I don’t know about you, but very rarely have I perused a wedding registry and thought: These things are beautiful and useful. I find myself looking at registries a lot these days, and many I’ve encountered fall into two camps: the ones filled with lots of un-special stuff, and the ones that feel too special, fussy and old-fashioned.
Consider, for example, the time I logged into one couple’s registry to find an assortment of drain covers and plastic scrub brushes—nothing befitting a celebration of a marriage. On the other end of the spectrum, another friend I know registered for a monogrammed silver punch bowl, sure to sit in a cabinet somewhere and collect dust. Think the scene in “Father of the Bride” when the family unboxes yet another silver tea set in a room crowded with ornate clocks and fancy statues for the mantel.
Part of the problem, of course, is that the earliest version of registries (way back to marriage chests and hope chests, Racked reports) came about to help a couple outfit a home from scratch—but now, with young people living on their own before getting married, or even sharing a place with their partner beforehand, modern couples don’t really need towels or china or sheets, like they used to. So there’s a tendency to fill the registry with stuff for the sake of stuff. (More and more alternative registries are popping up, like HoneyFund, through which wedding guests can donate to the honeymoon; Blueprint, where cash gifts can go towards a down payment for a house, for example; and sites like The Good Beginning, which forsake gifts entirely for donations to a cause.)
But there’s something nice about a lasting, physical something to mark the occasion (both Francesca and Margot, when I sent an email around to the editorial team in advance of this post, told me how much they both still treasure and use something they received on their marriage days—a flatware set for Francesca, a set of Duralex bowls for Margot). As a wedding guest, I want to give (and spend my money on) something like that: both beautiful and suitably celebratory that will be useful. But I’m also conscious that getting non-returnable off-the-registry gifts can be annoying for a couple, and I want to respect their wishes. (Yet another friend I know told me she spent weeks spent trying to return off-the-registry gifts—and we all know somebody who’s ended up with some gaudy thing they don’t want and have no way to return.)
All of this to say: there’s a better way to do wedding registries. Several years ago we rounded up a few of our favorite registries; here, we’re expanding on that with this year’s picks of smaller, non-big-box stores with registries, for those planning their own. If you’re attending a wedding (or a half dozen), we’ve included a gift from each that’s a little bit different, a little bit special, and—fittingly—built to last. Just tuck in a gift receipt.
2. Heath Ceramics
5. Design Within Reach
6. East Fork
7. MoMA Design Store
More in the world of weddings: