Wedding registries may be an efficient way for newlyweds to begin building their life together, but a recent study suggests that the ritual has had a profound impact on the role of families in weddings.
In an effort to explore the meaning behind wedding registries, University of Notre Dame marketing professor Tonya Williams Bradford interviewed and observed 72 registrants, gift-givers and retail employees. She concluded that families "outsource" the ritual of gift-giving to retailers, leading to less personalized, more commercial gifts.
According to Notre Dame News, Bradford said roles traditionally held by grandparents and parents are now given to retailers. Historically, the couple's parents (mostly the mother of the bride) played a big role in choosing the household items the newlywed couple would need. The mothers would then communicate that information to extended family and friends, ensuring that the couple was adequately prepared for married life. Now, retailers offer up suggestions to couples who are registering, and parents are left to host bridal showers and engagement parties, with little other involvement.
"The notion of gift-giving used to hold much more sentimental value. Now, everything is pretty much purchased, and, sadly, many people don’t put a lot of thought into customizing those purchases,” Bradford said.
But Bradford said that retailers and newlyweds are generally happy to let stores like Target and Macy's take over the wedding planning and gift-giving.
"For the retailer, it certainly has increased the revenue," said Bradford, according to Business News Daily. "And for the bride and groom, there is a broader net for those who can participate, because all that is necessary is to communicate the registry website to potential gift buyers."
A survey by TheKnot.com and WeddingChannel.com found that in 2011, 1.5 million engaged couples registered before their wedding. On average, couples registered at three stores for a total of 153 items, and the average registry was worth $5,158.
Check out alternatives to wedding registries in the slideshow below.