Cooking Up a Wedding Registry

Of all the things to do before your wedding day, you’d think that picking out gifts would be the fun and easy part. I found it downright agonizing, so much that I considered avoiding gift registry altogether. Hearing of this news, my mother loudly protested, arguing that “people will want to give you things to celebrate your wedding, Kimberly” and so I caved.

Wedding Week 2008: Click for Special Report

As nice as it is to receive gifts, it’s a lot of hard work figuring out which ones you want, particularly if you’re interested in equipping your newlywed kitchen. And that means getting on the organizational stick, taking inventory of your (and your other half’s) stuff and being painfully honest with yourself about what you like, what you need and what you’ll really use.

You’ll want to ask these questions as well: Will there be a merging of kitchen gadgetry and tools or are you both starting from scratch? Will this be about style or substance – or both? To wit: I had all the kitchen tools I wanted, and so I picked glassware and serving trays that I had long put off because of the expense.

In case you hadn’t noticed, this whole shacking-up business is so very personal (not to mention stressful), which means there is no magic blueprint or top-five list of kitchen-centric wedding gifts that works for all brides. That said, I sought out the wisdom of several married gals from around the country, who offer their wedding registry rants and raves, below.

From Miz McG, who got hitched nearly three years ago: Platters for serving/entertaining; extra bakeware (pans, tins, silicon sheets) that I wouldn't splurge on before, but use now all the time. At least for me, getting all that stuff to help me entertain -- more glasses, the platters, even the coasters -- was a big change. In singlehood, I was always scrambling to find all I needed to entertain. Funny, why did I wait to get married to properly throw a party??

Although not so useful, I love my china, silver and crystal. It's not practical, but when I can, pull them out and I'm in seventh heaven. I loved my mother and grandmother's china and silver as a child and was always snooping through cabinets to look at the pieces. I loved setting the family table with them as a child, and now I get to do so in my own home for my family.

Adrienne, who's been married for more than 10 years, agrees: Maybe it is a girl thing but I LOVE my china! And use it!

From Nancy, who recently celebrated her 13th wedding anniversary with Cliff: Everyday stuff -- simple white dishes, mixing and serving bowls, pots and pans always a plus.

From Diane, in Philadelphia, who's married to Jim: We registered for a nice kitchen scale to measure out quantities by volume -- very helpful when trying to estimate portions.

From Susan, who's been married to Rob for nearly 15 years: I love my Kitchen Aid mixer, Cuisinart, Le Creuset dutch oven -- such a favorite that I have given it as a wedding gift 3-4 times now -- Pyrex baking dishes (all sizes), an immersion blender/mini chopper, a set of All-Clad pots and pans, a set of Henckels knives and a Party Perk coffee urn.

Susan also mentioned the stuff I didn't register for but have really enjoyed: wooden salad bowl and servers, huge butcher block cutting board, pretty serving platters, serving utensils, funky salt and pepper shakers, marble rolling pin and thxa funky tea pot.


From Susan: Things that seemed great in theory but translated terribly: china, crystal, silver -- we just never turned out to be the kind of couple who liked to entertain in a fancy way. Perhaps when we grow up we'll use them, but I just turned 42 and I honestly can't imagine when that will be. We also got this ridiculous estate wine opener with a stand - it, too, sits in a cupboard and we can't seem to part with it, nor have we ever had the inclination to use it. Although once I was at my cousin's house and they must have gotten the same gift from the same people, and there it was, right on the sideboard in their dining room, so go figure.

Nancy agrees about the crystal and silver: We got it because I am from the south and that is what you do, but I have never used the stuff and I think it's still in New Orleans with my parents.

From Miz McG: Gravy boat (no surprise), fancy salt and pepper shakers (they don't handle freshly ground pepper and course salt, which I now put on the table) and
linen napkins (I registered for them and didn't realize they were dry-clean only. Ha! guess how much I use those!?)

Madge, who just got married in July, had neither rants nor raves, but shared this salient piece of advice:
Go in and really test out glasses and silverware, hold them in your ends and pretend to drink or eat. If you're just shopping online you might end up with hulking pieces of glassware or too-skinny utensils. Don't register for pitchers and vases because you'll get plenty of them anyway. We ended up with about five.

By Kim ODonnel |  September 10, 2008; 7:50 AM ET Wedding Fare
Previous: No Chat Today; Hanging Out With the Eskimos | Next: Doing One Last Zucchini Dance


Please email us to report offensive comments.

Wish I hadn't ever registered for the china - 5 years and haven't used it. The crystal, well, we have used that, some, not as much as I thought we would. Granted, most of the time all of it has been in boxes because we can't seem to settle down and want to stay in one place - no sense in unpacking when we are always making another
move. . .

On the other hand, my mom is visiting and we canned 25 quarts and 8 pints of tomatoes yesterday - still have a little more to do tomorrow - and might do some tomato soup after she leaves if I am feeling confident enough - I would have to buy a canner, too - she brought hers along. . .it was a lot of work, but fun, too. . .

Posted by: southern MD | September 10, 2008 10:03 AM

To Miz McG: I think I got those same linen napkins! Turns out, you can hand-wash and iron (if as I do you find this therapeutic it works out great; otherwise, at least makes them usable for a slightly more special occasion).

Posted by: Alexandria | September 10, 2008 10:25 AM

I wash heirloom linen napkins that belonged to my great grandmother in the gentle cycle, line dry, and iron. They look great. Do you think a 5.5 qt dutch oven is big enough? The 7 qt seems huge, but I would want to be able to stick a whole chicken (coq au vin) in there from time to time. I don't have room for 2 dutch ovens.

Posted by: Columbia, MD | September 10, 2008 10:52 AM

As a frequent wedding guest (not being married myself), I would like to ask that couples PLEASE do not register for a bunch of stuff you will never use. It is a terrible waste of your guests money. We want to buy you nice gifts to celebrate your union, but we also want you to USE THEM! Think carefully about your lifestyle. If you have never used your kitchen for anything more than making coffee and cold cereal, do not register for a full set of All Clad and a bunch of other super expensive kitchenware. You may have the best of intentions to become domestic after you are married, but why not register for fewer tings and not necessarily the top of the line. I think way too many people register for things they think they should have rather than what they really need. I would never buy a place setting of china for a wedding gift for fear that it would never see the light of day. I love to give practical gifts. I've even given a friend the stainless steel garbage can that she registered for. I am sure it is used everyday!

Posted by: Sweetie | September 10, 2008 10:53 AM

For Columbia--honestly, go for the 7 qt. dutch oven, or even better the 9 qt. It may seem humongous, but when you are ever cooking for more than 2, you'll need it. i used my 9 qt. dutch oven this summer to make batches of ratatouille with all our veggies, and i use it in winter for stews and chicken recipes that we eat all week. plus, you can store a lot if stuff IN the dutch oven when you aren't using it.

Posted by: Arlington, VA | September 10, 2008 11:35 AM

We used a basic rule in selecting items for our registry: they had to be things we expected to use, and they couldn't cost more than we were willing to pay ourselves. Neither one of us was comfortable asking guests to buy us something that was beyond our own price range, just because we were getting married (that's not why we invited them, anyhow).

We did register for china. At under $50 a place setting, our pattern was something that we could afford ourselves if we didn't get all of it. However, we did get all of it, even though we had registered for service for 16. Why 16? Because we planned to use it every day, and even though china is stronger than stoneware, it does break. This way, I'm not too worried about breaking a teacup.

And we do use it every day. What, I'm not good enough for my good china?

Posted by: KateNonymous | September 10, 2008 11:42 AM

We were very young when we married and had NO kitchenware to speak of. Nothing. Not a wooden spoon to our name. We didn't register anywhere - I hate the idea of telling people what to buy IF they want to give a gift. The only thing I did was pick out some everyday plates, bowls, and cups in a single pattern, which members of my immediate family bought us. Many people chose to give kitchen items, and they were ALL useful once we were able to afford an apartment. Mom filled in major gaps with hand-me-downs from her own kitchen. I had only one duplicate, and it was one of those things you could always use another of. I'm still using most of these 10 years later and it bothers me not a whit that they don't all match or whatever.

Posted by: DC Cubefarm | September 10, 2008 11:54 AM

I've gotten by with the 5 qt. LeCreuset Dutch oven for over 20 years now. There are only two of us, but I've used it many times for meals for entertaining. It's heavy enough - I don't think I could lift the 9 qt. pot.

I use a large stainless steel pot with a thick bottom for pasta and canning (cooking the food) and jam making.

Posted by: Fran | September 10, 2008 12:04 PM

My wedding registry consisted of items I knew I would use. The prices of items varied so people could purchase what they wanted and what they could afford. My sister suggested that I not register for items more expensive than $65 since most people wouldn't spend that much money. The only thing on my list that didn't follow that guideline was my bedding, which I ended up purchasing with gift cards.

Posted by: merluvs2cook | September 10, 2008 12:14 PM

Many of the big name stores (Crate & Barrel, Potterybarn, etc.) now carry "everyday" bone china. It is beautiful but also microwave and dishwasher safe and not ridiculously expensive. We registered for a lovely white set, instead of separate formal china and day-to-day dishes, and it works wonderfully. We registered for some pretty patterned dessert/salad plates to add some color when wanted. Other advice from being a frequent guest, don't get out of hand with expensive gifts. You need a couple of high priced things for grandma or group gifts, but I went to one wedding where a single wine glass was $100 and there was basically nothing priced lower. Tacky.

Posted by: Newlywed | September 10, 2008 1:45 PM

When we registered, we found one store (I think it was Williams Sonoma, but others had it too) that offered a comprehensive checklist of everything you could possibly ever want or need, that was so helpful. We went through the list and looked at what we had when decided what to register for -- there were many things I would have needed and never have considered, and some things that I definitely did not need.

Our favorite item that we didn't really need is our waffle iron -- we use it a lot more than I thought we would.

Posted by: NovBride | September 10, 2008 2:05 PM

I recently got married, and would second the comment about checking things out in person, not just online. We registered via Amazon, and I went with a 7-qt bowl food processor -- way too big! Didn't register for china or crystal as could not see us using it. I'd also agree with making sure you have a range of price points. The majority of our stuff was between 10-50, but we did go ahead and put on the $150 blender because we knew we'd use it and wanted something that would last. I'd also recommend checking Consumer Reports for small appliance items before adding them. Things we're loving include said blender, a set of oven/microwave/dishwasher/freezer safe plates & serveware, and a few new cookbooks.

Posted by: goldie56b | September 10, 2008 5:41 PM

I'm getting married in early 09 and am thinking about whether to register and what to include. We're big cooks, we cook every night and can feed 15 at a moment's notice. But, right now we live in a co-op style house where you don't want to have your nice stuff accessible or it will be destroyed. My prized Le Creuset pan, for example, fell prey to being on a burner for 45 minutes with aluminium-encased fermented fish in it. There might have been tears. Anyway, lesson learned. Do I register and store our wedding things until we move (this could be 5 years) or forgo it?

Posted by: Midwest | September 10, 2008 7:37 PM

Our wedding registry consited of a kegerator, kegs of good beer and gift cards for Mcds.

Why grow up?

And it was my fiance's idea. Darn sorority girl!

Posted by: Anonymous | September 11, 2008 7:08 AM

Just a thought, but you might want to consider including a few of the expensive items that you really want on the registry because many places give you 10% off unpurchased registry items for a year after the wedding. So maybe none of the guests will want to spend $300 on the huge le crueset, but you can save 10% and buy it for yourself with gift cards. Obviously this does not mean you shouldn't have plenty of less expensive items, but it is a reason to include the pricier ones as well.

Posted by: Rosslyn | September 11, 2008 11:54 AM

About registering or not--people will give you stuff anyway. I didn't reigster because it seemed tacky. (This was 20 years ago, not that it makes much difference.) And so, people had no idea what we liked. Someone gave us a full set of everyday dishes with a farm theme. We're casual, but not country or cutsey. We were broke, married just out of college, so we used those darn cow plates for years.
Although I have to say, we did like most of the rest of the gifts we got and use most of them still.

Posted by: GirlScoutMom | September 11, 2008 2:51 PM

When I'm invited to a bridal shower or wedding, I find it extremely helpful to have a broad registry to choose from. I much prefer sending a gift that is wanted and will be used, rather than guessing or sending a gift card. A range of prices is helpful, especially if several people want to go in together and purchase a more expensive item.

Having been married almost 39 years, I recommend selecting china, crystal, and silver, even if you can't ever imagine using it. Believe me, you will! You will want to host holiday gatherings and set a beautiful table. Select the items and let your wedding guests decide if they want to purchase the china, crystal, or silver. Try to pick patterns that are simple and that you will enjoy many years later; if you pick something that is elaborate, the likelihood is that you will hate it years later. You will get more of your china, silver, and crystal than you think, and there will be less of it for you to purchase later on when the price has probably risen. Look at places online that give discounts on name-brand, expensive china, silver, and crystal; you can save quite a bit! And my last piece of advice, when you break a piece of your good china or crystal, replace it immediately -- if you wait and the price has gone up considerably, you won't do it!

Posted by: Chevy Chase | September 12, 2008 7:45 AM

Two favorite wedding gifts to give and to receive:

1) This fab longhorn carving platter is perfect for friends who love their meat. A divorcee claims it's the only item she took with her when she left her Texas husband:

2) Perfect for the sentimental types are these personalized birch designs. We gave them to two newlyweds this past summer:

Posted by: | September 12, 2008 9:44 AM

i want to second having a price range. i had a friend who was unemployed & just getting by on temp jobs. i registered for several $5/$10 items that i knew i'd use. she got me one.

i can't believe you don't use your good china, silver, & crystal. i didn't register for any because i had my mom's. every thanksgiving & christmas plus various big family dinners i use mine. i remember my mother using it & she talked about her grandmother using it. it really helps me to feel connected to the past. i hope that someday my son will look at a table & see the stuff he sees now & feel connected to me after i'm gone.

Posted by: quark | September 12, 2008 10:33 AM

The comments to this entry are closed.


© 2010 The Washington Post Company