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. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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?

  4. 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.

  5. 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. 🙂

  6. 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 __’.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

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