Wednesday, September 19, 2007

I'm not dead yet; also, about registries

Spamalot was fantastic. I highly recommend it to anyone who has a sense of humor and/or enjoys the work of Monty Python. A great show, despite my sneezing and nose-blowing.

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One of the wedding-related message boards I read had a thread recently on ask vs guess culture when it comes to gift-giving. For some family or cultural traditions, people use registries. For others, people give money in red envelopes. In some, it's expected that a money dance be done at the wedding (not ours, I promise; that's all new), while in others it's perfectly socially acceptable to throw a fundraising party for the happy couple planning the wedding (Canada's stag-and-doe or socials). When it comes to giving gifts in general, some families are all about using wish lists or asking for specific ideas, while in others people are just supposed to guess what other people want as gifts and a list would be considered crass or greedy. And in some families (like mine) it's a mix of both. Nobody in my immediate family has gotten married yet (I'm first, sister will be 4 months later) so it's hard to know what's expected when it comes to gift-giving.

In my extended family, there are some "traditions" that I have no interest in upholding. For example, our ceremony won't have mention of Jesus being the center of our relationship (because we aren't born-again Christian). Nobody will mention divorce (because seriously? how inappropriate for a wedding ceremony!). We won't be doing a "money" dance, we will be having alcohol (California wine and Colorado beer (not Coors!)), and when we send out invitations they won't have little cards telling people where we're registered.

But we did decide to register. We've learned from watching other people in our respective families that it's in our best interest, since certain people have very strong feelings about particular gifts they like to give. We don't want these particular people to feel deprived of giving us these gifts; therefore we pretty much needed to register for those things so those relatives knew which specific versions of those gifts we wanted. Despite this, I've felt a little strange about registering for stuff, since we've been living together for more than four years and pretty much have a household set up. Really, what I want most is for people to be able to come to our wedding and have a good time - we don't need STUFF from friends or family, just good wishes and the knowledge that we got to have a day when the people we cared about most all gathered in one place to support us in our pledge of commitment to our community.

However, after doing a lot of research, and a lot of soul searching, I've realized that it's not greedy or gift-grabby to register (at least in our case) because in the family cultures each of us come from, people WANT to give presents when a couple gets married. And so we did some more research, venturing into a fancy kitchen store a few months ago to poke around and make some decisions about some particular things we might want. We also visited Bed Bath & Beyond and Crate and Barrel, and we poked around some more and had some conversations about the kinds of gifts we'd like to get if people really want to give us things.

Then we started a registry at because those things are a lot less expensive than if they were purchased in a store, and that way people don't have to go into a store to buy them. We also did a little registry at Target because some people might actually WANT to go into a store to pick something out, rather than relying on the convenience of the internets. And our little fantasy registry is at REI, where they sell stuff we really want, but is generally out of our budget to get more than a little bit at a time. My research had led me to be careful about how much and what kinds of things we registered for: don't want everything to be too expensive, a wide price range is best. We registered for different kinds of things (camping/backpacking stuff, kitchen stuff, linens, etc.) so people had a variety of choices as well.

The actual process of creating a registry was easy in all three cases. In Target and REI we were given a scanner gun and doodad, respectively (Dan wielded the scanner gun and doodad) and told to scan barcodes of the items we wanted. We went around the stores, discussed the things we were interested in, and researched each thing a bit before we made final choices. For amazon, we just had to fill out a few forms and start adding stuff. In fact, it was a little strange just HOW easy it was. Now when I think back on the registry printouts I've gotten for previous weddings that were pages and pages long, I can understand (in a way) how they got so long - it's just so easy to keep pointing and clicking the scanner gun, or just keep adding stuff because ooh, shiny! I'd like to think that we did our best to keep our registries minimal and just put things that we really wanted on there. (Yes, we really do want lexan sporks from REI.) But even if nobody purchases a single thing off any of the registries, it really doesn't matter. What matters most is that they're there for the people that want them, and for those that don't, that's fine, too. I can't say that the whole "telling people what to buy us" thing is sitting completely well with me, but I can't deny that pointing the scanner doodad at the barcodes of stuff isn't just a little bit exciting. Because ooh! presents!


Monkey McWearingChaps said...

I didn't realise there was so much controversy around registries. Personally, I like them because I have no intention of calling up some mother's brother's monkey's uncle (via traditoinal etiquette)to figure out what the couple wants. And it goes completely against my cultural conditioning to show up to a wedding without a gift.

Anonymous said...

I think you have the best attitude about this: registries are there for the people who want them, and you won't cry if (when) you don't get everything on your list.

I happen to LOVE registries because that way I know I'm getting someone what they want rather than something they'll smile and nod at and then shove in a closet. Giving gifts should be about the giftee, not about the gifter; it always makes me a little crazy when people look at a registry, say "ooh, they want glasses!" and then go buy a completely different set because it's what they (the gifter) likes and can afford. (See also: cheap Mormon relatives) I don't get that. Makes me nuts.

Cilicious said...

We did not register hippies that we were.
But I can certainly see how it's the common sense way to go.
And one of our favorite gifts was the tent we received.
Looking forward to viewing your REI list.