@inkedbride: I shudder at these “general rules”. They are consensus rules, being formed by brides chatting with other brides on the internet, without a lot of recourse to the better judgement of other parts of society, formal protocol, or your grandma’s life-long experience. Trust instead in your excellent instincts to “feel horrible about telling people what to buy us”. Your grandma probably DID have something to do with instilling those!
There is nothing wrong with having a registry, done properly. “Properly” includes that you don’t expect gifts from people, period. Instead, have a deep imaginative look at your “happily ever after.” Marriage is all about making a happy home for one another, and possibly for your dependents, “until death do ye part.” What does that future happy home look like? Are you sitting at the Thanksgiving table with a dozen grandchildren and their parents gathered round? What chairs, china, table-linens, glassware, silverware are on the table? Do they match? Are they the ones you already have?
Or, are you jetsetting around Europe, skiing the Alps, sailing the Aegean? What luggage are you lugging? How are you making a home on-the-go?
Or, are you living off the grid in a small cabin in the Ozarks? Do you have a cast-iron kettle, a good tinder-box, some coal-oil lanterns with glass shades?
Whatever your happily-ever-after is, it will require some capital infrastructure, preferably heirloom-quality that you can pass on to the next generation. It is your responsiblity, not your guests’, to acquire whatever that long-term vision requires. A registry is about calmly looking at your long-term needs and listing them out. In the olden days (up to say, ten years ago) you could find department stores that would keep your registry permanently on file and notify you whenever one of your patterns was going to be discontinued, and discreetly help your guest who accidentally dropped one of twelve matching white-wine goblets order a replacement. Some Bay stores still maintain the registry indefinately as long as you order from it or update it at least every two years. Macy’s might do the same; I doubt if Crate and Barrel or Bed Bath and Beyond would do so. I think if I were coming of age in this century I might do my own record-keeping on a Facebook “Notes” page.
The fun of a registry (for the woman making it) is the impractical daydreaming about the future. You may not be able to afford that Spode soup tureen or Kitchenaid stand-mixer this year, but they will still be there waiting in five years when you get that partnership offer and can then afford them. Trendy things, like this year’s popular pattern of placemat, won’t be available in five years, but they are icons of the disposable culture that don’t really belong on a registry.
The fun of a registry, for the people shopping from it, is the glee of having tracked down its hidden location, followed by the guilty pleasure of snooping into your imaginary happily-ever-after. And, unlike opening your medicine cabinet while using your facilities during a visit, this kind of snooping is socially approved. It is still snooping though, so your friends and relatives are prevented from passing judgment on your registry, by the fact that they are in a glass house.