We Asked Etiquette Experts How To Navigate The Wedding Registry Process

So you’re getting married! Cool! Romance endures, love prevails, etc. etc. Now, all that stands between you and your spouse is, well, the planning of an enormous, catered event, the orchestration of debaucherous premarital weekend trips, the categorization of all your friends into worthy/unworthy of attendance, and the process of registering for every product you’ll presumably need for the rest of your life together.
Well, we can’t do much to help you vote your third-degree friends off the wedding island, but we can help you with that last part: the registry. Like with most things matrimony-related, the whole act of registering comes with its own set of confusing, awkward nuances. When you’ve already demanded that all of your people purchase plane tickets or bachelorette party favors, how exactly do you go about also requesting a fancy espresso machine without sounding like a heathen? What if you and your partner disagree on your favorite glassware? How do you proceed when you haven’t written thank you notes since your bat mitzvah?? 
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To help you navigate all the tricky ins and outs of registry decorum, we tapped Patricia Fitzpatrick, founder and instructor at the Etiquette School of New York, and Bloomingdale’s Wedding Registry consultant Andrew Gloyeske, for some definitive advice. Ahead, allow us to take one thing off your pre-marital plate.

When selecting gifts for your registry, what guidelines should you follow?

According to Fitzpatrick, it’s important that the gifts on your registry range in price. “It’s the considerate thing to do, since your guest list will more than likely be comprised of individuals of various means,” she says. 
Sure, it’s normal to have a few “splurge” items on your registry, but if the vast majority of your list is built of solid crystal punch bowls, that doesn’t leave much wiggle room for your guests who don’t have billions to blow, so to speak. All the same, Gloyeske believes this is an excellent opportunity to request some of the lower budget essentials that your home requires to balance out that lovely china set you've been eying.
To start, he advises that you register for about 1.5 times as many products as you have wedding guests, just to make sure there’s a full selection. And among them, it’s smart to choose goods that range from the attainable to the aspirational. “Maybe you want a really luxurious bar cart, but for that cart, you’ll need a simple glass decanter or a classic cocktail shaker,” Gloyeske says. “Yeah, you want that crystal glass set, but you’ll need coffee mugs too.” Keep your high-end must-haves, but don’t leave off the simple, practical things — they’re just as important.
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“I always ask couples: ‘How do you really define wants and needs?’” Gloyeske adds. “I think that’s for each couple to determine on their own."

What’s the best way to distribute your registry to guests?

There’s something pleasant and nostalgic about sending wedding invites via real, paper mail — but that doesn’t mean you have to take an antiquated approach to distributing your registry as well. Most likely, your registry will live online — so if you have a wedding website, you can drop the link there. If you plan to host a shower, feel free to throw a registry directive on the invitation as well (though it may be a bit aggressive to include one on the wedding invite itself).
Beyond that, have a little faith that guests who don’t know where to find your registry will reach out to your closest friends and family, who can, of course, point them in the right direction. “People already know they need to choose a wedding gift and that you’ve probably got a registry set up,” Gloyeske says. “You can trust that they’ll ask your mom or your best friend or just Google you and find it.” 

How should couples split up the responsibility of registering? 

The antiquated belief that one person in a relationship ought to be responsible for curating a wish list for both parties is honestly nuts. And beyond that, plenty of modern couples have already combined their households. This isn’t their first time sharing a living space — and they’re likely not starting from scratch. 
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“When I’m consulting for registries, I’m almost always meeting with couples rather than individuals,” says Gloyeske. “And because most of them are already living together, they’re familiar with the process of compromising on what to keep or what sort of aesthetic they want to lean into. My job is to understand both of their styles and to help them mix and blend.”
That ethos is essential here. Rather than simply combine your respective wish lists, spend some time together determining how, exactly, you’d like to curate your home. What sort of practical objects are important to you? What about decorative pieces? What are your respective dream items and what are the shared priority items? After all, the point of this whole thing is your life together

Okay, so what’s the deal with thank you notes? 

Whether or not your wedding registry is digitized, it’s still nice to send out thank you notes the old fashioned way. Yes, that means paper, stamps, envelopes, the whole shebang. 
“[At Bloomingdale’s,] we have a great online “thank you card manager” tool in our digital registry service. It won’t write them for you, but it’ll help you keep great track of who got you what, whether or not it’s arrived, and whether you still owe them a thank you note,” says Gloyeske. “We recommend sending notes as the presents actually arrive. That’s probably the only way it’ll feel manageable.”
Fitzpatrick, too, has some helpful advice here: “Refer to the specific gift in the thank you note and the person who gave it to you,” she says. She also suggests that you get personal with these — if you receive a monetary gift, you might hint at how you plan to use it in your note. If you receive something like an electric mixer, you could consider shouting out the cookie recipe you’ve already crushed, thanks to said gift. The personal details are important here. And a little blatant gratitude is always appreciated. 
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