People love to buy gifts for a couple starting out their life together, to celebrate this fabulous occasion and express their joy. While some guests will come up with their own creative gift idea, most people really appreciate having a gift registry to go to for ideas, so they can get you something they know you’ll love.

If registering for gifts is on your current to-do list, then read on for all the nuts & bolts – so should we say cups & bowls – of gift registries.

When should we start?

Start four to six months before the wedding (or earlier!) so that you’re ready for any engagement parties, showers or eager guests. Don’t stress about getting it all done perfectly right away – you can always edit your selections or add more later. If there aren’t many items left about a month before the wedding, add more, so there’s enough selection left for the rest of your guests. Remember too that you don’t have to get this all done in one day! Take your time, and make your selections thoughtfully. If you start early enough, you can take a couple weeks to create your lists, hopefully enjoying the process as well.

How do we register?

Start out by considering your tastes and needs as a couple, and select up to three or four stores that feel right. Ideally, visit at least one store in person, so that you can see, touch and hold the different items, and make some of your selections. The rest of your gift registering you may wish to do online for convenience. Registering at more than four places just adds more work to your plates, as you complete the lists, track them and manage the details. Besides, three or four at the most really should be plenty!

Most full-service stores offer a great deal of free help, and you are encouraged to take advantage of this service. These specialists will be able to give you helpful information  about what generally goes on a registry and help you remember pesky little things like meat thermometers that you wouldn’t normally think of.

While it may be hard to imagine someone not being comfortable with purchasing gifts online or viewing your online registries, you will have guests at your wedding that want to buy their gifts in person, or aren’t comfortable with computers. So make sure that this option is available to them – ideally at a store that is popular nationwide.

What do we register for?

Consider what you have already as a couple, and think about what you need as you start your life together. Most couples find that this is an opportunity to get things they would never buy themselves, but would love having to grace their home and the future gatherings held there…timeless items such as crystal vases, formal china, serving dishes and linens. You may also want to think about any hobbies you have such as gourmet cooking, gardening or wood working, as well as any special desires such as honeymoon travel, saving for a house or donating to a meaningful cause.

Work with your groom to discuss your plans, and make the decisions together. No matter where you choose to register, be sure to include gifts in all price ranges, so that your guests can choose gifts within their budgets. Also, select more gifts than guests (remembering that couples count as “one”) so that there’s enough selection available, and there are enough gifts to cover your wedding showers as well. Your guests will appreciate this!

Communicating the news

How do you let all the guests know where you are registered? The simple answer is, word of mouth. All guests will be close to someone in the wedding – the bride and groom, the parents, other family members or close friends. Guests will ask someone if they want to know where you’re registered! It’s certainly appropriate to include the information on your wedding web site if you have one. It’s also appropriate for the shower host(s) and/or hostess(es) to include the information on their shower invites as well. It is NOT, however, ever appropriate to include the information with your wedding invites. After all, your wedding invites are a gracious request to join you on your special day – not a demand for gifts, so don’t let them sound like one!

Thank you notes

Your guests have been kind enough to send you a lovely gift, so be sure to behave like the kind, gracious couple that you are, and send that thank you note promptly! For gifts received before the wedding, send the note out within two weeks at the most. Trust us on this: you will not have “more time” after the wedding, and the more you stay on top of the thank you notes, the easier it will be. For gifts received at the wedding, send the thank you notes within four weeks, but certainly – the earlier, the better. Make sure your thank you notes are personal, handwritten and timely.

After the wedding

Most stores will keep your gift registry for at least a year after your wedding date, and they’ll often offer a discount to you for items still on your list. This is a great opportunity to see what items you still want and/or need, and perhaps use some of your wedding gift cards or gifts of cash to acquire these.

The original purpose of bridal registries was to help new couples, who often were quite young and had very little, start off their new life together as a new family in a new home. No matter what your situation today, these gifts of love send you into your new life together with the joy and affection of those closest to you. Cherish these gifts, show your gratitude and count your blessings.

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