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Stories

Weddingchanneled

Planning a wedding is a detailed job: narrowing down the wedding party, choosing flowers, and deciding between the white food processor and the chrome one. MACKENZIE DAWSON PARKS discovers the business of wedding registries, and learns how to make it work for her.

When my boyfriend Nick brought forth a diamond ring during a walk on a rainy Cape Cod beach and asked me to marry him, I was thrilled. Not only had he asked me to spend the rest of my life with him; he had also given me another great gift—the opportunity to obtain lots of stuff.

Before I was engaged, I had watched perfectly reasonable, extremely intelligent women dissolve into Stepford-esque simplemindedness as they discussed the pros and cons of various china patterns, or the practicality of registering for more sets of wine glasses than you thought you’d need. (“Better to be safe than sorry!” they’d all agree, laughing merrily as they blinded each other with the be-carat-ed chunks on their left ring fingers.)

Not me, I thought. That’s not my thing.

That is, until I registered. To me, the kitchen has always been where the refrigerator lives, and thus where leftover takeout goes to die. I did not experiment with baking; I did not find cooking relaxing. Nor did I give lovely, imaginative dinner parties.

Almost overnight, though, I became besotted with casserole dishes and chrome toasters. Not because I needed them—but because I wanted them. As many of them as possible—all matching, of course.

“What do we need brandy glasses for? We don’t even drink brandy,” Nick, grinchlike in his practicality, pointed out.

“And if we suddenly start drinking it, and we don’t have any brandy glasses? What do you think we’re going to use… wine glasses?” I snorted. Somewhere, the heart of the Crate & Barrel CEO began pumping faster as it sensed my consumerist spirit awakening.

I analyzed my registries with the urgency of a stockbroker monitoring the Nasdaq. “We’re down two sets of crystal glasses! Only one more to go and we’re in the clear!” And it wouldn’t stop there. I registered for a BBQ tool set, even though we had no grill. I picked out not one, but two soup tureens. I said, “Yes, please,” to both everyday and special-occasion dish sets, and, “Thank you, I believe I will,” to two different cake stands. Nick frowned. “Two cake stands? Really?”

“One is for cakes, the other is for assorted dessert items,” I explained, without the slightest idea how to make petit fours but with every intention of finding out if they could be purchased, ready-made, from Williams-Sonoma.

On several weekday afternoons, I enlisted friends to accompany me to Tiffany so I could “visit” with my silver pattern, stroking its glass display case as a new parent would in the maternity ward visiting room. “I think the engraved birds and flowers are so much more interesting than a plain pattern, don’t you?” I’d coo, as my friends stifled their yawns.

So I was a little obsessed, yes, but that was nothing compared to what was still in store for me. Soon I learned I could sift through all my registries at once, thanks to Weddingchannel.com, a sort of clearinghouse for all things wedding-related. Type in the name of an engaged friend, and the site spits back where that friend has registered (provided, of course, that their store of choice is one of the 18 affiliated with Weddingchannel.com).

The logical fiancée in me delighted in being able to see my registries all neatly lined up in a row; the greedy fiancée in me loved seeing a perfect, oval “0” next to “ITEMS REMAINING.”

I analyzed the ebbs and flows of my registries with the urgency of a stockbroker monitoring the Nasdaq. “We’re down two sets of crystal glasses! Only one more to go and we’re in the clear!” I’d bark at Nick, as he waved his hands above his head, feigning excitement.

Slowly, though, my interests broadened; no longer content with browsing my own cache, I turned to others. I had several other friends who were getting married within a few months of me, so I began to Weddingchannel them. Out for drinks one night, I turned to Julie and said, “I like the sprigged dishware you registered for at Macy’s.” She smiled. “Oh, and I notice somebody bought your wine rack!” I said to Emily.

If weddings are a sport, then I was a participant who was quickly becoming a spectator as well. And the registries: That’s how you keep score.

As I ran out of friends who were getting married, I turned to the world of celebrities to find some registries to critique. Typing their names into Weddingchannel, I hoped their registries would be available to the viewing public and that maybe we had even picked out some of the same items. Yes, they frequently were, and, no, we never did.

But there’s only so long you can eye the sterling silver Elsa Peretti pasta servers requested by the ill-fated Minnelli-Gest party before you long for the material desires of normal, everyday folks. Those who don’t know the difference between a salad fork and a dinner fork but want them both in 12 place settings anyway. That is, my competition.

And so I began using Weddingchannel.com as a way to find out things about people I’d lost touch with—a sort of nuptials-only version of Google. I’d type in the names of ex-boyfriends and feel smug if I saw they weren’t even engaged—or if they were, I’d still be satisfied they weren’t even registered at any of the Weddingchannel-approved stores. I entered the names of people I never even liked—and, eventually, of people I didn’t know at all. This was easy: I’d just type in a common last name like ‘Smith’ or ‘Jones’ and watch as the results washed in.


* * *


As my wedding day came and went, though, the stream of presents to my door, once flowing and abundant, slowed to a weak trickle. Knowing that etiquette allows a wedding guest one year to send a present, I kept the faith, religiously logging in to Weddingchannel to check if anything had changed. Most of the time, it hadn’t.

Finally, a rash of gifting activity from my husband’s unmarried male friends right before our first anniversary trumpeted the end. Though I could still view my registries at Weddingchannel, I would never see my numbers change. I could watch other people’s registries fill and empty, but now, out of the game, I didn’t care anymore. I had had a good run of it, but now my era was over.

Or was it?

One recent evening, I was out for drinks with Emily and Julie. I was telling them about how at the height of the wedding-gift frenzy my studio apartment swelled at its seams with rows of gigantic serving platters and crates that contained the 60-odd wine glasses I’d registered for.

In unison the three of us raised our glasses and agreed, “Better to be safe than sorry!” And we laughed merrily as we blinded each other with the be-carat-ed chunks on our left ring fingers.

Mackenzie Dawson is an editor at the New York Post. She enjoys travel, starchy foods, and holding forth on numerous topics. More by Mackenzie Dawson Parks