In just over a year, I had two weddings (one a Covid-lockdown elopement, the other a post-lockdown reception) and a baby shower. I made several online registries in that time, and in true product reviewer fashion, I tried every single popular one before finally choosing my favorite.
A good wedding registry or baby registry makes things easy for you to create, and for your loved ones to shop on your behalf without worrying whether you already have an air fryer or high-quality bed sheets. The best registries are easy to navigate and buy from because, let’s be honest: You’re not getting any gifts if it’s a pain in the rear to shop for you. Not all registries are made equally, and there are a ton of options to navigate. Here’s what you should keep in mind as you choose an online registry and which ones we like best—based on my own research and testing plus feedback from other WIRED reviewers.
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How Online Registries Work
Online registries are designed so you can put together a wish list on a webpage shared over various forms of electronic communication and are even searchable by you and your partner’s names. They’re either a universal registry, which means you’re able to add gifts from any stores you’d like, or brand- and store-affiliated registries, which let you register only for goods at that specific store (think Crate & Barrel or Anthropologie).
Both styles want you and your gift-givers to stay onsite and purchase gifts through them since that’s how they make money, generating a cut from the product purchased by the gift-giver. Universal registries let you add other sites, but there are benefits to sticking with products available from a specific registry—it’s easier to track who bought you what, you can control when everything ships, and it’s convenient for your guests to checkout without leaving the site and not have to worry about anything else.
Need is a strong word, but when you’re getting married or having a kid, everyone asks for a link to your registry. It might seem indulgent, but a good registry makes it more convenient for people to buy you a gift without having to spend much time looking around or worrying about what to get you, where to ship it, and whether you’ll use it.
It’s always best to keep low expectations for what you’ll receive, and I liked having a range of price points to fit everyone’s budget. In my experience, folks who couldn’t come to the wedding loved buying nice things like plate sets, while those who took on the cost of travel could buy us more affordable items like candle sticks and sateen sheets.
What About Cash Funds (and Fees)?
Universal registries have an option for cash funds and let you theme them around milestones such as a honeymoon or a future home. Most of these sites charge you a processing fee of 2.5 percent when you cash it out (and can charge fees based on the volume of the gift to your gift giver), but not every site does. Both of our top recommendations for wedding registries either don’t charge a fee or have a fee-free option. Store-specific registries, however, such as Amazon, only let you give cash in the form of a store gift card.
Best Wedding Registries
When I think of wedding registries, I think of the scene from 27 Dresses where Katherine Heigl’s character is going around scanning an insane variety of things for the bride’s registry, some of which she added just to annoy said bride. I’d do the same thing if I had to deal with anyone else’s registry—I barely wanted to work on my own, and it took annoyingly long to go through pages and pages of gift options and types with my soon-to-be-husband.
Wedding registries were originally designed to help couples get everything they need for their first home together, which is a long list of items. If you’re anything like me and my husband, you might already have the basics, but a registry is a nice opportunity to invest in things you can use for years to come (and finally throw out your crappy plates).
Best Universal Registry (and Fee-Free Cash Funds)
The universal registry Joy has been popular among my fellow married friends for their weddings for one very important reason: no fees for cash gifts. While most other registries will charge a processing fee for handling the money, Joy’s registry has no such fee. You’re able to theme your funds as you see fit, and Joy also lets you register for regular gifts both on its site and off of it.
Joy also has a website maker, but it’s not as eye-catching as designs from Zola or the Knot, and it only allows for a single continuous scroll versus separate web pages. You can set up a registry there without using the website, and you can link to it on your wedding website of choice if you go with a different site maker. The website has tools to send out save the dates and invites, plus makes it easy to manage a guest list and RSVPs.
Also consider: MyRegistry is another good universal registry, but it charges fees that can go as high as almost 7 percent depending on the size of the cash gift.
Best Website-Registry Combo
I distinctly remember making websites on both Zola and the Knot on the same day to see which I wanted to use, and I very quickly went with Zola. It has a better library of website designs, while the Knot was a little too focused on helping me plan the wedding and generating insanely long to-do lists. All I wanted was one place for everything to be, with an on-theme website that wasn’t hideous, and Zola easily pulled ahead.
The registry tool is easy to use. It organizes gifts into types and has a fairly sizable library of well-regarded (and often pricier) brands. Zola is also a universal registry—I was able to add gifts from outside stores (you can choose to get cash for these or direct the gift giver to the external site), and my friends and family were able to mark those outside gifts as purchased on Zola. There are also options for cash gifts, though Zola does have fees.