How to Create a Clutter-Free Wedding Registry

On October 28, 2010, in Wedding Planning, by Deb Lee, Certified Professional Organizer®
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OTR friend and newlywed, Naomi Seldin, has great tips on how to simplify wedding planning. Today, she explains how to create a wedding registry free of clutter and stuff you’ll probably never use.

For someone who writes about how to live well with less, I’ve spent a lot of time recently thinking about wedding gifts. Gifts are optional, of course, and asking for them, even through a registry, will never feel totally right to me. But as a wedding guest, I love them because they take the guesswork out of gift-giving. When my sister got married a few years ago, I was glad she had one. I knew that I was getting her something she actually wanted and would use instead of making an educated guess and hoping for the best.

I got married about a month ago, and creating my own wedding registry was a learning experience. Here’s a list of the Do’s and Don’ts I came up while making mine:

Got space? Will you use it?


Evaluate your space and needs. Do you have enough cabinet or storage space to hold the china and silver you’ll use a few times a year at most? Do you even want them in the first place? I’m pretty practical; aside from seasonal stuff like Christmas decorations, I don’t want to own things I won’t use on a regular basis. So instead of registering for china, Mark and I registered for a set of well-made everyday dinnerware. Everything is white, so it’s neutral, and it’s more than nice enough to use on holidays and for dinner parties.


Register for things you’ll never (or rarely) use just because you’re supposed to. Maybe you will use twenty settings of formal dinnerware, a deep fryer, an ice cream maker and decorative bowls all the time. Maybe you won’t. But if you decide to use one of those checklists that comes in wedding planners and bridal magazines to create your wedding registry, make sure you’re checking off only the things that fit your lifestyle.

Sets vs Individual Pieces


Register for individual, high-quality items you’ll use regularly, and focus on quality, not quantity. Things don’t have to be sky-high expensive to be well-made, either; nothing on our registry cost more than $100. Some of my favorite wedding gifts, like a collapsible collander and set of Pyrex mixing bowls, were actually the least expensive things on our wish list.


Register for sets. Stores love selling cookware sets, and it isn’t hard to see why — they typically cost hundreds of dollars. But a lot of people won’t end up using all of those pots and pans. The most-used items in my kitchen are a 12-inch fry pan, omelette pan, stockpot and sauce pan. Mark and I registered for those individually instead of an expensive set.

I feel the same way about knife sets. I can survive without a tomato knife and boning knife, but I use my paring knife and chef’s knife almost every day.

Gift Options


Give your guests options. If you really don’t want to get stuff as gifts, you don’t have to. Let people know that all you want is for them to come to your wedding, create an alternative registry or encourage people to make charitable donations instead.

Two of my close friends made donations to the American Cancer Society instead of buying us something off the registry. The toll cancer has taken on my family, and the fact that two of my bridesmaids are cancer survivors, made those especially meaningful gifts.

Some of the best gifts we got were things people did to make our wedding possible. A friend who works for a printing company made our save-the-dates and invitations. My sister paid for half of my wedding dress. My boss delivered the wedding bouquets, and the flowers for the centerpieces, which she also offered to arrange. Those were fantastic, clutter-free gifts. Don’t ever guilt anyone into doing something for your wedding, but if they offer, jump on it.


Piss and moan when your great-aunt ignores all of your subtle hints and gets you a crystal punch bowl or angel figurines. You don’t have to like (or even keep) every gift you get, but every one of your guests deserves a gracious and sincere thank you.

Keep or Not Keep?


Follow the one-in, one-out rule after your wedding. A lot of our pre-wedding cookware and silverware was secondhand and/or well-used, and my flannel sheets were getting threadbare. We got some gifts that replaced those items, like a set of new flatware and sheet sets. So after our honeymoon, I donated still-usable duplicates to my favorite local charities and tossed a beyond-scratched frying pan.


Keep things you don’t like out of guilt … for the rest of your life. Unwanted wedding gifts seem to be a common source of clutter. Try to incorporate them into your life, but if you can’t, use the gift receipt to get something you actually want, or find someone else who can use them.

What you choose to do will depend on your values and lifestyle. So now that you know what my guidelines were, what do you agree or disagree with? What would you add to them, or change?

About the Author

Naomi Seldin is a features content editor at the Times Union of Albany, N.Y.  She writes about how to live well with less at Simpler Living.

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  • Naomi Seldin

    Thanks for letting me write this, Deb! I’ll be checking back, so if anyone reading this has a question or comment, I’ll do my best to answer it.

  • Deb Lee, Certified Professional Organizer®

    Thanks for always sharing such great tips, Naomi. =)

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  • @Nakeva


    Those are some great tips since weddings can be stressful to plan and attend. I like the idea of donating time, skills or to a charity. As a photographer, I will also keep this in mind for weddings and look for shots to take that have nothing to do with a physical gift ;)


  • Marla Stonefield

    Great suggestions! We found a fun registry site that allowed us to split the cost of expensive items into more manageable gift amounts. They are called

    Combining your tips with SimpleRegistry would make registering an even easier (and fun!) experience.

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  • Naomi Seldin

    @Nakeva: Our wedding photographer did wonderful work, but even she couldn’t be everywhere at once. So I was glad our friends and families took snapshots throughout the day. Extra photos from a professional would make a fantastic post-wedding gift. Great idea.

    @Marla: I haven’t seen before, but it sounds like a possibility. Thanks for the suggestion.

    And thanks again, Deb, for hosting me.

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