The Modern Registry: From Dowries to Donations
The act of giving gifts at a wedding is ancient… literally ancient as in 3,000 BC, and originated from the practice of paying a dowry to the bride’s family. A dowry was typically paid in the form of land, animals, precious metals or jewels and served several purposes. In some cultures they were paid as protection for the bride from abuse, divorce or the husband’s untimely death. In others, such as medieval Europe, the dowry became a way to determine how desirable a woman was for marriage as well as a show of her family’s power and wealth. In the more recent centuries it transformed into something much more similar to a modern registry by it’s main purpose being to help the young couple getting married to set up their new household. Macy’s invented the actual gift registry as we now know it in the 1920’s where couples could create a list from products carried by Macy’s that their guests could reference.
Not much has changed too drastically on the registry front since Macy’s led the way for couples to actually get things they needed rather than a herd of cows or hunks of precious metals. Of course, as with everything else, the internet made registering, purchasing and sending gifts possible all while bingeing Say Yes to the Dress from the comfort of your couch so it seemed for a while that the act of registering had reached perfection. Not so. Recently, this 16,000 year old tradition has gotten another face-lift. Due to increasing numbers of couples living together before marriage their households are mostly set up at the time of the wedding. Couples are no longer spending hours on a Saturday afternoon scanning the bar-codes of every toaster, blender and china pattern Pier 1 Imports has to offer, instead, they’re basically just asking for cash. To be clear, it is definitely still super tacky to ask for cash straight out so hold off on adding that you don’t accept bills smaller than a twenty to the bottom of your invites, however, there is a correct way to do it.
Wedding planning websites as well as some specific funding sites now have features that allow you to accept donations. You can ask for general donations that go towards your new life as a married couple or you can specify what your guests donations will be used for such as your honeymoon or the purchase of a new home. Opting to go the donation route is also incredibly easy now that sites like The Knot, WeddingWire and Zola
are building this function directly into their platform allowing your guests to RSVP, select meal options, get all the information on location and travel accommodations as well as donate to the couple in place of bringing or sending a physical gift. Understandably, some couples are still hesitant to use donation functions or apps because it is still just asking for cash but in a polite way. Sorta true. However, putting a personal spin on the donations and where they’re going or giving your guests something in return for their donation takes it out of the tacky realm and lands it safely in the socially appropriate area. I was part of a wedding this past June that did this and, in my opinion, did it the right way. The couple used a website called Honeyfund which is a free site where you can set up a custom registries for the honeymoon, wedding, universal or cash. This means that you can create a registry where people can simply give you cash or you can customize it to give your guests specifics on where or what their money would be used, for example, being able to donate $25 towards the couple’s bar tab or $50 for them to take a surf lesson together at the resort or location where they are honeymooning. The couple whose wedding I was honored to be a part of offered tiers of donating, so for certain dollar amounts donated you would receive so many tickets for drinks at the bar during the reception, such as $50 donated got you two free drinks at the bar. This was a great way for the couple to get what they wanted (an amazing two weeks in the Mediterranean) and for the guests to feel appreciated for their presence at the wedding rather than their wallet’s (also a great night of partying with friends and family). I think that this new way of registering is absolutely awesome and can have long-term benefits; especially for young couples also dealing with some of the highest debt and cost of living rates our country has ever seen, as long as the couple and the guests put as much emphasis on the celebration of the exciting adventure that is marriage and not just who gives them what and how much.