One of the best perks of getting married is getting stuff! Let’s be real, it’s exciting to receive thoughtful, helpful, useful, stylish home goods you love just because you’re getting married! All you did was say yes to marry your favorite person on earth, and people want to shower you tangible love. Yes, please and thank you! But when it comes to how to approach what stuff, where the stuff comes from and what purpose it has in your new life together, you may be wondering if a traditional registry is right for you. So let’s start with the basics to figure it out.

The purpose of a registry is for your guests to know your specific house needs, desires and style so that their gift helps you build your new home/new life together. ‘Back in the day,’ your wedding gifts, especially those you get at your bridal shower, were comprised of the items you’d need to ‘make a home’ and make it ‘well’ (think fine china, real silverware, crystal, etc.). Many of today’s couples have sufficient jobs, live together or have lived enough life to have all they have all they need for their new life together. (And the value we put on things like fine china has somewhat diminished as we’ve evolved in the area of home decor and styles of hospitality.) So that’s where non-traditional registries like a honeymoon fund or a lifestyle registry (think cooking classes, date nights, down payment on a home) saw their opportunity to resonate with couple who didn’t need any more 500-count sheet sets, but still want an exciting start to newlywed life.

I think it’s safe to say the non-traditional registries are gaining in popularity with couples for these reasons, but also equally lack the same ferver by their guests. It’s not that guests, especially older guests, are largely resistant to change or annoyed by the slight breach of etiquette that comes with foregoing a traditional registry. I think more than anything they really know the value of getting quality goods and keepsakes during a time in your life you’ll never get gifts like this again! They also know it’s rare any newlywed buys themselves fine place settings for twelve. And they are mostly right about that!

Because of the changing perspective of the engaged couples, but the still-present expectation of wedding guests, registries tend to be an especially sticky topic, so let’s set some ground rules for discussion:

– Registry purchases’ purpose is to go toward your married life and are given at your shower and/or wedding.

– Only wedding guests are obligated to buy gifts, shower and wedding invitations only go to wedding guests, and there’s still the air of etiquette when it comes to where registry information is shared and how. See this post for more specifics.

– Cash gifts: Customary gift only given at the wedding.

– Shower gifts: Almost always are a tangible gift, a registry-specific item, sentimental item or a gift better given in the context of an intimate gathering (as opposed to wedding). The traditional point of a shower is to shower you with gifts.

So, where do you fit in? Are you the traditional registry type, complete with scan-gun wars at Macy’s? Are you the type who has everything they need, except would have a boring honeymoon without a honeymoon fund? Do you need the finer things only, but when it comes to newlywed experiences you want them, too?

Where do I fit in? I think there’s a fine line being drawn in the registry sand and think it’s best to proceed with caution, or risk offending your guests or being labeled greedy. To avoid that tragic wedding faux pa, read on!

Traditional Wedding Registry or Honeymoon Fund?

Carla Ten Eyck Photography

Traditional Wedding Registry or Honeymoon Fund?

Carla Ten Eyck Photography

Traditional Wedding Registry or Honeymoon Fund?

Carla Ten Eyck Photography

Honeymoon Funding

Let's jump right to it. What is a honeymoon fund? A honeymoon fund is basically a glorified cash fund, with the specific intention of putting the money towards your honeymoon and its needs and activities. The money can be very specifically appointed with the help of honeymoon funding sites like HoneyFund, HoneymoonWishes, Wanderable -- among others-- to guide your guests in gifting you portions of the airfare, the hotel stay, the excursions, etc.

You might be thinking: if people are going to give us money anyway, why can't we have them put it toward something intentional like our honeymoon? You are totally right. Why can't they? They can! Brilliant right? I love this option, especially because it takes a boring 'ol check and turns it into a honeymoon memory that lasts. And the sentimental sap in me appreciates that! Yet, there's a caveat.

Traditional Wedding Registry or Honeymoon Fund?

Joanna Tano Photography

Here's that line in the sand:

You may not like it much, but I suggest (along with Emily Post and the majority of online wedding-advice givers) that you should still have a traditional registry for those guests more comfortable with giving a gift they can wrap. Especially for the shower, where the premise of the event is gift-giving. A honeymoon registry is still saying, in a very nice Caribbean accent: "Give us money." And that doesn't sit well with everyone, even though it's totally acceptable to give money as a wedding gift, saying it is an entirely different thing. 

I know, I know, all you want is help with the honeymoon, and you really don't want anything else. Guess what? You're getting gifts just because you're getting married. So don't pull the ignorance-is-entitlement card on your traditional gift-givers and come across as greedy. Registries are suggestions of things you might like to receive so it takes the guess work out of it for your guests, and gives you a good likelihood you'll get stuff you want. BUT, the gifting is up to the guest. And it's best to receive whatever comes your way with gratitude, and that gratitude is best given even before you've received anything in the way of appealing to your guest's gift-giving expectations.

Let's make sure you've thought of everything: don't put all your eggs in one basket. I highly advise using the honeymoon fund for everything beyond the basics of getting and staying there. Make sure you can afford your honeymoon first, then if the funds are generous enough to cover those items as well as the fun extras, awesome! But what happens if all you want is help with the honeymoon, and your guests decide they aren't as keen on it as giving you a platter for your Thanksgiving turkey? I'd much rather you be up the river on a cruise ship than without a paddle!

Lastly, take into account fees from the honeymoon funding sites. There are always fees, even if it's just a credit card processing fee. Just make sure your pick of registry site takes care of the giver and no one ends up feeling gipped (you included!).

Traditional Wedding Registry or Honeymoon Fund?

Riverland Studios Photography

Traditional Wedding Registry or Honeymoon Fund?

Riverland Studios Photography

Traditional Wedding Registry or Honeymoon Fund?

Riverland Studios Photography

Lifestyle Registries

Hitting the registry scene are universal, all-encompassing registry sites that allow you to register for just about anything under the sun, including honeymoon expenses; everything you'd ever need to make a house a home; couple experiences like cooking classes; as well as cash funds for things like putting down a deposit on your first home. Sites like MyRegistry (build a registry for anything, weddings, babies, etc. from any store) and Zola Wedding Registry (wedding-specific and has a wide variety of types of gifts) allow you to be stylish and streamlined in your gifting requests.

What I love about these:

  • Communication about registries can be a bit convoluted. You're technically, according to tradition, not allowed to print your registry information formally. So no invitation, (wedding/ shower, etc.) is supposed to have where you're registered. It's a thing. So if you have a wedding website, you've got one great outlet for the information, other than that, guests are to ask you or your hosts, where you're registered. If you're registered at 3 different places, isn't that annoying? I think it is. I think having one place for everything is happiness.
  • Having a registry with multiple price points, types of gifts, etc. really allows guests to feel like they can be creative and give a gift that has meaning to them too. Just getting another spatula for your kitchen means a lot more to your Aunt Sue who taught you how to make apple pie. Guests like options, and while this might infringe on too many options, the variety is awesome.
  • The sites are comprehensive enough to make YOUR experience with the registry awesome. Being in your shoes, I can tell you that registering can sometimes be overwhelming. They make the experience slick and exciting.
  • Usually one or two stores won't have everything you want for your new home, so having a site where you can choose from anywhere really makes your options limitless, which while potentially overwhelming, definitely a relief when it comes to streamlining.
  • Lastly I like that you can have a traditional registry if you want (meaning listing the items that make a home for your new marriage) or you can make it non-traditional and list mostly experiences, subscriptions, memory-making items. Or a mix. Again, a fan.

You guessed it. Here comes the line in the sand...

Traditional Wedding Registry or Honeymoon Fund?

Sweet Julep Photography

_______________ the line in the sand? Anything-registries, especially Zola, take it too far.

Let's look at it this way: You want to contribute to my new life with my almost-husband,  in the way of a check (thanks!), in hopes that after the wedding we put it toward something we need for our new life together: a new sofa, a new car, a deposit on a home, spending cash on our honeymoon, investment into our future children, etc. Yet, with giving a check there are some assumptions that have covered the cash gift giving action for decades: You give the money without dictating what it's for and I'll not use the money to pay my bills; You give the money in whatever allotment you can offer and I will be smart and honest with it; and I will appreciate your gift and your presence at my wedding without reservation. That seems about right, right?

Wouldn't it be different if I stood next to the gift table and called each guest over to the gift table, even before they enter my reception, and say, "Hey you, give us your money, we want to buy a Corvette!" Would you still give your gift to me as willingly? Would you hide your card and sneak into the bathroom and take out some cash before turning it in? Would you blush? Would you think we were jerks, especially for wanting to put it into something you wouldn't want us to buy?

By doing specified cash funds, like a kitchen remodel, entertainment center upgrade or anything not critical, practical or particularly special to start your new life, it can be offensive to your guests. Some may see it as intentional giving, I see it as, why not start a GoFundMe Campaign and be totally obvious about asking for money?

Traditional Wedding Registry or Honeymoon Fund?

Ais Portraits Photography

Traditional Wedding Registry or Honeymoon Fund?

Zoom Theory Photography

Traditional Wedding Registry or Honeymoon Fund?

Jaclyn L Photography

Now, here's where I draw a line you could consider a chasm in the sand of registry conduct:

EVEN WORSE than cash fund options that could be misconstrued, this concept is purely offensive: there are items to add to the registry that cover the costs of your wedding.

HUGE breach of etiquette. I'm still having trouble getting my jaw off the ground. Your guests are not invited to celebrate your commitment to marriage by paying for their own experience at your wedding. Guests gifts are for your married life together, not for your wedding day. That's your responsibility. If you can't afford to pay for the wedding you want, you need to pull down your wedding expectations to be within your means, even if that means not inviting all those people you want to give you gifts!

Okay, devil's advocates, I hear ya: "What does it matter if they are going to give me money anyway?" Like I said, it's what is NOT said that makes it okay. Time-honored traditions have certain unspoken laws, and giving cash at a wedding comes along with those. Does it mean you can't renovate your kitchen with the money that's given? Nope! Should you take a deeper look at what you put on your registry and think first about how your guests may react to your registry requests? Please! Every guest list is different, and maybe your guests would be totally honored to know that they helped you get that farm house sink. I personally would get you the hand-mixer or dinner for two in Tuscany, mostly out of principle.

Just whatever you do, please don't ask me to pay for your wedding cake!

Traditional Wedding Registry or Honeymoon Fund?

Jaclyn L Photography

See what I mean about registry talk being a bit sticky? But do you see why now? I know registries look like gold, especially as you look through diamond-colored-glasses when you're first engaged. But there's a lot of glitter there that can easily make you look greedy, entitled or over-assuming from the guest's perspective. Rubbing your guests the wrong way may keep your guests from being as willingly generous towards your new life as they would like to be. So traditional, honeymoon fund, non-traditional and lifestyle registries are all very viable and wise ways to go, but their success is all in the approach. Do your research, weigh your options and be grateful from the get-go, and your guests will love you for it-- and I have a feeling-- you'll end up loving your guests even more for it!

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by Kate
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