Is it okay to go off-registry for my friends’ wedding gift?

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One of my friends is getting married in about a month, and I checked out her registry to see what kinds of things she and her fiancé need to start their new life together. And their registry is SO BORING! This couple is creative, and funny, and bizarre, and amazing, and NOTHING on the registry reflects that. It's all towels and cheap home decor — think “Homefill” from Arrested Development.

I feel like it's generally okay to go off-registry if you are getting the couple something meaningful, or if you're getting them a better version of something that's on the registry. But is it okay to assume that the couple has put a lot of thought into the registry and yes, they really do want that weird off-brown throw pillow, or do I assume that they just went scanner-gun happy and that it's okay for me to save them from themselves? -Meg

Let me start by saying that some of my FAVORITE weddings gifts, to this day, are gifts that were chosen off-registry. That awesome one-of-a-kind bowl, the champagne waiting for us in our hotel room, the framed artwork made from our invitations. So my answer is YES. It's totally okay to go off registry, BUT it depends on how well you know the couple and what you purchase.

That being said, they probably really do want that weird off-brown throw pillow. So my suggestion is this: if you're going to go off-registry maybe pair it with something small from their registry. Or give a more personal gift for a shower and then a “boring” registry gift for their wedding.

And also, make sure your more personal gift is something REALLY awesome. Like these things…

Romantik DIY terrarium kit
For the nature-lovers: Romantik DIY terrarium kit. Or check out more gifts for the outdoorsy types over on Offbeat Home.
For the nerds: Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head 60th Anniversary Mashly in Love Set
For the nerds: Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head 60th Anniversary Mashly in Love Set. Or check out any of these gifts ideas for geeks.
For the gamers: Atari Flashback 2.0
For the gamers: Atari Flashback 2.0
For the whiskey-lovers: 22oz. Green Crystal Whiskey Decanter - Bohemia Crystal
For the whiskey-lovers: 22oz. Green Crystal Whiskey Decanter – Bohemia Crystal
For the crafty: Either gift them the Subversive Cross Stitch book, or get to making them yourself.
For the crafty: Either gift them the Subversive Cross Stitch book, or get to making them yourself. (Check out these posts for cross stitch inspiration.)
For the darker souls: Bone Collector Metal Serving Tray
For the darker souls: Bone Collector Metal Serving Tray. Or check out all these gifts for only the most black-hearted bad asses.
For those with state pride: Hand-Embroidered Pillow in California
For those with state pride: Hand-Embroidered Pillow in California
For the food lovers: Staub Heart Shape Cocotte (or check out this registry round-up).
For the food lovers: Staub Heart Shape Cocotte (or check out this registry round-up).

Basically find them things that they'd either have felt pressure to not register for — “But mom, we really DO want that Atari!” Or things that you KNOW they would love but don't even know exist — “Where the hell did you find a skull serving tray!?” Or something hand-made from your heart — “A subversive cross-stich of our very own? Thank you!”

Now what do you guys think? If the gift is awesome, is off-registry the way to go? Or no thanks, I'd rather have my boring throw pillow? Also, newlyweds: What was YOUR favorite off-registry gift? I know you got some!

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Comments on Is it okay to go off-registry for my friends’ wedding gift?

  1. Why not just ask them? “Hey, I was looking over your registry and I noticed that you didn’t have X or Y listed. I was really hoping to get you one of those. What do you think?” or “I found this awesome funky towel/dishes/ice cube tray that I think you would loooove, but I can totally get you something off of your registry if you would prefer.”

    Don’t imply that their registry sucks because they probably do want that stuff. But they could also have signed up for things they know their “normal” family and friends will actually get them, and they are planning on returning those gifts so they can get the nifty, fun things they like.

    In general, a gift is a gift. A registry has more to do with making shopping easy for the guests than it has to do with the couple. Either they’ll love your off-registry gift or they’ll pretend to and thank you graciously. Include a gift receipt if you’re worried.

  2. Megan is spot on! It’s my experience that really awesome people already have, through their own purchases or gifts, really awesome stuff. And it isn’t until they combine their awesome stuff that they go, “Welp, we have the ninja knife block, the submarine tea steeper and 17 thrifted coffee mugs…but what we really need is a damn strainer. And how do we have 45 forks but only 2 spoons? Do we have a can-opener? Why don’t we have a can-opener?”
    They may not have anything amazing to start their new life, but maybe they need a little less amazement and a little more boring brown pillows so that her handmade Australian throw blankets made by the mother of three sons as she waited for them to return from their simultaneous walkabouts match his vintage 70’s couch that is hand-embroidered with hundreds of ducks in top hats.
    Or something.

    Anyway, Megan is right, as always. Get a little something from their registry that doesn’t make you wanna die, pair it with something that will make them smile and save the TRULY awesome things for their birthday or a random occasion where they’ll have time to open it and them squeal about how they always wanted it, HOW DID YOU KNOW??

    • Ha. I’m just sitting here staring at “Anyway, Megan is right, as always.” and smiling and smiling… 🙂

    • THIS! The more creative and eclectic their personal style, the more likely they registered for some bland things either because it was the only thing they could agree on, or because that was what was needed to tie together the decor they already have.

  3. Okay, here’s my opinion as someone who both works in a store that does wedding registries, and as someone who’s been married and had two registries that both had almost everything purchased:

    Don’t get different versions of things that are on the registry! They’ve picked that ugly brown pillow for a reason. Maybe they have an awesome patterned couch that would look way too busy with anything else on it. Maybe they want to create a colour-neutral relaxing space in an extra bedroom. I don’t know, but they probably had a reason for picking it.

    Chances are, someone will buy that pillow for them. Then they don’t have enough space for the pillow they picked and one they didn’t, so they have to choose (this happened to us with casserole dishes). If they had a good reason for wanting the brown pillow, yours may not be appreciated as much as you’re hoping.

    My husband and I have a stack of casserole dishes on our kitchen that have never been taken out of the box, and have been there since the wedding in January. Once we get over the guilt of not using something that was a gift, we’ll probably take them to the thrift store.

    Or, for another example, we already had a knife set, so we didn’t put on on our registry. My Oma-in-law bought us a knife set, so now we have two. Which is not a big deal, but we don’t have a lot of counter space for 2 knife blocks.

    If you’re going to go off-registry, don’t buy the same version of something they’ve registered for, and don’t buy them something they already have. Make them something, or pick out something that’s unique that they wouldn’t already have.

    The great thing about registries is that they can tell you exactly what they want/need, and, in theory, they won’t end up with duplicates, or in the case of my husband and I in our tiny apartment, things they don’t have space for.

    Okay, wow, that got really long. Sorry.

    • OR, if you go off registry, give them a gift receipt. Which are awesome. We had to return several things, not because we didn’t love them, but because I’m from a family of bargain hunters and they found the exact same items at other stores for cheaper. Which I do not fault them for at all, but when a item isn’t purchased from your registry and them marked as such, someone else might buy the same thing.

      • Yup! If you find something on a registry at another store (first make sure it IS the same thing, I had someone try to do that but got the uncoated version of a non-stick pan that was on our registry, and it would have been cheaper from the registry!), you can usually call the store and have them mark it as purchased.

        Some stores won’t let you do this, but you can also try talking to the parents of the couple, because they might have admin privileges for the registry and they can call for you.

        • ^Great advise! I just found something ON my friend’s registry cheaper at the physical store instead of buying through their store online, but they couldn’t mark it as purchased on the list (weird I know). So I just texted the bride and told her to mark it purchased herself so no one would get her a duplicate.

      • Yes! (this is why I have three sets of teaspoon measures and two sets of the same cheep farberware cooking utensils… ) receipts would have been useful.

      • I’m totally boggling at this. Is it not standard practice to include gift receipts?! The only times I haven’t gotten them with gifts is when they were thrifted items (common in my family) or the year at christmas my aunt apologized profusely but had mixed them all up and didn’t know whose was whose. So instead she had purchased extra gift cards and the couple of us that had gotten duplicates, she handed us a gift card right at christmas for roughly the equivalent amount of our gift. Obvs that won’t work for wedding gifts that don’t get opened at the wedding, but I have since been known to carry extra gift cards around with me for just such an occasion.

    • Very good point about getting something similar to what they registered for! My sister had a couple of situations where people bought what she wanted (like a coffee maker or something like that), but smaller because they bought it more cheaply somewhere else. The problem was that her and her husband’s whole point of registering for the bigger one was because they both drink a lot of coffee and needed the bigger one. Thus, they had to try to figure out where the smaller one came from so they could return it and it was just a hassle.

    • Only thing I would say about getting different things off the wedding registry is – for us someone did and it is pretty much one of my favourite presents, although it might sound odd when I describe.

      We had on some cat shaped measuring cups and I thought nothing could be cuter, but they were only plastic ones. Someone got us a set of hand painted pottery measuring cups shaped like flowers and a set of matching pottery spoons painted like feathers. It’s utterly beautiful and I could never have imagined it. In fact I am with Megan – the best things we got were all off list: the welsh love spoon, the painting of the two of us, the engraved milkshake glasses…

      I think we got very lucky with our list. The only thing lots of people got us was gardening things (as we listed plant pots). People went off list and crazy with it. But now we just have lots and lots of interesting plant pots! So when we actually leave our flat and get a garden we can use them. 😀

  4. Our average age is 42, and we combined houses we owned into (his) 670 square foot house. Plus, we both have hoarder parents (meaning one of us is slightly more hoardy-tendency than the other), and we’re eco-conscious meaning we save/wash/reuse every plastic container, etc. What this means is: our house teems WAY too much stuff already, so when we got married this summer we only did a honeymoon fund “registry.” Most people complied but a few went off-registry, specifically with items they handmade themselves or were handmade by others. (most were cool, one was big, bulky, not really either of our style, and I have no where to put it…)

    So I guess it also depends on where your friends are at in their life. If they’re living in a barebones apartment after years of moving around or living light, yes, maybe they do want those ugly throw pillows, but you are not obligated to buy it – when I buy from registries I always choose things I myself would like. Surely they have some appliances on their registry like a toaster over or blender that you couldn’t live without? I’m a little more leery of gifts that are solely decoration like the terrarium above….you may think it’s cool but it may not be their style (even if you think it is).

    • You are completely right.

      My husband and I were both recently students, so most of our kitchen stuff we had gotten for free (yay free!) but it was mostly old and/or falling apart and/or not very good quality, and we seized the opportunity to replace most of it.

      All the things on our registry were things we needed/wanted and it was enough to fill our whole kitchen, but we live in a very small apartment and we discovered that there wasn’t enough room for all the stuff we registered for plus a bunch of extra stuff. So, even with starting with not much in our house, we ended up with too much. Space is definitely something you should think about when buying a gift.

  5. I agree with Megan! You can totally go off registry, especially if you know them really well, or even combine registry with non-registry. For example, you could buy those boring brown throw pillows and then buy an interesting and quirky throw pillow that complements the boring ones. Or just even be completely random because you saw something that reminded you of them. When our friends got married close to Halloween, my husband and I bought their laundry basket, sheets, and several things from their registry to wrap and put in it and then, because they enjoy Halloween so much, we bought a couple of elegant Halloween items and a bottle of champagne to display in the basket as well.

    For my wedding, a few of the awesome items we got weren’t on the registry at all. One of our fire friends decorated awesome Zippo lighters with our initials (and bought our joke candy bars from our registry!) and my parent’s friends put together an awesome pasta set with this fantastic bowl I would never have picked out myself, but absolutely love.

    On the other hand, I wouldn’t necessarily suggest buying something like a giant painting of a zebra fighting a manatee in space that would go perrrrrrectly above their bed, though, because they might not necessarily agree. Try to always keep them in mind when going off registry so neither of you end up with the awkward problem of “Hey, where’s that awesome painting I got you?” and “Um…I’m actually deathly afraid of manatees…”

    Just a side note, though, that the “boring” items like towels and a new toaster can be amazing, too, because we were finally able to replace our toaster that smelled like burnt plastic whenever you used it and the towels were so much more amazing than anything we could afford to buy ourselves and we enjoy them every day. ;P

    • I also have to say, I LOVED getting my fine china, silverware, and crystal glasseware because there is no way we would be able to afford (or justify paying for) it in the next ten years/ever! It’s something that I won’t use too much in the next few years, but something that will be treasured and be used for all sorts of occasions in the future. This compared to the small kitchen things that I can afford to pick up one at a time that weren’t bought off of our registry. Everyone’s different, so just use your best judgement. 🙂

    • We purposely did not have a registry (had a potluck reception instead), and 99% of the time I am very glad we went without (I prefer my vintage finds to anything from Bed, Bath & Beyond)….but one thing that now I sort of kind of wish I HAD asked for was nice linens. Have you seen how expensive sheets are? Like, a set of NICE sheets are $100, and that’s not including a duvet cover like we use. Yikes. You know who always has the coolest, crispest sheets? Old folks. Why? Because they got a whole bunch of good quality percale cotton sheets for their wedding 50 years ago. You know who has pilly, scratchy, cheap ass sheets? Us, because I can’t bring myself to spend more than $40 on a new sheet set.

      So….I forgot what my point was. Oh yeah, registries are nice for things that you’d never afford on your own.

    • A giant painting of a zebra fighting a manatee in space is something I need in my life. Just sayin’.

  6. On my registry, I put a lot of items that Matt (as a bachelor) did not have or that my hope chest (created when I was 8) did not have, or had, but I would like it to match. There was some electic tastes (the wonderwoman apron, the trashcan made of magazines, the purple skull wine stopper etc.) between the corn-on-the-cob sticks, wine racks, and silverwear sets.

    My favorite gifts (besides finding out who bought the apron), were a purple heart plaque for the wall, a hand stitched photo box with Matt and I’s name and wedding date on it, and a extremely tasteful and beautiful set of blue and green plates, serving set and bowls. There was a lot of other beautiful gifts at my shower, but for the most part those are the ones that really stand out.

    The $50 victoria secret gift card is pretty sweet too now that I think about it. 10 pairs of underwear bought for the honeymoon because a bra is just another barrier… If you catch the drift.

  7. Yeah, I’d say going off-registry is fine if it’s something you really put a lot of thought into and know they would love. But I would also say that you should resist the urge to get them “cooler” things just because you think their chosen items are boring. I’m imagining my own reaction if I had selected brown throw pillows to complement my sofa, and then someone bought me rainbow tie-dyed ones with skulls on them instead. I probably would have gritted my teeth, said thank you, and then quietly searched for a gift receipt. If they registered for it, assume that’s actually what they want.

    You could always ask them if there’s something on- or off-registry that they REALLY want. There are usually one or two things that you’re really hoping someone will buy, and then a bunch of things that you don’t feel as strongly about. It might not be what you would expect (a friend of mine got a bunch of fancy china they never use, but was super bummed that no one got her the set of wooden mixing spoons she wanted). Find out which things they really, desperately want or need and then go for that!

    ETA: I actually always make a point of buying the “lame” stuff on the registry, because NOBODY EVER DOES. Everyone wants to buy the fancy, cool stuff while the boring, useful things go unpurchased. So my gifts tend to be assortments of random things like can openers, measuring spoons, etc.

  8. I agree that you should do your gift-giving based on how well you know the couple. Are they your super-closest friends EVER? Then you can totally do something personal and off-registry. Are they friends that you know well enough, but maybe don’t hang out with too often? Maybe stick to the registry.

    A high school friend of my husband’s was married a couple of years ago, and while they were good friends in high school, they didn’t talk as much out of school and after college. So we stuck to their registry. We chose a price point we were comfortable in, and then chose items from there.

    But when his older brother got married, we bought them Couple’s Cooking Lessons, and a gift certificate to the culinary shop it was based out of. We did a theme gift of “Couple’s Night In” for his younger brother that was almost all off-registry (personalized mugs, retro popcorn buckets, a video game they could both play, etc), with one registry item (a set of crystal cocktail glasses).

    The point of registries are things the couple wants/needs. Usually more “needs” than “wants” when it comes to those BORING registries. So if you get something from their registry…get them THAT PARTICULAR ITEM. Don’t get them something similar, because they’ll open it and be all, “Wait…but we needed the brown one…” Remember, if they receive something from they’re registry…they won’t hate it! It’s there for a reason!

    I suggest maybe picking an item off the registry, and then build the gift around that. Did they register for super-boring wine glasses? Buy them the wine glasses, then gift them a super-nice bottle of wine, maybe a cool decanter and an awesome wine-stopper to fit their personalities. Or the wine glasses, and a wine tasting seminar!

  9. I think I would ask them about it first. Maybe they are going to unveil a honeymoon registry, but not until the wedding. I’d personally much rather fund that than buy something off a regular registry.

  10. Not engaged, not married, only a frequent wedding guest. My perspective is of someone who hates receiving gifts: Sometimes wishlists/registries are super boring and practical because that’s what the recipient is comfortable receiving. Of course, this doesn’t apply to everyone, but just some food for thought.

    While I love that someone cares enough about me to give me something, I secretly wish they hadn’t*. It’s like buying a vegan a steak dinner as a sign of good will! There’s gratitude, but also inward cringing due to value-clash. How to gracefully decline? Family and friends want to give, so I see wedding registries as a way of making sure the gifts are meaningful. Less items are wasted or donated. Givers can experience the joy of seeing the gifts used in the future. And there’s always the option of giving something more personal in addition to the registry gift.

    *I’m a minimalist and try to keep my consumption and possessions down. So much so, I buy almost everything used and then repurpose. Most people I love don’t agree or get it. There’s other reasons to hate receiving gifts though!

    • One way around this is to set up a fund for people to send you money as their gift. Not everyone will comply, but it make a dent in the amount of junk you receive.

    • I’m very similar – I hate receiving gifts, and have (mostly) managed to train my loved ones either not to give me anything, or to go with the amazon gift card. Our registry is going to look rather weird. We combined households a while ago, so the traditional registry items are probably going to be upgrades or random things that neither of us have but would use if we did (ie. a nice wok or a bud vase). I’d hope that anyone going off registry would feel really, really confident about their gift, like the friend who gave us our only engagement present (well trained!), a framed print of the exploding TARDIS from ‘The Pandorica Opens.” Excellent indeed.

    • I didn’t have a registry for my wedding because I didn’t want the STUFF. We had a very small casual wedding. We rent a tiny house, are looking at a cross country move in 2 years, and are minimalists when it comes to decor and kitchen things.

      My mom still got us sets of 8 glasses in 5 different styles…just what I want to pack up and move across country. They don’t fit in my tiny kitchen, so most of them are in our basement. And they don’t fit easily in the dishwasher like the set I had just bought myself. Beautiful, nice, gift. But not practical or what we needed- there are all sorts of things that you consider when making a purchase for yourself that other people wouldn’t consider. And my future sister-in-law got us these terrible bowls from Anthropologie. They weren’t in themselves terrible, but they clashed with EVERYTHING I own, included the new glassware from my mom. We also received a Keurig coffee thing, which we returned. (I hate the waste, like large cups of coffee, and K-cups are freaking expensive.) My husband’s side of the family gave us cash because they always give cash for presents.

      My point is…people bought us nice gifts even though we didn’t have a registry. Nothing about us is traditional and our wedding wasn’t traditional, but people just can’t help themselves and give traditional gifts. I feel guilty not being more appreciative, but unwanted gifts can be a burden. If you keep them, they cutter your space and cause you stress on a daily basis. If you return or give them away, you feel guilty. It’s a lose lose situation. In hindsight, we should have made a registry for our honeymoon or for a house fund.

  11. The worst thing we got off registry was a HUGE (4 foot wide) framed, embroidered wall hanging with my HUSBAND’S last name on it. I didn’t change my name. If I had to guess, I would say they bought it at a craft show.

    In contrast, we received a little 4″ square embroidered wall hanging that says BOTH of our names, and the date we got married. This one has a “custom made by Ann” tag on the back, and was given to us by Ann! This one is hanging up in the kitchen, the other now lives at Goodwill.

    • OMG This!

      My husband’s father gifted us a GIANORMOUS blown up digital rendering of his family’s crest with my husband’s last name splashed out for all to see. I kept my name…I don’t want this massive picture hanging on our walls when it isn’t even about us as a partnership! If it had been a small 6×4 or even 8×10 picture, I could’ve dealt with it and put it by the computer (where my husband is a lot of the time in his spare minutes)…but there’s no place for this giant 3ftx2ft thing.

      Worst part is we can’t get rid of it. Partially because father-in-law had it custom done, partially because I think my husband feels compelled to keep it, and partially because my husband’s last name is so unique no one will ever want this thing.

      I’ll have to hide it in storage or something, then bring it out when father-in-law comes to the house.

      • store it under your bed. that’s what my parents did with all random paintings from my great aunt. it was relatively safe, but still in the house that they could throw it up last minute if they needed to 🙂

  12. My wedding registry was more for the distant friends of friends and family members who don’t know us that well, or even close friends who don’t think they are good at buying gifts.

    The random, awesome gifts that were quirky or handmade that came friends but weren’t on our registry – LOVED them! As long as its not someone like my aunt isn’t buying me a disney princes comforter, or someone isn’t buying something that was on our registry (but from a different store and not the model we wanted), then why not???

  13. I think the key here is how well you know them, and be sure your gift is returnable. My fiance and I came home one evening to find a giant package, with no note, of truly unspeakably hideous dining accouterments (think matching napkins, table cloth, apron, etc in a mud-brown/neon-red mushroom/partridge pattern). I had to call the number on the box to figure out from the store who it came from, and found out it was from a severely conservative step-aunt we’ve never actually met.

    I wrote her a sincere thank you note for her generosity, but I have no idea what to do now. It’s also about $300 worth of stuff, which pains me to just give to a thrift store (the thrift store isn’t going to get $300 out of it, and that truly IS a generous gift from her). The whole thing is bizarre…despite being a non-traditional bride, I have plenty of traditional things on our registry that would fit her desire to put me in an apron. Why did she go totally off the map??

    • Maybe you could dye it to a more palatable color?

      We got some great off registry gifts, theater tickets for a show we had mentioned wanting to see and a really nice chess set. We also got some not so great ones – Christmas placemats when we don’t have regular ones or a table and my husband’s Jewish so they are in storage but will probably end up at Goodwill. The absolute worst gift we got was this hideous super expensive (she left the price tag on it) but really cheap looking snow globe. It’s engraved with our names and wedding date so we couldn’t return it or donate it. I feel really bad because there’s no way it’s ever going to see the light of day, even if we did have space for it. It makes me feel like a complete unappreciative brat and guilty about the waste of $150.

      I only go off registry when I absolutely know it’s something they want or it is returnable and I would never ever buy art or a decorative object for someone unless they were in the store with me and said they want that exact thing.

    • Maybe you could Craigslist it and buy yourselves something else that will let you remember her generosity with out being stuck with stuff you don’t like? Sounds like she’s never going to show up at your house.

  14. True Examples:

    Going off-registry awesomely: Custom Door Knocker with married name and wedding year (even though we haven’t used it, because we rent, but it takes up minimal space and I’m so proud to own it anyway)!

    Registry/Non-Registry hybrid awesomeness: Irish Coffee glasses (registry item), plus gourmet coffee and booze! (off-registry) for maximum tastiness!

    Off-Registry Horror: Home-made set of three bowls glazed with an unspeakable brown speckling (re-gifted to a loving home through White Elephant gift exchange).

    • Your hybrid example is what I always try to do.

      E.g. They register for a plush throw blanket, so I pick up fun, goofy movies and a ton of movie snacks for night in kit. Or 2 plain ol’ cookie sheets, to which I added vanilla sugar, sprinkles and two of my favorite cookie recipes.

      We registered for a Hamilton Beach Scoop and I’d love for someone to pair that with a coffee/gift card + mugs from our registry. Smart, right?

      Something I will do from now on that’s off registry (but only as part of a larger gift): a custom stamp with either the couples new name or both their names and home address (to make all that thank you note writing just a little more fun).

  15. I always just ask the couple, if I know them well enough. Some of my friends who are getting married are quite grown-up and have full, self-bought kitchens of stuff, so I know that they already have a lot of stuff and that some of the stuff on their registries is must haves whereas some is just optional upgrades. It’s resulted in some surprising answers. I bought one friend an extension cord, which her husband loves, and another friend a panini press she uses every day, both of which are not the things I would have picked for them off their registry. This gives them an opportunity to say “Hey ya, crystal glasses would be great, but actually our laundry hamper is half-eaten by the dog, so we’d much rather have that.”

  16. 100%

    The best and the worst gifts we received were off registry gifts! I know saying “worst gifts” sounds kinda awful, but to clarify: we didn’t consider no gift to be a bad gift – no gift is OK! – but we are folks who really, really dislike having too much stuff / throwing things out (really, those items went to thrift shops, but it still felt like throwing things out).

    But the best really were the best! They were things that we couldn’t really register for (we got a tree, folks, a TREE). We also really appreciated the folks who bought us stuff off our registry, because we really wanted those things!

    I LOVE picking out gifts for friends, and I totally plan on including off registry things. My personal guidelines for myself are that unless I’m really sure a gift is going to be a bit, then off-registry is better for showers and engagements, or in combination with registry items and/or a check for the wedding gift.

  17. My 2 cents: if you know the couple WELL. Like, you know what clothes they like to buy and what they spend their own money on and etc etc: go for it! I registered for a whole bunch of boring stuff because 1) that’s what many of our (older, family friend) guests wanted to buy us and demanded and 2) we could use it. But we didn’t NEED it. We didn’t even really want it. And our favorite gifts were the off-registry items friends who knew us well got us, which were soo much better than 2 more plates or an upgraded toaster.

  18. One of my cousins was married recently but, I couldn’t afford a single item off of her registry. The cheapest thing on there was over $200. I ended up buying her something I thought she would like and I told her I would in no ways be offended if she wanted to sell it on craigslist.

    • We specifically registered for things across a range of prices for this reason. We have a few things in the 0-20$ range, lots in the 30-75$ range, 1 or 2 things in the 100$ range, and a few big ticket items (hello kitchen aid!).

  19. Oh, I’m so torn on this question! I know that when I registered for things I picked 2 major stores and then we tried to find all the things in those stores that we would want. But some of the time we were just filling up the registry with things that were of all price differences and we didn’t ‘hate.’ Like, I wouldn’t have cared 1 bit about what type of spatula or measuring cups someone got us, but definitely wanted measuring cups on the list…and didn’t want an add a different store to the mix, ya know?

    But then, the other side, is that some people did get us some funky off registry things that were very much THEIR taste and it was a pain to return them….or store them here out of guilt. So I think the advice to ask is a really good one!

    Also, at weddings for friends, I’ve done something off registry paired with a gift card to the store they registered for so they can combine that or finish up their registry afterward.

  20. We had some things purchased from our registry which was awesome. We got some of our everyday dishes that were a total upgrade and a few other odds and ends. Then we got off-registry stuff. Some was awesome (even if not what I would have picked) but some… not quite us. If you want to go off-registry, and you don’t know them super well, do take a look at their registry, especially if what you are purchasing might conflict with something they did want. We registered for brown towels. Why? Because we planned to paint our bathroom and I had a colour scheme in mind. We got… grey/mushroom towels and matching bath mat. No gift receipt. The bath mat is awesome and the towels are useful but… totally not the colour I’d wanted and it irked me. We use them but I feel annoyed every time I hang them up. A homemade tablerunner and teapot cozy similarly were not exactly us. Super thoughtful, but I would have chosen different colours.

    That said, I have a tendency to go off-registry myself. I’ve bought 2 glasses in Venice that I thought were pretty (and have no idea if the couple like them), a set of white mixing bowls, Canadian Tire money, gift certificates for tickets to a local theatre, etc. And I may have irritated friends just as much with that stuff.

  21. Just to chime in that if they registered for it, they probably want it. For example, when we were registering I saw a cake plate that I loved. It’s pretty plain but with a lovely blue glass accent and it didn’t have a lip (which is handy if you’re frosting the cake on the cake plate). But it was pricey between $100-200 dollars; way more than I would ever spend on a cake plate for myself. But someone bought it for us and whenever I use it (even 11 years later!) I still get so excited because for some reason I just love that cake plate. I’m so glad that someone didn’t decide to get me a different one that was cheaper or funkier or whatever, because I really did want that one. People also got us off registry flower vases, picture frames, etc which were cool, but that we really didn’t need.

    All that said, one of my best friends got me a gorgeous little dish that was not on the registry and I love it. It’s something that didn’t replace something I’d registered for, but was a good “in addition.”

    I think that part of registering is getting your “grown up” stuff. So yeah, they might have an incredibly fun and funky collection of secondhand plates from goodwill (and that’s awesome if it’s what they want to hang on to) but they might be thinking that a matching set from Crate and Barrel might be better suited for hosting their bosses for a dinner party.

  22. I’ve done the combination of on-and-off registry. Some friends had a milkshake maker on their registry, which we felt on its own wasn’t enough of a gift since they let us live in their house for a while after our honeymoon…so we bought some glasses, syrup, and wacky straws which turned into comical spectacles before ending up in your mouth. The kinds of things that if you have a milkshake maker, you actually need, but might not realise to put on your registry.

  23. I used to work in a specialty kitchen shop, so I tend to be snobby about cooking tools. Whenever a friend registers for pyrex, I think, “but there is something 1000x more awesome!!” I also don’t want my friend to have the aforementioned casserole dish problem. I tend to go off registry and gift something a little fancy but functional that suits the couple’s style.

    • Alright, missy; you can’t just throw out teasers for things that are 1000x better than pyrex and then not share suggestions. Dish!
      (HA! See what I did there?)

      But seriously. I’m thinking of donating all my crazy mismatched baking and cookware and starting over, so help a sister out.

    • I feel like in this case this might be okay. You’re doing it out of love and sharing your experience/knowledge. If it’s a better version of something like that, it makes sense. It’s not like someone deciding that blue towels would be better than green ones and giving them that. I understand this at the least.

      It’s using good judgment and deciding why you want to go off-registry. Sometimes there are good reasons and some are not-so-good reasons. Yours seems like a very good reason 🙂

      And I agree, tell us more! What’s better than Pyrex?

  24. I agree with a lot of the posts on here about us offbeat types already having a lot of cool stuff.I have a great and constantly growing collection of vintage things plus sets of dishes my mom had been collecting for me for years but there were a lot of boring things we needed like pots, pans, cookie sheets, silverware, etc…that weren’t as fun to collect so we registered for them.

    Personally, I am a huge fan of registries. We registered for things we needed and spent a lot of time deciding what those things should be. I also like buying my friends gifts from their registries because then I know I am getting them something they will use…or at least SAID they wanted…if they registered for things they didn’t actually want that makes me so sad! Why would you do that? I think every time that happens a butterfly dies!

    I’m also a fan of getting people gift cards for Lowe’s or Home Depot as wedding gifts because even if you are a renter STUFF ALWAYS BREAKS and it’s nice to have that emergency home repair money even if you just need it to buy a plunger or Drain-O when something gets clogged and your are in between paychecks. But that just might be my little gift giving quirk like “It might seem like a unthoughtful gift now but trust me, you’ll thank me later.”

    There are times when going off the registry can be totally cool but I think it depends on how well you know the couple and their wants/needs. For example my mom bought us an amazing original art work from a local artist and my husband’s aunt bought us two plates from France. Those were neat gifts but on the flip side someone bought is a coffee maker that was not on our registry that we had no use for because neither of us are coffee drinkers. We had another relative say that they bought us a certain gift because they noticed we DIDN’T have any on our registry and while I thanked them in my head I was like “Yeah because we have a bunch of them already!”

    It all comes down to how well you know the couple and their needs.

  25. I’m a saver, so I tend to frugally only buy myself the necessities, and then when gift-giving times come around I really appreciate my loved ones gifting me with FUN things. My FH, on the other hand, is the opposite. He loves spending his own money on fun things, and when gift-giving times come around, actually appreciates getting boring, practical gifts, because that “frees up” his spending money for him to spend on fun things.

    For someone like me, going off-registry might be fun. For someone like my FH, maybe they’re hoping to really go nuts decorating their new home together after they’ve settled in, and having their loved ones take care of the basics with a registry is not only helpful gifts (like people said above, they might actually need that can opener), but also allows them the pleasure of shopping for nifty home decor themselves, and as a new home/family/what-have-you. 🙂

  26. I think something important to remember is that this isn’t about what you want for your friends; it’s what your friends want. And yeah, maybe their registry is boring to you, or doesn’t seem to fit your idea of who they are – but who-they-are as a couple has chosen these items for a reason! It’s unfair to assume they’ve picked ‘boring’ items just because of social pressure to conform to wedding industry norms, and I think that buying off-registry can seem a bit like saying ‘so you want all this other stuff, but I don’t like your choices, so here’s my choice for you’. Thus probably an action best approached cautiously. And if you do go off-registry, I’d make sure my card gave a thoughtful explanation for why I chose that gift! e.g. ‘I saw this and it reminded me of when we went to __ back in __, and I thought it would be useful when you __’.

  27. One more opinion:
    I am super picky about a lot of things. For instance, my kitchen is 95% plastic free. I’m adamant about not using it to cook with, or store food. So everything that I’m planning on registering for will be considered carefully and selected for its plastic content. My close friends know, but not everyone does. (I’m not one of those militant hippies that rubs my beliefs in everyone’s face). However, lots of people do know that I like to cook and take my lunch to work most days. So my co-worker might think they know me well enough to purchase me a set of Tupperware, not on my registry, when in fact I’d be pretty bummed about receiving that, because I wouldn’t use it (not only would I not use it, I would feel guilty about the environmental effects of the manufacture of it). Pyrex might sound boring, but you can never have enough, and it’s not cheap, so I’d be super stoked about receiving it.

    Moral of my story: your friends might seem cooler than their registry, but that stuff is probably there for a reason.

  28. The best off-registry gift we received was a handblown glass bowl. My friend took a glass blowing class and made it herself, then gave it to us as a gift! It was so cool and unexpected and really meaningful that she chose to use her class time to make a gift for us! So I’d say if you are going off-registry it should be something really unique not just a “better” version of what is on the registry. If your friends took the time to make a registry, it definitely contains items they need or want and having you “upgrade” the item may not be as appreciated as you think it will be. That being said, if possible include a gift receipt with any off-registry item so they couple can return it if needed. We even ended up returning a lot of our registry items because it turned out we didn’t have enough storage space in our apartment! If you can purchase the off-registry item at one of the stores where the couple are registered that is even better. Chances are they can only get store credit for the item and so if they don’t like your off-registry item they can trade it in for something from their registry.

  29. I’ll just say that, 13 years after our wedding, we still use most of the registry stuff — we wanted it, we knew we needed it, we picked stuff we could live with, almost all of it lasted (damn, we picked great towels & sheets! they’re just now starting to fall apart). The off-registry stuff, well, um, I can only think of 3 items we didn’t send to Goodwill, & those were antiques.

  30. Favorite off-registry gifts: Wedding Night Bed and Breakfast Room, Matching Etsy home made coffee mugs with our full names, embroidered towels…

    Pointless off-registry gifts: 5 colanders, 2 can openers, one random towel, a few pieces of “art” (most likely bought at Big Lots)…

    My point is…you can see what happens when TOO many people go off-registry.

    Pair a non-registry item with a gift card and I’ll CERTAINLY be happier about receiving something I really didn’t want.

  31. I’ve just spent two years thoroughly cleaning, organizing and un-hoarding our apartment. If someone bought me something off-registry I have no use for, I’d be bummed. Glad someone wanted to spend money to give me something, but I’d much rather be gifted something I know I’ll use and love. The boring gifts are the stuff people usually need and have thought about.

    If you really don’t want to buy the brown pillow, gift them an experience instead. It won’t clutter up their home, they don’t need to feel guilty if they give it to Goodwill and they don’t have to go to several stores to return the item.

    • I really like the idea of gifting an experience instead of a physical gift for an off-registry option, *if* you know the couple well enough to know what they’d like to do. For me and my foodie husband, a gift certificate to a nice restaurant in town would have been awesome. Most of our guests gave us cash, since we are two adults who have very little space for stuff and they we gently suggested it (in lieu of physical items) on our website.

      BUT, any and every gift, including the gift of their presence at our wedding, was welcome! I think if you’re a person worth knowing, you neither demand nor expect a present for getting hitched.

      Oooh, I just remembered my favorite non-registry item! A large jar of raw honey from my friend who lives in Maine, where we honeymooned. She’s newly married with two children, and funds are pretty low for her. I was thrilled she could come to the wedding at all, so the jar of honey was a) extra-special, b) useful, and c) exceedingly thoughtful. There’s a ton of the stuff, so I get to remember my wedding and honeymoon every time I have a cup of tea or spread some delicious honey on toast. 🙂

  32. some of my favorite shower gifts were things off-registry; the toaster that toasts mickey mouse’s face into the bread, a beautiful frame with my fiance’s (and soon to be my own) last name on it…one friend of ours even got us a bottle of wine and a 6-pack of our favorite beer! We decided we’ll open them on our first night in our new apartment 🙂

    That being said, there are a lot of things we registered for that we really, REALLY wanted and haven’t (yet) received. So i agree with the ‘get something unique and pair it with something small from the registry’ idea- best of both worlds 🙂

  33. I’m pretty adamant about sticking to the registry.

    At my wedding, I had one guest go off-registry with something super-expensive: a custom-designed salad bowl that had to cost $250. It was horrible; I had no idea a bowl could possibly be that ugly. And because (1) she’s my mom’s best friend, (2) she clearly thought she’d done something sweet, and (3) I have manners, I had to gush about how beautiful and thoughtful it was, how grateful I am, and so on. I now have this giant ugly thing that I can’t get rid of, and every time I see it I think of the $7 herb snippers I really wanted. And of course, I simultaneously feel guilty for hating the damned thing so much, when this woman was just trying to do something nice.

    If you go off-registry, it’s true you might pick something great. But you might also pick something YOU think is great, and your friend hates. Maybe I’m over-cautious, but I’d rather give someone a boring gift they want, than an awesome gift that makes them cringe every time they think about it.

  34. This is an interesting discussion to me, because it had never occurred to me that going off-registry could be as big a deal as this question and these comments show it to be. That being said, I have never had occasion to have a registry, so maybe I’m missing something from not being on that end; I guess, take what I’m saying with a grain of salt, since it’s more a useless commentary on gift-giving culture than helpful advice, probably.

    My mom is basically the Queen of Etiquette; when I was a kid, I had 3 or 4 manners books, I practiced making proper introductions, and we used to make charts of table manners to check off which ones each family member kept. Yet my mom almost never buys from the registry. She chooses things that are fun but practical, and often things that relate to her history or relationship with the person. If those people don’t use it or throw it out, I don’t think that reflects poorly on my mom. She chose the gift thoughtfully and gave it in love. To me, that’s supposed to be the important part. A friend of mine once complained after a baby shower that so little she’d received had been on the registry, and I was a little shocked… You’re complaining about gifts? They are free! Even if you don’t use them, they do you no harm. You wish you had received some different free thing? Not a reason to complain!

    It’s true that I had never had a registry, but I’m a teacher so I have received and cluttered my house with a fair number of odd and technically useless gifts. Food items usually go uneaten, and plenty of stuff had to be discarded in my recent move. Yet I have never regarded any of the gifts with any feeling other than thankfulness and a sense of privilege that the person chose the gift for me. (Even the ones that may have just been picked out quickly at a Vons checkout or from the discount section of Target.)

    It’s interesting to me that we don’t have registries for birthdays, holidays, or plenty of other gift-giving occasions, yet the sentiment seems to be that gifts given for particular events (babies, weddings) absolutely must be from the registry. To me, nobody has a right to a gift, much less a particular gift, and the most important part is in the act of the giving itself. To me, the point of a gift–any gift–is that it’s given with love and thoughtfulness.

    So I would say–absolutely go off-registry! (Obviously don’t let the couple know that you think their choices are boring, though.) Don’t feel guilty about it–you love these people and you want to express that love through a gift. If they don’t like that, well, that’s just weird.

  35. Yes to this! It’s kind of selfish to want to be the one person (special snowflake, anyone?) who gives them the gift that they will ACTUALLY love, instead of all that boring stuff that they, you know, want.

    This isn’t about you getting to be the best friend in the history of ever who gave them an “original” gift, this is about them. And if they want that boring brown pillow, then get them the boring brown pillow. Otherwise you come off as pretentious. It may be harsh, but it’s true. My husband has a cousin who loves to cook and she got us all this cooking stuff which is not as good quality as the stuff that was on our registry (which we also received) so it really just came across as she thinks she knows the best cooking stuff so that’s what she got us even though it’s not what we wanted. Pretentious, right? I mean, still appreciated, but we didn’t keep any of that stuff, because we already have the versions that we wanted.

  36. We had a registry otherwise certain people would have been too confused. But the best gifts weren’t on the registry.

    Glass T pot and Dragon kite anyone? Glass plate with New Zealand ferns and a china pukeko from New zealand. Welsh loving spoon.

  37. I don’t like registries much because I feel like if I am invited to the wedding i should know the couple well enough to pick a gift for them! It seems like most people here have been pretty nice to the gift givers, even though they got something they didn’t want. That’s the gamble with gifts though, they aren’t compulsory for the givers so you get what you get and be happy. I have only used a registry once, usually I would make something like a quilt or wedding sampler with their names and date of marriage. For some people though I don’t make anything because I know that it will not be appreciated, so I gift experiences such as Gold Class Cinema passes with drinks and snacks or dinner or something adventurous.

  38. My really creative quirky friends got married last year, and I got them both. I got something boring but practical off their registry, and then I got them a doormat that said “Hi, I’m Mat”, which referenced a funny story the bride had told me about her fiance as a child, misunderstanding his mom, who said “Wipe your feet on the doormat.” and he heard “Wipe your feet on the door, Matt.”

    They loved both!

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