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There are so many great things about weddings: getting to wear a fancy outfit, availing yourself of an open bar, watching people you love or at least tolerate pledging their devotion to each other for all eternity. Sure, they can be expensive and time-consuming and sometimes you have to go to places like Kalamazoo (sorry, Kalamazoo), but on the whole, IMHO, weddings slap.
Something that doesn’t get a whole lot of attention, though, is the gift registry, which tends to fall by the wayside of the overall spectacle. But I am here to argue in its favor: Registries can be fun to stalk (“They want HOW MANY napkin rings?”), are strangely intimate glimpses into the future (“They want HOW MANY high chairs?”), and, above all, take the guesswork out of gift-giving. You might not know how to interpret “classy cocktail casual,” but you can sure as heck whip out your debit card to buy one specific vase.
In fact, I think everyone — yes, you too — should maintain a semi-public list of everything they want or need at a given moment, regardless of whether they are getting married.
These lists would serve innumerable purposes. There are the obvious applications — birthdays, holidays, graduations — as well as the more abstract occasions: breakups, relocations, falling on tough times.
Maybe you’re going to a housewarming and don’t want to bring the second-to-least-expensive bottle of wine; maybe your best friend’s ex-boyfriend got to keep all the Pyrex. If everyone had a constantly refreshing registry, one you could find without asking, you’d always know exactly what to get (and you wouldn’t have to worry about being one of three people to show up bearing a tart dish).
There are plenty of places to cobble this sort of thing together: Amazon, of course, although not everything you want will always be available there, and Pinterest, even though there’s no way to mark if something’s been bought. You could probably fake an impending wedding on Zola, but that requires a fake date and couple name and I think this practice needs to be wrenched free from its exclusively matrimonial associations.
Sites like MyRegistry allow you to create a list for any occasion across a number of retailers, but above all, in order to work, we all need to agree on one single unified platform so that we can find each others’ easily.
Of course, this is hardly a new idea, nor one restricted to wedding registries; maintaining an Amazon wishlist from which fans, admirers, and the just plain horny can send gifts is a practice that’s long existed on platforms like Twitter, Tumblr, and Instagram. And on a broader scale, nonprofits and other organizations have used the feature to collect donations, whether on a rolling basis or following a specific disaster.
While those are obviously very different than asking for a set of rose gold reusable straws for your birthday, they do all serve the same purpose of making sure the recipient is actually getting what they want or need, with no guesswork nor dead weight. (There is, also, the iconic moment in season six, episode nine of Sex and the City — “A Woman’s Right to Shoes” — where Carrie registers for a pair of Manolos after hers are stolen from the party of a married friend. Something something capitalist feminism?)
The drawback here, of course, is the elimination of surprise. To that I say: Oh well! Surprises are wildly overrated; they are how you wind up with a party that induces a heart attack or a bedside table drawer full of shitty heart-shaped jewelry.
And it’s not like a gift is the only way to surprise someone; your significant other could just as easily take you on an impromptu booze cruise or scrub the toilet without being asked, and then give you something you essentially picked out yourself. You can also make your list as long and varied as you please and be surprised that way — will you be getting the ironing board, the snap-crotch bodysuit, or the $150 gift card to Buffalo Wild Wings? No matter what, you win.
And even when someone does, against the odds, give you something rad that you’d never thought to ask them for, that doesn’t have to be the only way to show that they really know you. There’s a brand of love, maybe less flashy, that manifests as seeking out what you need and making sure you get it, exactly as you choose. It’s okay to teach people how to love you; it’s okay to tell them “size eight, in navy, please.”