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. 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. 🙂

  2. 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 🙂

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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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