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Couple on their devices making tough decisions

Which is better: a physical or online wedding registry?

Isuru, Co-Founder of Hitchd
Isuru from Hitchd
May 01, 20226 min read

If you’ve just gotten engaged, congratulations! Now comes the fun part: planning the wedding and choosing a wedding registry.

You’ve likely heard of or seen others use either a physical wedding registry or an online wedding registry. So what’s the difference and how do you know which one is better for you?

Here’s everything you need to know about physical and online wedding registries and how to find one that matches your needs.

What is a physical wedding registry?

A physical wedding registry is a type of registry that wedding guests can access in a store and all of the gifts are actual items, such as blenders, sheets or towels. It’s also referred to as a traditional wedding registry because for decades before the internet, it was the go-to way to build a wedding registry for any couple.

Today the physical wedding registry is best defined by its ties to department and big-box stores such as Macy’s or Target and for its in-store shopping feature. When building a physical wedding registry, you and your spouse can do much of it online, but you can also go to the store, meet with a consultant and tour the store as you scan objects to be added to your registry. Wedding guests also have the option of shopping for your gift online or heading to the store themselves and viewing the items in person before making a selection.

Most couples register for home goods at stores like Bed, Bath and Beyond or Crate and Barrel, but others have branched out to home improvement stores like Home Depot and Lowe’s.

Pros and cons of a physical wedding registry

Traditional though they may be, physical wedding registries have stood the test of time for a reason. Most stores offer a wide variety of home products, and they offer perks like free shipping and even a discount off the items still on your registry after the big day.

Almost all wedding guests will be familiar with this type of registry, so you won’t have to worry about confused guests or answer their questions. The option of shopping either in stores or online will fit all guests’ comfort level. Believe it or not, many guests like to shop in stores and browse the different products on your wedding registry. It lets them find the perfect gift that feels meaningful to them.

But these wedding registries do come with some major drawbacks. For example, you and your partner will be limited to the products sold in the store. If Target doesn’t carry a brand or sustainable product that you like, then you don’t have a good way to add it to your registry.

You also won’t find an easy way to ask for cash or money on your physical wedding registry. While you can ask for gift cards, the options will be limited to the store and maybe a few other services such as airlines or hotels. You know, of course, that asking for cash outright as a wedding present is considered rude and tacky, but tying up your money in gift cards limits the places where you can spend that money.

There’s also the problem of what to do if you have all the home goods you could ever need for your house. Many couples these days live together before getting married and when they do tie the knot, they’re a little older and more established in their careers. They might have bought a house or started a family already. If that sounds like you, then you might not need a new toaster or vacuum cleaner.

Types of couples who prefer physical wedding registries

Most couples who opt for physical wedding registries share a few important characteristics. If any of these sound like you, then you might consider a physical wedding registry.

  • You and your partner still live at your parents’ homes: Younger or more traditional couples who live at home haven’t had the opportunity to start buying their own home goods, so it makes sense that they need gifts that will help them set up a home.
  • You two are young: Ah, young love! It’s exciting to meet your love so early in life, but if you two are still finishing your degrees or just starting your careers, then a physical wedding registry will help you replace those second-hand pots from uni with something of better quality and sustainability.
  • You’ve just bought a house: It’s not unusual any more for couples to buy a home and live together before getting married. Now that you have your own space, one that you’ll be living in for at least five years if not longer, you can confidently ask for gifts on a physical registry that you know you will have space for in your new home.

If one of more of these descriptions fits you, then a physical wedding registry may be just what you need.

What is an online wedding registry?

An online wedding registry operates solely online with no store equivalent. Unlike a physical wedding registry, which limits you to physical gifts like toasters and towels, an online wedding registry like HItchd can list practically anything physical- or experience-related that you could ever want.

Online wedding registries work exactly like physical wedding registries: You list gifts that you would like as a wedding present, and guests can choose a gift that they’d like to give. Most couples use online wedding registries to build honeymoon registries in which all of the gifts are actually experiences related to the honeymoon.

Some of the most popular honeymoon-related gifts include:

  • Airfare and accommodations: By far the most expensive parts of any honeymoon, airfare and accommodations almost always make the registry. With Hitchd, you can take big-ticket items and break them down into smaller gift amounts, so a $1,000 hotel bill can now be 10 $100 gifts or five $200 gifts.
  • Tours and excursions: Guests love to send the happy couple on fun city tours and exciting snorkeling or scuba diving trips. When you write out your description, make sure you add a link to the tours you think you will do. This lets guests check out what they’ll be giving you. You can also use Hitchd’s free stock photos. We have thousands to choose from.
  • Dinners and dining: You have to eat sometime! You can create one dining gift on your Hitchd honeymoon registry and then break up the total estimated expense into smaller expenses. Now multiple guests can send you two off to a romantic dinner.

These are some of the more popular honeymoon-related gifts, but no matter where you go, you can create gifts that match your destination and your needs.

hitchd registry

Pros and cons of an online wedding registry

Perhaps the best thing about online wedding registries is that they allow you and your partner to ask for virtually anything you want. You get to design the registry to fit your needs, and we’ve seen some very creative registries. Some couples build staycation registries while others create hybrid registries.

That’s another major plus of online wedding registries: you can add physical gifts if you want. Some couples add luggage while others add that splurge-worthy coffee machine or other home appliance. Instead of buying the gift themselves, guests will actually give you the money so you can make the purchase. This allows you to find the best deal and gain any rewards points, if available.

Some have found that setting up an online wedding registry can be a bit time consuming, but it does give you complete control over your registry. You can add only the gifts you want, and if you build a registry with Hitchd, you can use our introduction and gift description templates to help you write out what you want to say. You can use the templates as is or adjust them to fit your narrative. We also have these handy guides to help you set up your honeymoon registry and choose the best gifts.

Types of couples who prefer online wedding registries

Online wedding registries can really work for any type of couple, even those who might also enjoy using a physical wedding registry.

At Hitchd, we see a lot of couples who already live together using our services. They’ve replaced all of their second-hand home goods from college, so they don’t need better pots and pans. While some users have already purchased their first home, many others haven’t, and they don’t want to ask for items that won’t fit with the new space whenever they buy it. What they’d really like to have as a gift is help paying for that amazing honeymoon.

When it comes to choosing an online or physical wedding registry, think about what you need as a gift more than anything. For some, home goods will make the list, but if you’re looking for a cool way to fund your honeymoon or ask for money politely as a wedding present, then an online wedding registry won’t fail you.

Ready to get started with Hitchd? Here’s how to do it.

Fund memories, not things.

The modern registry where guests fund your dream honeymoon. It's simple and beautiful. Start your registry

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