December 12, 2015
Whatever the occasion, registering is quickly becoming an art form. Gone are the days of Mother taking Daughter to the local china shop to choose a formal pattern (to be used only on holidays and when the in- laws come for dinner, dear). Today registering, though still used as a means to help establish a young couple’s household, has also become a way of pleasing relatives, asserting an individual’s or couple’s personality and, most important, avoiding nasty surprises. “My parents got three fondue makers for their wedding,” says Winnipegger Maggie Nighswander, who’s not convinced she and the man she recently married, Daniel Rempel, would use one, let alone three. “Besides, my grandmother doesn’t know how to buy from anything but a register.”
In terms of weddings, the biggest change to this pre-nuptial ritual is that grooms have finally cottoned on to the fact that registering is the closest they may ever come to the genie in a bottle. Men are signing up for everything from camping equipment and tools to steam cleaners and air hockey games. Even Toronto-based William Ashley China, the mecca of wedding registry in Canada (with more than enough china to terrify your average groom), has found that men are more involved in picking out patterns and stemware. “He may or may not have a lot to say about what the bride chooses in the end,” laughs Ashley’s spokesperson Jackie Chiesa, “but men are definitely playing a role.” It helps, she adds, that in 1994, Ashley’s opened the Gourmet Shoppe — a stainless steel haven of pots, pans, coffee makers and corkscrews — to which most men are irresistibly drawn. “Grooms are very interested in what kinds of knives they have,” notes Chiesa, “and what kind of appliances.”
With the changing shapes of households and relationship rites — common-law couples, gay and lesbian commitment ceremonies, women choosing to have children while single — registries have been forced to change. Meanwhile, all kinds of stores have jumped on the you-want- it-you-got-it bandwagon. Individual Canadian Tire stores, for example, now offer registries for people who prefer wood wedges over Wedgwood. Indigo Books & Music has wish lists for books, DVDs and videos (with giftware coming on soon) that it’s about to start marketing as options for birthday and graduation gift buying. Birks is now working to set up a home ware registry. And for the ultimate shopaholic, the West Edmonton Mall opened an on-line registry two years ago that includes all of the 800-plus stores in the world’s largest shopping mall.
Popular options in the registering world include not only national stores like the Bay and Sears (so that friends from out of town can purchase gifts more easily) but also small local shops. At Handworks Gallery in Saint John, N.B., women pick handmade jewellery for Valentine’s Day, while photography and paintings are popular at Christmas. It’s a nice way of making the gimme gimme feeling of registering more warm and fuzzy. And when a gift is specially commissioned from an artisan, says co-owner Shannon Merrifield, “it’s more sentimental.”
As individual and inventive as registering can be, it remains a source of stress. Andrea MacKenzie, a single mother who just gave birth to a baby boy, decided to register at Toys “R” Us to save people time and energy searching for a gift she might already have. “The big-ticket items I bought,” says MacKenzie, a lawyer in Fredericton. “I didn’t want people to spend too much. But my strategy was that people like to buy you cute things for the baby. It’s kind of a no-brainer, so I just put baby clothes on and some little things like safety clamps.”
Johnny Rukavina and Jodi McLellan, getting married in Parksville, B.C., on Aug. 24, were initially wishy-washy about registering, but then common sense and memories of innumerable picnic baskets they’d bought as wedding gifts won out. “Something from the registry may not really be the special dream gift, but it’s also not a picnic basket,” says Rukavina. After registering at the Bay, the couple posted the following on their wedding Web site: “A disclaimer: we are not greedy materialistic fiends hell-bent on acquiring merchandise. We are not hermits who live in the woods and have eschewed all material possessions either.” In the new world of registering, there is a way around everything.