Wedding Registries: How not to register for crap

by Melissa on March 17, 2011

Over the last several years, as friends and family members have gotten married and gotten knocked up, I have been able to look over a lot of wedding and baby registries.  Some items on their registries look useful, while other items just look like they either went happy with the scan gun in the store, or just put something on the list without doing background research on the product. 

Example #1: I had budgeted a total of $100 for gifts for a wedding shower a few years ago. I skimmed  their registry and decided that I would buy multiple smaller items instead of one larger item.  But as I looked more in detail at the registry, I saw that many items that they had registered for had received terrible online reviews.

Now, maybe I’m a bit compulsive.  I can’t begin to tell you how much time I spend researching product reviews for things that I buy, whether for myself or for other people.  But, to be honest, I was a little offended.  They registered for a $20 hand mixer that had gotten an average of 1.5/5 stars, with nearly 30 reviews.  As I read through the reviews, it was evident that the mixer motor broke after just a few uses.  So, should I buy a hand mixer with better reviews?  Or do I buy the crappy one they registered for?  I was torn.  Well, ultimately I avoided the entire situation by just buying a gift card.

Example #2: More recently, I was reviewing a friend’s wedding registry. When I saw registry items for 80 dollar photo frames, cheesy reproduction artwork, a cat scratching post, and many, many other less-than-useful items, I was left scratching my head.

Yes, I realize that these are things that this couple wants and therefore registered for the items.  And no doubt they like the products, at least in a superficial sense, otherwise they wouldn’t have registered for them.  But I really wondered how much thought they put into the items on their registries.

Wedding Registry = One Time Opportunity

How many other times in life can you ask so many people to buy you lots of nice, useful things that you can request specifically?  Umm, not many.   I know that some people would just prefer to ask for cash, but since that is considered tacky in many etiquette circles, we should make sure that the physical products that we register for are high-quality and have a definite intended purpose and don’t leave your guests dumbfounded.  So, here are my thoughts.

This list focuses almost entirely on kitchen-related items, so I’d love to hear your thoughts on registering for other household items as well.

Watch Shows on the Food Network

While we may not like the recipes being presented on a particular episode, Food Network shows can teach you a LOT about tips, tricks, and methods in the kitchen.   I learned so much about food preparation by watching Rachael Ray’s 30 Minute Meals, and it totally changed my outlook on cooking.   No joke.  I know people have varying opinions of her and her food, but I have learned so much from her preparation and cooking methods. For instance, using a little hand grater for chopping garlic, using a garbage bowl to avoid repeated trips to the trash can, using a food processor to make homemade sauces (who knew spaghetti sauces could originate in something other than a jar!?), and the benefits of having a sharp, high-quality knife and cutting board.  Oh, and can I just point out that I used to completely butcher an avocado when I would try to peel it, but once I saw her technique, I never butchered another one!

There is a lot to be learned from other shows too.  So, set your DVR to record a variety of Food Network shows and watch the types of tools that cooks and chefs use to help you figure out what might be most useful in your kitchen.

Registering for entertaining supplies

While registering for every-day type of kitchen items is obviously a plus, don’t forget about those things you may need when entertaining a large group of people, like when hosting a party or a holiday get-together.  Some things that I have and love when we host parties (but don’t necessarily use on a regular basis) are as follows:

  • A high-quality punch bowl for a signature party drink
  • Quality wine corkscrew (shameful confession: I drink box wine on a regular basis, so I have no need to use a corkscrew normally)
  • Large Serving trays
  • Cookie and Dessert tiered trays

And for things that I take to parties that others are hosting:

Know what various kitchen tools are actually used for

I’ve got to be frank about this.  I have no idea how a wok is different than a big ‘ol frying pan.  Or what a dutch oven is actually used for except that certain recipes tell me to use it.  Or really, what serrated knives should be used for vs. straight edge knives.  So, a brief search led me to the book Alton Brown’s Gear for your Kitchen (take note of the excellent reviews).  I’ve been making my way through this book methodically.  I recommend that you do the same to get an idea of what would be most useful in your kitchen.

Trading Up

My fiancé and I have lived together for nearly two years in a home that we own.  I was 28 and he was 31 when we moved in together.  So, needless to say, we each had our own collection of low to mid-range cooking gear and supplies like pots and pans, knives, measuring cups and spoons, etc when we moved in together and we tended to keep both sets.  I have slowly started to accumulate better items as time has progressed, especially with regard to our entertaining-related items.  But, I need to take an honest inventory of our kitchen items and determine what we already have, but could benefit from having higher-quality items of.  And, of course, if we don’t get it, we won’t be heartbroken.

Here are some things that come to mind:

  • I use a blender a lot, and I’ve never found one that has worked exceptionally well.  They either don’t blend frozen things well, or the motor burns out in less than a year.  This might be the perfect time to register for a Vitamix.
  • When we cook burgers indoors or other things on a bun, we like to toast the buns.  We have a toaster that works just fine, but if my fiancé plans to eat two sandwiches, and I plan to eat one, toasting three buns separately gets annoying.  So, I’m thinking of registering for a dual toaster.
  • Excellent quality knives and sharpener to replace our low quality knives
  • A larger food processor

Similarly, look at what you already have, but what you could use an extra set of.  I use measuring cups and measuring spoons really often (all part of my WeightWatchers weight loss), so it’s nice having two sets in case one is dirty.  Think if there is anything else that you could use more of.

A few other random tips

  • Someone once told me that they didn’t want to register for any large items because they didn’t have room in their tiny apartment.  I doubt they’ll live there forever!  So I would not let space be a deciding factor in what you register for
  • Please, do your research.  We live in amazing, consumer-empowered age.  Consumers can go online and write their unbiased opinions on products.  In addition to Amazon product reviews, just Google the product name + “reviews” and tons of other review sites will appear.  I get caught up in reviews way too often, and they can be a bit overwhelming.  But I would never buy a product without first reading reviews.  Hell, I even read reviews for pens now.
  • Don’t register for things just because they’re the “in” items to register for.  The top two things I have seen on recent wedding registries?  1) Kitchen Aid Mixer, and 2) Dyson Vacuum.  I will definitely register for a Mixer because I like to bake, but I will not register for a vacuum.  We have a cleaning service, so we rarely need to vacuum, but even if we didn’t have a cleaning service, I wouldn’t register for one even though  it’s on everyone else’s lists.  So, will your Kitchen Aid mixer look awesome but then just sit unopened in its box for years to come?
  • And please, don’t register for things that are on ANY “must have” registry list unless you absolutely “must have” them.  Crap Example #1, and Crap Example #2.  The wedding industry likes to take advantage of brides-to-be and tell them that there’s all this stuff they “need” from decor items to registry items.  Just remember that these companies are in business to make a profit and they make money telling you that you need these items.  Don’t let them play on your pre-wedding emotions.  Use your head to make your decisions.

I’d love to hear from folks that are recently married and how they have used (or not used) gifts they received off their registries!

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