Think back to your childhood. Ever since we were toddlers who made ugly, crummy little houses out of popsicle sticks and gave them to our dads, we were told “it’s the thought that counts.” That’s often true. In virtually every gift-giving scenario, we are conditioned to give something personal, something creative, something they’ll cherish.
Yet something is different this time: the wedding registry. Thanks to this wonderful system, there’s a certain antiseptic, impersonal, third-party scrubbing at play. You are taking all of the “thought” out of it. You’re walking around a store zapping the UPC barcodes of gifts you’d like to receive. Your guests are buying them hassle-free on the internet and having them shipped directly to you. They are never even taking possession of the gift. This technological disintermediation makes your wedding the one, singular opportunity to get what’s near and dear to your heart: cold, hard, cash. It’s not as if Aunt Tootie actually labored to get you that gravy boat. She zapped it to you in an electronic value exchange. Why not convert it electronically back into cash?
Now, it may take a little work to get your bride to see it this way. She’ll likely want to register for all kinds of soon-to-be sentimental object d’art and formal entertaining pieces. That’s fine, so long as you make sure you can return them all. So get involved. After buying the engagement ring and popping the question, this—milking the gift registry—is your most important task. (Not really. But it’s up there.) Long after the flowers have wilted and the cake has turned to fat, your wedding gifts, more than anything from the ceremony, will endure. If you register at the right store, they can “endure” as ATM that keeps spitting out twenties.
Trust us, you need a gift registry strategy. In this more advanced section, your vision should be guided by these simple and romantic words: “Return Policy.” Before you tether yourself to a particular store, take the time to determine which ones offer better terms and conditions. This allows you to accomplish one of two goals:
- 1. Get Kevin Garnett. Think like a GM and embrace your inner Danny Ainge. You take the undesirables— Ryan Gomes, Gerald Green and other forgettable scrubs— and you trade this rag-tag squad of losers for the one guy you covet, Kevin Garnett. In other words, find a store that has a favorable return policy and some big-ticket items that you are too embarrassed to put on a registry (think: 60” plasma tv, king size waterbed), and then, after the wedding, simply exchange all the rice cookers for your MVP.
- 2. Cash out. Literally turn the grapefruit spoons (who uses those?) into cash. Some stores have a cash return policy. For less traditional, more progressive means to squirrel away cash for your honeymoon, consider an alternative registry type (e.g, a honeymoon or mortgage registry).
Return Policies: Things to keep an eye on
By no means exhaustive, this list gives some pointers to nudge you in the right direction. You’ll notice a clear trend—many of them only accept returns in the first 90 days after the wedding, so don’t squat on the gifts for months before making the big trade. Of course, if you can modify your registry online, perhaps you can change your wedding date (solely for the purpose of the registry paperwork) and grant yourself an extension?
Bed Bath and Beyond
The ultimate bait-and-switch
This one’s a winner. In a generous return policy that feels almost like a corporate oversight, you can swap gifts (purchased from your registry) within two years and get cash back. It’s the best of both worlds. You look good for registering at a “wedding appropriate store,” but you’ll never be stuck with ceramic pepper shakers. They even give store credit for items not on your registry.
Not all bad...
The good news is that Target has a wide range of gifts you’ll actually want (from GPS systems to fishing rods); the bad news is that you can only return the items for a store gift card, and you need a receipt. (No receipt necessary if item was purchased off the registry.) You have 90 days from the wedding.
Even if you don’t like what they gave you—or maybe you’ve changed your mind—you can return it (online) for an Amazon gift card, which, given their ridiculous selection, is basically as good as cash.
Something you will never hear a grown man say: “Let’s see where this one’s from…[unwraps]… Hot damn! Williams-Sonoma!” Face it, you’ve lost this round. But here’s your silver lining—they do offer cash returns.
crate and barrel
face it... you've lost this round
Only store credit, and you only have 90 days from the date of purchase.
don't write it off just yet
You have two years from your wedding date to decide if you want the junk. Then again, they’ll only give you store credit. Still, Bloomingdales has an expansive selection of furniture, luggage, and other big ticket items, making it a fine candidate for the Kevin Garnett gambit.
write it off soon
You only have six months after your wedding date, but even if it wasn’t on your registry, they’ll console you with in-store credit (based on the lowest-selling-price).
Stick to the "must-haves"
Store credit, so not the ideal place to attempt a cash-out. Register for items you actually want.
Next up: after the gift registries, you can put it off no longer. Your Groom Duties.