A reader writes:
“My fiancé and I have been engaged for 6 months and are getting married soon. In the time we have been together, we have gone to a few other weddings and have more coming up in the future. I took a look at the wedding registry for one of the upcoming weddings and the items on there are ridiculous! Some of the highlights are:
$165 for a Gravy boat
$58 for a salt and pepper shake (each, not a set)
$100 for an electric toothbrush
My parents had a fine china set and in the 23 years I lived with them, my mother used it maybe 3 times. The worst part is that my fiancée seems to think these are acceptable gifts to ask of our friends and family for our wedding. How do I explain to her that it’s all just useless stuff we don’t need, and that it would much better to ask for gifts of cash…to actually pay for part of the wedding!”
— Getting Off The Gravy Train
Dear Getting Off,
A deluxe gravy boat is like flying first class: you don’t think it’s worth the money, but once you get a taste, you can never go back. In the grand scheme of your life, there will never, ever be money better spent than that china gravy boat.
Kidding. Of course you’re right.
This is the structural problem with modern weddings. Many decades ago, in a simpler era, the gift of crockery made perfect sense: couples got married straight out of college, they didn’t have squat, so their friends and family helped them set up their new life.
These days? You have forks and spoons. You have a blender. You have every damn bit of cutlery you’ll ever really need. Sure, you could “upgrade,” but why not get some things you’d actually like?
Happily, with some savvy finessing of your wedding registry, you can actually transform those gravy boats into cash.
From our article on “How to Get Cash, Not Vases”:
Think back to your childhood. Ever since we were toddlers who made glue-spattered 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 we think they’ll cherish.
Yet something is different this time: the wedding registry. Thanks to this wonderful system, you are taking the “thought” out of it. You’re picking things online. Your guests are buying them hassle-free online. The gifts are shipped directly to you. The first time the giver even sees it is when you show it to them months later.
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, if your bride has bought into the whole traditional experience, it may take a little work to get her to agree. Maybe she wants to register for all kinds of soon-to-be sentimental object d’art and formal entertaining pieces.
It’s time to get involved. After buying the engagement ring and popping the question, 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.