24 June 2015

The Registry Conundrum, or, Should I Really Buy Them A Place Setting of Sterling Silver?

A couple of months ago, in a sidebar chat in Words With Friends, a friend I’ve known since graduate school mentioned that she’d just put a bunch of flowers in the vase I’d given her as a wedding gift. I remember her wedding well – it was lovely and it happened in New York during the 1986 National League playoffs, and because the Mets were playing there were people hunkered in the corners with little radios, checking on the game. And although I remember what I wore – a soft grey wool damask dress – I couldn’t have told you what I’d given them as a gift. But that she remembers? That’s the point.

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When I got married, 20 years ago today, we’d been living together for a long time. We didn’t really need anything, but we did do a wedding registry for dress-up table settings, the kind that you’d never buy yourself (or, I wouldn’t, anyway). It’s not fancy china – it’s Crate & Barrel, not Tiffany – and I love having it, all 12 place settings and extra dessert plates of it. But, for the life of me, I don’t know who gave me that plate, or that one, or any of the coffee cups. It’s all a big mush, it’s just the wedding china.

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The wedding gifts I remember are the unique ones, the ones that weren’t from the registry. There’s a handblown glass plate, cobalt blue, from a board member of an organization I once worked for. I put cheese on it and think of Bob. Marcia & Harvey gave us a vase from Simon Pearce; it lives on our mantelpiece with a string of tiny twinkle lights in it. Patti and Doug – she’d been my flute teacher in high school – gave us a pair of candlesticks and an oval Shaker box; the candlesticks are in regular rotation. Friends presented us with a gift certificate to a dear now-defunct restaurant, and on our 8th anniversary, we returned there for a meal, at which my husband opened a tiny sealed envelope and learned that I was pregnant with a girl. Sitting on the window sash in our bedroom is a glass teardrop that came from one of my husband’s relatives – it picks up the morning light so beautifully that it turns up in my Instagram feed on a regular basis.

A photo posted by @magpiemusing on


For a long time, when faced with a wedding and a need to find a gift, I thought a registry was a great idea – give the people what they want. In retrospect though, and with 20 years of wedded bliss under my belt, it’s the unique gifts that I’ve remembered well, and next time, I’ll carefully weigh a registry gift against something different, something inimitable, something forever.

4 comments:

Jeanne said...

I tried to give my brother something different, something inimitable, something he'd treasure. I got him a silver-plated champagne cooler filled with silver chocolate kisses. He subsequently gave up drinking and as far as I know, has never used it. I went back to registries.

kathy a. said...

Happy anniversary!

I didn't register, because it seemed presumptuous to expect other people to buy stuff we picked. But I still have a quantity of gifts around, and remember who they were from.

The down side to not registering is that we (like probably everybody else of our era) got more than one fondue pot -- none of which are still in residence.

My dad always went with the most useful item on earth, a stainless steel bucket. Everybody got one. Tres useful! Mine was extra large, and it is still in use. Heck to wrap 'em, though. ;)

Jennifer Denise Ouellette said...

I love Etsy for really personalized gifts--you are so right that we remember the ones that didn't come from the registry.

Kizz Robinson said...

Happy belated anniversary! I have this struggle, too. I finally settled on combing the registry for something I can afford to pair with something personal. So, you register for a popcorn popper? I also buy you a favorite DVD. You register for a cake stand? I also give you my favorite cake cookbook. Stuff like that.