Creating a wedding registry is (hopefully) a once-in-a-lifetime event, so many couples understandably are in need of some advice before they start out. We asked local experts about the dos—and don’ts—of creating a registry.

It’s not a requirement: While wedding registries are increasingly common and can be a helpful way to help guests find a gift you’ll truly love and use, traditionalists say proper etiquette actually frowns on anything that implies you’re expecting gifts. “I say, assume no one is going to give you anything,” says wedding etiquette expert John Sullivan of Ken Miesner’s Flowers. “If your aunt gives you a beautiful card wishing you a lifetime of happiness, you should be just as happy as you would be with an expensive gift. The reality is, you’re probably not, but that’s how it should be. I’m a little averse to saying, You owe me a gift.”

Variety is the spice of life: It’s good to register at two to three stores, and for gifts in a range of prices that will offer guests options for both the shower(s) and the wedding itself. Sullivan recommends different stores for different types of gifts—for example, Byron Cade for formal china, Dillard’s or Macy’s for nice towels and casual china, and someplace like Bed Bath & Beyond for everyday items like paper-towel holders and toilet brushes.

It’s my life: Think about your lifestyle when registering for gifts, suggests Vita Geraldi, associate in the gift galleries at Neiman Marcus. “Are you going to be entertaining at home? Are you going to be entertaining formally with sit-down dinners? Or do you have an apartment or condo where a lot of the entertaining will be done standing up?” she asks. Many people will offer their advice in the process, she adds. “Listen to everybody, but you don’t have to take everybody’s advice. Really try to do your own registry.”

Taking the long view: Byron Cade specializes in high-end, formal china. While it comes at a cost, co-owner Nancy Bischoff says one of the perks is that the pieces will be in production for many years to come, making them easier to replace if something breaks. “We’re into longevity and hopefully setting traditions,” Bischoff says. The items you receive will be in your home for a long time, she adds. “You really want to put as much on the list as possible, because when you get married, life gets in the way—you buy a home and there are children and education—and it isn’t in the budget anymore. People really want to buy you something nice.”

It takes two: Even if you’ve been planning your big day since you were 10, make sure to include your future spouse in the process, Geraldi says. “It’s good to go online and show him some things before you drag him to every store. Start it slow,” she suggests. But remember, “He’s going to live with it, too.”

Haste makes waste: When couples register at Byron Cade, as at many stores, a staff member will guide them through the entire process. “We work around setting the formal table and show them how to do it, and let them know everything they will need to throw a formal dinner party or Thanksgiving,” Bischoff says. “Then we move on to everyday china and all of options there.” Expect the process to take a couple of hours per store, she notes. Also, don’t try to get all of your stores knocked out in one day, Geraldi adds: “Some people travel into town to do their registry. They bring a bunch of people and do it the whole day. The next day, you won’t even remember what you looked at!”

Thanks, Grandma!: Many couples are hesitant to put expensive items on their wish list, but “You’d be surprised what you get,” Geraldi says. “It is a wish list, so you’re not expecting everything, but your grandma might really want to get you something special. Your friends might have less money, and give you something smaller. Even if it’s one plate, if the bride really wants her dinnerware collection, she will be happy with that one plate.”

Putting thought and care into you wedding registry will make things easier for both you and your guests, who are taking time out of their lives to help you celebrate the new life you’re embarking on. But in the end, it’s that life together with the ones you love that is more precious than any china you could buy. Be sure to graciously thank your guests—and if all you receive is a card wishing many years of happiness, remember that it was written with love.

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