These days, many newlyweds come back from their honeymoon to emptier bank accounts. That’s not surprising, considering that the average wedding these days costs nearly $20,000, according to the Wedding Report — and many couples cover those expenses out of their own pockets.
This is where a carefully planned wedding registry can really help. The problem is, brides and grooms-to-be often get carried away with the registry scanner and pick one too many crystal glasses and vases, dishes or silver candle sticks — rather than aiming at items they really need and will use on a regular basis.
To make the most of your wedding registry, read our step-by-step guide before you start clicking.
1. Take a Home Merger Inventory
What you need in your home depends on where and if you’re moving. Consider the following:
* If you are moving into a home one of you other already lives in, chances are the biggest issues ahead are space and storage. You’ll likely need storage items, such as closet organizers, under-bed storage and shoe racks, and should be careful registering for items that take up quite a bit of space.
* If you already live together and are staying put, you may have everything you need. What else could you use? Is your blender on its last chop?
* If both of you moving from dorm rooms or parents’ houses to a marital home, you can follow the registry list suggestions offered by stores like Bed Bath & Beyond or Crate & Barrel. Focus on items that you will use regularly, such as a coffee maker, towels, bedding or everyday dishes.
* If you are planning to move in the next three to five years, be wary of registering for items that are color- or style-matched to the home you are living in now. Pick neutral to semi-neutral colors.
* If you plan on buying a house, think about things like garden tools in addition to tableware, bedding and other traditional items. Chances are, you’ll need a lawn mower, leaf blower, weed eater, garden hoses and sprinkler heads once you move, and those expenses tend to add up — unless you’ve got them covered already.
* If between the two of you you have more furniture than you already need, then go ahead and register for crystal glasses and silver candlesticks — as long as you have place to store them and occasions to use them.
* Most of us once had a dining set for four that after a couple of years and a few broken pieces has turned into a set of 3 dinner plates, 2 saucers, 4 cups and 2 bowls. If that’s the case for you, register for a replacement set. You can donate the remainder of your former set to charity.
* Is your home energy-efficient? You can register for fluorescent light bulbs, window caulking or air filters.
2. Choose Gifts from a Variety of price points
Divide your registry into a variety of price points. Make sure you have items that cost less than $25, $50 and $100, but don’t be afraid to include items that cost more than $100. That is, don’t eliminate large items unless you don’t need them. Guests who know each other could chip in for one big gift.
3. Send out a card with your wedding invitation
Never put your registry information on your wedding announcement, but do put it in the envelope. You can add a small card with the store names and web site information with your announcements. To do it in style, use the same font as the invitation.
4. Register at No More Than Two to Three Stores
When you over-register, you confuse your wedding guests. Register for a number of gifts that’s within 10% of the number of guests you invited to your wedding. Pick two stores – preferably ones where you can buy both online and in-store. Some people prefer shopping in-store, while others will likely be buying your present online during their lunch hour. Make it easy for them.
You’ll also want stores that offer different types of merchandise. For example, you may choose a home improvement store and one for traditional wedding fare (linens, pillows, dishes).
5. Stay Practical
Your wedding is a celebration of the love you have for each other, but it’s also a time to create the foundation for your happily-ever-after. Unless your home is already stocked with necessities, get the crystal later. It’s not important that your guests bring gifts, but it’s important that the gifts they do bring are ones you can use.
Reyna Gobel is a freelance journalist who specializes in financial fitness. She is also the author of Graduation Debt: How To Manage Student Loans and Live Your Life.