Survey: Wedding registries morph into broader range

FILE - In this Dec. 14, 2017 photo, a bride holds a bouquet during her wedding in Ein Hemed, Israel. Wedding registries remain popular according to the survey by the wedding site TheKnot.com. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit, File)

NEW YORK — Wedding registries remain popular and the nature of gifting has morphed into a broader range of options, including cash registries, that are being embraced by friends and family, a new survey shows.

The average wedding registry was valued at $4,853 last year, featuring 125 items, according to the survey by the wedding site TheKnot.com of nearly 7,000 engaged or recently married couples. Nearly 9 in 10 couples, or 88 percent of the American couples who responded, set up registries in 2017, about the same number as the year before, the findings showed.

But what couples asked for and how they asked changed last year over 2016 in some key ways, said Kristen Maxwell Cooper, The Knot's editor in chief.

"Couples no longer want to be put in a box when it comes to wedding registries," she said in a recent interview. "They want to be able to register for whatever they want, whether that is stuff that comes from a traditional retailer, stuff that comes from a specialty store. They want to register for cash, they want to donate to charity, they want to do all of these things, or they just want to choose one of these things that fit their lifestyle."

The industry has responded with digital options allowing couples to make registry requests from a variety of sources, Maxwell Cooper said.

The number of couples using their registries to give back was up significantly, the survey showed, but that ask has not been widely embraced by couples. One in 10 couples, or 10 percent of those surveyed, made a request on behalf of charity in their registries last year, up from 3 percent in 2016.

"Couples are a little bit older now when they're getting married," Maxwell Cooper said — the average age is 29 for brides and 31 for grooms. "They're a little more established and probably lived together before getting married. They may feel like they have all the material things that they need. It's great to have a retail registry as well, if your grandmother and great-grandmother feels like they really want to give you something tangible."

Perhaps a little more challenging for traditionalists buying gifts are cash requests to finance such things as honeymoons. They were used by 6 percent of those surveyed, compared with 4 percent the year before. Of those last year, nearly half used their cash gifts to help pay for honeymoons. One in four put the money toward a down payment on a home. On average, couples received $1,437 for their honeymoons.

In 2011, asking for cash was a faux pas, with only 1 percent of couples asking.

"We will just continue to see that go up," Maxwell Cooper said. "I think it's becoming more and more acceptable. As long as people feel that their cash is going to something."

For the first time in The Knot's annual registry survey, Maxwell Cooper said, more couples said they set up their primary registries online — 55 percent last year compared with 48 percent in 2016. In-store brick-and-mortar registries were used as the primary registry by 44 percent of couples surveyed.

Nearly all the couples with registries overall managed them digitally, most by smartphone using apps or retailer websites.

So what are all these gifts?

More than 1 in 5 couples, or 22 percent, registered for electronics last year. For the third consecutive year, wireless speakers were the most popular item at 28 percent, the survey said. Smart home devices were second at 26 percent. Robotic vacuums got a bump, with 16 percent of couples asking, up from 6 percent.

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This version corrects the average value of registries to $4,853 instead of $4,835.

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