Registries present an etiquette quandary for engaged couples. Open one at a major retailer, fill it with suggestions from a checklist and you end up looking greedy (how many newlywed couples really need a gravy boat?). Skip the registry, and you risk receiving multiple toasters. Thankful Registry tackles that problem by re-imagining registries as a way for couples to sign up for a thoughtful selection of items while connecting with their guests.
Bootstrapped by founder Kathy Cheng, Thankful Registry launched three months ago. Cheng worked with Web design studio Crush + Lovely to set the tone of the site. Each wedding registry features a full-bleed photo of the affianced pair and a personal message. Instead of the sterile lists seen in most wedding registries, photos of potential gifts are arranged like a catalog into categories such as “delicious,” “play” and “nest.” Items can be chosen from different vendors, separating the registry from big-box retailers like Bed Bath & Beyond that derive a large portion of their sales from the $10 billion wedding gift market. Once shoppers select an item, they are taken to the vendor’s order form pre-filled with the couple’s shipping information.
Though there are other sites, like NewlyWish and Registry Love, catering to couples who want to avoid retailer registries, Cheng says she drew on her design background to set Thankful Registry apart from its competitors by honing its elegant and simple user interface.
“I focused less on adding a bunch of features just for the sake of having features and more on the tone of the brand because I feel that in the wedding space, people are looking for something that draws them in emotionally,” says Cheng, a senior copywriter for consulting firm Smart Design. “Everyone else is about creating a wishlist and convenience.”
Cheng, who started brainstorming Thankful Registry three years ago, says she likes to take her time finding the perfect present and found shopping her friends’ wedding registries frustratingly impersonal.
“I consider myself a pretty okay gift-giver and it wasn’t cutting it. I was disappointed. I also felt that couples felt obligated to add things to their registries,” says Cheng. “Our site looks modern, it doesn’t look greedy. I thought, gifts are as much about the giver as they are the couple.”
“Couples put so much time into their weddings, but the true touchpoint that guests see outside of the actual wedding day are invitations and wedding registries,” she adds. “We don’t say things like ‘register for whatever you want’ because you don’t want guests to spend their time and heart picking out a gift that ends up just being returned for cash.”
With their gift registries independent from major retailers, Thankful Registry’s couples can add items from any site, allowing them to support smaller vendors. One couple, for example, registered for handcrafted Japanese cutlery.
“I am surprised at the retailers they pick sometimes. They are usually not retailers who are heavily represented in the wedding registry sector,” says Cheng.
Though Cheng expected almost all of the site’s users to come from the U.S., couples from different countries, including the U.K., Norway and Australia, have signed up, and she plans to make the site friendlier for international couples by making the content less U.S.-centric.
Thankful Registry is free for a one week trial, after which couples pay a $30 fee, and Cheng says it currently has a 24% conversion rate. The site also makes revenue by participating in Amazon’s affiliate program. Cheng’s next step is to create a baby gift registry with the same low-key approach as Thankful Registry, as well as versions of the site for other life milestones, including birthdays and graduations.