What do wedding registries say about modern couples?

Can the gifts a couple registers for tell us about how their relationship works? Retailers believe their gift choices offer insight into the homes and expectations of the modern couple.

The Wall Street Journal talked to four major retailers, Bed Bath & Beyond, Target, Macy’s and Crate and Barrel, to glean what couples want today.

From The Wall Street Journal:

“At Macy’s, premium kitchen cutlery has rocketed to the top of wedding registries in the past five years, partly due to grooms’ influence, says Susan Bertelsen, group vice president, wedding and gift registry, for the retailer. She also credits men for helping drive sales gains in home bar ware, such as ice buckets and cocktail shakers. And Michelle Mesenburg, director of marketing for home items at Target, says grooms-to-be are helping drive the growing popularity of electronics or camping gear as wedding gifts….”

“These days, family-sized barbecue grills, bamboo bath accessories and sports gear are cropping up. Grooms are also requesting more household items, since they take a larger role in housekeeping, now doing one-third of the cooking, says Stephanie Coontz, author of several books on the history of families and marriage….”

“…When couples make up gift lists, “they choose them together, and they will use them together,” says Ms. Coontz, co-chairwoman of the Council on Contemporary Families, a nonprofit Chicago research organization. In the past, wedding-gift lists tended to be “cookie-cutter affairs” with young brides asking for “big-ticket items that would be used once a year, if ever,” Ms. Coontz says — china, linens and glassware.”

The article says that couples in most urban areas are living in smaller homes so gadgets and cookware have to perform multiple duties. At Crate and Barrel single use item, such as toasters, have fallen out of favor.

They also want towels and such to be neutral so they can work in many homes as they need to move.

The Wall Street Journal also offered a sidebar of stats:

“A look inside wedding registries, based on a survey last summer of 11,582 couples by the wedding websites TheKnot.com and WeddingChannel.com:

• An estimated 1.5 million couples registered for an average of 151 items in 2010, up 10% from 2009.

• Couples register at an average of three retailers.

• 7 in 10 men are involved in picking registry items.

• 49% of gifts received by couples were cash or gift cards.”

Michael didn’t go with me to register for things but he was ahead of his time 18 years ago having way too many opinions about pots and pans (which he rarely if ever cooked back then) and lots of opinions on bedding (no florals at all and I am a floral kind of gal!). Back then I found it kind of annoying. My dad just sat on whatever couch my mom wanted. I wonder how modern brides feel about compromising on decorating and outfitting their home?

So what do you think: Did your husband have any say in the gifts you registered for? Should they get a say or only if they help? What do you think using gift registries for insight into modern-day couples?

51 comments Add your comment

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Warrior Woman

June 14th, 2011
7:44 am

It’s the groom’s wedding and home too. Why shouldn’t they be involved in the registry?

fred

June 14th, 2011
8:01 am

No guy really wants floral patterns. In my house I have the say about what goes on in the kitchen since I do the cooking 95% of the time. My wife just really doe not know what quality is in the kitchen. Outside of the kitchen it is her area. I only ask for veto powers. I am happy with most things but I do know what I dislike.

Sarah

June 14th, 2011
8:36 am

My husband and I registered for everything together. In fact, he had more opinions than me. We had a lot of fun at the stores and it was great bonding experience. And of course, we argued over who got to hold the registry gun. I don’t think any of my friends registered alone – they all went with their husbands as well. It boggles my mind that someone wouldn’t care what they are given for their wedding and for their own home and life. It’s a partnership and it doesn’t begin with the vows.

MomOf2Girls

June 14th, 2011
8:50 am

No comments on the topic today, but I wanted to brag :-)

My older daughter graduated from Middle School yesterday (they have a full ceremony, cap & gown, speeches, etc). She looked so beautiful!

lulu

June 14th, 2011
8:57 am

We registered together. He generally has a stronger opinion about kitchen stuff, since he’s the chef in the family. We each have veto power over what goes into our home – although I must admit that my veto power is just a little stronger than his ;) – but generally agree on most home-related things. He also was a HUGE help in wedding planning – not something he loved, but he was certainly there to help out when I needed it.

Hillary Clinton

June 14th, 2011
8:58 am

Bill is a deadbeat pervert.

Mattie

June 14th, 2011
9:02 am

My son is getting married shortly. He and his fiancee handled the registry together. He requested tools, she selected most of the other items.

How do you...

June 14th, 2011
9:13 am

…graduate from middle school – somebody needs to get a life…

Denise

June 14th, 2011
9:14 am

I’m with Warrior Woman. Why is there a question on whether he “should” get a say? It is his home/wedding as well so of course he should get a say…especially vetoing floral bedspreads! :-)

Greg H

June 14th, 2011
9:22 am

When I get engaged, I’ll be getting registered at Lowes. Ask for Power Tools to tackle the honey-do lists

MomOf2Girls

June 14th, 2011
9:49 am

You wear a cap and gown, you walk down the aisle to your seats at the front. You listen to the class representative speeches, do the class presentation, and receive your diploma. Turn your tassle, then have a recessional.

And you are right. You do need to get a life.

motherjanegoose

June 14th, 2011
9:51 am

Momof2 girls…congrats! You will blink your eyes and it will be college! Enjoy!

I did not even have a registry…we both came from small towns…hint: the dry goods store… and things were not computerized back then. Considering my in laws use paper towels vs actual paper
( cloth?) napkins, I still think I should have picked things out. Well, I guess we could have gone with a case of paper towels…:) We were lucky to have sheets that matched our pillow cases.

What we got for our wedding gifts would be laughable compared to what couples get today. We did not live in the keep up with the Joneses world nor do we now. Back then, we went for 6 months without a TV and finally got his Grandma’s B& W that we put on top of a cardboard box with a tablecloth over it. A coat hanger for the antennae. Would newlyweds go for that now?

Greg H…just keep thinking that and you will do fine. I would love to have a honey do list that gets taken care of simply by putting on the list. After I ask nicely 3-4 times I get impatient. No one has to ask me to keep up the laundry or buy groceries before I leave for a weekend business trip. I even check to make sure we have dog food, paper towels and toilet paper. Hubby is VERY handy at most anything here…he just has to get started :)

motherjanegoose

June 14th, 2011
9:53 am

UM…I graduated from middle school…

downsouth

June 14th, 2011
9:55 am

when I “graduated” from JJ Daniel middle school, all i got was the bottom rung of the Sprayberry high school totem pole… freshman.

Jeff

June 14th, 2011
10:00 am

You can judge the success of a marriage by whether the woman/wife/fiancee describes the wedding as “her” wedding, the house as “her” house, and the kids as “her” kids.

Those are immediate red flags for me. Just life experiences. I wish I had known that trick in my 20’s.

Gtmom

June 14th, 2011
10:06 am

My hubby set his foot down on plates, towels, etc. Now I am glad he did. He wanted plain white plates. I hated the thought.. Shortly after our wedding, plain white dishes were the rage. He wanted neutral towels. That worked too since we were renting and moving a lot, the towels went with everything. I had a hard time with all these decisions at first because I thought a guy isn’t supposed to care but now I am so grateful. We could have wasted tons of money (other people’s money)! 10 years later, we are using the same plates and towels!

Razz

June 14th, 2011
10:09 am

We registered together at BB&B and Crate & Barrel, I think it was more fun for him as he is a Chef and I don’t cook at all, we did have to agree on everything else that went on the registry. But 90% of our gifts were money, probably because everyone had to travel out of town to our wedding in Atlanta.

Sknfan

June 14th, 2011
10:13 am

Graduation from middle school. What a joke. I’m not sure when it happened, these graduations from kindergarten, middle school. We need to stop these formal ceremonies. By all means take your kid out with the family to “celebrate”, but stop all the “formal” graduations BEFORE high school. My generation did none of this, we only graduated from high school. I wonder how much “graduation” really means to seniors in high school after they have already “graduated” from elementary and middle school.

Becky

June 14th, 2011
10:17 am

@MomOf2Girls..That’s nice..As MJG said, in the blink of an eye, it’s college..

I (like MJG) didn’t register when I got married either time..I have more power when it comes to picking things for the kitchen, as I do ALL of the cooking..As for the bedroom, I usually pick something that is good for boht of us..If I want flowers, I put them on the dining room table..

@Greg..I don’t make honey do lists..He’s good about fixing things on his own..So good luck to you when you get married, if you are thinking about the honey do list before you get engaged, you’ll be a great husband..

motherjanegoose

June 14th, 2011
10:19 am

@ GTMom….last summer, I finally got rid of towels that we received for wedding gifts over 25 years ago. I did not care for them. I felt bad that they were rarely used and sat in the linen closet: off white with a shell motif. I am all about variety in dishes and towels etc. I typically get them at TJ Maxx,Tuesday Morning, Ross or even Big Lots. I like to change things up around here without feeling guilty about spending too much.

Which just reminded me that hubby’s family are big garage sale people. We may have gotten some of that too. I KNOW we did for baby presents.

@ Jeff…good point…if my husband wants to orchestrate anything around here…he is welcome too.
Considering some of the attire he puts together, it could be interesting but change is sometimes good!

motherjanegoose

June 14th, 2011
10:21 am

Sknfan…I graduated from Kinder, Middle School, HS and College and am 51. Are you older than me?
Certainly could be!

Tiger Ochocinco Mellencamp

June 14th, 2011
10:22 am

“the dry goods store… and things were not computerized back then”

@MJG….you crack me up always presenting yourself as being born in colonial times! I can just picture you running down the rolling hills to the log cabin to see what JohnBoy has been up to all day!

george

June 14th, 2011
10:27 am

You’re only proud of middle school graduations if either you didn’t do it yourself or you expect your kid to drop out of high school. It seriously takes no effort to get out of middle school. But whatever makes you feel good…

At least with high school, it might be the end of their education.

Gtmom

June 14th, 2011
10:29 am

MJG, my hubby is very enviromental (not only hugs a tree but has both legs around it too). I haven’t done much shopping or decorating. We have done two rooms and he usually ends up picking out things he thinks will last for a 100 years (ha). Good thing is that I haven’t spent any money in the past ten years! I don’t change up a lot even for holidays. Christmas stuff comes out but just a tree and what fits on the tree. No extra china or stuff.. too much explaining on why I think I would need it! It works and I am way to busy to go shopping anyway.

Tiger Ochocinco Mellencamp

June 14th, 2011
10:30 am

MJG….51?!?! That’s even younger than I thought you were. So that made you 20 in 1980…I’m guessing married in 83 or so…..oh what ancient times those were!

motherjanegoose

June 14th, 2011
10:33 am

Tiger, no I did not live with the Pilgrims :).

We DID have neighbors who did NOT have indoor plumbing and only an old pick up truck…standard transmission. We did not even have a Mc Donalds…we did have a DQ. We moved TO THE COUNTRY from Chicago, when I was 14 and it was a shock!

Since you are not living here in Metro Atlanta ( I presume):

You perhaps do not see the opulent lifestyle that quite a few kids here think is the norm.
Families who own a beach house, a 4 car garage, a housekeeper, landscaper, nanny etc.
are quite different from where I come from and what my kids know.

Joe Tess Fish House

June 14th, 2011
10:35 am

Weddings are a sham. All they do is make other people rich.

Tiger Ochocinco Mellencamp

June 14th, 2011
10:37 am

“Since you are not living here in Metro Atlanta …..You perhaps do not see the opulent lifestyle that quite a few kids here think is the norm”

Yep..you’re right…wealth is isolated to Atlanta and you eastern folk..we’re just the wild west out here in Colorado…just stopped getting our mail by the pony express actually. :-)

catlady

June 14th, 2011
10:47 am

I did the more formal, old-fashioned kind of registry, for china, silver, etc. back in 1973. Lots of stuff that, even now, I have no use for. I like the more modern way. I hocked the silverware when I was in grad school so the kids would have a tree and some presents. Wish it hadn’t come to that, but I never got to use the silver anyway, and we were very poor.

My daughters and sons in law requested none of the silly stuff I registered for. Of course, they were older and had all lived independently, so they did not need toasters or sheets or towels. And of course both brides and grooms were involved.

My son and daughter in law registered for nothing. They were also not teenagers when they married, so they had the basics. The things they were given were mostly “from the heart” gifts. Their wedding was unusual, too: 102 people hiked a mile and a half through the woods in the heat of summer to camp at the wedding site for a day or a week. Bagpipes piped in the bride, who was barefoot, and 4 dogs also attended the ceremony beside a clear, rushing river in NC. The party went on until dawn.

Hey, Theresa, maybe that is a topic–different types of weddings (or funerals. I know of one funeral that had to be stopped because a fist fight broke out among the grieving. It resumed about an hour later. Not kidding.)

Razz

June 14th, 2011
11:14 am

I’m 34 and did not “graduate” from kindergarten, elementary or middle school. I have always thought that was a bit excessive with the cap and gown, etc…blahblahblah.

Razz

June 14th, 2011
11:15 am

but not saying you shouldn’t be proud of your child passing another grade!

MomOf2Girls

June 14th, 2011
11:28 am

For those of you who think graduating from MS is not an accomplishment. Maybe it’s not in the schools to which you send (sent?) your children. However, my daughters go to a dual curriculum school (that is SACS and SAIS accredited and is a Blue Ribbon School of Excellence). They take the curriculum offered in most schools in a period of an 8 hour day in 3.5 hours, with the remainder of the day devoted to a complete second curriculum. All of the children graduate bilingual as well.

I’m not bragging about this, just pointing out that this really is an accomplishment. I’m sorry if my pride is ruining your day.

Kris

June 14th, 2011
11:47 am

@ catlady – good topic idea (weddings and funerals). I was at a funeral where a fight broke out as well. Some of us were on the front porch of the funeral home and heard sirens screaming and saw
blue lights coming down the street, when all of a sudden, the police cars screeched into the parking
lot, and the cops had to go inside to handle the situation. I had never seen such a thing but I remarked then that if such a thing was going to happen, it would be that family that did it!

motherjanegoose

June 14th, 2011
11:53 am

Tiger…wealth is all over the country…I am aware. I have seen the folks, in furs and jewels, at the ski resorts in CO. What is considered common place in some of the bigger metro areas is NOT all over the country…whether east or west. We have been to CO several times. Some of the expectations kids have in our area, I do not see in Colorado but then I have NOT seen everything of course…just a glimpse of all 50 states.

motherjanegoose

June 14th, 2011
12:18 pm

Tiger…sorry, I guess I need to remember that the kids here who get a NEW Lexus for their 16th birthday must expect more that a crockpot and toilet brush.
Perhaps I am really out of touch with what kids NEED these days.

Tiger Ochocinco Mellencamp

June 14th, 2011
12:24 pm

“Some of the expectations kids have in our area, I do not see in Colorado” well that is because we in CO are of exceptional character that you easterners aren’t accustomed to. The world is full of b*stards, the number increasing rapidly the further one gets from Colorado. ;-)

Tiger Ochocinco Mellencamp

June 14th, 2011
12:24 pm

You’ve been to all 50 states? I didn’t know that.

MyRegistry.com

June 14th, 2011
12:38 pm

Love the post, Theresa! With the number of couples getting married later in life and the amount of people who do the majority of their shopping online these days, wedding registries are a rapidly-evolving part of the wedding industry that do not get enough attention!

We at MyRegistry.com definitely believe that a wedding registry says a lot about the couple–that’s why our motto is “All Stores, One Registry,” and we encourage our brides (and grooms, because men should totally be involved!) to register for items from any store around the world. This way every couple’s registry is uniquely tailored to them!

The shift towards neutral, multi-use items mentioned in the Wall Street Journal article is definitely evident in the gift lists our users create. Modern couples tend to focus more on stylish, every-day convenience than luxury pieces that only get used once in a while (although a couple that plans to entertain should definitely think about a nice set of silverware and china). We have also seen a huge rise in couples that register for cash gifts. The Wall Street Journal sidebar said that 49% of wedding gifts received in 2010 were cash gifts or gift cards and this is definitely reflected by our users–85% of our MyRegistry.com wedding registrants choose to use our Cash Gift Fund feature which allows them to list the Cash Gift right along with the other gifts on their registry. Couples can then use this money to pay for their dream honeymoon, a new home or whatever else they may need! Considering it used to be considered taboo for a couple to ask for money, this represents a huge shift in the ever-changing registry industry!

Hope this professional insight was helpful to you guys! :)

*Check out http://www.myregistry.com for all your wedding and baby registry needs!

HB

June 14th, 2011
12:56 pm

Seriously, could there be anything tackier than registering for cash? People know what kind of cash a couple would like and that they can’t receive too much of it, so why would that be on a registry? Ick.

Denise

June 14th, 2011
1:04 pm

@Momof2Girls, don’t let folks dim your shine! Be proud of you child’s accomplishment! :-) Just because all of us didn’t have multiple graduations pre-high school doesn’t mean it’s not worthy of pride and celebration. (It annoys me when people say that something someone ELSE’S kid did is no big deal.)

Dreamer

June 14th, 2011
1:40 pm

“Considering it used to be considered taboo for a couple to ask for money”
It still should be. At the very least, it’s very tacky!

MyRegistry.com

June 14th, 2011
1:49 pm

Thanks for your feedback! Cash gifts are certainly not for everyone, but I’ve got to step up and defend them a little bit!

On our registries we urge couples to name their Cash Gift Fund based on what they are saving up for (ex: Our Dream Honeymoon, Our New Home, Baby’s College Fund) and we’ve found that gift-givers love knowing they’re contributing to something big that they would never be able to buy as individuals. Plus, it’s a great option for couples that have been living on their own for awhile and already have the household essentials covered.

*Check out http://www.myregistry.com for all your wedding and baby registry needs!

HB

June 14th, 2011
2:15 pm

Aw geez, I didn’t mean to trigger another ad. Using the guise of commenting on a blog in order to promote your business — also very tacky.

Dreamer

June 14th, 2011
3:30 pm

“Using the guise of commenting on a blog in order to promote your business — also very tacky”.
Thumbs Up!

Defend cash gifts all you want–STILL VERY TACKY!
I ‘may’ give cash gifts, but not to people who specifically ask for cash.

Denise

June 14th, 2011
3:46 pm

A friend of mine found her way to the tacky twice for both of her baby showers. Baby No. 1: Invitations said “we prefer cash”. (I still get mad at myself for how I got snookered into buying her a portable crib…trying not to say “are you freaking kidding me?” did me in.)Babies No. 2 and 3 (twins): Invitations went out late but she put a note in them saying “please come for the babies’ sake.” Really? Why not say “look, we blew it by sending the invitations late but we still really need your gifts”? Same thing, right?

I think asking for cash is a no-no. I’m iffy on the honeymoon registries, too, mainly because the one that I saw years ago was amazing…you could pay for drinks, jet ski rentals, massages, etc., things that I think the couple should pay for if they are going on a trip. But then again, I’m not married so I’ve never had to register for anything. I don’t need anymore spoons, spatulas, toilet brushes, or bathroom scales so maybe that might be something to consider. :-)

catlady

June 14th, 2011
4:23 pm

I agree with the rudeness of pleas for money. You want a dream honeymoon? Save your money! If you are old enough to get married, you can certainly save money. I also have a huge problem with folks who put on a shower for their relatives. That is a complete no-no, and I cringe when I see it. (I also don’t participate in either one.)

Denise

June 14th, 2011
4:24 pm

@Catlady – what’s wrong with putting on a shower for relatives? I don’t understand why that’s a no-no.

HB

June 14th, 2011
4:53 pm

I don’t like the honeymoon registries AT ALL. Registries have turned into wish lists, but that is not traditionally what they were meant to be. They were designed to help a couple set up their home and allow people to help them complete sets of china and flatware. Later that was extended to building matched towel sets, pots/pans sets, getting some kitchen basics without getting duplicates (who needs 2 toasters?) — I think that’s ok. Personally, I don’t even like the inclusion of bathroom scales, random kitchen utensils/gadgets, etc. — anything that’s not part of building a larger coordinated set. Once upon a time, a registry was for helping the happy couple set up housekeeping in an organized fashion so that they didn’t end up with 18 spoons and no forks, and people were certainly free to give something not on the registry or cash. It was NOT about setting up a wish list as if they were sending a letter to Santa!

motherjanegoose

June 14th, 2011
6:16 pm

HB…hold on to your hat…I agree with the WISH LIST IDEA! Lots of younger couples expect their household to contain everything that it took their parents 25-35 years to acquire.

Went out with my daughter today for lunch and shopping. She was driving. We passed a Jeweler that said on the marquee, “Is your daughter’s diamond bigger than your wife’s?” I laughed when I read it because that could be the case here as I am NOT into a big diamond. I know many girls who start out with a rock and everything else they could possibly want…after all, they already have a Lexus from Daddy.

Tiger, I love CO and it is on the short list of places I would move. I went to Grand Junction, for the first time, and loved it. As you certainly know, expectations are different in each state.
Not as many folks drive a pick up here as they do in Texas ( where we lived previously) and we got ribbed quite a bit for driving ours in Buckhead when we first moved here. However, we rarely saw a BMW, Jaguar, Mercedes or even a Volvo in our part of Texas and there are several of those right in our neighborhood here. I am always amused at what is the norm in one state, is outright ridiculous in another. Even the foods eaten. Just an observation.

Kady

June 15th, 2011
1:15 pm

I so agree with you all about the cash gifts – tacky, tacky, tacky! I’m so sorry but it is not your guests responsibility to fund your dream home or honeymoon. Wedding gifts were just like HB stated – intended to help the bride and groom set up a working home life. I was married in 1999 and we registered at 3 places: Macy’s, Target and Home Depot. My husband went with me to register and he didn’t really have but a few preferences, which I honored. I got to pick out about 90% of the items just because he really didn’t care. As we had a home for 2 years prior to marrying and had lived away from home for 9 years, we didn’t need things like toasters or sheets. I registered for the traditional china, silver and table linens. We included things from Target because I have always been taught that your registry should include things in all price fields to accommodate all budgets. We chose some inexpensive linens for the guest room, lamps, picture frames and such at Target. Of course Home Depot was all about my spouse. He registered for power tools and some yard equipment. He was happy because he had a lot of bachelor friends who felt more comfy shopping Home Depot than Macy’s! LOL! My husband has also had pretty easy gift giving situations over the years, too. I just tell him to buy something from our registry (yes, I have a copy). I’m pleased every year to get another piece of china, silver or crystal. He says I’m the only woman he knows who is happy to get a fork and spoon for her birthday! LOL! Silver is expensive you know! I appreciate all our gifts and I really do think lovingly of who gave us a gift when we use it. Hubby is amazed that when he pulls out a tray or a vase, I can tell him exactly who gave it to us and which shower it was.