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!

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

  1. 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 🙂

  2. 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???

  3. 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.

  4. 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).

  5. 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.”

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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!).

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

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