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You Don’t NEED to have a Wedding Registry: Here’s What to Do

If you’re anything like me, in a long-term relationship and confused by the idea of wedding and/or bridal registries, you may be asking yourself the same question I did: Do I NEED to have a wedding gift registry? And the simple answer is:

No, a wedding registry is not necessary and having one or not is the choice of the couple getting married. However, not adhering to prevailing gift-giving customs can make choosing not to have a wedding registry more difficult, as some couples may face push back from well-meaning family and friends.

We decided not to have a wedding registry because we’ve been together for a long time, we live together, have jobs, and have everything we want and need. It seemed crazy to us to have tons of people buying us a bunch of “stuff” just for the sake of it.

If you are going to have a wedding registry, consider registering at a place such as Amazon linked here so that you’re not stuck requesting one type of gift (all home goods, for example).

In this article, I’ll explain more about the obstacles you’ll face (well-meaning friends and family!) if you choose not to have a registry, and how couples can navigate these sometimes treacherous and controversial waters. Oh wedding etiquette! You are not fun.

I’ve also made a video, which I’ll drop below, about wedding registries and some registry alternatives you can use instead (Subscribe to my channel over on YouTube for ALL KINDS of wedding talk 🙂 ):

Why so many people still insist on wedding registries

People insist that you have a wedding registry for two reasons: (1) They want to show their love through gift-giving and they want to get you something that you “actually want or need” and (2) They’re afraid of breaking with any sort of “tradition” or “wedding etiquette” and offending you, or someone else.

Read any old wedding etiquette book (and I have read many!) or ask any Martha Stewart-esque wedding expert, and they’ll tell you that you absolutely must have a wedding registry — with gifts on it, and that it’s in poor taste to ask for money… etc, etc, etc…

But there was a time when registries were just starting to become popular (online registries are not all that “traditional” after all!) and many people thought, “A wedding registry?! Where you tell people what to buy you? That’s so tacky!”

Sooo what I’m trying to say I guess is that no matter who tells you what about wedding traditions, it’s mostly baloney. Wedding “traditions” aren’t static, but are constantly changing despite what some people think. Most of the things that we think of as traditional at weddings are actually pretty modern additions (white wedding dress, diamond ring, father-daughter dance, etc.). But we can only think so far back in our little personal human histories, so we think of many things as being traditional and I think it brings us comfort.

As far as wedding registries — I think the way we think about gift-giving for weddings has to shift to better match our modern culture. These days, most couples getting married already live together and have all the stuff they need. Registering for more stuff, if you don’t want it, doesn’t make sense to me.

Why You Don’t Need a Wedding Registry

You may have this experience, or something like it, especially if you’re in your late twenties or older and getting married: You have everything you need already. Because you’re a grown-up. And registering for wedding gifts was a thing created back in the day when most couples got married young and really needed stuff to fill their houses. Since that is no longer the case, many couples these days just feel kind of frivolous putting stuff on their registries.

I’ve read and heard many arguments as to why you should just suck it up and register somewhere, even if you don’t want anything. “Just do it!” … “Your guests are going to buy you something anyway. May as well get something you like!”

But I still don’t think this is a reason to give-in, especially if you don’t believe in the act of just buying stuff for the sake of buying stuff. I think it’s okay to explain to your guests (maybe on your wedding website or in person) that you don’t believe in unnecessary waste… that you’re minimalistic, etc… whatever the case may be for you.

We explained on our wedding website that we don’t want any gifts because we live in a one-bedroom apartment and we literally “will not know what to do with your gifts!” Basically, if people send us things, we’re going to have to just give them away! And I think it’s fine to be honest with your guests like this.

If people are really insisting, direct them to a charity or foundation that you believe in and ask them to donate.

Some people will tell you not to put any sort of gift information on your wedding invitations. Again, wedding etiquette and “rules” aren’t real and I say do what you want. Why not put gift information on your wedding invitation? It’s convenient and helpful for your guests. Sigh again… I’m sorry, but wedding etiquette makes no sense sometimes!

Where did wedding registries even come from?

I learned from Hank Green (from many projects, but this was said on the “How to Adult” YouTube channel) that wedding showers, also called bridal showers, actually have a sort of romantic origin story.

They’re thought to have started in Europe during the time when dowries were a thing. The bride’s family used to have to give a certain amount of money to the groom in order for him to “accept” and marry her. Anyway, one couple fell in love, but the woman’s family was poor and couldn’t afford to pay the dowry. So her friends decided to band together and “shower” her with gifts and money so that she could marry the man of her dreams! Thus the tradition of the “wedding shower” began.

And wedding registries first came along in the 1920s when couples could register for items that they wanted at a department store. This process was upgraded when the barcode was invented in the 1970s and then finally to the online registries that we find today, thanks to the internet! (Source)

I can only imagine all of the push back over the years from aunties and mothers who thought asking for a particular item was in poor taste. And now a new generation of aunties and mothers is telling young couples that not asking for gifts (in the form of a registry) is in poor taste.

So, yes, wedding etiquette is confusing! And always shifting, and different in every culture, despite the fact that it’s always presented as a static, never-changing tradition. That’s why we should just do whatever we want 🙂

Is it okay to just ask for money or $$ towards the honeymoon?

Sure! Why not? As mentioned before, there are no real rules of etiquette — only the rules that exist in people’s minds that aren’t all that traditional anyway. So do what you want! You can set up a Honeyfund to create a registry where people just contribute money to your honeymoon.

If you’d prefer to just get money, there’s not a really good way to ask for it, unfortunately. It doesn’t mean you can’t do it, but most couples will face push back and judgement. I’ve heard of some couples just telling their moms, and then their moms spread the word!

You’re going to have people asking where you’re registered so just be prepared to have an answer. Otherwise, you’ll be frustrated by all the conversations you have to have where people try to convince you to set up a registry.

What to ask for instead of gifts or money

In lieu of gifts, money, a honeymoon fund, or a charity donation, you could ask your friends and family for HELP. Are you DIY-ing and/or planning a lot of your own wedding? In that case, you could use this opportunity to ask for assistance instead of presents.

Think about what your family members and friends’ strengths are. Can anyone cook or bake? Would any younger family members be willing to wait, clean up, or bar tend for you? Could you ask a crew of friends to help you set up the ceremony or reception space? Think of the many little things you could outsource to willing friends and family members and ask for these “gifts of service” instead of actual gifts.

What to do if your family REALLY wants you to have a wedding registry

The best tactic may be to simply direct your guests who ask to donate money to a charity or foundation that you love, in your names. That’s a win-win for all involved. Or ask for something practical, such as bottles of wine (well, I think this is practical anyway!).

The bottom line is that your family and friends love you and some people show their love by giving gifts… and feel kind of lost if they can’t give you something! In some cultures, gift giving is absolutely not a question and so it doesn’t matter if you register or not… you’re going to get something!!

And you can always thrift it, sell it, or give it away to someone who needs it more 🙂


Brittany is a writer and teacher in Vancouver, Canada. She started the website Wayfaring Weddings as a way to share her research on affordable, eco-friendly, and less stressful approaches to wedding planning.