Gift Registry Etiquette

Sometimes the stress of gift registries can take away from the actual celebration. Fortunately, Modern Manners Guy has 3 tips to make sure you enjoy the gift giving, receiving, and planning as much as the party itself.

Richie Frieman
5-minute read
Episode #210

Be it a wedding, a graduation, or even a dog’s birthday party (yes, these exist, just ask The Dog Trainer), if you improperly plan your registry, you will not only alienate certain people, but possibly turn them away from even attending. It’s improper to force your guests into the position of having to empty their life savings for your present. Yes, it's nice to want things (for anyone who has money to burn, I want a vintage 1955 Corvette). But you have to be realistic as well as fair. Yes, you can put a few larger than normal gifts on the registry, but don't overload the list with high-priced items that make people feel obligated to meet your extravagant taste. As well, there is nothing wrong with splitting a gift with some friends if you feel you can't afford something on the registry alone.

Tip #2: Allow Options

When making a gift registry, it's proper to allow your guests to have multiple options to meet your requirements. For example, one listener told me that he only registered in one store, which caused a lot of his guests to complain. On the one hand, who cares what someone's tastes are? It's their party. If they want a neon beer sign for the bedroom, then who are we to judge? That’s why I like registries. Someone else sets it up and I just follow their wishes. It makes for one less thing I have to worry about. Then again, I totally get the other side's point of view.  Why not offer your guests a variety of options to allow them to feel more involved in your celebration?

Some people (like me) trust the registree's taste and will buy from wherever they wish. However, others like to actually see the gift in person, rather than order online. So when you register at one store that is not widely offered in most cities, or is only available online, you may put off some guests. Instead, they may just opt for just a cash gift (which isn't bad), or go off the registry into another realm of their own taste (which can be very bad). So to avoid potentially receiving a giant crystal duck from your Aunt Betty, mix it up and offer a range of prices and stores in your registry. Think of it like the stock market: you’re diversifying your registry to get the best return on investment.

Tip #3: The Guilt Factor

The top question I get about registries is that people feel weird about doing them.  Be it a wedding or a birthday, it is a little odd to make a list of items and then tell people to go buy them for you. But this is not how you should view registries. Registries are suggested guides, not the end-all and be-all. And even though I said not to go over the top with your wish list, this doesn’t mean you should shy away from registering completely because you think people will be turned off. You simply need to be realistic. 

Even if you don’t end up offering the registry option to everyone, having one still gives people an easy way of understanding what you need. I had a family member who made a registry for his graduation party, just for family. We were notified of the list as an “option” of things this person needed for college, and it came in very handy. Yes, I could have thought about something to buy him, but who wants to think these days? We have the internet that allows us to click a button and add the items to our virtual shopping cart, rather than actually use a physical cart. You don’t even have to leave the comforts of your home. It’s so easy!

The bottom line: Registries should not be tied to guilt. If you feel guilty registering, you will feel guilty receiving the gifts, which will ruin the entire process. If you don’t want to do one because of guilt, then don’t do it. However, don’t be upset when you have to spend an entire week returning all the items people gave you that you didn’t want. Trust me, people would rather give a gift they know you will enjoy, than one that will be a burden.

Do you have a great story about Gift Registry Etiquette? Post all the details in the comment section below or post it on the Modern Manners Guy Facebook page.As always, if you have another manners question, I look forward to hearing from you at manners@quickanddirtytips.com. Follow me on Twitter @MannersQDT, and of course, check back next week for more Modern Manners Guy tips for a more polite life.


 Gift image courtesy of Shutterstock


About the Author

Richie Frieman