The history of the bridal registry stems from the giving of wedding gifts - a long tradition in the history of marriage. Originally, couples were showered with symbols of fidelity, fertility, and prosperity. Eventually, the gifts became tokens to help the new couple establish their home and prepare for children.  For the last 85 years, brides in America have been creating a bridal or wedding registry. The very first registry was created in 1924 in Chicago, Illinois at the Marshall Fields Department Store as a means for an engaged couple to choose their china, silver and crystal patterns.  The idea eventually spread across the country and throughout the retail industry. Today, a bridal registry is considered a must-have for any couple planning their nuptials. And, as times have changed, so have the registries. While the process remains the same, traditional requests are now being replaced with an increasing variety of unusual and trendy items relevant to 21st century couples.
Reasons to Create A Bridal Registry
The selection of your registry is a fun and exciting process. This is one of the earliest steps you'll take as a couple in building your life together. It's important to make sure that you both get involved while making your selections. Remember that these are items and patterns that you'll be using as a couple - not as individuals! Your registry is meant to serve as a convenience for both you and your guests, many of whom may not know your likes and dislikes. Additionally, when gifts are purchased, the store handling your registry will check off the purchase, helping to prevent duplicates, and eliminating the need for you to return unwanted items later.
When to Register for Your Wedding
Etiquette rules recommend that a wedding registry should be created prior to mailing the wedding invitations. Ideally, invitations are sent four to six weeks prior to the wedding date; so plan on having your registry completed at least two months before the wedding. Building your registry takes time, so don't wait until the last minute! Typically, couples like to create their registry about six months prior to the big day. Once your registry is created, be sure to you check on your registry each week to replace any discontinued or out of stock items.
Where to Register
Almost any major department store has a gift registry. Many couples select more than one retail establishment, allowing for a more diverse selection so that their guests have many options.
Some websites provide what's known as a universal registry - an online registry service that is not tied to any particular store. This type of gift registry lets shoppers add gifts from multiple stores into a single gift registry. This is a great way to register for items of a more unique nature, and from a variety of stores.
The following is a list of some of the more well known retailers and websites that offer in-store or universal registry services:
What Types of Items Should Be Included On Your Registry
Whether you're creating a bridal registry online or in the store, you can find plenty of information to help you get started. Many retailers provide checklists which suggest items to add, or you can go outside the box and create a registry that particularly suits you as a couple of the new millennium.
Some of the newest trends include home decorating items, organizational supplies, outdoor entertaining, recreational products, and gift certificates for travel or experience gifts. Gourmet kitchen supplies, food and wine are popular. High-end linens are often requested, as are electronics, gaming systems, movies and CDs. In addition, today's wedding couples love to give back and are actively seeking out ways for their incoming gifts to have an impact on the issues that are important to them. The "I Do Foundation" allows guests to give money to your chosen charities instead of to you, and other registries offer to give a percentage of each guest's purchase to your chosen organization. 
Obviously, today's registries have become as unique as the individuals who create them. However, there is one guideline that everyone should keep in mind when selecting the gifts for inclusion on their registry. Your friends and family members who will be shopping from your registry will appreciate having a wide variety of gifts to choose from - in both types and price points. Some brides or couples feel embarrassed to place too many items on their list - but don't be afraid to do so. In the end, it will assist your guests in their purchase, and it will help you to garner a well-rounded host of items to begin your lives together.
Letting Guests Know About Your Registry
Traditional etiquette professionals profess that you should not "advertise" your gift registry unless the guest asks you directly. However, in today's American culture, that perspective may be a little dated. Typically, it's now considered perfectly acceptable - and even helpful - for your registry information to be included in your bridal shower invitations. That said, including your registry with your wedding invitation is still considered very taboo. In order to avoid any faux pas, you may consider providing an insert in the wedding invitation that includes an online link to your bridal wedding page which can include your registry information. The Knot is a wonderful site which offers services to to help you create your own personal wedding web site on which you can create those all-important links to your gift registries.
Now that you're ready to go...begin by exploring your likes and dislikes as a couple. Choose the registry retailers and websites that fit you and your needs. Plan your time accordingly. Both of you get involved, and last but not least, enjoy this exciting time in your life. Happy Ever After!
- Bridal Registry Checklist
- Gift Registry Etiquette
- Guide to Choosing a Wedding Gift
- Themed Weddings
- Tips for Planning a Jack and Jill Bridal Shower
- Plan An Earth-Friendly Wedding
- www.pashweddings.com/content/articles/206/1/The-21st-Century-Bridal-Registry-Trends/Page1.html (site no longer exists)