Let me give you all a piece of advice: If someone at Williams-Sonoma invites you to dinner, you say yes. Even if it means getting on a plane and flying across the country, as I did. These guys know what they are about when they pick a restaurant. I met three lovely W-S employees at A16, a terrific Italian restaurant in San Francisco's Cow Hollow neighborhood. The food, the wine, the company--all worth the pillow-less JetBlue flights from little Burlington, VT.
This customer's daughter was engaged to be married, but she didn't want the usual silver and china. She wanted to register for things to stock her kitchen and to entertain with--practical things. At that time, brides only registered for silver and china and they only did it at department and specialty stores like Gump's. They did not register for everyday items like cooking utensils and baking pans. So Mr. Williams made a list of the practical items the bride wanted on a small tablet pad and as guests came in to buy gifts he would wrap them with the same pineapple symbol they use today (a symbol of hospitality, in case any of you were wondering) and he would check each gift off the list.
And so the wedding registry as we know it, organizational God-send to couples and their wedding guests everywhere, was born. I absolutely love learning the stories behind the traditions we hold on to, and this was one I hadn't known before.
It fascinates me to see how etiquette and traditions evolve and change as the demands of what we really need in our lives evolves and change, too. A demand was created by modern, less formal brides and a need was met by an industry market and accepted by society. Voila.
Take the wedding invitation RSVP card, for example. A few decades back (I keep trying to pin down the date--if you know about what year this entered mainstream culture, please let me know) no one would ever have included a reply card in a wedding invitation. Guests knew that they were supposed to get out their stationery and draft a correctly worded reply in a timely manner. Yet guests began to fail to play their part, leaving frustrated hosts without any idea who was coming or what numbers to give to caterers. Enter the reply card, a simple place to write your name and, second grade-style, check yes or no if you are coming.
Nowadays, only the highest of sticklers would turn their nose up at an RSVP card. They're almost standard (though not required), and have an etiquette of their own when used (include a pre-addressed, stamped return envelope). Society changed and had a new need, which stationers responded to. And it may be about to happen again. Now I'm starting to see registry cards included in invitations for weddings, wedding showers and baby showers.
This is a bit of fine line--we need registry information because pretty much everyone uses them for these events, and yet no one wants to look like they are greedy for gifts. As it stands now it's fine to throw a registry card in with a wedding shower or baby shower invitation, but not for a wedding. The point of a shower is literally to give gifts, so there's no surprise there when gift info comes enclosed--it's helpful. But note that it's not on the invite itself--the invite is reserved for the message that your host hopes you can come, period. With weddings, it's not about the gifts at all, even though we all know one is required. This keeps the focus only on enjoying the event with the people you love--a very important message. So there is no good reason to have gift info enclosed, as it could easily send the message that you are only inviting someone for their gift.
But, let's face it. We're all busy. We all give gifts when invited to a wedding (whether we attend or not). A registry card really could become quite helpful, right there along with the info about flights, hotels and local attractions that most couples include. So I ask you: would you like to see registry cards become a new, convenient norm to help cut to the inevitable chase in your busy life, or would you feel as though it wasn't about your company anymore and just about the loot you're now required to give?