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The Wish List: A Guide to Your Perfect Registry

Every couple needs a little help building their nest. That’s why the wedding gift registry often serves as the ultimate wish list for couples to create the home of their dreams. From tabletop décor to bedding basics, kitchen tools, artwork and more, a comprehensive registry is a one-stop shop for newlywed gifting—but where do you start?

“Register for items that are memorable and momentous, and that gift-givers will feel good about giving,” says Sam Watts, CEO of George Watts & Son, a luxury gift and tabletop boutique in Milwaukee. “As you are about to embark on this new journey, think about how your life may change. Dinnerware, barware, stemware—all of these become necessary when you host family dinners or are simply entertaining friends and family for the game.”

According to Carol Schroeder, co-owner of Orange Tree Imports, a gift and gourmet shop in Madison, the tradition of giving a memorable gift is an essential part of a wedding. “It’s nice to know the couple will think of the giver fondly throughout their married life as they enjoy the special gift that was selected for the occasion,” she says.

The 411 on Registries

Wisconsin boasts a plethora of local boutiques and major retail chains alike, leaving couples with almost limitless registry options. Local boutiques often offer more personalized service, along with a carefully curated selection of unique gifts. Department stores and major retailers, on the other hand, tend to offer a broader variety of items and the ease of locations across the country.

“We found gifts that would complement our future home sweet home at three stores,” says Abigail Gilman of Milwaukee. She and husband Spencer registered at Kohl’s, Crate & Barrel and Boston Store prior to their July nuptials. “We have family across the country and were confident that among these stores, our guests would be able to find something that fit their budget and was meaningful to them.”

But don’t rule out the local angle for out-of-town guests. George Watts & Son, for example, offers online ordering and a large online gift selection.

Schroeder says it’s important to register at two or three stores to provide guests a good selection of gifts and price points. “We like to think of ourselves as Madison’s premier ‘buy local’ wedding registry; however, we know that most couples have guests who prefer to shop with a big online business, and that there are items such as bed linens and dinnerware that we don’t carry,” she says. “So we’d suggest that couples provide two or three more options. More than that leads to overlap of product and duplicate gifts.”

According to Karin Bennett, owner of Cornerstone Shop & Gallery in Lake Geneva, early registration is key. “Guests may start looking for gifts right after a couple announces their engagement,” she says. “In general, we’d recommend registering at least six months prior to the wedding.”

The Gift List

Registry experts believe it’s great to register for the basics, but caution brides not to forget about items that are as unique as the couple.

“I always cringe when a couple registers for a lawn mower, or even worse, some spatulas and a cutting board,” says Watts. “As a gift giver, I want to get you a gift that’s as memorable and momentous as your wedding. An awe-inspiring vase, a place setting that will last a lifetime on your dinner table; those are items I would want to purchase for you.”

It’s also important to consider your lifestyle. Do you plan to entertain a lot? If so, you’ll need more glassware and serving ware. Are you furnishing a new home? Consider lamps, rugs, artwork and accent pieces. Bennett says couples who register at Cornerstone Shop & Gallery are looking for something beyond the basics.

“Special one-of-a-kind items they cannot get at a big-box store, such as artisan pottery, hand-blown glass and wooden bowls by a local artist” are among the shop’s most popular registry items, Bennett says. “Juliska and Vietri tabletop and giftware and Simon Pearce specialty items are also popular.”

Above all, be sure to give yourself plenty of time to complete the registry process.

“It is a good idea to allow yourself enough time to walk through the store and perhaps also talk to one of the sales associates before completing your list,” Schroeder says. “If you can’t do it in one session, or if you get tired, come back and add more items. But it’s a mistake to register for too little—guests love lots of choices!”

Whether couples decide to stock up on the basics or register for items they may never purchase for themselves, it’s always the thought that counts. “Long after their wedding day, when a couple pulls out a special vase or uses a one-of-a-kind serving platter, they’ll recall who gave them that special wedding gift,” says Bennett.

Where to Shop

Looking to buy local? Check out these three Wisconsin boutiques for your wedding registry.

Cornerstone Shop & Gallery: Wedding necessities and gifts, including fine tabletop and giftware from Juliska, Michael Aram, Simon Pearce, Vietri, Mariposa and more, plus unique home décor and artisan products to furnish your home. Lake Geneva, 262.248.6988

George Watts & Son Inc.: High-end luxury gifts and tabletop pieces, complete with a comprehensive online shopping experience. Milwaukee, 414.290.5700

Orange Tree Imports: A gift and gourmet shop featuring glassware, serving pieces and a complete range of kitchen tools, cookware and more. Madison, 608.255.8211

Registry Tips & Tricks

“Registering can be a long and arduous process,” says newlywed Abigail Gilman of Milwaukee. “Wedding planning involves a lot of decision making, and creating your registry is no different. We found ourselves staring at walls of flatware sets and laughing out loud over all the options.” Here’s some advice for making the most of the registration process:

-Share links to your wedding registries on your wedding website. Make sure to inform family members and friends so they can give out the information when asked.

-Have a general idea of what you want to register for before you go.

-Make it a joint effort. “Spencer and I started to make a game out of it,” says Abigail. “We would each pick our favorite three options, and narrow down our choice from there.”

-You can usually edit your registry online, so scan away when you’re in the store and go online to clean it up when you get home.

-Register for high-quality items that will last a long time.

-If registries give you the option to mark your favorites online, do it. “I was absolutely head over heels for a stemware collection from Crate & Barrel,” says Abigail. “I starred it on our registry and, sure enough, it was one of the first things to be plucked from the list.”

-Don’t forget to make it fun. Going out for lunch and a glass of wine beforehand or relaxing with dinner afterward can make registering that much more enjoyable. After all, this is a time to celebrate.

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