I have 16 place settings of Wedgewood china, 16 place settings of Waterford crystal (water, red AND white wine glasses), 16-plus place settings of sterling silver (and assorted utensils that I have to look up to even figure out what they are and where to put them on the table), and 16 place settings of an everyday Lenox china pattern that I absolutely fell in love with when I was choosing items for my wedding registry.
Why 16 of everything? Because that's what my mother told me to put on my registry. She also told me to put away four of everything, still in their original boxes, and that way I wouldn't have a heart attack when somebody accidentally shattered something at a dinner party. It's been 12 years. The extras are still in their boxes.
Truth? I didn't really want to register for all that crystal and china. In fact, I was terrified of most of it and won't even admit how few times the Waterford has actually graced my table in the 12 years I've been married. To be fair, the formal china, crystal and silver stayed in storage up north for a couple of years after we moved to Puerto Rico (I only brought the everyday stuff), and made its reappearance when we got a condo in the DC area a few years ago. How many times have I used it? Don't ask.
It's not that I don't entertain -- I do. Frequently. But I'm much more likely to use the less expensive crystal glasses with the vast majority of my friends. And they're more comfortable with them too. While a beautifully set table can be an amazing asset at a dinner party, you know better than anyone if your friends have a tendency to knock things over during enthusiastic conversation.
And let's talk about the sterling silver. My mom passed down silver that she already had because she had multiple sets, otherwise, I wouldn't have it. There's no way I would have registered for literally thousands of dollars in eating utensils. I would have ended up with a few forks and a spoon. Very few wedding guests nowadays are purchasing uber-expensive wedding gifts, even when you put them on your registry. While it used to be something that every well-heeled bride registered for, most consider it rather impractical. It can't go in the dishwasher. It must be polished on a regular basis or when you finally do bite the bullet, it's an all-day project. And if you're like my mom, every time you use it for a dinner party, everything has to be counted out before it's used -- and then counted again after it's been washed and dried BEFORE anybody turns on the garbage disposal.
I wanted the Lenox china as my good china and everyday china. I thought it looked formal enough. My mother disagreed. We compromised only after I found a Wedgewood pattern I liked that was dishwasher safe. While I absolutely adore my mother's antique fine china, I have spent countless hours washing and drying that stuff. I think my mom missed a lot of her own parties because of the labor involved in the place settings. And looking back as I write this, I cannot believe my mom and I argued about china as seriously as we did. Wow.
Here's the thing, the china and crystal was important to my mom because she knew that her friends would want to get me those things. They are all very beautiful and I truly appreciate their generosity. Looking back, however, I realize that I should have stood my ground and skipped the formal china. Between the cabinet space it takes up and infrequency with which I use it, I'm certain there were other things my new husband and I would have actually used more.
Where you register and what you ask for has everything to do with where you come from, what you need, and where you live. You have to choose to register someplace that has things you need and want, but also that your wedding guests can actually afford.
Where you come from - If you didn't grow up in a house that had special silver, crystal and dishes, you probably don't have these items at the top of your wish list. Or you do because you always want to have them. In which case, your wedding registry is the perfect time to fill up that china closet. But not everybody grew up being schooled about how to care for antique silver and not everybody knows the difference between a bread plate and salad plate unless you show them the difference. You should figure out what you need for your table in your home and not listen to somebody who's trying to sell you all sorts of items you've never seen used before anywhere but in the movies.
What you need - I've heard lots of brides say they don't actually NEED anything because both halves of the couple are established professionals with a home that's all set up. This is the time to re-evaluate what you WANT that you need -- not just what you desperately need. If you always wanted a smoothie blender or a waffle maker, now you can have one without feeling guilty if one of your friends chooses to buy it. If everything in your kitchen is from your college days, you might want to box up some of those plastic measuring cups and the boring old coffee maker to give to a younger sibling who is just starting out, and register for the fancy kind you'd like to have now. It's a great time to get GOOD kitchen knives, or pots and pans that actually match.
Where you live - Sometimes it's just not practical to add a whole new household of items into your already jam-packed home. Couples who live in tiny apartments in big cities go through this struggle -- most of them have to have the gifts sent to parents' homes until they can go through and sort out what fits where. To some extent, you have to rely on your friends to have some common sense. And if you really don't have room for anything, consider an alternative registry like a honeymoon funding site.
I don't recommend skipping doing a wedding registry altogether. It's a good idea to be registered somewhere, otherwise, you'll receive a lot of well-intentioned gifts that aren't your taste. And you'll spend the next five years re-gifting what you couldn't give away, hoping that the next recipient is fond of gargoyle bookends. But you don't have to follow the old-fashioned rules about what, exactly, you choose for your registry.
Remember, if you're going high end and registering at Tiffany & Co, you also need to register someplace where your budget-minded friends can afford to buy you something. I hate the feeling of HAVING to buy a gift certificate because I can't afford anything on the registry. And that happens. I vividly recall one friend who had nothing under $150 on her registry when I was in my early 20s and attending the wedding as a single. It's an awkward feeling. You must have some items on your registry that are less than $75. And it's not a bad idea to have a selection of lesser-priced things for your friends shopping for your bridal showers too.
A wedding registry is not a gift grab -- it's not a game to see who can get the most stuff. It's a guide you're providing to your loved ones who want to help you outfit your home for your new married life. For some people, that does mean sterling silver. But for others, it's towels that match and new sheets for your marital bed. It's important to only put things you definitely want on your registry because it's almost guaranteed that anything you're unsure about will be the first thing somebody buys for you.
I did most of my registry with my mom -- I think many brides do -- but it was also fun to shop with my fiancé and let him use the zapper gun. Yes, I had to go home and delete a lot of things he'd added to the list that we REALLY didn't need or have space for even though they sounded fun to him. But we had a good time doing it and the very first wedding gift we received was a grill set and monogrammed grill brand that he had specifically registered for -- and it came from one of my oldest guy friends!
Having fun with your registry doesn't mean you're greedy. And it's okay for you to tell your friends hosting your showers and other pre-wedding events where you're registered so they can put it on the invites or pass it along to the invitees. However, you shouldn't use those little cards some of the stores provide to you for your invitations. I'm sorry but that's just ticky-tacky. Yes, they're supposed to give you a wedding gift. But putting info about your registry is akin to asking for a present.
Good luck and have fun with your registry! I think I'm going to make a point to have a dinner party sometime soon and use ALL of the beautiful wedding gifts I've received.