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Too Many Cooks: Wedding Registry Highs & Lows

You'll be hearing from the staff at FOOD52 every week in Too Many Cooks, our group column in which we pool our answers to questions about food, cooking, life, and more.

Today: In anticipation of our upcoming Registry launch, the Food52 Shop just launched 30+ brand new products for tabletop and home decor. (Shop them here!) In honor of the occasion, we're talking wedding registries—specifically the highs and lows of our experiences with them.

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Do you go with the always useful napkins or a slightly off-the-grid monthly salami subscription? Chemex or Aeropress? Cast iron pan or Dutch oven? Navigating a wedding registry is like choosing between apples and oranges—except without knowing which fruit the couple you're buying for likes better. Even more difficult is creating your own registry and striking that balance between needs and wants. 

In preparation for Food52's wedding registry (coming VERY soon!), we're launching all kinds of wedding collections featuring everything from kitchen essentials to our favorite upgrades. It's the place—or page—to go for those wedding bells ding dong-ing in the distance.

Which is why we asked the crew at Food52: What are your experiences with wedding registries? 

If you’re married, what did you return? What’s still in the box? What do you use everyday that you could not live without? If you’re not married, what are you excited to register for? What are your pet peeves about buying for your friends through their registries? The registry item you always buy?


Hayley Sonneland: Since I'm nearly positive my husband isn't reading this, I'll admit now to returning a bunch of beer steins he "needed." He's a whiskey drinker, so need is a relative term. Instead I purchased a bunch of things I wanted, but hadn't gotten, like a cast iron pan. The best tip I received was to register for really nice knives and to do so separately, so the price point is more reasonable for guests. My registry regret was not registering for a Le Creuset Braiser because mine is now my favorite dish (thanks, Santa!). For other people, I tend to buy an assortment of random leftovers from their registries. I'm a big believer if someone registered for 8 napkins and only 6 were purchased, there's probably a reason they asked for 8!

Lindsay-Jean Hard: One of the best wedding gifts we received was an enormous, multi-wood cutting board. I use it every day, multiple times a day, and love it so much it's now my go-to wedding gift for others.

Christina DiLauraI usually tailor my gift to the person, but always tell a story. My favorite gift was a full-on pizza night, complete with a pizza stonebeer and wine glasses, and a great bottle of red. Had the Food52 Shop existed at the time, there certainly would have have been a pizza rocker in the mix. 

More: Make hassle-free homemade pizza dough.

Heather Wautelet: When we received an electronic pepper grinder, I thought it was dumb and unnecessary and considered returning it. But now, every time my hands are covered in meat germs and I just have to push one little button to season, I take it back. Also, a larger Le Creuset Dutch Oven made all my stock, soup, and braising dreams come true this winter. As for returns, almost every appliance went back. As soon as they were placed on our tiny NYC countertop, I swear the things grew 3 sizes. 

Riddley: I would never have been able to wait for a KitchenAid Stand Mixer, but I will be registering for a Le Creuset Dutch Oven. If someone would like to spend big (and has a very kind soul) there’s always a Vitamix.


Amanda Sims: I always buy my engaged friends whatever decent food containers they've registered for. I've even gone rogue and bought them good ones they didn't register for because you can never have too much quality storage for leftovers. I cannot get behind novelty items like crème brûlée torches—does anyone ever use them? 

Caroline Lange: I'm with Amanda. I think there's so much value in things like food storage or dishtowels—what you use every day. It's what I would want in my registry. Subscription services are cool, too—I would have a hard time buying a monthly subscription of mail-delivered coffee beans for myself, but would love that as a gift.

Jennifer Morris: I'm about to register for my wedding and aiming for a balance of reasonably priced unique items, a couple of splurge items, and then the rest to have an excellent return policy and breadth of selection. Why? Because I have everything I need. It's nearly impossible for me to come up with a reason for replacing a large number of things that work perfectly. Instead, I'm likely register somewhere I may not even like going to (aka Macy's) so I can return and use for anything under the sun. 

Lauren Locke: I was so excited to register for knives, bakeware, and pans, but over did it with a few novelty items. I didn't use a wok before I was married, why did I think I would suddenly start? One of my favorite non-registry gifts was a wooden salad bowl and tongs, made from a Canadian tree, that you wash with just water because the oil in the salad dressing treats the wood. For gift giving, I love buying champagne flutes and gifting it with two bottles, a nice one for an anniversary and a lower priced one "just for a fun night!" I also gift dinners for the honeymoon. If they like to entertain, a beverage chiller bucket comes in handy. We use ours way more than I would have ever imagined.

Ryan Hamilton: There were definitely quite a few home decor items that "we" registered for and later decided to return in favor of putting towards a higher-priced item or two. We had a few nice off-the-registry items that had some sentimental value, but also some that remain buried somewhere and we'd feel guilty about parting with. That said, I don't get creative and always buy from the registry for others. A few of my favorite items I still regularly use are: a full coffee kit (consisting of a burr grinder, electric kettle, Chemex, and scale), a big pepper mill, a WiFi body scale, and a pair of old-fashioned glasses.


Samantha Weiss-Hills: One of the best gifts we received is this humble yet mighty aluminum sauce pan. We use it for everything (especially regular batches of Marcella's sauce). An Aeropress is right up there, as well as versatile steak knives. People also contributed to a honeymoon fund, which was just so easy for guests and super exciting for us. I totally wish we would have registered for nice cloth napkins. We've just never gotten around to getting any, and I always feel like a derp handing people paper towels at dinner parties. Alternately, I feel like we always gift kitchenware, table linens, or give money. Lately we've been doing cookbooks and a cooking utensil or item that goes with the cuisine.

Tim McSweeney: My wife and I asked no one gift us anything for our wedding, stating that we had all that we need. With that being said, it also helped we didn't have a traditional wedding. We were married at City Hall in NYC with friends and had a BBQ back in CA with our families.


Lauren Kelley: I always try to buy the prettiest practical item on someone's registry—something they'll use, but isn't so utilitarian it will be tucked away. And, whenever possible, I always buy one off-registry item that reminds me of them. For a friend of mine who wasn't much of a cook, I picked out a very special hand-carved wooden spoon, hoping that would inspire her (she told me it has). For people who were honeymoon abroad, I give them the local currency so they'll be ready when they get off the plane—and tell them to spend it frivolously. 

Jackie Stauffer: I love our new barware. I amassed quite the collection of cups and glasses—sourcing from college bars, housewarming gifts, and everything in between—and created a mess of mismatched glasses and not in the cool mix-n-match way. We registered for every type of glass under the sun and I am so happy that we did. It gives me such pleasure to know I could host 12 people and everyone would get matching, beautiful glasses! 

Share your wedding registry highs, lows, hopes, and dreams in the comments below!

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Alice Kruse
    Alice Kruse
  • ChefJune
  • Erika Hobbs
    Erika Hobbs
  • mrslarkin
I fall in love with every sandwich I ever meet.


Alice K. June 14, 2016
My daughter registered for mostly practical things, at modest price points. To make it easy for her guests. She needn't have worried; most guests went off registry, anyway. Two stupid gifts she got were fur-lined manacles (NOT on the registry!)and, from a gifted home wine-and -liqueur-maker, a bottle of cheap pink zinfandel. Very disappointing.
ChefJune June 14, 2015
When I was a wedding planner, I used to recommend my brides go for the moon when they registered. (in addition to the practical items, of course) Rationale? You may not get everything you wish for, but if your family and friends don't know what you really crave, how can they possibly get it for you?
Erika H. June 14, 2015
Look, I get what this blog is about. And yes, I love But, seriously, Jennifer Morris? If you've got enough, why get more? Apparently, registries, and, hence, weddings, aren't about the graciousness of your guests, or sharing love and a major milestone with family and community. No, apparently, you got a case of the gimmes. How about, instead of registering for more things you don't need, you request donations for things for people who are hungry or tools for those who need them, such as woman-owned start-up to lift potential craftsmen out of poverty? Maybe that's a better way to share the love, and the love for stuff. Afterall, isn't that what food -- and, arguably, this blog - is about: sharing, community, sustenance, nurturing and love?
mrslarkin June 13, 2015
I just want to say the OP salami subscription is the best thing that ever happened to our mail box. Every month, it's like we hit the lotto. Salami #7 arrived today, we did the happy dance, and then ate it.