You Get What You Ask For: Registry and Gifts

Many couples use wedding registries as a way to ask their guests for the gifts they would most appreciate — but that needn’t only be spatulas and fondue sets. Today, couples in California can “register” for donations, for nonmaterial gifts of time, for a trip, or for carbon offsets. The trick isn’t to ask for what you imagine other couples want, or for what large retailers suggest you want, but for what you’d actually like your guests to give.

You can register for tzedakah/donations:
Some couples and bar/bat mitzvah teens ask guests to make donations to designated charities in addition to or instead of purchasing material gifts:

The I Do Foundation,, and Changing the Present,, allow couples to register for donations to causes they care about.

Teens or couples can create personalized donation websites for over a million local and national organizations at JustGive,, and for any US non-profit at Network for Good,

Local organizations with donation registries include Equality California,, an organization devoted to obtaining marriage equality throughout California, and Share Ourselves,, an Orange County-based organization that provides a free medical clinic to the homeless and financially disadvantaged in the area.

For more ideas about connecting tzedakah/righteous giving to your celebration, see Tzedakah.
You can register Fair Trade: 
Fair Trade is a people-powered response to global economic injustice. Registering for household goods created by Fair Trade cooperatives supports artisans who can thereby make a living wage, improve their communities, and preserve cultural craft traditions. The Fair Trade Federation, to which all fair trade handicraft businesses belong, keeps an updated list of registry programs:

Ten Thousand Villages,, offers a registry online, with local retail stores in Healdsburg (One World Fair Trade), Pasadena (Ten Thousand Villages), Reedley (World handcrafts and Mennonite Quilt Center), Santa Rosa (Kindred Handcrafts), and Sonoma and St. Helena (Baksheesh).  

Global Exchange Fair Trade Store,, which sells fairly traded handcrafts, has store locations in Berkeley and San Francisco, and also offers an on-line registry.

You can register green:
A green business is one that conducts itself in a way that solves, rather than causes, social and environmental problems. Green America’s National Green Pages™,, is the nation’s only directory of screened green businesses. Search for green gifts under categories such as Furniture, House-wares, and Gifts.

These green house-ware companies offer online registries:
Other green companies offering online registries include EcoExpress,, based in Novato.

You can register union:
Another way of directing your guests towards gifts that reflect your values is to purchase union-made products — products made in the US, usually, by workers who have a voice on the job. Visit to identify some union-made brands.
Try to “green” whatever registry you choose:
If you do register for gifts through an online retailer, try to green the process by:
  • Asking if the stores where you are registered will consolidate the delivery of all gifts into only one or a few shipments.
  • Asking guests not to wrap each gift (after all, you already know what it is!)
  • Encouraging guests to select ground shipping, rather than air, from a shipper such as UPS, or the Postal Service, where workers have a meaningful voice on the job. (Avoid FedEx in particular, where many workers are fighting for a union; learn more at
  • Reminding any guests who buy gifts online to note that they do not want to receive paper catalogs and do not want their information shared with other mailers. (If you or your guests do begin receiving any unwanted catalogs, they can be canceled for free at
  • You can ask your guests that are bringing presents to the event to use alternatives to traditional gift wrapping.  This site has some interesting and fun ideas:
“Just as a weasel drags things in and stores them without knowing for whom
it is storing them, so the people of the world drag things in and store them
without knowing for whom they store them.”
--Talmud Yerushalmi Masekhet Shabbat 14:1
“Most people think it is rude to send an unwrapped gift. However, anyone who is recently married remembers receiving several boxes a day and knows what a horrible waste gift wrapping becomes. Couples can request on their websites that guests refrain from having gifts wrapped.”
— Julia Zuckerman & Joshua Jacobs, Dupont Circle

“We set up an online registry that included non-traditional gifts like cooking us a fancy meal and writing us inspiring letters.” – Josh Feldman and Ayana Morse, Silver Lake

Have suggestions? Real-life stories using these or other ideas? Please share them with us for future versions of the Guide!