A few weeks ago while I was at work, one of my group texts started popping off like crazy. I had been ignoring all the buzzing but finally relented and scrolled through to see what everyone was talking about:
“Did you see they put a $500 serving plate on there?”
“Wait till you get to the $800 vacuum.”
“Um, sorry, there are TWO $500 serving plates on there!”
“Aw, wait. I kinda like their taste.”
Confused, I finally just asked, “WTF are you guys talking about?”
“Carl* and Nina’s* registry, duh,” someone responded.
Sure, it might sound reasonable that we were peeking at a couple’s wish list, but none of the eight women on this text chain were actually invited to Carl and Nina’s wedding. We hadn’t spoken to either of them in years (Carl was an old acquaintance of ours from childhood). But we periodically checked in on his Instagram, knew he was getting married, and had stalked their hashtag. It seemed natural that the final frontier of social wedding stalking would be to spy on the gifts they asked for.
These days, most engaged folks like Carl and Nina have public registries, making it super easy to check them out even if you aren’t invited to the nuptials. “Setting a registry to private is always an option, but it’s often easier for couples to keep them public so they can be easily passed among friends and family without worrying that everyone has the proper password,” says Alyssa Longobucco, senior style and planning editor at wedding planning site The Knot. Still, the “habit” is admittedly kinda creepy—so why do we do it? And what good can come from using your precious free time to scroll through the registries of your high school sweetheart, that sorority sister you haven’t spoken to in a decade, or randos you follow on IG?
Most do it for the same reason they check out wedding hashtags: It’s a voyeuristic experience. “Searching the bride and groom’s name will give you access to their private taste, a glimpse into their home, and therefore into their lives,” says Zoe Cousin, a wedding planner at Fine Events by Zoe in San Francisco.
“It’s interesting to see what people want in their home, what’s important to them, and what their price points are,” says Marley, 29, who’s been a bridesmaid in seven weddings. Like, if they register for a bunch of cute kitchenware, that may mean they plan to host a bunch of fun dinner parties (hi, invite me, please!). But if they ask for a million pricey glass figurines, they might want to...decorate their apartment with random crap?
Or if you’re secretly dropping in on an old friend or an ex, you might be curious to find out whether, say, your former boo’s new partner has a thing for sequin throw pillows or plans to redo the bedroom with all millennial-pink everything. “We all have those people we’re friends with on Facebook who we’ve lost touch with over the years,” says Nicole Seligman, executive editor of the bridal resource site Junebug Weddings. “Seeing their registry can give us a glimpse into what they’ve been up to and how their style has changed.”
Alexandra, 30, who got married this summer, can relate. (She took a look at an old flame’s list, even though she herself was about to wed.) “I wanted to see if his fiancée’s registry style is as tacky as her Instagram,” she says.
But snooping like this can, of course, backfire. “It’s like, if they register for a bunch of outdoors stuff, then you might feel a little insecure about not being outdoorsy,” says Isabella, 30, who admits to checking out her ex’s registry.
For other stalkers (who also happen to be brides-to-be), peeping registries proves to be low-key educational. “Building a registry is kind of weird if you’ve been living together before getting married,” says Madeline, 29, who is tying the knot in October. “I fully built mine by looking at other couples’ and adding things from their selections.” It’s like, if you already have a bunch of kitchen stuff, what else can you ask for—luggage? Furniture? Honeymoon excursions? Madeline found out via other folks’ grab bags.
And yes, you can just google “What should I put on my registry?” but seeing the items wanted by real-life people who you kinda-sorta know makes the experience more personal and intimate. It almost acts as a “checklist,” says Cousin. It’s the whole I saw Cady Heron wearing army pants and flip-flops, so I bought army pants and flip-flops thing—except with wine decanters and KitchenAid stand mixers. Per The Knot’s 2019 Registry Study, 72 percent of couples said creeping on their friends’ wedding websites was “influential” when planning their own.
But what does this OTT stalking really do for us? Does it bring pleasure or joy...or even a sense of superiority that ohmigosh, we would never register for $1,000 worth of serving plates? For most, the answer is no, not really. In fact, it brings about as much positive energy as you’d find scrolling through an influencer’s #Sponcon.
“It does nothing for me,” says Marley. “We need to find hobbies!”
*Name has been changed.
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