BRIDES- AND GROOMS-TO-BE
(or their parents) shell out a small fortune for the big day and collectively, so do their guests. But thanks to a slew of registry deals, the happy couple can get some nice returns on their investment.
Eager to lure couples into their stores, retailers now offer free gifts, discounts on registry items that don't get bought by guests and rebates on items that guests do buy. In most cases, these perks are a win-win situation for both the couples and the retailer. After all, landing a registry means big business. The average wedding guest spends $98 on a gift for a 150-person wedding, that could translate into $14,700 in registry sales, according to The Wedding Report, an industry market researcher.
For couples, taking advantage of registry discounts and other benefits can help offset the cost of setting up a new home, says Rebecca Dolgin, executive editor of TheKnot.com. Base the decision first on what items you need and want, and then factor in which retailers are best positioned to give you and your guests a good deal, she advises.
Here's how to get the most out of your registry, as well as a list of the rewards and discounts some major retailers currently offer:
Register at multiple stores
Save your loyalty for airline miles. Registering with just one retailer to rack up rewards in its program can easily backfire, cautions Amy Frugoli, a certified wedding consultant based in San Jose, Calif. If your college roommate can't afford the $175 silver braided bread knife from
Tiffany & Co.
Read the fine print
Although you're bringing in a lot of business for the store, brides and grooms don't often get the royal treatment for registry purchases, says Millie Martini Bratten, editor of Brides magazine. Read all the fine print to determine how the store will handle shipping, returns and exchanges.
Returns are the most important policy to consider, says Bratten. Since registries aren't updated in real time, duplicate purchases occur all the time. A restrictive return policy offers little recourse to a couple stuck with two extra fondue pots. Target, for example, requires receipts for all returns. That means couples trying to return a duplicated item must ask the guest for a receipt not exactly stellar wedding etiquette, says Ben Popken, editor of The Consumerist, a consumer advocate web site. "Do you really want to include that on the invitations 'We cordially invite you to the wedding of Jack and Jill. P.S., please include gift receipts'?" he asks. Target spokesman Dave Fransen says the store does allow two returns annually without a receipt if the item is valued at $20 or less, but concedes that couples are unlikely to have many registry items below that threshold.
Assess the extras
Most registries offer a few teaser gifts when you open a registry, like a complimentary wedding web site (to provide guests with wedding details and a link to your registry), bridal magazine subscriptions or store coupons. They're nice, but not enough to sway most people, says Dolgin. Instead, hold out for bigger benefits like these:
Receive bonus gifts from participating manufacturers. Calphalon, for example, currently offers a 5-inch Santoku knife (a $20 value) for adding $500 worth of its products to your registry. If guests purchase at least that much, the company throws in a 10-inch wok set ($50). After your wedding, get a one-time, 10% discount on remaining registry items.
Receive bonus gifts from participating manufacturers. Wedgwood, for example, currently offers a boxed set of napkin rings (a $55 value) for adding $1,800 worth of its products to your registry. If guests purchase at least that much, the company sends a vegetable bowl in your china pattern (about $130). For six months after the wedding, get a 10% discount on remaining registry items.
Earn 5% back on guests' registry purchases, once total purchases reach $1,000. (To entice guests to keep to the list, the store provides announcement cards for the wedding invitations that offer a 10% discount.) Receive bonus gifts from participating manufacturers. All-Clad, for example, currently offers a set of measuring cups (a $25 value) for adding any of its products to your registry. If guests purchase at least $1,000 worth of its products, it adds on a 9-inch stainless steel skillet engraved with your initials and wedding date (about $100). For the six months following the wedding, couples receive a 10% discount on remaining registry items.
For up to 90 days after your wedding, receive a one-time, 10% discount to use on remaining registry items..
For up to a year after your wedding, get a 10% discount on remaining registry items.
Receive bonus gifts from participating manufacturers for fulfilling a registry. When guests buy 10 of your selected Waterford crystal stemware pattern, for example, you'll get an 11th free (a $90 value for one "Carina" balloon wine glass). For 90 days after your wedding, save 10% on remaining registry items.
Also, register your Macy's credit card in the store's registry star rewards program to get 5% back on guests' registry purchases and 10% back on all your store wedding purchases (including jewelry, bridesmaid's dresses and select home furnishings). After the wedding, you'll receive a Macy's gift card for the total rebate.
For a year after your wedding, save 15% on remaining registry items (not including silver or china). If total registry purchases exceed $5,000, receive a free gift such as an Olympus digital camera or a Phillips home-theater system.
Earn one InCircle Bridal Program reward point per $1 that guests spend on registry items. (Points can be redeemed for store products, spa services, travel, food or wine.)
For up to a year after your wedding, receive a one-time, 10% discount on remaining registry items.
For 90 days after your wedding, receive a 10% discount on remaining registry items.
For up to 90 days after your wedding, receive a one-time, 10% discount to use on remaining registry items.
* Data from individual stores.
Saying "I Do" With Plastic
As the dizzying list of wedding expenses starts to rack up, couples may feel tempted to put the flowers, the food and even the reception hall on plastic.
Two cards from American Express called The Knot and The Nest hope to entice engaged couples to do just that by offering wedding discounts and other rewards for purchases made toward a wedding. The Knot card, for example, currently offers 10% off invitations at The American Wedding Album and 15% off a wedding gown at New York-based Bridal Reflections. Both cards have competitive APRs (as low as 8.99%) and no annual fee. They also offer 5,000 bonus points after first use (worth a $50 gift card) and 10,000 bonus points when you spend more than $15,000 annually.
"They have some neat bells and whistles," says Curtis Arnold, founder of CardRatings.com, a credit card information site. But you'll need to pay off your bill in full each month to truly benefit, he says. And since those benefits will only be useful for a few months, it makes more sense to use a generic cash-back card like Amex's Blue Cash. Its APR is 9.99%, has no annual fee and offers up to 5% cash back on everyday purchases like groceries and gas. The card is also eligible for all the discounts on GoingOnce, the issuer's travel and shopping discount site.
Overall, though, couples should try to avoid the plastic trap altogether. "Putting a wedding on a credit card with a regular APR is just crazy," says Arnold. Sure, cardholders benefit from credit card dispute protections that can come in handy when dealing with wedding vendors. But it also means that they'll pay interest on those rose-colored candle centerpieces. Plus, when paying with plastic, couples may have an even harder time sticking within that already-unwieldy budget.