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Are wedding registries still a thing? What today's couples should know

Ollie, Co-Founder of Hitchd
Ollie from Hitchd
Jan 15, 202110 min read

For any couple getting married 15 or even 10 years ago, not having a wedding registry was unheard of for most couples. What would your guests give? Would they take a chance on something from a store or buy the couple a gift certificate? Or would they not give a gift at all?

Over the past few years, couples have been striking out on their own and doing away with having a wedding registry altogether — and for many, it's been one of the best decisions they ever made regarding their weddings.

For couples today who are contemplating whether or not they want a wedding registry, here's what you need to know to ensure that you have all the information before you make a decision.

Do I have to have a wedding registry?

In short: no.

Today's couples do not necessarily need to have a wedding registry in order to get married or throw a reception. It's a tradition for guests to give the happy couples gifts to help them get started on their new lives together, but having a wedding registry is certainly not needed if the couple chooses to not make one.

That being said, couples who choose not to create a wedding registry will likely face a lot of well-meaning questions from guests. Most relatives and friends want to wish the happy couple well, and buying a gift shows that wish in a physical form. Couples who do not create any sort of wedding registry should be prepared to answer questions from a lot of guests who just want to do something nice for them.

Why some couples opt-out of having a wedding registry

There's no law demanding that engaged couples have a wedding registry, and many couples today are doing away with the tradition altogether. There are a few reasons for this:

  • The couple is already living together: It's more common now to see couples move in together before they're married or engaged. As a result, they usually have all of the essentials, such as sheets, towels and kitchen goods, that couples would usually ask for on a wedding registry.
  • Many of the former wedding registry staples just aren't needed anymore: It used to be common to see fine china on a wedding registry or place settings for 10 or 12 people, but with younger couples opting for smaller homes and families, asking for expensive plates or more than six or eight place settings feels superfluous.
  • Couples have smaller spaces and less room for a lot of gifts: Many engaged couples living in apartments have little extra space for extra kitchen appliances. Asking for more gifts may be too much for small apartments.
  • Couples want to be eco-friendly: There's no doubt that wedding registries create a lot of waste that eventually ends up in landfills. All of the packagings don't always get recycled, and the shipping itself contributes to air pollution. Couples who care about the environment prefer to skip the wedding registry altogether.
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Of course, not all couples live together before getting married, and that's okay. But even couples living apart may still have everything that they need to start a home together, especially if they're both a little older and established in their careers.

Alternatives to wedding registries for engaged couples

There's no universal rule that says engaged couples must have a wedding registry. If a couple doesn't need more dish towels or a stand mixer, then there's no sense in registering for those items. It just creates unnecessary waste, and the gifts will just take up space in the couple's home for a few years — before they're inevitably donated.

For today's couples, there are lots of alternatives to traditional wedding registries that cut back on environmental and consumer waste and still feel meaningful to the couple. Here are just a few:

  • Forgoing any registry at all:
    It's perfectly fine to ask guests not to give gifts if there's nothing the couple needs or wants. Couples who choose this option should enlist their parents and bridal party to help spread the word among family and friends because it is very likely that guests will ask them questions about gifts.
  • Charity donations in lieu of gifts:
    Some couples ask guests to donate to a charity of their choosing instead of giving a gift. Charity donations are always welcome, and couples can choose a charity that honors someone in the family. Many opt for cancer or Alzheimer's research charities. Having a personal connection to the charity makes guests feel good about giving to them rather than to the couple.
  • Honeymoon registry:
    Rather than asking for physical gifts, some couples instead ask for experience gifts on their honeymoon. A honeymoon registry offers a great alternative to traditional wedding registries.
  • Cash fund:
    Sometimes what couples really need as a gift is just plain, old cash. Maybe they're trying to buy their first home or planning to start a family right away. Whatever the reason, cash funds can be a good catch-all for couples who don't need physical gifts for their wedding.

While it's perfectly fine to forgo any registry at all, couples should be prepared to answer a lot of questions from guests — and then get gifts anyway. Well-meaning guests want to show their love and support for the couple, and that usually comes through by giving gifts. It's a hard habit to break for many people, and couples without any registry will likely receive gifts and gift cards that they may not want or need.

Asking guests to donate to charities also leads to similar problems. Guests will often donate a small sum to the charity chosen and then buy the couple a gift anyway. It's sweet when couples want charity donations instead of gifts, especially if that charity's cause has a connection to the couples' families, but some guests will still give a gift no matter what.

Meanwhile, a honeymoon registry or a cash fund can clear up some of these problems. We've seen hundreds of couples ditch the traditional wedding registry and create honeymoon registries and cash funds that fit their needs more closely.

What is a honeymoon registry?

A honeymoon registry is similar to a traditional wedding registry in that the couple does “register” for gifts, but all of the gifts are related to the honeymoon. There are no physical gifts on the registry. Instead, wedding guests can treat the couple to experiences and expenses on their honeymoon — airfare, hotel and accommodations, dinners, tours and anything else honeymoon related.

With just a little bit of time, couples can create their own registries that meet their honeymoon needs. After creating an account, couples can then add as many gifts as they want. We've found that registries with at least six gifts see larger average contributions from guests. Those guests can then choose which gifts they want to purchase for the couple. Since couples set the gifts themselves, they know exactly what they're getting and ensuring that it's something that they truly want for their honeymoon.

Pros of a honeymoon registry

The beauty of a honeymoon registry is in its versatility. Couples can register for virtually anything honeymoon related. Some of the popular gifts that we've seen couples register for include backpacking tours, ski trips, eco-friendly hotels and scuba diving adventures. No two couples are exactly alike, and they're honeymoon funds show off their unique personalities and interests in travel.

Now airfare and accommodations are usually the most popular honeymoon registry gifts, but couples do also register for:

  • Transportation:
    This includes taxis or public transportation passes. It could also mean car rental if the couple plans to drive.
  • Tours and sightseeing:
    The best way to get to know a city is to hop on a tour bus or take a walking tour.
  • Luggage:
    Couples without luggage will be glad they asked for it on their honeymoon registry.
  • Round of drinks:
    A popular, inexpensive gift, a round of drinks can be beers in a pub or teas in a cafe. Either way, the couple never goes thirsty on their honeymoon.
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Couples can also split up the cost of larger gifts to make smaller ones. Take airfare for example. Most flights for a couple will cost between $500 and $2,000, depending on where the couple wants to go. Instead of making 20 gifts at $100 each, couples can create just one gift of $2,000 but set the contribution amount to $100. Guests can contribute one gift at $100 or as many $100 gifts as they like. Any gift can be broken down into smaller contributions, so honeymoon registries look less crowded and more user friendly.

Because couples can create their own gifts, they can also set contributions so they have a mix of price points for their guests. Some guests, usually parents and grandparents, give a little more, but there will be some guests, such as friends still studying or paying for their own weddings, who won't be able to give a large gift. That's okay. Honeymoon registries make it easy for couples to include lots of different price points so every guest feels appreciated.

Honeymoon registries also keep track of which guests contributed to which gift on the honeymoon fund. This makes it easy for couples to go back after their honeymoon and write meaningful thank-you notes to all their guests.

Cons of a honeymoon registry

Because couples have so much freedom to design their own honeymoon registries, there are very few downsides to creating one.

Perhaps the one thing couples struggle with is getting the registry done on time for the wedding. It can take a few hours to build a honeymoon registry if the couple doesn't know where they plan to go or do. Couples who have already started planning their honeymoons should have an easier time.

Our research has shown that most contributions to the honeymoon fund arrive in waves: one to two months before the wedding (usually around the wedding shower) and the few days leading up to the wedding. That's when everyone is planning what they want to give to the happy couple.

While building a honeymoon registry may seem overwhelming for couples in the throes of wedding planning, a little pre-planning goes a long way and can make setting up the honeymoon registry a fun activity for couples to do together.

What is a cash fund?

A cash fund is a catch-all for engaged couples. Guests can contribute any amount of money they wish to a cash fund, and that money can be spent however the couple sees fit.

Some couples use cash funds as honeymoon funds, which allows guests to give whatever amount they'd like if they don't see another gift on the honeymoon registry they'd like to fund. Others create house funds if they plan to buy a home soon or even a baby fund if they plan to start a family right away.

We've also seen users create cash funds as part of their honeymoon registries. When creating a new gift, couples can choose what kind of fund they'd like — honeymoon fund, house fund or just cash fund. These funds can be as generic or as narrow as the couple sees fit. Some engaged couples create honeymoon registries with other gifts, such as airfare and accommodations, but then include a cash fund for anyone who just wants to make

Pros of a cash fund

Couples love cash funds because they cover exactly what the couple needs most of all: plain ol' cash. For those who have been living together for some time or want to buy a home soon, a cash fund makes it clear to guests what the couple really needs without beating around the bush, as it were.

wedding guests as well as other acquaintances that might contribute to a honeymoon fund. Coworkers will often get together and contribute to another coworker's cash fund.

Cons of a cash fund

The biggest drawback of a cash fund is that it only asks for money, no physical gifts. Some guests, usually older ones, will feel asking for money as a gift is just tacky. They don't mind giving cash, but they don't want to feel pressured or asked to do so.

Cash funds can also be impersonal, especially if the couple chooses to do a cash fund on PayPal or Venmo. It might be easier to just ask for money to be sent to a PayPal account on a wedding invitation, but it's impersonal and will likely come off as rude. Guests want to feel appreciated and welcomed regardless of what gift they give if any.

Couples can avoid this faux pas by adding a cash fund to their honeymoon registry while still creating other gifts, such as sightseeing tours, souvenirs and dinners. This gives guests the option of buying a more specific honeymoon gift or just contributing cash. There many types of guests out there and this option honors both.

There's no one right way to do a wedding these days. Some couples need items for their home while others would rather fund the trip of a lifetime. Honeymoon registries like Hitchd let couples express themselves and design their wedding registries however they'd like. Our platform offers all the versatility that any couple would need to create a honeymoon registry that speaks to what the couple truly wants from guests.

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