Wedding Registry Alternatives

A wedding registry lets your friends and family help jump-start your new life together. Now that two lives are merging, you may not have enough dinner plates or matching towels for the bathroom. This tradition began in 1924 as a means for couples to choose their china and silver, although it has evolved to include any household item—and then some! And the tradition continues to evolve with non-gift wedding registry alternatives.

While plenty of registries still include everything from pans to pillows, the average age of marriage is on the rise—for both men and women. And many Americans think 28 is the best age to buy a house. So if you’re already living together—or if one of you already owns a home—you don’t always need anything new. Sure, your vacuum cleaner could always use an upgrade, but one item is definitely too short for a registry!

Bonus Tip: Whatever route you go, make sure there are items with a $20-40 price tag for guests on a tight budget. 

How do you plan a registry when you don’t need any of the traditional items on it? These popular wedding registry alternatives to his-and-her hand towels allow your guests to personalize their gift, while giving you something you’ll actually use.

1. Honeymoon Activities

Wedding Registry Alternatives Honeymoon Excursions

By your wedding day, you’ve already booked any honeymoon travel—you don’t want to base your trip around your registry. But you can still have guests contribute to excursions or upgrades. Websites like HoneyFund let you add anything from gorilla trek passes to dinner at an upscale restaurant. This way, guests contribute to your honeymoon experience—a memory that will last a lifetime—and you don’t have to worry about stretching every single dollar, especially after planning a wedding.

Honeymoon funds can be controversial wedding registry alternatives, as some think it’s rude to ask for money. That’s why we recommend listing specific items—if you’ve already booked an Eastern Caribbean cruise, you can request horseback riding on the beach or a couple’s massage. That way, guests aren’t paying for your honeymoon; they’re enhancing your celebration.

2. Home Remodel

You might already own a home, but does it meet your needs? Maybe you’re planning to grow your family post-wedding, or finally launch your own business. Or perhaps you really do need a new pots and pans—and microwave, dishwasher, and sink. Create a home renovation registry! Guests can buy individual items you need, but also contribute to tearing down that center wall for open concept dining.  

SimpleRegistry lets you create wedding registry alternatives to give you what you and your fiancé really need for the next stage of your life. Set a cost for bigger ticket items and ask for multiple contributions. For example, if it costs $800 to remove a wall in your kitchen, you can ask for 20 contributions, so each guest only pays $40.

3. Donation to Non-Profit

Wedding Registry Alternatives Charitable Donation

Ask that guests make a charitable donation in lieu of a gift—either in their name, or your own. You can link the online donation form for any charity on your wedding website, or utilize a third-party like Just Giving to create an online fundraiser if you’re not designing a separate wedding website. 

Bonus Tip: If you can, offer to match each donation to encourage giving. 

For a competitive twist, select two charities—you choose one, and your betrothed chooses the other. When you share the registry with your guests, tell them it’s a competition to see whose charity can make the most money. At the wedding, the “loser” gets a face full of wedding cake at the ceremony! (Or a less messy option, like leading the guests in the Chicken Dance.)  

4. Gift Cards Only

Maybe you’re juggling the wedding and a move or other life change; you may not know what color bath towels you’ll need post-nuptials. To cover your bases, register for a handful of gift cards at your favorite stores. This will save you hassle of returning items that don’t match or fit in the moving truck. If there are certain items you know for sure you’ll need, it’s okay to add those to the list—just be clear of your preference in the invitations.

Half the fun of buying a wedding gift is imagining the happy couple using it. Because wedding registry alternatives, like gift cards, remove some of that magic, update your wedding website or send thank you cards with photos once you’ve used the gift card, so your guests can see what they ultimately bought. This simple gesture will help friends and family feel like part of your new life together.

5. Themed Gift

5 Wedding Registry Alternatives

Get to know each of your guests with a themed gift. Instead of creating a list of items, choose a few categories for their gifts to fall under: a copy of their favorite book, a bottle of their favorite whiskey (or wine or spirit), or their favorite movie.

Bonus Tip: This is a great way to get to know your in-law friends and family! 

Give them 2-4 options to choose from, so they don’t have to choose a bottle of wine if they only drink beer. (And because you don’t have the time to watch that many movies!). Then as you sample each drink, or finish each book, reach out to your guests and share your experience. Overall, you get a more personal interaction with your friends and family. 


It’s a difficult balance, to choose specific items that you’ll use, and your guests can easily purchase—especially if there’s nothing you need in your house. But these wedding registry alternatives let guests have a personal choice in their gifts, while being useful and personal for you, too. Whatever you do, keep your instructions clear and simple, and include them with your invitation packet.

Have you ever been to a wedding with a non-traditional wedding registry? Tell us about it!