Next month, Mr. Frugalwoods and I celebrate TEN years of wedded bliss! Our marriage is, in many ways, the backbone of our frugality and journey to financial independence. Over the years, I’ve written about the role that our partnership plays in our financial decisions and the importance of being on the same financial page with your partner. But today, I want to discuss the lighter, fluffier side of getting married: the wedding registry!
Apparently a lot of you are getting married soon (congrats!) because I’ve received quite a few questions about the sometimes-dreaded, sometimes-loved topic of wedding registries. It’s easy to become overwhelmed by the endless lists of things you’re supposed to include on a wedding registry (champagne flutes AND martini glasses? Really?). And that little point-and-register scanner thingy in the Crate & Barrel doesn’t help matters.
It’s the worst intersection of impulse buying and, if you’re not careful, you’ll end up with a bunch-o-junk you do not need. But if you are careful, you’ll end up with useful household implements that’ll serve you for as long as your love (which is hopefully forever). Today, we have a rundown from many frugal readers of items from their own wedding registries that they’re still loving and using to this day. And if you’re not about to get married, perhaps you’ll attend a wedding or two in the future, so enjoy this list of fabulous gift giving ideas!
Welcome to my monthly Reader Suggestions feature! Every month I post a question to our Frugalwoods Facebook group and share the best responses here. The questions are topics I’ve received multiple queries on and my hope is that by leveraging the braintrust of Frugalwoods nation, you’ll find helpful advice and insight. Join the Frugalwoods Facebook group to participate in next month’s Reader Suggestions!
Why Have A Registry?
Many of us frugal minimalist folks struggle with the concept of receiving gifts because it stresses us out, but we also don’t want to seem ungrateful for the generosity of others. We hate to see people waste their money on things we’ll never use, we dislike clutter, and we shudder at the environmental cost of new stuff (I’m right there with you, people!).
HOWEVER. Family and friends often view weddings as an opportunity to shower couples with love, well wishes, and gifts. And that is an incredibly thoughtful and kind act. It’s a challenging balance, and a sensitive topic, because on one hand your loved ones want to demonstrate that they love you through giving gifts, which is wonderful!! But on the other hand, you might be saddled with a bunch-o-stuff that you do not want or need.
Of course you can always go the route of “no gifts please,” but if you do this without offering an alternative (which I’ll outline in the next section), be forewarned that you will still receive gifts. Probably a lot of gifts. Definitely gifts you do not want or need.
And so, if you’re getting married and inviting people to attend the wedding, I recommend you consider either: 1) creating some sort of registry, or 2) offering a specific alternative to gift giving (because people love you and can’t help themselves!). If you do create a registry, the readers of Frugalwoods came out in force with superb suggestions of what to include. The recurrent theme? Practical, useful household items that you will use daily: the towels, the silverware, the sheets of the world.
I am tremendously grateful for the gifts Mr. FW and I received when we got married and we still use most of them to this day, every single day! Here are some of the things that our loving friends and family gifted us that we use ALL the time:
- KitchenAid Mixer (you will scoff at how expensive this is until you own one and know the transformative power that is a stand mixer)
- Food processor
- Good kitchen knives
- Nesting metal mixing bowls
- Frying, baking, and roasting pans
- Metal measuring cups
- A vacuum cleaner
- Salad spinner
For the larger items (such as the KitchenAid mixer and the vacuum), several family members went in on the gift together, which I really appreciated. I’ve used those gifts almost daily (certainly weekly) for ten years and I am deeply grateful! Hopefully they’ll rock on for at least another decade or two. If you find yourself in the position of creating a registry, focus on utilitarian items that you know you need and will enjoy using for years (decades, one hopes!). Don’t get caught up in thinking you must register for fancy vases and crystal-encrusted soap dishes if that’s not your thing. Don’t fall victim to what you’re “supposed” to register for; instead, register for a spatula, a whisk, an egg timer. There’s no shame in choosing items that are durable and practical.
Note: I was going to include links to these items, but the exact models that we own are no longer sold (not surprising that they’ve been changed in the last ten years) and I don’t feel comfortable recommending products that I don’t personally use and like.
Offer A Specific Alternative To Gifts
All that being said, I also 100% understand the desire to not receive any material possessions whatsoever for your wedding. If this is the case, what I recommend is specificity. Simply telling your guests “no gifts,” will likely result in a bunch of weird gifts you REALLY do not want (hello engraved statue of a kissing couple… ). To avoid this scenario, Frugalwoods readers have a number of suggestions below and I’ll share my own here:
- Request money toward a specific goal such as buying a house, renovating a home, or a honeymoon/vacation. Articulate your plan or desire and give concrete examples of how you’d use their generous gifts of cash. Make a website detailing your plans if that’s your thing. Include photos of the home you’re renovating or of the destination you want to travel to as newlyweds.
- Request that guests make a donation to a specific charity in lieu of gifts. The more specific you are, the more likely your guests are to honor your request. If you just say “please donate to charity,” it’s unlikely folks will follow your directions. Instead, encourage your guests with something along the lines of: “In lieu of gifts, please consider making a donation to the save-the-whales organization because this is a cause that’s very meaningful to us as a couple and something we hope to support throughout our lifetimes. Please help us get started in our philanthropy as a couple by making gifts in our honor to save these precious whales. We find ourselves at a point in our lives where we don’t need any gifts, but would really appreciate your help in contributing to this worthy organization. Thank you for respecting our wishes and honoring our commitment to saving whales.”
I think that either of these routes is perfectly acceptable and a polite way of declining gifts and directing your guests towards something that would be meaningful to you. Don’t worry, you’ll still receive a few odd gifts…. and on that note….
If You’re Invited To A Wedding
I’m going to quote Dieta, one of the Frugalwoods readers who offered advice, because she summed it up perfectly for folks who are giving gifts: “Resist the urge to get creative.” I cannot emphasize this enough. If you are going to a wedding, do not imagine that you can divine a better gift for the happy couple than what’s on their registry or plain ol’ money. You can’t go wrong with either.
It is so tempting to think we know better what people need in their lives, but we do not. I used to select an item from the couple’s registry, but lately, I’ve just been giving money. This allows me to avoid shopping (which I hate) and it gives the couple the freedom to either purchase something off of their registry or put the money towards a financial goal or a fancy meal on their honeymoon! We all have examples of ridiculous things we’ve received as gifts, so let’s vow not to be that person. Don’t go off registry, unless it’s for your checkbook.
What Frugalwoods Readers Are Glad They Registered For
Thanks to everyone who offered suggestions of things they’re glad they registered for–whether they ended up going through with the wedding or not (read on for more than a few hilarious stories!). Due to your exuberant outpouring of ideas, I couldn’t include everyone’s response. However, you’re in luck because you can check out the full conversation on our Frugalwoods Facebook page. And if you’d like to weigh in on next month’s topic, join the Frugalwoods Facebook page.
I divided your suggestions into the following categories:
Ok readers, take it away!
Category #1: Things
Madelyn recommends, “Towels. Ask for towels. Register for way more than you think you will ever need, because within two years they will all be magically gone.”
Melissa agreed with Madelyn and said, “Along that vein–extra spoons. Spoons grow legs and walk away so I made sure to get a set where you could also buy the pieces individually. And I got lots of extra spoons. 😂”
Laura reports, “Crockpots are amazing and so useful. We have 5 and use them all, often all at the same time. Our fondue pot (like the one you have pictured) is a favorite too. Sometimes I’ll give couples gift cards to a grocery store so they can build their pantries or to a big box store like Walmart/ Target so they can buy the oft forgotten household supplies that none thinks about until they actually need them (hello toilet bowl brush 👋).”
Christiaan said, “A good whisk and instant read thermometer are probably the most underrated kitchen tools you can own.”
Deb said, “Huge dutch oven. Great for giant casseroles and cooking big batches of soup. Goes in the oven or on the stove. It also had a matching frypan/skillet that goes in oven and on the stove as well. Best wedding gift ever!”
Sarah recommends, “2 sets of pyrex food storage containers. They are workhorses for storing leftovers and transporting lunches to work. Pyrex offers replacement lids on their website. I also registered for nicer-than-I -owned sheets. They can be expensive and you use them every night! I like to have 2 sets.”
Debi wrote, “Nice stainless steel pot/pan set I’m still using 31 years later. Next most useful were bedding, bath and kitchen towels, but they’re long gone.”
Glenna suggests a, “Crockpot (or maybe now an Instant Pot). I am still using the one I received as a wedding gift over 30 years ago. Another comment would be to not register for fancy china or overly priced items, but rather register for good items that you will use every day. People appreciate being able to buy reasonably priced wedding gifts rather than a $100 plate (just one plate from a china setting – no joke!).”
Anna wrote, “I feel like its most important to register for things you KNOW you will use, and not follow an outdated “guide” for how to build the perfect registry. Half of our registry was camping equipment. One of our friends registered for a 24 pack of toilet paper. Hey, if you will use it, I’m on board. Ending up with a bunch of random crap only stresses you out later. Plus it’s so much easier to write thank you notes if you have an experience using your gifts.”
Melissa said, “I never went through with the wedding, BUT…. my mom gave me a kitchen aide mixer for my wedding shower. (She let me keep it because she was so happy I didn’t marry the guy! 😂) Anyway- I use it weekly and it’s been wearing great. It’s expensive so clearly not the gift to bring to every wedding but absolutely a great gift that lasts a long time.
Laura relayed, “Actually, the most-used item and practical item is the set of glass mixing bowls. Not exciting, but they’ve moved to 8 states and are still going strong. I do love my fancy china and silver though, primarily because I get to use it on my grandparents’ table I inherited.”
Janice wrote, “Second marriage for us both — we insisted on no gifts and got none, except our best man and his wife bought us a lovely cut glass vase with our wedding date engraved on it. We use it frequently. Plus if we are in danger of forgetting our anniversary it’s etched in glass :).”
Hannah share, “We were given a kit for hanging pictures. All different size hooks, takes, even wire to put behind pictures. I thought it was strange at first but I know where it is and I know it always has what I need.”
Carol has been married, “40 Years in March next year and I still have a set of stainless steel bowls that I use almost every day. I also have a lovely little jug that my godmother gave me that I use often. I now either give money or ask the couple if they would like a very special pan from SOLIDteknics Australian-made pans ..they are a forever pan and have a lifetime guarantee but some people are not into a pan that needs a bit more care as they need to be seasoned now and then similar to a cast iron pan.”
Theresa said, “A really nice ladle, which was a vast improvement on my dollar store one! Glass bowls and leftovers containers, steam mop, InstantPot. 24/25 times I prefer the practical gifts to the quirky, unique, this-reminded-me-of-you impractical ones–but for exceptionally good friends, and an exceptionally good fit, go for it.”
Deanna wrote, “The gift I still have from my wedding is my wall hanging that reminds me to always cherish people, time and memories rather than things.”
Laura relayed, “I bridesmaided at a wedding recently and gave the very competitive bride and groom a 4-player board game I hadn’t seen before. My partner and I have invited ourselves for games and bring-and-share supper when they get back from honeymoon.”
Caroline suggests, “really good kitchen knives. We asked for 3 different types and a magnetic rack and good sharpener, so the price points (not cheap to be fair), varied quite a bit between the items and we use them still. If there is a big item you are saving towards – in our case a then-top-of-range Dyson vacuum cleaner that took care of cat fur – ask for vouchers for that item. We were amazed by people’s generosity at our wedding, we really were. We also tried to very clearly put smaller, less costly things on the list, things like an excellent mixing bowl that I still use, and similar sorts of things. We only gave out registry details if people asked specifically, more as an ideas guide than anything. I can’t quite square ”asking for presents” somehow, it just feels icky.”
Marcia said, “We have several items that we use regularly. The KitchenAid. The glass casserole dishes with lids. The large ceramic bowls. But in our almost 22 years of marriage, the thing we have been using the absolute most the last ten years? The picnic basket. It’s wicker. It has buckles to close and dinnerware for two. We can fit extra plates and dinnerware for our family of four. We use it every Sunday at the neighborhood potluck. It’s perfect for camping or road trips. Or for when you evacuate due to a wildfire. Just the right size, portable, everything just fits.”
Shannon wrote, “I got my Corelle plates that we eat off of every day. We also use our fruit bowl in the kitchen since it’s handy for fruit and that wasn’t on our registry! Since we received many unimportant things on our registry and I had to buy half of our Corelle dishes, I always buy something affordable that a person WILL USE. I buy boring place sets or frying pans, not china or fancy martini glasses. Once I had a friend go to Disney and his registry was things to do there, so my gift was to buy them lunch, not any of the souvenir choices!
Pauline said, “German Knives from 1983–still use them every day. I think giving what is on the gift register is only a clue as to what they want and need. The better you know the couple the easier it is to buy something. A gift card to a home improvement store is always a great gift if you are having trouble thinking of something. I don’t want to give “experience” gifts – I will give cash if they want money for a trip instead of gifts. My folks gave money for a bed to one of the grandkids when they got married.”
Jill shared, “Since we are celebrating 20 years of wedded bliss this year, this is such a lovely remembrance! My college roommate gave us beautiful cloth napkins and place mats. The place mats are great for extending the time between table cloth cleanings. Although we didn’t initially use the napkins very much–maybe a couple of times a year–we switched over from paper napkins a few years ago and they’ve become a real staple of our dinner table! In addition to being a little more eco-friendly and frugal, they also make every single meal feel just a little bit fancy–even the grilled ham and cheese we had last night.”
Jessica wrote, “14 years later we still have most of the kitchen stuff: colander, canisters, mixing bowls, flatware, fruit bowl, fondue pot, tea maker. We just gave away the plates and replaced them with lighter ones. The towels lasted about 10 years. The bedding is now on our guest bed. The only experience gift we got was time in a condo for our honeymoon and it was much appreciated.”
Jackie suggests, “A set of knives. Nice towels and sheets (even if they’re already living together they could probably still use nice sheets and towels!) It’s been a while since we got married and those are the gifts I remember and use daily!”
Jennifer shared, “Things we got for our wedding and still use… popcorn maker, coffee pot, crockpot, the towels we used until they became junk towels (we have been married for 15 years lol), and sheet sets. Nowadays, I usually just give cash. It is easier, helps me hold steadfastly to my budget and allows the couple room to change their mind or save for a bigger ticket item.”
Pamela said, “I love giving GAMES! Board games, card games (depending on how well I know the bride/groom). Otherwise I shop their registry or just gift a dollar amount I’m comfortable with.”
Jessica wrote, “I still use my cutting boards, knife block set, silverware and mixing bowls. Looking back, I really wish we would have registered for quality bath towels. I shop from the bride and groom’s registry most of the time and choose items that I would appreciate the most if it were my registry.”
Lisa said, “When I registered for my wedding, people teased me that I was being ‘too practical’— I wanted mixing bowls, towels, cast-iron skillets, and the like. However, five and a half years later, I’m still happily whipping up batches of cookies in my mixing bowl, drying myself with the towels, and cooking basically everything on the cast iron. I love these practical items! Other notable gifts included a goody basket for our cabin-in-the-woods honeymoon full of hot cocoa mix and snacks; a calendar; and giftcards to REI, since we were leaving for a five-month backpacking trip soon after our marriage. All these gifts were great!”
Lizzie relayed, “I actually use my wedding china fairly regularly. I don’t see the point in saving it for ‘special’ occasions – any dinner with friends is special! In terms of pure utility our Shark vacuum and Cuisinart get the most use.”
Erin said, “I love this question! The gifts I used almost daily that are still going strong after six years of marriage are: excellent knives, a set of multi-size glass nesting bowls from Williams Sonoma (so useful), two giant stainless steel bowls, wooden trivets (a surprise favorite!), and a set of Fiestaware dishes. Things that have not made it: glasses (breakage), pots and pans (worn out/scratched and required replacing for food safety), towels (persistent mildew from living in the tropics), and a salad spinner.”
Carolanne wrote, “After 37 years I still have and use: kitchen scissors; the remains of a dinner service; a serving platter; a three legged stool – now chalk painted as a grand child’s bedside table; chest of drawers and a hand whisk!”
Joslyn shared, “The wedding gifts we use most often years later are a nice giant crockpot with a timer that we use weekly, Wustof knives that I felt crazy for even adding to the registry because they were so expensive but we use them everyday, and our down comforter that keeps us super cozy all winter long.”
Connie said, “I received a Crock-Pot 28 years ago and it’s still going strong. So I enjoy giving one for newlyweds.”
Category #2: Money
Mor share, “Not married but I like my Israeli cousins wedding gift tradition….money! They don’t register for items in Israel and instead have a box at the reception for friends and family to deposit money (normally cash but I think my last cousins who got married got a few checks!). You can give with other people (my aunt and grandparents went in together). I love this idea because then it gives the couple the absolute freedom to get whatever they want and need.
Kate wrote, “As a younger person, I will always (and have already) give cash. I’d rather them decide, and feel like I get “cool points” with the bride and groom giving them cash as it’s always appreciated but awkward to ask for.”
Stephanie said, “We always give cash, especially if the bride and groom are already living together and have their house set up.”
Sarah wrote, “It sounds silly but we got an Oxo cookie scoop that is the perfect size for cookies and meatballs and a set of mixing bowls, I use them more than anything else we got! When I go to weddings I always give cash in bills because checks are a pain for people to cash 🙂.”
Kathy shared, “We put cash gifts toward our dream couch, which we’ve been using daily for the past 10 years. We also received a Hudson’s Bay blanket, that gets a lot of use in the winter time. And fancy little espresso spoons that we use daily as well. I like to give cash as a wedding gift, or something from the registry that I really like that seems durable and timeless.”
Kristine said, “All we want for our wedding is the presence of our loved ones. However, my mom insisted we put together a registry since ‘if you don’t, people will buy you junk you don’t want.’ We added a bunch of random household things we wanted to upgrade, like a new silverware set, a new measuring cup, and a new rope hammock. We’re intending to pass on what we “upgrade” in our buy nothing group, so it will work out anyway. Just stick to the couple’s registry (they know what they need!), or consider asking them first if it’s something they need. Otherwise, give cash or a gift card. It might seem “cold” to some, but honestly, cash and a thoughtful card are far preferable to anything from our registry, and I’d hate clutter our lives with more stuff! The other reason to stick to a gift card/cash even if they register is that the stores where couples register usually send 20%+ off coupons for any remaining unpurchased items once the wedding is over, so the couple can actually get it for cheaper!”
Marisa said, “Door handles! We were renovating at the time so asked for gift cards to various hardware stores. Best gifts ever.”
Dieta wrote, “We still use the set of pots we bought with gift cards. My favourite gift to give is cash, with a note attached that it’s only to be used for date nights. But in general, give gift cards or cash. Resist the urge to get creative :).”
Jennifer wrote, “One of my best friends got married last year and bought a house right before the wedding! Knowing that they were going to be doing a lot of fix-it type stuff to the house and yard they asked for gift cards to places like Home Depot to help them out.”
Lee wrote, “Hubby and I got a gift certificate and used it to help pay for a super-good cooking pot from a little store in our hometown. Thirty-two years later, we are still using it! Split pea soup when we were first married … I’d calculate my salary in pounds of dried peas! Now, we use the pot every night to make popcorn so we can enjoy it with hot chocolate and a retro TV show!”
Amber shared, “We recently got married and since we had lived together for a while and are in our 30s we had most of the house stuff we needed. So instead of gifts we were given gift cards to Airbnb.”
Category #3: Experiences
Kelee wrote, “My husband & I had been together for 15 years before getting married so we didn’t need anything. However, we recognised that people might want to give so we set up a registry with a travel agent & used the money to book flights for our honeymoon 😊 The experience & memories are priceless!”
Joanne said, “We didn’t have a wedding list just asked for money for a honeymoon of a lifetime.”
Jessica said, “We eloped. No shower, a few cash gifts (cash and gift cards— all appreciated!) A photographer friend gifted us a session and we are very excited to take advantage of that opportunity.”
Julie shared, “…We also got tickets to see Tom Petty with our closest friends–priceless!”
CJ’s favorite gift was, “A gift card to one of our favorite restaurants and a membership to their wine club – we used them for several date nights and got so much enjoyment out of the experience!”
Kellie wrote, “We eloped 😊 😊 but my folks paid for our ‘honeymoon’ flights after. I think gifts of travel are the best–an experience rather than stuff.”
Becky said, “As we both already had a tonne of stuff at home, instead of gifts we didn’t need or want we asked for everyone to contribute to the honeymoon instead. We had an amazing 3 week honeymoon in Thailand and Malaysia that we’ll never forget, all paid for by our nearest and dearest. The memories are far more valuable to me than a kitchen appliance could ever be!”
Carly wrote, “We registered on a honeymoon website, although I don’t recall the name. Basically we picked a country we wanted to visit and a whole bunch of different priced pieces of the honeymoon, like a ride in a glass bottom boat or champagne and strawberries in the hotel room. People could fulfill their desire to shop for us by picking out experiences to add to our honeymoon, but ultimately they were just giving us cash. After our wedding the site gave us a check for the total amount given and we put it in savings until we were actually able to take our honeymoon. We didn’t end up riding in a glass bottom boat or drinking champagne, but we did take a very fun and mostly paid for honeymoon to Cambodia!”
Carrie said, “We asked for travel agency vouchers, which then paid for our honeymoon!”
Calibrate Your Registry To Your Needs
I want to put in a plug here to register for inexpensive items alongside your dream KitchenAid mixer. I’m talking about the $5 spatulas and cheese graters of the world. This accommodates everyone’s budget and won’t cause any of your guests to feel pressured into buying extravagant gifts they can’t afford. And if you’re a frugal wedding attendee, set a budget for gift buying that’s comfortable for you and that won’t stress your finances. What matters is your presence in the couple’s lives, not the dollar amount of your gift. DO NOT go into debt trying to impress someone with your gift giving. Please.
After reading through all of your suggestions, what stands out is the fact that your wedding registry should be calibrated to where you are in your life at the time of your wedding. Mr. FW and I were 24 when we got married and were living in a one-bedroom basement apartment with very little stuff to our name. Hence, our wedding registry was focused on helping us build out our nascent household. Conversely, if you’re already well established in your home, it’s likely your priorities will be very different. Ignore the demands of wedding registry guidelines that outline what you “need.” Only you know what you need and will use. And if you’re attending a wedding, let’s all repeat aloud Dieta’s advice to “resist the urge to get creative!”