That KitchenAid mixer you just never sprung for, or that dinnerware set for the "adult" dinner parties you may finally throw -- or perhaps a canoe. Yes, a canoe. These days, couples' registries are all over the map. But there are some guidelines to keep in mind when choosing all those gifts that will help you and your sweetie down a path of "together."
"The whole purpose of a gift registry is to have your friends and family help you in your future life together -- whatever that means...It's very wide and flexible these days," said Nancy Lee, president of MyRegistry.com.
And with many couples getting married later in life, brides- and grooms-to-be may already have many of the typical items that come to mind when you think of a wedding registry. But that doesn't mean you should go forth into wedding bliss without registering.
"Today, the majority of couples move in together before the wedding, so they start buying some of their basic necessities sooner, and then feel like they actually don't need to register," said Elizabeth Graves, editor-in-chief of Martha Stewart Weddings. "But it's important to register for a few reasons -- your guests will want to give you something, and better it be something you want. The tradition of a registry is also a nice one, it's for your loved ones to help you set up your new home together. And while you might not think you need fine china or serving pieces this very second, you'll be happy to have these items later on when you need to host your first Thanksgiving with the in-laws."
The first thing you should do before getting gift-happy is to assess what you have as a couple -- see what voids needs to be filled and outline your needs. According to TheKnot.com, the average couple registers for 153 items. That of course will vary based on your wedding size. But how do you know what to pick?
If you still need those good old basics, then go for it. Storage containers are extremely popular, specifically the OXO Pop 10-piece set, Lee said, who noted that many couples, for example, will register for that KitchenAid mixer. "They're expensive. They start at $259 and they go up to $559. It's one of those items, maybe you'll use a few times year, but your wedding is a great time to get your hands on it because you might not have sprung for it on your own," she said. "You need to go into your kitchen and ask, 'Do I have a great knife set?' Do I have a great blender? Do I want a juicer?' --- You may want those specialty electrics like a panini maker. Now's the time to get those items that you missed and you're always thinking, 'Oh, I need to get one of those!'"
Graves said it's also an opportunity to upgrade what you own. "Get rid of your college duvet, pots and pans, and get high-quality items that you'll use and cherish for life. I get a lot of joy out of using the things people gave us for our wedding, too -- it may have been five years ago, but every time I use my Le Creuset covered casserole I think of the O'Brien family because they gave it to us and I'm glad we have it!" she said. "At the very least, outfit your kitchen with everything you will need and load up on towels and nice bedding."
Larger serving pieces are also very popular. "People tend to get larger servings pieces because when you're living with fiance you may not have done that much entertaining, but once you're husband and wife, Thanksgiving and bigger holidays may become your responsibility. So there's bigger serving platters are a must-have," said Lee.
And if you're not ready for that fancy china set (Lee sees a lot more casual dinnerware than china), it's possible to choose chic modern dishes that can go both ways. "So if you have that big dinner party of 12, you can pull out the rest of the dinner ware and be fine," said Lee.
Overall, a 2011 survey from TheKnot.com found that the most popular registry items were bakeware, kitchenware and appliances, kitchen accessories, cookware, bath items and bedding.
Once you have the basics out of the way, it's time to think about some fun things to add into the mix -- like a grill for entertaining, a waffle maker for lazy Saturdays, or even a margarita maker or fondue set for those raucous Saturday nights, suggests Graves. "Or, maybe you want to start a garden together and will need tools, plants, and seeds to get going," she said.
"In this day and age, many brides get married much later in life. They've been living with their fiance for however long or they've been living on their own," said Lee. "They have a KitchenAid mixer, they have a toaster, they have a blender. They like their bedding. But what they really want is a fabulous honeymoon, or maybe they want to put a down payment on a home, pay off student loans." According to TheKnot.com, 12 percent of couples in 2011 registered for their honeymoon.
It's also important to pay attention to the number of items on a registry. "You definitely want to make sure there are at least as many items on your registry as couples...You must register in every price range," advised Lee. "What you think is appropriate and what your Aunt Bertha thinks is appropriate and what your college roommate from 10 years ago thinks is appropriate is completely different."
Studies show that people spend money according to two things: their relationship with the couple and their financial wherewithal. Lee says it's important to include items starting as low as $25. It's a reality -- those distant friends and relatives may not want to shell out a ton of money for your wedding.
But it's OK to put pricier items on the bridal registry menu, too. Jamie Miles of TheKnot.com says she's seen an uptick in guests teaming up and going in for gifts at higher price points. According to TheKnot.com, 77 percent of brides say they have received 1-3 group gifts.
Which brings us to the next step: where to register. The Knot.com recommends at least three retailers, noting that half of couples register at three or more places. The top three registry retailers at TheKnot.com are Bed Bath & Beyond, Target and Macy's.
"You want to make it more convenient for people coming to your wedding -- so they're not struggling to get to a store that's really remote," said Miles. "Allow them to easily to purchase something for you."
With a global registry site, such as MyRegistry.com, for example, couples can register practically anywhere, with access to online retailers -- all in one place. They're no longer tied to a few stores and a scan gun. Lee says she's seen a lot more groom participation this way. It's not uncommon to see couples pick gifts from Loewe's or Home Depot. You name it -- some couples are registering for drills, power washers, tool kits, lawn mowers, weed wackers, his and her mountain bikes and exercise equipment.
"It's very common to see guys' things on gift registries," said Lee, who noted that brides and grooms who use MyRegisty.com are also opening up cash funds to help them pay for their wedding or honeymoon. Brides and grooms can set up a cash fund online that directly connects to their savings account.
Finally, you'll need to inform your guests about how to get those lovely presents.
"Don't send out the information for your registry on your wedding invitation," said Miles, who suggests building a wedding website and include where you're registered on there.
Not surprisingly, social media is finding its way into the registry mix, too. In 2011, 11 percent of registered couples shared their registry details over a social network, compared to 5 percent in 2009, reports TheKnot.com.
No matter what registry and stores you choose, in the end, the registry list needs to reflect you, experts say. "No two registries are going to look the same because no two couples are the same. No two couple's relationship -- or what they want out of the future -- are the same," said Lee.