I'm here to report on our registry experiment. The experiment was that we did not register. We told people that we did not want or need any presents, but that if they wanted a way to honor us, they could give some money to some of our favorite charities. Or, if they like to give actual things, they could write us a letter.
I've never heard of anyone "registering" this way, and I wasn't really sure how it was going to turn out. I read some post on a wedding forum about the charitable option, and it said that some of their guests had complained about it being kind of a downer. I was in the midst of being the bride, which means trying to please everyone, so I was briefly worried. But then I came to my senses. I'm sorry that the starving children are bringing you down. It brings the starving children down, too. Sheesh.
Most people did not give us anything. That is excellent. I like to think they were all secretly relieved they didn't have to spend the time or money. I hope that it freed people from feeling required to give us something. I wish gift-giving was geared more toward the giver's urge to give, rather than all these widely-recognized events where people feel they have to do it. It made me feel like the people who gave us something did it because they wanted to, not because we asked for stuff.
A few people took the charitable option. We recommended half a dozen causes that we like, though we made it clear that they could donate to something close to their own hearts as well (that might have turned out weird if a donation had been made in our honor to Puppy Kickers of America or something we did not agree with). We were relying on either the people or the charity informing us of the donation, so there may have even been more. In any case, each one made me feel very warm and mushy inside. I got married, and therefore, a hungry person was fed. I think it would be awesome if we had more of that, more giving events that were giving to the needy, rather than to those that don't really need anything.
I am noodling over how to integrate this idea into my own gift-giving. I don't want to stop giving presents or sending cash to my niblings for their birthdays, but perhaps I could augment that with charitable giving. I already do some donating, so maybe I could adjust it so that I honor people when I do it. It would be more of a gift if the honoree cared about the cause. I really prefer to give anonymously, because I'm shy like that, but if I want to spread the idea of donations being an actual honor rather than a lame gift that your weirdo aunt does, it needs to be made known. Like I said, I'm still noodling on it.
We did get a few gifts, though not very many. And because we gave our guests absolutely no direction as to what to get us, they were able to do what they wanted. I feel good about that. Part of what I hate about registries is that I feel confined by them. I want to buy people presents that are meaningful and specific to my relationship with them, not some generic household item. Someone bought us a return address stamp. I send a lot of mail, and this person knows that, because she receives some of it. Great gift! And now, every time I use our stamp, I will think of her. Whereas if I had requested a return address stamp as part of a whole list of requests, I probably would not remember who got it for me.
We also received a fair amount of money in the form of cash, checks, and gift cards. These were much appreciated, particularly when we found out we'd need to be buying a new heat pump.
And finally, we received letters! I got this idea from my high school english teacher, who made us write a letter to each of our classmates. Like the donation option, I really had no idea who was going to respond to this request. It's easy enough on the surface, but it is sorta like an assignment. Also, writing is not everyone's medium. But a few people did do it, and each one was truly excellent and personal. A couple people wrote us poems. We learned new things about some of our favorite people. I am going to save them all forever and ever.
The night before the wedding, Josh's mom handed me a bag containing a sewing basket that had belonged to Josh's grandmother (heirloom!). Inside the basket were ten envelopes, each containing a letter from someone. She had used whatever coercive means she had to get people to actually complete the assignment. Rather than roll her eyes at her weirdo daughter-in-law's request, she took it seriously and made it happen. It meant a lot to me.
In conclusion, our non-registering experiment was a great success. We didn't have to ask for stuff, we didn't get a bunch of stuff that we'd have to find a place for, and the things we did get were thoughtful and specific to the giver. Also, some homeless people were provided with shelter. I could not have asked for anything more.