The Ambivalent Consumer’s Guide to Creating a Gift Registry

While writing Tuesday’s post about thrifting gifts for a baby shower (tacky or not? Weigh in!), I got to thinking y’all might be curious about how someone who thrifts a LOT of her life purchases (that’d be me) does a gift registry.

If you’re committed to lowering your consumer impact and/or addicted to repurposing another person’s discards into your own amazingness, or if you already have most of what you need, signing up for a whole slew of brand new possessions feels… well… weird.

So what if, for any number of reasons, you don’t need ALL THE THINGS for your newly married life or your newly acquired baby or your new digs?  Today I’m sharing how we did our two registries (so far) and tips on how to make a gift registry work for YOU.

The Ambivalent Consumer’s Guide to Creating a Gift Registry

  • First off, we need to acknowledge that people will give you gifts, no matter how much you tell them you don’t want/need more stuff.  I will channel my mother here and remind you that it’s about their desire to celebrate you, and don’t you dare take that away from them by forbidding them to acknowledge your happy occasion with a gift.
  • But you can direct generous impulses into the types of gifts you’d really, truly like to receive.  Note something in the invitation that is grateful, classy, but firm.
    Riffing off of one of my friends who recently got married: “We’re old, and we have everything we need.  Nevertheless, we know our family and friends are incredibly generous people.  We value your presence most, but if you’d like to get us a present, we’d love [fill in the blank with one of the below]:”
  • experience gifts: tickets to a concert, a workshop in your favorite hobby, spa day, etc.
    My boss got me a post-baby massage and it was uh-maaaazing.
  • secondhand gifts: furniture or kitchen extras (in good shape) are great for newlyweds; well-loved baby books and baby hand-me-downs are especially useful for new arrivals.
    We asked for books for our kiddo and got a huge box of library cast-offs from my librarian godmother.  Best. Gift. Ever.
    [Caution: many people are excited to unload their own extras; just be sure to let them know you’ll be thrilled to keep what you need and love, but other items will be passed along to someone else in need.]
  • donations to your non-profit of choice: pick something close to your heart and provide super easy directions on how to donate.
    If you are both grown adults with well-stocked households, or this is baby number 5 and you have a house overflowing with baby goods, it’s fine to say “no gifts, please; those who want to celebrate our special day can make a donation to ______.”  Be sure to acknowledge, in superlative-laced language, how grateful you are for their generous impulse and to share a bit about why the non-profit you’ve chosen means something to you.
    My spouse and I had pretty much everything we needed to start our new life together but were starting a church when we got married, so aside from a small kitchen shower and a bottles-n-bras bachelorette party my coworkers threw me (did I just share that on the internet?), we asked for donations to our church plant.  It was an incredible show of support from our loved ones and made us so much more joyful and humbled than a pile o’ stuff.
  • and straight up cash.  Etiquette experts disagree on whether asking for cash is appropriate; use your common sense and knowledge of your loved ones/friends/coworkers to determine if they’d be offended by your money-grubbing or relieved to just write you a check.
  • What if you do want/need some items, but not the entire contents of Crate and Barrel or Target’s baby aisle?  Create a personalized registry that draws on gifts from any store on the internet.
    We’d never had a baby before, so we asked for a limited amount of things using to get us started.  Here’s the full text of our baby shower invite—feel free to borrow or adapt to your own situation!

    “What we’d like most are your well wishes and presence as we celebrate!  But if you’d also like to get Baby a gift, we would love a copy of your favorite children’s book.  Or, if baby gear is more your speed, we are also registered at We are super happy with second-hand, so feel free to look for used/refurbished items–the registry lets you self-report purchase from whatever seller you like, including Ebay. Or pass on things you’ve loved and want to see used again!”

    Not exactly the most graceful or concise wording, but it worked—our kid’s library was well stocked, and we got some necessary equipment and some fabulous pre-loved items that came in handy.  Some people didn’t follow the rules at all and that was also fine.  (See Bullet Point #1 above.)


What are your suggestions for people who want to avoid the gift extravaganza that comes with major life events? Scroll down to share!


2 thoughts on “The Ambivalent Consumer’s Guide to Creating a Gift Registry

  1. I love being able to use folks’ specialties and ask for things they can easily give or make. For example, a specific meal/dessert, photo sessions, art, or cool paintings from a small kid. :)

    1. Good ideas! The Sister indeed created art for our small person when she arrived and this past Christmas and it’s glorious.
      I take it Little Bit’s drawings arrived this week?? :)

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