The 8s

Wedding Registries: Wedding registries today are not like endowment lists from yesteryear

January, 2020

We’ve come a long way since the first wedding registry services appeared in US department stores in the 1920s. Although tradition is still central to many weddings, technology and changing tastes and demographics are rapidly altering the gift-giving protocol that follows. Increasingly, couples are getting creative and redefining what makes the perfect wedding gift

Going Digital

One obvious trend is that engaged couples are increasingly logging on to manage their gift lists. Many store-based services have moved online, including Canadian stores like the Bay or William Ashley. Universal registry websites, like Blueprint Registry, offer customizable services covering weddings and other major life occasions. Either way, the purpose of these sites hasn’t changed: providing couples with a convenient and efficient way to make their preferences known, while hopefully avoiding the bad luck of receiving more than one toaster.

The Millennial Experience

Millennials are waiting longer than other generations to tie the knot. By the time they do, there’s a good chance they’re already living together and have all the dinnerware and bedsheets that they need (or want). Enter the experience gift. While saucepans have long been a popular registry go-to, today’s couples might prefer cooking lessons or a wine tour. Research shows that experience gifts can spark joy long after products lose their shine—obviating the need for the newlyweds to Marie Kondo their homes later on.

The Gift of Travel

As experience gifts become more common, specialized honeymoon or travel registries have found a niche. These date back to the 1990s, when travel agents began offering the service as an extra. Nowadays, honeymoon registries are likely to be web-based, giving couples a handy way to publicize and finance travel plans through crowdfunded donations. Popular websites like Honeyfund and Zola are customizable and help couples plan, book and pay for their dream vacations and other experiences.

Charitable Donations

For the couple that already has everything, charity is a feel-good alternative to the wedding gift. Borrowing from the popularity of crowdfunding, charity registries ask guests to donate to a preferred charity in lieu of presents. There’s even a customizable element to this, as charity registries cover a dizzying range of causes, from the environment to community development to social justice. Plan Canada’s Gifts of Hope is one example of a homegrown charity registry that helps people in developing countries.

Money Talks

Not long ago, giving money as a wedding gift would have been a faux-pas. Times sure have changed. It’s become much more acceptable for couples to ask guests for cash instead of a potentially hit-or-miss gift. There’s certainly some logic to it—couples know best what they need and don’t need, after all. Cold hard cash can also be used to pay for desired services, such as fertilization treatments or home renovation projects.

Practically Speaking

Asking straight up for money might still feel awkward to some, but a related trend is to ask for help with practical matters. Just as young couples are putting off getting married, they’re often also waiting longer to buy a house. That’s why some couples are asking for help covering down payments, bills and other everyday expenses. Rising house costs, combined with student loans and other debt, might make these gifts the most sensible for many cash-strapped newlyweds.

Gearing up

As people lead more active lives, specialized gear for indoor and outdoor activities is increasingly showing up on registry lists. Whether those include an inflatable two-person kayak for the Perfect Couple to indulge in some leisurely paddling or a set of mountain bikes to hit the rugged terrain out of town, there’s no shortage of registries—From Cabela’s to Mountain Equipment Co-op— offering impromptu gift lists for that active twosome. t7x