Your Wedding Website

The best way to share your registry with guests is through your wedding website. Traditional etiquette indicates that it's not required for guests to give a gift, so it's best not to share registry information on formal wedding invitations. You can, however, include registry details on an insert in your save-the-dates. Since your wedding website is a hub for important information, it's the best way to share gift information with guests.

Mistake 9: Not Updating Your Registry Regularly

Your registry should be maintained from the time you're engaged to when you walk down the aisle. Revisit it often and update it with new gift selections. This will give your guests a range of options. A good rule of thumb is to have more items on your registry than guests at your wedding, as this will help accommodate for gifts from engagement parties and showers. It's for this reason that using a universal registry is encouraged. Having all of your registry items in the same spot gives you (and your guests) one main check point when it comes to gift shopping. Plus, this will help you keep track of thank-you cards later. 

Mistake 10: Procrastinating on Thank-You Cards

The most important part of having great wedding registry etiquette is expressing your gratitude. Let your guests know their gifts arrived, and do it promptly. Thank-you notes for gifts received before the wedding should be sent within two weeks of their arrival. Notes for gifts received on or after the wedding day should be sent within four to six weeks upon receipt. Keep a list of what you've received alongside your guest list to stay organized, and designate a space in your home where you can keep stationery at the ready. (Psst: Check out The Knot Invitations to find thank-you cards that match your wedding stationery). 

It can be helpful to set aside time each week to make progress on your wedding gift thank-you cards. As you write, mention the gift by name and share a few details, like how you plan to use it or why you love the color so much. Your guests will feel touched by a personal note, and it'll show off your expert registry etiquette too.

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