Thursday, December 30, 2010

A Groom's Guide to the Wedding Registry: Seven Rules to Save Your Life

I’m getting married this May. It’s going to be a very exciting time, and I’m very much looking forward to it. It’s gradually taking over most of my existence, which is kind of what happens in these things (or so I hear).

As we get closer, my fiancée and I have started to get deep into one of the major logistical nightmares of the modern wedding industrial complex, registering.

It’s supposed to be fun as you guys plan your future lives together. That’s what they’ll tell you anyway.

I’m here to level with you. The single most important thing about registering for your wedding is survival. Just make sure you get out alive. All the stuff that gets put on your list? It’s nice if you like it, and in an ideal world, you’ll both be ecstatic with everything. But to be frank, just try not to get yourself killed.

With that in mind, I wrote up a list of some guidelines for all you future grooms out there. Just some general advice I wish they had handed out in some kind of pamphlet before I wandered into this world like an Oregon Trail greenhorn who forgot extra wagon wheels.

Rule One – Schedule Your Registering Sessions Appropriately

If you’re planning to register on any given day, it’s natural to plan for the specific items you’ll be looking for. You might target kitchen appliances, bedding, dishes, whatever. You’re also going to plan for an approximate amount of time to dedicate that day. A couple hours, etc. Take whatever time you’re planning to spend registering for that day and double it. Now, take whatever you’re planning to get done that day, and cut that in half. However you originally plan your day, you’re going to get half as much done in twice the amount of time. I think it’s some kind of natural law.

This becomes of huge importance if there is anything else you’re trying to schedule for that day. If you’re a college football fan, don’t schedule anything registry related on a Saturday. Same goes for Sunday if you’re an NFL fan. You can also strategically suggest registering for a time that coincides with your team’s bye week or if they’re playing on an off-night (e.g., Thursday night football). This move will actually win you some points if you don’t mention the fact that your team isn’t playing but still volunteer to go shopping.

Rule Two – Come Prepared

You are going to be spending a lot of time in stores with tons of products you have little if any interest in. Make no mistake, this will be boring. But in a surprising twist, it will also be very physically strenuous. That’s something I didn’t understand until my sixth hour in a Bed bath and Beyond, when I had walked the equivalent of ten miles through the bedding section and all I wanted was a Brett Favre-level painkiller injection (or as an alternative, the sweet caress of death).

Wear. Comfortable. Shoes.

For those of you with back problems, I might also recommend a brace to help maintain proper alignment. You should wear comfortable clothing, and in layers, so that you can add or subtract elements should conditions change. Eating a nutritious breakfast is recommended, with at least some form of complex carbohydrates to provide energy. Consider packing some snacks.

Rule Three – Pay Attention

Sounds easy enough. After all, how hard is it to wander around a store and look at things?

Turns out it can be really freaking hard. Why? Because there are so many things!

You know how many different patterns of china there are?

You know which stores carry which lines of towels?

You know the difference between a quilt and a coverlet?

These are all questions you will soon know the answer to! This process will wear you down mentally because there are no less than a trillion potential combinations of your future home, and your fiancée will probably be interested in exploring most of them.

You want to respect the process, so you should want to pay attention. But these stores don’t make it easy. They do, however, throw us one bone to keep us interested.

The portable scanner.

This is a little device that you use to zap the bar codes of things that you want to add to your registry. If you get a little imaginative, you can think of it like a gun, which is nice.

As a man, it has been universally decided that it will be your job to carry the gun and use it to shoot things. This applies to wedding registries as well.

You have to look at it like an honor. Sure, they’ve taken a scanning job that normally is done by a sales clerk earning minimum wage and pressed you into it, but look at the bright side, you get to shoot things.

This will help you keep your focus. You can also try to make a game of it. How far away can I be and still shoot that thing? Can I do it upside down? Can I do it behind the back?

This will help you pay attention and maintain some semblance of sanity.

Rule Four – If You Can’t Pay Attention, FAKE IT!

Obviously paying attention for the duration of your registry activity is impossible. Even Jesus Christ would lose his mind when forced to choose between the 18th and 19th different china patterns. Our minds will wander, this is inevitable.

The risk here is being called out on it. No one wants that, and if business school prepared me for nothing else, it’s the ability to sound as though you’re paying attention even when you have no clue where you are or what you’re doing there.

These potential cold calls can come at any time. You’ll be walking around the store, looking at whatever, and you just kind of glaze over. Happens to me all the time.

Suddenly, she’ll ask you a question. And you, not paying attention, will not have heard her.

The first thing to do in this situation is to freeze. Don’t move, and don’t panic. Continue staring at whatever you were staring at before, I don’t care if it’s a fabulous duvet cover or a damaged ceiling tile, you keep staring.

Now, the second piece of advice. Do not say ‘What?’ That tells her you weren’t paying attention. Others to avoid, ‘Huh?’, ‘Beg your pardon?’, and ‘I really thought we would be done an hour ago’

OK, so that’s what not to say. So what should you do?

You keep staring at whatever you had your eye on, assuming it’s not some other woman, in which case for god’s sake deploy standard male countermeasures. You look at whatever that object is, make some kind of mental observation, slowly turn to your fiancée, and turn that observation into a question. It won’t relate directly to whatever she’s talking about, but it will indicate that you’re paying attention to the registry process, which should be good enough.

Example: Your fiancée is comparing the weights and feel of different water pitchers (because apparently a Brita isn’t good enough). Meanwhile, you got bored and started running your hand along the edge of a riveted ice bucket, just to make sure you were still alive. She turns to ask you which pitcher you like.

What do you do? You freeze. You then note a quality about the ice bucket, turn, and respond with a question. Potential questions could include:

a) You know, I really like the edging on this bucket, what do you think?
b) Why would anyone be interested in this ice bucket? This edging looks terrible!
c) Do you think this bucket would fit with our other serving pieces? (Bonus points might be awarded if you can successfully relate your question to things you’ve already registered for or seen)

This should show that you are paying attention to where you are and what you’re doing. It may also result in registering for an ice bucket, but it’s a small price to pay.

Rule Five – Money Is No Object…Apparently

I’m not the biggest shopper in the world, but I always liked to believe that I understood the basic economic principles behind retail commerce. I have two degrees in business for god’s sake! But nothing has shaken that belief more than my registering experience.

Don’t assume the price for anything, absolutely anything, will be a reasonable amount. The price can be any amount, they are seemingly assigned at random, and no matter what it is, try not to be surprised (and don’t assume things are priced in some kind of foreign currency that multiplies everything by a hundred, such assumptions are dangerously inaccurate).

You would think there might be a natural order to things. Bigger things are more expensive, or shinier things, or even more practical things. This could not be further from the truth. In fact, there may actually be an inverse relationship. The less practical something is, the more likely it will cost a fortune. You may laugh, but you’ll realize what I’m talking about when you register for salt and pepper shakers that cost eleventy bazillion dollars.

In these situations, you simply have to understand that it is what it is. Ours not to reason why. And whatever you do, you absolutely cannot react by trying to establish any kind of link between the real universe and the bizarro wedding registry world. Sure, if you combined two serving pieces, a picture frame, and whatever the hell votives are, you could probably buy a giant HDTV. Avoid such comparisons at all costs! I’ll leave it to the brilliant physicists with slide rules to explain, but I’m fairly certain that entering a home goods store for a registry flips you through some kind of interdimensional vortex, the other side of which is not unlike Lewis Carroll’s wonderland. Down is up, big is small, hamburgers eat people, and so on.

Just hang in there, nod occasionally, and do not eat any mushrooms.

Rule Six – Watch Out, You Will Need to Have Opinions

Your fiancée will expect you, the future groom, to have opinions on things for your registry (and, I might add, your future lives together). You will often be asked to give input, and to say you have no opinion (which is generally the case) is not an effective option.

She’ll tell you that you can’t have absolutely no opinion, and she’ll tell you that she really does want to know what you think. She’ll swear to this.

However, she is 100% lying to you. Your opinion does not matter.

I realize it’s obvious to most of us, but it’s definitely true. At some point in her life, your fiancée thought all about this process of getting married and moving to the next phase of her life and all that jazz. She envisioned a guy there, but was probably vague on the actual details of who you actually were.

Now you’re there, congratulations! Please don’t interfere!

You see, it’s not that you don’t deserve an opinion, it’s just that you’re Norway.


You’re Norway, the country in Europe, that’s you. Your fiancée is the U.S.A.

You see what I’m getting at?

Let’s say we’re all at the United Nations, and a big issue comes up to a vote. Well, everyone is going to listen to what the U.S. has to say about it. Everyone’s wondering, where’s the U.S. going to be?

You’re Norway. You get a vote too, but no one gives a sh*t. Your country is ranked 35th in military power (according to, which sounds potentially legitimate), you do OK, people like you.

But let’s get one thing straight Knut, when American tells you what they think, you just fall in line and don’t ask any questions, or you’ve smoked your last herring.

So yeah, have an opinion, but don’t get too attached to it.

Rule Seven – If You Really Feel Strongly About Something, That’s OK, Just Be Careful

All that stuff I said in Rule Six applies here. Your opinion really doesn’t matter, and will generally be disregarded if it doesn’t fit with your fiancee’s plan (an appropriate analogy, you are a respected climatologist/economist/physician/person with a higher education, and your fiancée is a hardcore Republican).

However, if there are things that you genuinely want or don’t want, there are a couple tricks you can use (and strategies to avoid) that can be effective.

a) Know your sphere of influence: The easiest place for you to get what you want is in the male-centered area of the registry. So if you do feel strongly about it, play that gender card whenever you get into this space. This applies to things that you’ll typically be doing or your fiancée has no interest in. It commonly applies to areas including grills, grill-related accessories, kitchen knives, anything that could seriously injure someone really. This is an area where you can reasonably make that point that you’ll use the items more often, so work that angle.

b) If you hate something, make the right argument against it: There have been a number of things we’ve registered for that have been points of contention. Things that we disagree on. As per my earlier Rule Six, I’ll usually get outranked. In some of these cases, I’ve tried to make carefully reasoned arguments to support my perspective. Do not do this, as I can tell you right now it won’t work. In some cases, I tried to explain how a significant investment in a serving piece couldn’t possibly make sense unless we used it enough times, and we certainly wouldn’t in this case. In others, the item in question was perfectly suited for a specific situation, a situation that might happen every other decade or so. Every time I explained these thoughts, it would meet with a similar response. ‘But I just kind of like it.’

To which I had no response.

What I’ve since figured out, is that if I really really hate something, I can’t fight it with rationalism. I need to fight it by normalizing the genderized perspective (which is to say, lying)

Example: Say my fiancée was interested in an ornate eight foot high candy dish in the shape of Carl Weathers from the movie Rocky III. This is purely hypothetical, because I haven’t seen anything like that in reality, and because I would think it was totally awesome. At any rate, let’s say my fiancée wanted it, and let’s say for some crazy reason, I didn’t. What would I say to persuade her?

I certainly wouldn’t talk about how little we’d actually use it. I wouldn’t talk about how hard it would be to fit in our house. I wouldn’t talk about the painstaking cleaning process, or its financial cost, or even its lack of aesthetic appeal. All of these are dead ends.

What I would say, is that I know someone (must be female, a friend from school, a cousin, someone else who typically won’t speak to your fiancee), who has that exact one and has had nothing but trouble with it. I might talk about how she never uses it, or how she can’t find a good place for it, or how she hates cleaning it.

You’ll notice my arguments would be the exact same, just from a different person. When presented with the evidence from a female perspective, my fiancée might just be more inclined to listen to what I have to say. As long as it’s coming from a woman, and not from her lunk-head fiancée, it might be worth considering.


You might go through all this and have a bunch of questions (e.g., Wow, why the hell is anyone marrying you, you jackass?). I can’t answer most of them, or wouldn’t really want to, and only hope that anyone whose read this far found it entertaining if not informative. I’m sure I’ve left some valuable lessons out, but that’s what I remember off the top of my head.

Take it with the spirit in which it’s intended. Enjoy getting married, and when you’re in the midst of registering, just be careful out there.