Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Day 18--Gift Registration and Other American Traditions

Apparently, I had committed the cardinal sin on the wedding circuit: I had only registered for gifts at ONE location. Upon discovering this, my employer promptly gave me the afternoon off and I was to head directly to the local shops to pick out more things. Only in America, as they say.

I have mixed feelings about the bridal registry. On one hand, registries serve as a guide for gift givers who would like to give the happy couple something that they'll use and cherish. I am a person who loves to give gifts. I like to know a person's hobbies, favorite colors and foods. I like to give something personal. I enjoy having information on the receiver's preferences. I like to be able to use a gift registry as a guide. "If they selected these items in fuchsia, then I'll select something complimentary and unexpected," goes the happy conversation in my head.

On the other hand, it seems gluttonous and commercial, and in small towns, political, (i.e., where I didn't register might offend someone). I live in a culture that loves to consume. We have registries for birthdays, babies, and splitting the sheets. At this stage in my life, I am in a severe "thinning" process, keeping essential home items and mementos. I want to prioritize people over things. My fiance and I both work and have two growing boys at home that have lots of activities--I wont' have much time for dusting! A registry feels both as if I am wanting to accumulate things and that I'm imposing a choice on the buyer.

Additionally, I am not one that enjoys the imposition that each event puts on attendees: gift for the shower, bachelorette party, and wedding; shun the thought of a house warming. I am one who loves the time with people, the wisdom and wit they share and the day to day journeys that we'll see each other through. What are things, really? As a dear friend reminded me when I was distraught over a treasured item being destroyed, "things can be replaced, people cannot."

Concluding my trip down Main Avenue, I realized that some things we do for ourselves and some we do for others. It's good family practice and in a small town, the family is large. I did go and register at multiple locations: at a boutique, a hardware store, a lumber yard, and an antique store. Hosting a wedding, I began to understand, fuels my small town economy. My wedding spends money on food,venues, flowers, cake, beverages, and clothing. My guests spend money on accommodations, fuel, food, and gifts. The store keepers spend money on advertising the registry. The media makes money on the advertisements and announcements.'Round the money goes.

What I know about local dollars spent is this: a dollar spent in my rural community will be recycled SIX times throughout the town. Forgive my cerebral tendencies, but that's an economic process I can support.


  1. Remember the history of this tradition, too: A gift registry for your wedding was your community helping set up your house--and who wants duplicates of blenders? Like you, I used to always want to get something different and reflective of the receipient and even our relationship. But I never do that for weddings now--I just get the boring old glassware or whatever. Because, let's face it: Most people don't go out and buy themselves all their dishes or their towels once they are married. But I only follow this rule exclusively for weddings and, if I don't know the person well, for babies. The rest is off.

    One other thing: It's a real service to gift-buyers who aren't like us. It makes it easy and much less fraught with anxiety and wonder. And, okay, it is also good for the economy!

    I love your blog.

  2. I totally sympathize with your ambivalence. Good point about supporting the local economy.
    Also, you can put non-profit giving on your registry! Ryan and I asked friends to donate to Heifer International and Friends of Guinea rather than buying us stuff because we already had everything we needed. Admittedly, some people still bought us stuff, but quite a few others did make donations and they all commented on what a wonderful idea it was. Good luck!