A lighthearted look at news, events, culture and everyday life in New York. The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer.
By Nina Pajak
With April showers and May flowers (and May showers) come many other, less rhyme-ready but widely accepted springtime rituals. It’s prom season! It’s college acceptance season. It’s time to look for a new rental apartment season. It’s allergy season. And, of course, it’s the beginning of wedding season. And while my parenting advice may be a jumbled, myopic mess, I’ve been around the ol’ nuptials block more than a few times. I know this stuff backwards and forwards. I’m a pro, of sorts. And one of the key but often overlooked aspects of planning a wedding is the registry. Call it crass, call it a pain, call it boring or embarrassing or unnecessary. The fact of the matter is that if you don’t register for gifts, your dad’s coworker’s wife is going to buy you some godawful serving platter of unknown provenance which cannot be returned. Or your great aunt Frieda is going to regift you that horse statue from her house that you once accidentally complimented. Or you’ll just get nothing from a lot of people who intended on sending you a check, and then you’ll find yourself in ten or fifteen years wondering why you have car payments and a mortgage but you still don’t own any matching dishes.
There are, of course, some pitfalls to avoid. For instance, in cleaning out my mother’s basement before she recently moved out, I uncovered a wealth of wedding gifts which we’d been storing “until we have the space for them.” I’m not entirely certain what sort of space and life my 27-year-old self had been envisioning, but I can tell you that we cannot now nor will we probably ever be able to accommodate the number of crystal bowls and candlesticks I requested from our guests. Nor could I imagine what I’d intended with the 20″ high, hideous glass candle pillars I unpacked with slow-building horror. Hey, does anybody want a 40-lb., solid marble pastry board? As far as I can tell, I picked up that registry gun and zapped willy nilly, blinded by visions of a future filled with expertly self-catered, glittering dinner parties in a cut crystal palace.
I want to help those who come after me. I want the new crop of starry-eyed, fine china-minded lovers to do better than I did, to think more clearly, to act more strategically. Here are a few common mistakes and bits of wisdom I can offer.
- You don’t need an ice cream maker. Or a pasta maker, or an old-timey popcorn machine, or a juicer, or a margarita maker, or even a spice grinder. Getting married does not transform you into a brand new person who is going to whip up a batch of artisanal gelato instead of running to the corner bodega and grabbing a pint of Haagen Daas. Why would any normal citizen grind her own spices? I’ve got an old-timey popcorn machine for you: it’s called a pot.
- Nobody actually entertains with specialty glassware. Think back to the last party you threw. Did you let any of your idiot friends use anything that could break or required washing? Of course not. How many people do you honestly think will require hurricane glasses for your once-a-decade hurricane party? Have you ever tried to clean a decanter? Do you honestly see yourself scrubbing 25 wine glasses at midnight when the guests have gone? Your stamina, enthusiasm for hosting and storage space will only decrease with time.
- You probably do want some trivets. Why didn’t I get any trivets? Why do I still have no trivets? Underrated.
- You probably won’t ever make a trifle. Or eat one, for that matter. On the subject, would anyone like a couple of free trifle dishes? Asking for a friend.
- Just get regular salt and pepper shakers. For gosh sakes. This isn’t even worth a line item on the registry. No one even wants to buy them for you.
- When was the last time you saw a cake or cheese dome being used in a private home? If it was recently, or if it was in your own kitchen, then I’d like it very much if we could become good friends.
- Do ask for things that last forever. Good knives, a stand mixer, a food processor, dishwasher-safe flatware, some quality pots and pans: these are things you will not regret.
- If you’re lost, don’t just follow the checklist. Use it as a guideline, sure. But the stores are going to tell you that you need three sets of dishes and twelve ramekins and stainless steel toothpicks and high and low ball glasses otherwise the state won’t legally recognize your marriage. Remember: they are part of the wedding-industrial complex and as such are not to be trusted.
- Return policies are a beautiful thing. Pick a store or two that sell a bunch of different things you like. When the wedding is over and you realize you’d have to spend $4,000 more to complete your fine china set, return it all and get some new bedding or a vacuum cleaner.
- Monogrammed bath towels are dumb. I know this sounds like an opinion, but it isn’t. It’s actually a fact. Towels don’t last forever, for one thing. For two, unless you have a family crest, it’s weird to use your personal logo as home decor for guests to see while they’re secretly pooping in your powder room. For three, be honest, you probably don’t have a powder room. And finally, if you plan to put them in your own bathroom, then what do you need them for? You know who you are. Or don’t you . . .?
You can’t pay for this sort of advice. And you really should, because I’m saving you a bundle. Take it from me. Then while you’re at it, take some candlesticks from me. No, seriously. Please. They haunt me in my dreams.
Nina Pajak is a writer living with her husband, daughter and dog in Queens. Connect with Nina on Twitter!