I'm not a person who has had my wedding mapped out since I was a little girl. So when it came time to plan my recent nuptials, I didn't really know where to begin. Sure, there were lots of virtual visits to Etsy and Pinterest for table numbers, bridesmaid gifts, décor ideas, hair and makeup. But what about the gift registry? Where do we register and what do we register for?
What's the difference between a toaster oven at Bloomingdales and a toaster oven at Bed, Bath & Beyond? And how many stores are too many? And what if we only want one item at a given store; does that warrant starting a registry there? The choices are seriously overwhelming, and I only wish I had thought to use an all-in-one registry website when my husband-to-be and I was putting ours together. If I can offer any advice to about-to-be-newlyweds, it's that any time you can make your life easier with a certain task, do it. (I may have been living in the stone age, but there's no reason you should have to.) Here are some popular registry sites that will help you get there.
The lowdown: Blueprint Registry is the first site that caught my eye. The homepage is clean and simple, and it's super user-friendly. It allows you to shop curated gift catalogs from their top shops and designers or add to a universal registry from outside retailers. You can create group gifts, and there's even an experiences option for cash gifts that can go toward things like a honeymoon, wedding expenses, or a charity. My biggest registry fight with my husband was that I wanted cute measuring cups from Anthropologie and he wanted to, you know, buy a house. Blueprint Registry is literally the best of all worlds. But the coolest feature about it is that, as the name suggests, it offers blueprints of every room in a home, allowing you to visualize your needs and wishes as you build out your wish list. I know what you're thinking. You're already aware that a KitchenAid mixer belongs in the kitchen, but trust me—visuals make the process so much easier. Friends and family can click through the blueprints, too, and see where their gift will be used in your home so that the gifting process becomes a more personal and interactive one.
$$$: For the guest, there is a credit card transaction fee of 2.65% + 45 cents for cash gifts. For the bride/groom, you'll receive 10% off any leftover items after your wedding.
Things to note: When guests want to make a purchase, they're taken to a third-party site to do so and it is up to them to go back to Blueprint to indicate that the item has been purchased. Sounds easy enough, but it's an extra step for your guests, and if they forget, you'll get duplicates. (Though I will point out that I was given duplicates, too, even though I used a traditional in-store registry.)
The lowdown: Zola is another aggregate wedding registry website that lets you combine tangible gifts with cash and experiences, but the especially cool thing about it is The Zola Townhouse on Crosby Street in NYC—a shoppable home that lets you play out your registry in real life. (Don't worry; there's an online version if you don't live in New York.) Judging by the brands you can find in the townhouse—Pigeon Toe Ceramics, Kate Spade, Stilnovo—the Zola aesthetic is super stylish, so I'm inclined to blindly trust their services (even so, I've done a little research!). And here are some extras: Zola will price-match certain products, and it offers controlled shipping so that you can be notified when a gift has been purchased and decide if and when you want it shipped or if you've changed your mind and want to convert the gift to Zola credit.
$$$: Zola charges a 2.5% credit card processing fee for cash and experience gifts that the bride and groom have the option of covering. And in the end, the happy couple not only gets 10% off of unfulfilled registry items, but the discount also applies to the entire Zola website.
Things to note: There are a few rules that may change based on whether your guests buy a Zola product versus being redirected to a third-party site. Read here for more on that. The good news is, if your guests buy certain items, you might also be gifted an extra surprise. For instance, one of their current promotions says that if you register for a Vitamix blender and someone purchases it for you, you'll also receive the book The Art of Blending as part of Zola's completion program. P.S., you can regular-shop Zola, as well; it's not just for weddings.
The lowdown: Stop the presses! Halt! Tell me I can turn back time! You can create a wedding registry on Etsy! Technically, it might not be considered an all-in-one registry because it doesn't represent multiple big box stores, but it's inherently a marketplace that gives you access to multiple makers, plus it has all the typical essentials you'd need to start the next chapter in your life—Dining & Entertaining, Kitchen, Décor & Housewares, Furniture, Outdoors & Garden, and Electronics & Gadgets. Only in this case, they're totally bespoke and handmade. Before I got married, I was one of those people who never bought gifts off of a registry because I felt it was too impersonal to buy my BFF a basic serving platter or set of towels. I always wanted to take it upon myself to look for something unique. After I got married, though, I realized that, wait, people who register for things actually want those things. An Etsy registry gives you both—something you've specifically asked for and something unique at the same time.
$$$: Etsy charges a listing fee of $0.20 to the maker for each item listed, as well as a 3.5% fee for sales made on the website. So a maker might account for that in his or her sales price, registry or not. There's no additional cost for purchasing an item through the registry tool, and it's free to create one.
Things to note: Nothing. This is a no-brainer to me. Although, I suppose it is possible that, since the items are handmade and often one-of-a-kind, if it's purchased before your guest has a chance to get to it, the maker might not be able to fulfill another order.
The lowdown: Amazon is not only for the romance of happily ever after, so it has a bit more of a commercial and universal aesthetic when compared to the other sites. But the experience is just as varied, if not more. You have access to all of the same physical and experience gifts, plus they have handcrafted items as well. So whether you want mass appeal or the special quality of handmade goods, you can find it here. My husband really tried to push for a Best Buy registry, and I really tried, and succeeded, to ignore that request. But with Amazon, he would have been able to make a selection or two without sacrificing what I thought we needed for our new life together. Amazon offers bonus gifts, as well, and even though you don't want to be responsible for putting your guests in debt, they offer gift financing. (Just sayin'.)
$$$: The newlyweds can have a 10% completion discount, and up to 20% off if they're Amazon Prime members, which is pretty cool.
Things to note: Gifts fulfilled by Amazon can be returned without the gifter knowing, but not so much if it was purchased through a third-party seller or outside website. Read more about that here. Also, there might be some extra costs for your guests, like shipping fees, if they don't have Amazon Prime accounts or free shipping thresholds aren't met.