Is It Okay To Forgo A Wedding Registry? Let's Unpack The Pros & Cons

Planning your wedding is one of the most important events in your life, but it can also be stressful. With so many decisions to make, you may wonder whether to have a wedding registry. The tradition of registries began in the early 1920s when department stores wanted to capitalize on weddings. They conceptualized a way brides-to-be could choose the items they needed for their homes, making it easy for guests to give gifts.

Traditionally, brides asked for household items like crockpots and china to start a new life with their husbands. Nowadays, couples get married later in life and may not need items like a Kitchenaid mixer or a new set of dinnerware. Many already live together and have all the essential items for their homes. So, is having a wedding registry worth the time and effort? Before you decide, consider the pros and cons of not having one and prioritize your to-do list accordingly.

Pro: Take the pressure off of your guests and focus on celebrating together

Let's face it – buying presents for people can be stressful, especially when it comes to weddings. Guests want to give an extra meaningful gift, and hosts don't want them to skimp on the price tag. While having a registry can make things easier for loved ones, it also means hosts will know exactly how much guests spent on their wedding gift. Additionally, there may be pressure to choose an expensive item over a less pricey option.

A good solution may be to forgo having a registry and simply give guests the option of surprising the hosts with a gift, or even telling them that a gift is not necessary. Many couples these days ask their guests to come gift-free, and focus on the celebration instead. They may already have everything they need for their house, or simply not want more material objects. If hosts are in the same boat, their guests will likely understand and be relieved.

Con: You might get gifts you don't need

Perhaps you feel uncomfortable telling guests what to gift you and your spouse, or you simply don't have time to create a wedding registry. However, not having one means your friends and family may take a gamble and gift you with a crystal bowl that you don't have space for or a blender that you already own. Just because you didn't register for gifts, it doesn't mean your guests won't get you something. Many people don't like to show up empty-handed to weddings and will bring something for the couple anyway.

Without a registry, you'll face the task of having to return or exchange unwanted presents — and potential guilt over doing so. Everyone's tastes are different, and if Aunt Marge gave you a ceramic floral vase when you prefer clear glass, it won't fit your home's aesthetic. If your loved ones are visiting your home, they may ask to see their gift and be disappointed if you admit that you returned it.

"The first thing you need to consider is who gave you the gift," etiquette expert Mariah Grumet told Apartment Therapy. "How do you think it would make them feel if they found out you returned their gift? Is returning the gift worth potentially hurting this person's feelings or even damaging your relationship with them?" A wedding registry could help you avoid this awkward situation altogether. 

Pro: You can ask for cash or a donation to a charity

Instead of physical gifts, many wedding guests prefer to give cash to the newlywed couple, often enough to cover the cost of their plates or more if they can afford it. If you don't have a wedding registry, it may be perceived as a subtle hint to guests that you would prefer cash instead of a household item. Alternatively, you can politely suggest that you and your partner would appreciate funds for a down payment on a new home or an unforgettable honeymoon. While some may consider it tasteless to ask for money, you can use the cash for a more meaningful experience, rather than an unwanted or unnecessary item.

Another option is to ask guests to donate to one or more of your favorite charities. Creating a wedding website makes it easy to provide direct links for guests to contribute. Donating to an organization allows guests to give whatever they can afford, which reduces the pressure on them. There may also be benefits for the couple's relationship. "We simply believe starting your marriage off with the ritual of generosity is a good thing," Beth Helmstetter, founder of the charitable registry platform The Good Beginning, explained to Brides. "It's also ... a great resource to consider if the couple feels they already have all they need but know their guests will still want to give a gift in some way."

Con: You'll skip out on the fun of shopping without spending a dime

Creating a wedding registry can be thrilling, whether you choose to do it in-store or online. It allows you to curate a wish list of everything you want and need, without having to spend your own money. If you feel guilty about asking for gifts, there's no need to add expensive items. Receiving gifts is part of the fun of getting married and for many, it's a one-time event. Your loved ones will want to spoil you and shower you with presents, so why not let them?

Although creating a registry can be tedious, you can make it fun by sharing the task with your partner. Take a few hours and build a registry of items that you'll love long-term, even if your home already has all the essentials. Perhaps you and your spouse-to-be want a fresh start and plan to redecorate after things have settled down. Registries often let shoppers ship items directly to you, so there will be no stress about having to lug gifts home after the wedding. As gifts arrive, you'll continue to experience the excitement of unwrapping boxes long after your special day.