The wedding registry is evolving

As more and more of my friends get married, I’ve been thinking about the concept of wedding registries and I’ve come to the conclusion that the traditional wedding registry is going to have to evolve.

It’s no secret that the average age of women and men getting married in the United States is increasing. As of 2003, according to Bride’s Magazine, the average age of an American woman getting married was 27 and for men, it was 29.

Now think about the intent behind the bridal registry, wedding gifts, and bridal shower gifts. Most gifts given at the weddings/showers I’ve attend have consisted of things that the new bride and groom need to start their home. In my experience, it’s particularly a lot of small appliances, linens, and kitchen supplies.

Ah, but therein lies the issue. If people are getting married older, they are more likely to have their own established residence or their own home. So now, instead of having to start a new home from scratch together, most newly weds are faced with trying to combine two households.

A photo of a wedding gift
Photo by sorakiei on Flickr

The Combining Household Game

One of my friends described the house-combining process to me when she was going through it. She spent days holding similar items up to her husband so the two of them could decide which to keep and which to toss. “We had seven spatulas, so I held all seven up and said we could keep three. We picked the best three and put the rest in the charity pile. Then I picked up the five colanders we had and we agreed that we probably only needed two, so we picked those two,” she said. It was daunting to even hear about. And, needless to say, their registry was pretty small and consisted of mostly decorative items.

Evolving in Various Ways

So, the product of the wedding registry, in a time when more people are combining than starting households, is becoming less relevant. So what can brides to be and businesses do? I’ve seen multiple alternatives so far:

  • Couples are only putting items on their registry that would be upgrades to what they already have. Sure, they might have a $20 iron, but they would really like the $120 iron.
  • To find enough to create a legitimate registry, some couples are turning to websites that offer combined registries where couples can register for items from multiple online stores in one convenient website.
  • One couple I know used a vacation registry where their loved ones and friends could fund part of their honeymoon costs. For example, I could have paid for them to have breakfast in bed one morning or for them to go scuba-diving.
  • Some couples are thinking of others during their special day by asking guests to donate to charity instead of giving gifts.
  • Finally, some couples are using alternative gift registries to ask for unusual, but helpful items such as people’s favorite recipes, help fixing something at their house, advice on decorating, etc.

Two Perspectives, Same Outcome

From the bride and groom’s perspective, they now have more choices and can get what they really need. From the traditional retailer’s perspective, only the first is profitable to them, so if they don’t find a creative way to evolve the registry that benefits them, they could start losing a lot of business.  Either way, though, it’s quite clear that the traditional wedding registry is evolving.