The Frugal-Minimalist-Millennial's Guide to Creating a Wedding Registry

Spring is in the air, which always makes me nostalgic for all things wedding-related. My husband proposed to me on Christmas Day, 2014, and we got married on May 9, 2015, so it was during this time of the year, four years ago, that I was deeply engrossed in preparing for our upcoming nuptials.

I remember it well. In all of the stressful, panic-inducing, wedding-planning drama, it's easy to forget that the ceremony is merely the tip of the iceberg. You must also use this pre-wedding time to prepare for the new life you're about to start together. And part of that involves creating your wedding registry.

As a penny-pinching millennial with anti-consumerist, minimalist tendencies, gifts have become a touchy subject for me. But I think gift registries are wonderful. A gift registry shows your friends and family, at a quick glance, exactly what you need, what they can give you to best help you.

When people shop registries, everybody wins. The recipient gets what they wanted and needed, and the giver experiences the satisfaction of knowing they have spent their money well and given something that was wanted and will be used.

With that in mind, here's how to create the perfect, practical wedding registry that will set you and your beloved off on the right foot:

Determine and List Your Needs 

Before you set up your registry, before you even browse a retailer's suggested wedding registry items and end up under the influence of their marketing techniques, conduct an inventory of everything you and your future spouse already own, both separately and together, then figure out what you're lacking. Start with basic household necessities. Needs come before wants. You don't need to dreamily ask for a KitchenAid Stand Mixer when you don't even own a spatula or mixing bowl.

Use this opportunity to upgrade items you already have that are in need of replacement, such as the ratty old bath towels you bought at Dollar General for your college dorm room, or the faded Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles sheets your fiance has had since middle school.

Nowadays, many couples are living together before tying the knot, and because of this, they already have a home filled with everything they need. If this is you, don't be tempted to upgrade perfectly good sheets, dishes, or flatware just because that's the sort of thing people put on a traditional wedding registry. You get permission to skip straight ahead to the next step.

Think About the Kind of Life You Want to Have Together

When you're selecting items to put on your registry, envision the kind of life you want to have together. What sorts of things could you request that would aid in attaining this vision?

Are you an outdoorsy, adventurous couple who can't wait to explore the world together? Add a nice tent, a two-person hammock, and camping gear to your registry. Are you geekier types who prefer to stay home and play board games? Add a few unique two-player games like Drakon, TIME Storiesand Lords of Waterdeep. If you love preparing fabulous meals together, focus on quality culinary equipment to outfit your kitchen. Talk about your married life goals and dreams as a couple, and get creative with your registry.

Don't forget things like restaurant gift cards for date nights and other experiences that can be gifted. For example, Amazon now offers an 'experience gifting' section, with things like sightseeing tours, airline gift cards, wine-tastings, and more. Things like this could be used for your dream honeymoon, or they can simply be saved to enliven your dating relationship once you've said "I do" (because dating your spouse is important!).

Select the Registry with the Best Benefits

Speaking of Amazon, when Matt and I were engaged, we created three wedding registries: Amazon, Target, and Kohl's (I wanted to do Bed, Bath, and Beyond, too, but I had to stop somewhere.). If I had it to do over, I'd keep it simple with one registry, and it definitely would be Amazon.

An Amazon wedding registry means you can add things for your new life together beyond typical housewares, like books, games, laundry detergent, toilet paper, reusable produce bags, and any other random thing that might be useful for you and your spouse.

They also offer a generous 20% off all items remaining on your registry (Target only offers 15%, and Kohl's offers nothing), so you can get what you still need at a decent discount.

Returns to Amazon are a breeze, too, and they give you a whole 180 days to return items from your wedding registry. We had a heck of a time at Kohl's when we tried to return some gifted dishes that were, unfortunately, broken at the time of unboxing (I do not recommend Kohl's registry at all. I like to shop there occasionally, but everything about their registry was a pain.).

Also, Amazon has a great app and is highly user-friendly for both the registrants and the friends and family who are shopping for gifts. People will be more likely to buy from your registry if it's on Amazon, because everyone already uses them frequently. It'll only take wedding guests a couple of minutes to scroll your registry, find something affordable, and click to purchase, then they'll receive it on their doorstep (or have it sent to yours) two days later. Can't get any easier than that.

Here's a quick link to sign up for your Amazon registry now:

Evaluate Utility When Considering Suggested Items

Once you've begun to create your registry, you'll be inundated with suggested items. Before giving into the temptation and clicking "add to registry" on every nifty gadget Amazon forces you to see, evaluate how useful each individual item would actually be for the two of you. Do you really need a breakfast sandwich maker? Will either of you ever use a cherry pitter? Or a corn kerneler?

Also, as you've probably learned by now, people IRL love to tell you what to do. But take your well-meaning parents' and grandparents' registry suggestions with a grain of salt. Gone are the days of decorative monogrammed towels no one's allowed to wipe their hands on, of cabinets filled with untouched fine china, expensive silver, and porcelain tea sets. Nowadays, utility is vital. Don't waste your money- or your guests'- on things that will sit around unused, collecting dust, just because that's what people "have always done."

Quality Over Quantity 

It's a cliche minimalist mantra, but it's an excellent rule to live by. A lot of gift-givers think it's more impressive to give more stuff than good stuff. Perhaps they are on a tight budget and can spend no more than $30 on your gift. This is understandable, of course. They want to stretch that $30 to get you as much as they can. Instead of paying $15 each for two decent bath towels, maybe they'll spend the same $30 to get you a dozen cheap bath towels from Walmart.

But more isn't always better, is it? Which would you rather have: a whole bunch of flimsy Walmart towels that will disintegrate in the dryer during the first laundering, or two thick, absorbent, luxuriously soft, well-made towels that will last you and your partner for years to come? 

When you're listing items on your registry, look at reviews and see which products hold up well and will last as long as possible. And add the $15 towels, emphasizing that the quantity you actually need, knowing that two people don't need a dozen towels. 

Likewise, don't feel like you have to have a tremendous variety of things for guests to choose from. If you honestly can't think of many things you and your spouse could use, don't just add stuff for the sake of having a gift registry. Keep your list simple, and only include things you really need/want. 

Include a Range of Differently Priced Items

Buying for quality can be tricky when funds are tight. You should definitely keep in mind that not everyone you've invited can buy you a $100 gift. So don't take quality over quantity to mean that you only list $100+ items; be reasonable.

I'll never forget perusing a certain person's wedding registry when I was a poor college student and being appalled by the fact that they wanted only the fanciest of the fanciest everything. I mean, the least expensive option they offered was a $40 coffee mug (Yes. Apparently those exist.). Though "standard etiquette" dictates that the average wedding guest should spend a minimum of $50 on a wedding gift, no matter how distant the relationship to the bride or groom, if you want people to actually buy from your registry, make sure to include plenty of smaller $10-20 items as well.

Remember, we're not living in the 1990's. We're all drowning in student loans and making $12/hr with our college degrees.

Think things like organic cotton potholders and kitchen towels or bamboo cooking utensils (sustainable, quality items you'd like to have, but won't cause a financial burden for your guests), affordable experience gifts like Fandango gift cards, or books like The Five Love Languages or Our Q&A a Day: 3-Year Journal for 2 People.

And Remember: When It's Your Turn to be the Wedding Guest, Shop the Dang Registry!

I'm ending with a PSA here.

People include where they're registered on the invitations for a reason. They spend a lot of time researching, poring over product reviews, and building lists of items they need, things they want, and things they will actually use. Respect that and shop the registry!

Or just give cash. Despite what the old folks insist, cash isn't tacky or thoughtless. That's what we struggling millennials need more than anything, but we just don't wanna say it.

Best of luck!

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