What Is a Registry (And Why Do You Need One)?

A wedding registry is a personalized collection of gifts that an engaged couple has specifically chosen for their guests to shop from in order to make the wedding gifting experience simpler, easier, and more satisfying for everyone.

By Emily Forrest

wedding gifts from a Zola registry including copper Kitchen Aid stand mixer, Le Creuset turquoise ramekins, and a copper Vitamix blender
Photo by Zola

Call us biased, but we’re in the business of believing that creating a wedding registry is one of the most exciting tasks for engaged couples. As you add registry items, your wedding registry becomes a one-stop-shop for the gifts you really want—whether that’s gorgeous dishes for dinner parties or that’s money towards a dream honeymoon or another cash registry. If you’re creating your registry, read on. Here’s everything you need to know about wedding registries, from the most popular registry items to how to really get everything you want to start your married life together.

What Is a Wedding Registry?

A wedding registry is a personalized list or collection of gifts that engaged couples have specifically chosen for their guests to shop from in order to make the wedding gifting experience simpler, easier, and more satisfying for everyone.

Wedding registries traditionally existed in brick and mortar retailers like a department store, which couples and their guests were required to visit in order to handpick (or purchase) their desired wedding gifts. Nowadays, registries more frequently exist online, such as Zola’s Wedding Registry. An online registry company such as Zola allows couples to easily choose from an enormous assortment of gifts from the comfort of their living room (or anywhere from their phone), add them to their registry, and then share their registry link with their guests.

How Does a Wedding Registry Work?

  1. An engaged couple first selects where they would like to register. The store(s) they select should have abundant options for all of the gifts that they like and need, at a variety of different price points. Ahem, Zola …
  2. The couple researches and browses the store’s offerings, then makes their selections for wedding gifts and adds them to their registry. They should spend time thinking about wedding registry ideas and use a Registry Checklist to make sure they select all of the essentials they’ll need for their newlywed home.
  3. After they have added the recommended number of gifts at different price points, the couple makes their registry public and shares it with their guests in multiple ways: on their wedding website, on engagement party or wedding shower invitations, or through word of mouth. For example, if guests know a couple is registered at Zola, they can search for their names on Zola’s website to find their registry.
  4. Once guests know where a couple is registered and/or have access to their registry link, they shop the couple’s registry on their own time.
  5. Guests select the wedding gift(s) off the registry that they would like to give and ship the gift(s) directly to the couple’s address. Guests can also choose to ship the gift to themselves, or to shop for it in person, if they’d rather hand-deliver the gift. This can often be the case when giving gifts for a bridal shower or engagement party.
  6. As gifts are purchased off the registry, they are marked as unavailable to preventing couples from receiving duplicate gifts or more items than they wanted.
  7. The couple receives their wedding gifts from their registry as guests purchase and ship them. Usually gifts arrive before the wedding day, but sometimes might arrive later. Couples should be sure to write thank-you notes as they receive gifts to acknowledge their guests’ thoughtful gestures.

Why Should You Register With Zola

Everything in One Place

Zola is a universal registry and also the only place where you can register for gifts (from over 500 top brands), experiences, gift cards, donations to charities, and honeymoon or cash funds, everything in one place. This means your options for gifts are more varied, interesting, and well-suited for a diverse array of couples than any other registry destination. You can really create a perfectly curated selection.

Controlled (and Free) Shipping

Zola notifies couples when a gift has been purchased off their registry and allows them to decide whether the gift should be shipped to them right away, or saved for later. This feature i.e. Controlled Shipping can be enormously helpful for couples who might not be ready or able to receive tons of packages in the weeks leading up to their wedding date, or who plan to move post-nuptials.

Exchange Wedding Gifts Online

If you get a gift you don’t love, or change your mind about a gift you actually registered for, there’s no stress when it comes to exchanges on Zola. When couples are notified that a gift has been purchased for them, they have the option to exchange it for something else or convert it to Zola credit before it even ships.

Personalized Notes

Make your case for why you need that Vitamix, or how those Sonos wireless speakers will amp up your Netflix and Chill game, with personalized notes. Zola lets you personalize your wedding registry with these thoughtful insertions directly from you to your guests, who will love the personal touch and be more inclined to contribute.

Group Gifting

Zola’s group gifting feature lets your guests contribute a specific amount towards an expensive, big-ticket item or go in on a gift together. Couples are able to turn on Group Gifting for any gift on their registry, including cash funds and even charity funds. Since Zola handles all the logistics, there is no hassle or extra coordination on your guests’ part.

Registry Planner

All couples will have guests with a range of financial backgrounds. Zola’s simple Registry Planner can help you determine just how many gifts you’ll need in each price range based on the number of guests attending your wedding—so everyone will be sure to find something on your registry that fits their budget.

Cash Funds (With Lowest Cash Fee)

At Zola, you can set up cash funds for absolutely anything—your honeymoon, a new home, a new set of skis, etc. Breaking up your larger goals into specific funds (an amazing dinner during your honeymoon, for example) adds a personal touch. And since Zola has the lowest fee on cash funds, you and your guests will be spared extra transactional charges.

Price Matching

Zola will match the price if you find the same item at an approved online retailer for less. This means that you, and your wedding guests, will be getting exactly what you want for the best value.

20% Post-Wedding Discount

Receive a 20% post-wedding discount on all your remaining wedding gifts on your registry for six months after your wedding date. With this kind of significant discount working in your favor, it really pays to add as many gifts as possible to your Zola registry ahead of time!

Registry Advisor

Zola’s Registry Advisor program puts couples directly in touch with a Zola registry expert who’s on call to help couples get started with building their registry, choose the right amount of gifts at the right price points, and answer any and all questions along the way.

How to Build The Perfect Registry

Some aspects of wedding planning, like dress shopping and cake tasting, are all fun and games. But creating your wedding registry can seem a bit more, well, daunting. How are you supposed to know what you need, how much you need, or where to even begin?

That’s where we come in. Zola has got the art of helping you create your wedding registry down to a science. Read on for our simple tips and tricks on how to build the perfect registry for the two of you, so you can keep your sanity intact and focus on the big picture.

1. Register for What You Really Want

Remember, it’s okay to change your mind! Chances are, everyone will have an opinion about what you should register for. Our advice? Listen to your loved ones, but ultimately go with your gut. With over 500 brands and 50,000 products to choose from, chances are you’ll find something you love on Zola.

Have your eye on something particularly pricey from another store? You can add anything from any site with our Add to Zola button and turn on the Group Gifting option so multiple guests can contribute. And if you already have all the kitchen appliances you need, try registering for cash and honeymoon funds, or an experience you can enjoy together—from massages to hiking, we have something for everyone.

Having commitment issues about the items on your registry? Don’t give it a second thought. Zola lets you virtually exchange your gifts before they even ship, and you can control when your gifts are sent to you. So take your time mulling it over.

2. Let Zola Inspire and Guide You

We get it—it’s tough figuring out what it is you want. That’s why we created our Starter Collections. Carefully curated by the Zola team, they’re the perfect place to get some design inspiration and feel out the look you’re going for. Combined with the Zola Planner and Checklist, which help you decide how many and which gifts you need, you’re on the road to registry success.

Still uncertain? Touch base with our Registry Advisor who can not only help you select your gifts but also import external registries, provide assistance for your guests, and ensure you have the best experience possible.

3. Personalize, Personalize, Personalize

With Zola, you can truly make a one-of-a-kind registry that speaks to you as a couple. Choose one of our lovely designs, or upload your own custom cover photo. Include a photo of the two of you and write a personal welcome note for your guests. Add notes with your gifts to let guests know why each one is special. You’ll even have you own URL to share with your loved ones so they can easily find your registry.

4. Let Technology Do The Hard Work

Keeping tabs on normal life is tough enough, so we created a Gift Tracker that helps you stay on top of who’s given you what, and when. By tracking which guests gave you which gifts, your thank-you note writing just got a whole lot simpler.

And don’t forget about the app! The Zola App for iOS (or for Android) lets you register for gifts on-the-go, and mobile alerts ensure you’ll always be up-to-date when it comes to your registry. The app even includes a barcode scanner in case you see something you like while out and about—talk about registering made simple!

Up next for you

wedding registry gifts as seen from above including pink kitchen aid stand mixer and fine china

Your Wedding Registry Timeline


Find out when to start your wedding registry, when to publish it, and how to keep it updated with this complete wedding registry timeline that will take you from newly engaged to happily married in your newlywed home.

Le Creuset crock with cooking utsensils in flame orange, ramekins in teal blue and red, and honey pot in yellow

Tips for Creating a Wedding Registry


From which types of gifts guests love to give, to how to register for necessities you'll use today, next year, and for years to come, learn tips on how to create the perfect registry for you as a couple from Zola's registry experts.

wedding registry gift essentials including a blue Le Creuseut dutch oven, measuring spoons, a yellow citrus juice, and a turquoise citrus juicer

Essentials to Put on Your Wedding Registry


Get started building your registry with our a super-comprehensive checklist of list registry essentials, straight from our team of experts, that will cover ALL of your needs and help you build the newlywed home of your dreams.

man and woman holding hands in front of a mint green door seen only from waist down

How to Create a Registry If You Already Live Together


We're here to tell you why building a wedding registry is still really necessary, regardless of whether you live together before marriage.

Simplify Your Wedding Planning at Zola

Find even more wedding ideas, inspo, tips, and tricks

We’ve got wedding planning advice on everything from save the dates to wedding cakes.