Top Tips for Building Your Wedding Registry

Your registry is as much a service to guests as a boon to yourselves. Here's how to make the most of this ultimate wish list.

One of the great pleasures of getting married is all the wonderful wedding gifts you receive. From the minute you get engaged, tokens of congratulations will be offered until well after your wedding day. But being the recipient of so many gifts comes with obligations as well: Every giver deserves a prompt, handwritten thank-you, and there are many courtesies you need to be aware of for dealing with unwanted or damaged gifts. Here's everything you need to know to be a gracious recipient.

Registering Your Preferences

The bridal gift registry has to be one of the greatest inventions, for both engaged couples and guests alike. Available through most major department stores nationwide, as well as many smaller specialty stores, mail-order catalogs and websites, the wedding gift registry is a computerized operation that allows you to list your gift selections in every category, from china to sporting-goods equipment.

Guests, who are informed of your choices by word of mouth or on shower invitations, (never on wedding invitations!), can then log on, call or drop by the store and select a wedding gift from your list.

Be sure to register as far in advance of the wedding as possible, and include items in a variety of price ranges to suit everyones budget (shower gifts are generally less expensive than wedding gifts; your friends may have less to spend on a gift than older relatives, etc.) Take your fiance with you; these are decisions you two should make together, since you'll both be living with the results.

When you register, you can indicate the address you'd like gifts delivered to, and many stores will let you specify delivery dates so, for example, packages aren't left while you're away on your honeymoon.

When It's Not Quite Right

The beauty of the registry is that you avoid duplicate gifts, since the items are checked off your list as they're purchased. Occasionally, however, errors are made and you do end up with two of the same thing, or with an incorrect item. In such instances, you can contact the registry directly and have the item replaced with something of equal value on your list, or perhaps even receive a cash refund to do with as you please. Either way, there is no need to inform the gift giver. Simply thank him or her and let the error go undisclosed.

Likewise, should you receive a damaged gift, you can make arrangements to have it replaced by the store (whether you were registered there or not), so you needn't trouble the giver who would no doubt be upset.

Of course, every couple is bound to receive wedding gifts they don't want or need, and you must be tactful about handling such a situation. You should never tell a gift giver that you didn't like the selection, but if it's clear where the gift came from, you can arrange to exchange it on your own. If the gift came from an important friend or relative who would be hurt if you didn't use it, you should keep the gift on hand and make a point to get it out of the box for occasions when you know the giver will see it.