What I've Learned Helping So Many Friends Register for Their Wedding Gifts
Most couples show up at kitchen stores to register together; my friends bring me.
Wedding registry day for most soon-to-be-wed couples is an exciting time of decisions and dreams. Before you lies an endless amount of “things” people will buy for you just because you’re getting married and social norms require them to bring a gift to your nuptials.
I’ve made no fewer than seven wedding registries. (I’ve lost count, to be honest.) No, not the Pinterest-style dream boards. In the vein of “always a bridesmaid, never a bride,” I’ve never actually registered for my own wedding gifts. Indeed, I’ve never been married.
Instead, I’ve registered with and for my friends. I’ve settled disputes over toaster brands, pan sizes, and Le Creuset colors. I’ve picked dishes, squashed some dreams (no, William, you don’t need cereal dispensers), and learned to stay stone-faced as couples argue over flatware patterns.
How did I get so lucky? For one, I’m opinionated. Also, I’ve been a magazine and digital editor for over a decade. Part of that time, I was a market editor and practically lived in catalogs, stores, and housewares shows. I’ve seen all the products; I’ve tried many of them. In short, I know what’s worth the investment and what you’ll regret registering for in just a few short years.
Your first set of dinnerware as a couple may very well be your first full set of real dishes as an adult. The patterns! The colors! The boxed sets! You have a lot of choices, but let me make it easy for you.
Get no fewer than eight place settings; 12 is better. Stay away from color and bold patterns. Yes, you heard me. You might love turquoise right now, but it won’t be the color de jour soon. Then you’re left with dishes that don’t really match your current style.
Instead, opt for an all-white series that offers a variety of sizes. Classic options include Williams Sonoma’s Apilco Tuileries collection, Target’s Threshold Coupe set, and West Elm’s Organic Shaped Dinnerware Set. (I use the West Elm set personally and highly recommend it to everyone.)
If you like a little visual interest, you can find plenty of elegant patterns that aren’t overwhelming. For example, I think Williams Sonoma’s Pillivuyt Eclectique dinnerware set is darling—each size has a different rim detail. West Elm’s Textured Dinnerware Set is classic but can shift with your changing stye.
Then simply change out linens, placemats, and tabletop settings to match the look you’re going for, from holidays to weeknight dinners.
It’s tempting to squeeze the scanning trigger on sets of premium cookware. After all, when someone else is paying, price is no option, right?
Save your friends and family the hefty bill and register for quality pieces of cookware you’ll actually use—and unless you’re a gourmet chef with 10 years of experience on the line, that’s not likely to include only All-Clad or Lagostina.
Hard-working, everyday sets of great quality cookware include Calphalon Contemporary Nonstick 12-Piece Cookware Set and Anolon Authority 12-Piece Hard-Anodized Nonstick Cookware Set.
However, I’m actually a fan of open-stock purchasing. That’s because, while sets are great, they don’t always have everything you’ll need—and they often have stuff you won’t use. Buying open-stock pots and pans lets you get exactly what you want from some premium brands without filling your precious cabinet space with extraneous items.
Focus on these four pieces of cookware:
- Nonstick skillets: I recommend buying several nonstick skillets because they’re workhorses in most home kitchens. Zwilling J.A. Henckels Motion Nonstick Hard Anodized 3-Piece Fry Pan Set is my top choice—and what I actually gift most people when I attend weddings or housewarming showers. No matter what, register for at least a 10- or 12-inch nonstick skillet. Bonus points if it has no plastic or silicone so it can be used in the oven.
- 2- or 3-quart saucepan: Here’s where you can register for a premium brand if you like. The All-Clad Stainless Steel 3-Quart Covered Saucepan with Helper Handle is second to none for its versatility, quality, and even-cooking capabilities. For sauces and soups, this is a great choice. If you need to go for second place for price purposes, look to Anolon Advanced Hard Anodized Nonstick 2 qt. Covered Saucepan. The nonstick surface is a draw for less-seasoned cooks, but the price point makes this a great gifting option.
- 12- or 14-inch saute pan with lid: In my kitchen, this pan reigns. A tall-sided saute pan fills the role of many pans, from skillets to saucepans. With a lid, I can steam veggies, and all-metal construction means I can broil or bake in the oven, too. Calphalon Contemporary Nonstick 3 qt. Sauté Pan has great reviews. I personally cook with and recommend to my friends the Zwilling J.A. Henckels Spirit Stainless Steel Covered Sauté Pans.
- Dutch oven: Take the opportunity to let your favorite Aunt Sue splurge and buy you a Staub Round Cocotte or Le Creuset Signature Round Dutch Oven. You will find plenty of reasons to use a Dutch oven, from slow braises to game day chili, and this great gift will make you feel so proud when you do. I recommend a five- to six-quart pan, as most recipes are made for this size.
Let me keep this simple: You don’t need the panini press, bread maker, or four-in-one griddle. You do need the blender (I won’t fight you if you want to sign up for a VitaMix), stand mixer (KitchenAid all day, every day), and the food processors (Cuisinart and KitchenAid are a tie). I recommend both a mini chop (3-cup small food processor) and the large 14-cup processor.
Also, go ahead and get the waffle maker. Breakfast in bed is a must.
Curiously, I’ve seen the most arguments over knives. I’d assume the cookware section would be rife for debate and disagreement, but if I had a dollar for every eye roll I’ve witnessed among very sharp objects, I would have enough to buy myself a really nice pizza and a glass of wine.
For what it’s worth, I don’t know what the right answer is here. It’s likely to vary from couple to couple, but I generally recommend the traditional knife block still. I always steer my friends toward a set with everyday essentials, like a chef’s knife, paring knife, and serrated utility knife. The Zwilling Pro 7-Piece Block Set has all that and a few other great options.
Like dishes, however, I think you could amass everything you really need through open-stock purchases.
If one of you is a big griller, quality steak knives are a must; they also happen to make a great gift. Wüsthof Plum Wood 4-Piece Steak Knife Set is a beautiful choice.
Register for at least two sets. Register for at least two ceramic mixing bowls, too. When you’re not stirring up cookie dough or tossing pasta, you can use them to serve bowls of popcorn and chips at parties.
You don’t have to stick to stainless steel bowls. Let your personality shine here. Colorful Mosser Glass Mixing Bowls serve their purpose beautifully, but you’d be happy to serve Sunday dinner in them, too.
You probably won’t immediately start turning out cheesecakes, souffles, and madeleines after you’re married if you’ve not already been making them before you walk down the aisle. Marriage, it seems, does not turn everyone into some baking extraordinaire. In fact, I was just gifted a beautiful set of springform pans from friends who were moving houses and realized they’d never opened the box they received as a wedding gift. She swore she had almost used them once; he found the original gift tag still in the box.
What I steer my friends toward are great baking sheets, muffin tins, and jelly roll pans. High-quality options last longer and cook better than flimsy options that come in multipacks, and you can never have too many for cookies, sheet-pan dinners, muffins, and more.
I’m also a big (HUGE!) fan of the half-sheet pans. At just a over 17-by-12-inches, these petite pans are great for single and double servings of fries, baking a pork tenderloin or two, or roasting potatoes.
Three Things I’m Always Asked
Should I register for china, crystal, and silver? That’s just simply up to you. I know if I ever get married, I won’t be registering for them. That’s not because I don’t like them; it’s because I’ll be inheriting enough to serve the Royal Family for their next dinner. (I’d be honored, frankly.) My grandmothers and great grandmothers have beautiful collections that will be passed to me soon enough. I’ll wait for the heirlooms.
Do I need any cast-iron pans? Yes. Yes. Yes. I recommend starting with a 10- or 12-inch pan. I have several—many passed down from grandmothers, too—so I also appreciate a variety of round options, and a divided cornbread pan never hurt anyone.
What about that wall of kitchen gadgets? It’s like sugar to wedding registrants. Cheese graters, corn strippers, ice pop molds—they’re fun and quirky, and if you want to register for a few, go for it. But remember that you have to find a place to store everything you get.