When my sister-in-law got engaged, she asked me if she should register for a stand mixer. I was baffled because she really isn’t a big fan of cooking, much less cooking from scratch. When I asked her why she wanted one, she said it was on every registry checklist she'd seen. Plus, her best friend had registered for one.
I told her I thought the mixer was just going to take up valuable real estate in her small kitchen and that, if she ever got the baking bug, she could save for one then. Or, everybody could pitch in and get her one for her birthday or for Christmas. She decided to leave it off her registry and hasn’t regretted the decision once. Meanwhile, those springform pans she left on the list are collecting dust in her cabinets.
I think my sister-in-law was tempted to add the stand mixer because, in the midst of the many decisions she was making in preparation for her wedding, it was much easier to follow a registry checklist than to think about what she and her fiancé truly wanted.
I think that sometimes people register for items because they have these fantasy visions of themselves. Maybe you don't bake now, but the fantasy version of yourself would present freshly baked cookies to your family every night after dinner. Or, you register for fine china because your fantasy self will be hosting elegant dinner parties every weekend once you're married, even though you’ve never planned anything but a take-out pizza night.
I don’t mean to imply that stretching yourself to create new dreams and goals is a bad idea. But the key is knowing whether the fantasy self you've envisioned would actually make you happier. On their podcast Happier, author Gretchen Rubin and her sister, Elizabeth Craft, often talk about how they have to stop themselves and try to discern whether they want something because they actually want it, or whether they just wish they were the type of person who wanted such a thing.
". . . the key is knowing whether the fantasy self you've envisioned would actually make you happier."
For example, Elizabeth declared one year that this was the year that she was going to learn how to make soups. She was going to make soup all the time for herself and for her family. She talked about it so much that one of her friends got her a big soup cookbook as a gift. But as soon as she had it in her hands, she realized that she didn’t really want to make soup. She just wished she were the kind of person who enjoyed making a pot of homemade soup.
Through her happiness research and projects, Gretchen has come to the conclusion that the first happiness commandment is to be yourself. So when she wishes that she liked music more, she reminds herself to “Be Gretchen” and to pursue the interests that she actually likes. Being Elizabeth means that, rather than spending time reading recipes and chopping vegetables, she should instead spend her time eating out, writing, and catching up with reality television.
So go ahead and create the registry that will launch your fantasy life. But make sure that it’s the fantasy life that would make you and your partner happy—not the fantasy life laid out by a standard registry checklist or by your best friend or by the advertising companies.
Unlike other registries, SoKind Registry, a project of the nonprofit New Dream, is totally customizable, so you can be as quirky and authentic as you'd like. Amanda and Asher, for example, love learning together, so on their SoKind Registry they’ve requested glass blowing, cooking, surfing, singing, piano, pottery, and welding lessons.
Mark and Lorelei, parents who are intentional about smoothly blending their families together, registered for a "Movie night for us + the kid of our choice."
Adrienne added a "Get Adrienne out of the Doghouse" request on her wedding registry. Her fiancé was a professional chef, and she had ruined one of his pots. So she requested a replacement (new or used). They had a lot of fun waiting to see who would take pity on Adrienne.
Rather than another item that needs to be checked off your long to-do list, creating a registry can be a fun opportunity to dream together about the kind of life you actually want to create together. Take the time to think about what matters most to you and your partner. If it’s music, register for concert tickets, lessons, or iTunes gift cards. If you want to spend more time with friends, register for double dates.
And, if you actually love to bake and have always dreamed of a stand mixer, go ahead and put it on there as well. Someone who has an untouched mixer that they received as a wedding gift would probably be very happy to pass it on.
Edna Rienzi is Director of Programs at New Dream.