Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Wedding Registries Revisited, at Get Rich Slowly

It's great to be featured at Get Rich Slowly, since J.D.'s terrific blog on sound finances and money decisions has a gazillion readers. Yesterday I was a guest columnist there, writing about the pros and cons of wedding registries. There are 125+ comments, a lot for a typical post, so this hit a nerve. I had complained about numerous aspects of wedding registries and the greedy, bossy/directed tone many of them project to invited guests. People really shouted out about this, with dueling etiquette "rules" and very differing ideas about the significance of gifts. At the most genteel end, writers said any gift should be appreciated and no mention or direction should be given to guests in advance. At the other end - primarily male, I should note - unregistered material gifts are seen as utterly egotistical, stupid, thoughtless gestures, and guests with any sense at all give registered items or even better, cash. What a nerve of some older person to think a younger person might like their taste!
I now understand registries better - couples are snookered into the stores' protocols, which include instructing/requiring them to pick large numbers of gifts and incentivizing their participation in ways not known to the guests who use the registries. Couples bemoaned, along with me, the lack of ability to prioritize or annotate their choices. Some guests are offended by big ticket items on registires; others explained a regional variant where groups of people go in on a big gift very happily. Amazon's registry, which does allow for the couple to add commentary/explanation, seems to be the winner.
Another variation in experience is for smaller town folk, who might use a registry, but still buy the gift at the store directly and give it directly, so the impersonal, cold feeling of giving through a registry online is avoided.
My general conclusion is that it isn't the registry that's the problem (though the super long ones are icky), but rather how the couple puts the info across. A tasteful mention of a registry on a website, along with some prose from the couple about their story, interests, goals, yada yada yada, and their appreciation in general for their guests coming to share their day with them, seems appropriate and sensible to me. It's nice to mention a few favorite charities, as well, for those who are interested in making contributions.
What passes as etiquette is highly culturally relative. And generational. Peers relate to one another very differently, and more practically, than older vs. younger generations. My bottom line, though, is still: send thank yous, no matter how your presents get to you!

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