Are Housewarming Registries Tacky?

Dear Uncommon Courtesy,

What are your thoughts regarding housewarming gift registries, are they tacky or no? I think yes but a friend thinks no.


Confusing New Territory

Official Etiquette:

Miss Manners discusses the history of housewarming parties, which were traditionally thrown when someone had deemed his or her move permanent. However, she says, “suddenly, housewarming parties are being given for every move, and not just temporarily rented quarters, but dormitory rooms and vacation sublets.” And while many would bring token gifts to congratulate the new homeowners, “hoping to furnish one’s quarters on other people’s budgets is not a proper reason for giving a party.”

Our Take:

Jaya: Oooh I have so many thoughts on this. My initial reaction is “eww, tacky,” but that’s pretty much my reaction to any hint of asking for presents. Like, it took me a while to get over the fact that I even had a wedding registry.

Victoria: Well, wedding and baby registries came into existence because weddings and baby showers were already events where people bought presents. And a lot of people were buying you presents at the same time, so it made sense to make a list of what you need so that the chaos would be a bit organized.

Jaya: Yeah. You know people are going to get presents for you, so you just make sure you don’t get four waffle irons. But anyway, thinking about it, I think in the right situation it’s pretty great. There’s been a lot of talk recently about how weddings are the only instance in most peoples lives that they get this sort of celebration for, and where it’s OK to have a registry, but the fact is that a lot of people aren’t going to get married. What if you’re single and you buy yourself a house? Is that any less of a thing to celebrate than two people getting married? Or what if you’re a couple but just don’t feel like getting married, but still achieve some stuff in your life that you think is important?

Victoria: I think they are tacky, not so much because they are asking for presents, but they are asking for presents in an instance when no one was planning on getting you a present, so now they feel like they have to? Obviously, hey, maybe you won’t get married, but you do get a PhD or buy yourself a house and why shouldn’t you get gifts for those things to? BUT the thing is, where do you then stop with all the gifts? What if you throw a big housewarming when you buy a house at age 25 and then get married at 30? Do the people who gave you housewarming gifts not have to get you a wedding present?

Jaya: You wouldn’t plan on getting your friend a present if they just move into like, a home they bought that they’re going to be in forever? Like Miss Manners says, I’m not getting you a toaster for having a dorm room, but I feel like housewarming gifts are pretty common, and if I’m gonna spend $30-50 on something like that, I’d rather do it on a small kitchen appliance they need or some nice hand towels than a bottle of wine and flowers.

Victoria: I think that most people are only really willing to give a person one major gift per lifetime (aside from parents, siblings, grandparents, etc), if that makes sense. Yeah, there are baby registries, but aside from extremely close relatives, most people give you an outfit or a toy or something else fairly small, or go in together as a group to buy a carseat or whatever. (I might be wrong about this though!).

Jaya: But if you’re doing one gift per lifetime, this could be it! If you know that you’re not gonna get married and you don’t want kids, I think a housewarming is a perfectly acceptable time to give that gift. Though you’re right, if you’re signing up for some registry every five years of your life, that’s going to come off as greedy.

Victoria: I think for housewarming registries to be acceptable, there would have to be a MAJOR cultural shift in expectations, and we are just not there yet. The root of the “rudeness” or “tackiness” about housewarming registries is that you are asking for gifts from people who were not planning on getting you a gift in the first place, which comes off as looking ridiculous. And if you are sending the registry information with the invitation, then that is RUDE—it makes it look like you are only interested in what someone is going to give you rather than wanting them to come celebrate with you. At least with weddings, you can have a website where you can include registry info as just part of a ton of supplemental information so that it never becomes the focus. And with baby registries, someone else should be hosting the event and thus requests for gifts are coming from the generosity of someone else.

Jaya: Yeah, if you do one it’s a place where you need to tread really, really carefully. As a side note, I remember my sister-in-law did a really big wedding registry, and ended up having to keep most of the stuff at her parents’ place because they did not have room in their tiny New York apartment, and figured when they moved into a house they’d take it all back. And then lo and behold she gets pregnant, so they just took all the stuff they couldn’t fit back to the store and got baby stuff instead. So that’s a built-in baby registry right there! You might not even need one!

Victoria: Honestly, celebrating someone buying a house is kind of like…congratulations, you have enough money to make a down payment? And therefore a probably a lot better off than a lot of your guests so, I should spend my money buying you a present to celebrate that rather than saving up for my own down payment?

Jaya: I think looking at it like “congratulations, you had enough money to make a down payment” is just as ridiculous as any of the other reasons we do registries. For a wedding it’s “congratulations, you met someone you like enough to live with forever,” and I don’t see why a relationship is that much more of an accomplishment. And especially since wedding registries were the original housewarming registries! I think it’s much tackier for a married couple to set up a registry asking for nicer versions of stuff they already have since they’ve been living together (which, yes, I am doing and I’m tacky and whatever) than a single person to set one up for their first house.

Victoria: While I think that we should be celebrating other accomplishments other than weddings and babies, I also think the bigger issue is instead of adding more “gift giving opportunities” (as my mom likes to call them), we (as a society) should be steering the focus away from gifts more. It’s just getting ridiculous, and even thinking about housewarming, and graduation, and birthday, and first car, and first job, and retirement, and funeral registries on top of everything else is just EXHAUSTING.

Jaya: That’s a great point. As a society we tend to associate celebration with gift giving. You get presents on occasions when people are celebrating you, when that really doesn’t need to be the case. So now someone sees a wedding and thinks “they’re being celebrated more because they get a registry, why can’t I be celebrated for my accomplishments?” And everyone should be celebrated for their accomplishments! We can just step away from celebrating with gifts!

Victoria: Yesss, who needs gifts? I bought myself a KitchenAid stand mixer and a Le Creuset Dutch Oven so I am already set for life.


23 thoughts on “Are Housewarming Registries Tacky?

  1. Thanks for the post, guys! I still think it’s a bit tacky, but I can see arguments for why it wouldn’t be. I think in my own situation it WOULD be pretty tacky, as we just had a wedding (and a wedding registry) not too long ago. I figure ‘come see the house and let me feed you food’ will be the theme of our own housewarming, when the time comes.

    And I agree, with a KitchenAid mixer and a Le Creuset dutch oven, I’m pretty much set for life. Well, those things and my laptop.

    • I think ultimately, my distaste for them comes from the fact that when you hear about them happening, it’s not your cool single friend who just bought their first house. It’s always the person who had the big blowout wedding, with the accompanying wedding, shower, and bachelorette registries and who will also be hitting you up with a baby registry in the next 1-3 years.

      Warming your house with delicious food and lots of friends is always welcome and non-controversial!

      • Yes, exactly! I think that’s exactly why I’m so uneasy with it — I was uneasy enough with the wedding registry, but there were enough people on both sides of the family that kept asking where it was that we finally put one together. I think “come, let me feed you and show you the way we painted this place” is definitely the way I’ll be going.

  2. Full disclosure, I have never been sent a housewarming registry! I think if I had a cool single friend or a couple who didn’t want to get married but wanted to build a life together, I would be totally into it. But yeah, if I just bought them a fancy towel set for their wedding and a few years later they’re at it again, I’d just bring some flowers.

  3. I think they’re tacky, but I also don’t think they’re totally off-base. It used to be that you started your life by getting married and moving in with that person, so the wedding registry literally furnished your brand-new place. Now, higher education (if applicable) and entering the workforce come first — you become an adult, then you have a family, not the other way around* — and the average age of marriage continues to climb. So when I moved out on my own, I had literally no furniture, an air mattress, a bunch of books, and an empty apartment (and no money) — a housewarming registry would’ve been a great help, and more in the spirit of the traditional wedding registry. Now, when friends get married at 30, I’m like, why do you need to buy me sheets, you have sheets. Registries like that just seem like an excuse to get high-end kitchen gear, not silverware because you don’t have any (which’d be better than the flimsy ones you can afford at Ikea, but good ones that’ll last you forever). Y’know?

    But, yeah, still tacky.

    *(I’m basically paraphrasing Red Families, Blue Families here…)

  4. I’ve been to 2 house warming parties recently. Both where register at simple places. I was fine with the registry. Help me to choose something they needed.

  5. My husband and I eloped Last February and with the elopement we really didn’t receive any gifts which is totally acceptable because we eloped and didn’t expect anything. We just moved into our first house and definitely getting the pressure to do a house warming party(/ reception). I just don’t know how to go about it? I know many of my coworkers, family, friends are expecting some type of gathering to come out and see the new place but there are few problems. Our house is just shy of 1500 sq ft so inviting everyone at once seems to be a over crowded situation. So solution, open house? I figured a drop by situation would be convenient for everyone involved. I’m thinking 11-5, now food. I don’t have too much money to spend so should I do just grilling thing although it is little chilly. Should I do snack stuff? have a meal? any food at all? And I don’t know if I should register or not? We didn’t get gifts and few people have mentioned it, I don’t know. I would hate to be known as tacky but also to hate to have 100 kitchen towels. 100 bottles of wine would be acceptable 😉 I mean Miss Manner’s would have said not to elope in the first place, so I’m at a loss.

    • A nice open house is perfectly acceptable. And snacky food is great- since people can come and go as they please, you don’t really need to provide a meal. I wouldn’t register- most people probably won’t give you more than a token type of gift. If people ASK you about giving you a wedding present, you could verbally tell them a few things you are interested in.

      Miss Manners is totally into eloping! So no worries there.

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  7. My question on “housewarming registries” comes in a situation like mine, where my boyfriend and I have no intention of getting married, but we know we’d like to move in together in the next year. Is it acceptable for us to use a registry on this, as opposed to a wedding registry?

    • I’m so glad to see messages like yours and Missy’s below. My boyfriend and I don’t have any plans in the near future to get married (we’ve been together for 4 years now) and I KNOW I don’t want to have kids – ever. We’re buying our first house (which is HUGE for me, the commitment-fobic one of the group). I lived by myself for years before I met him and moved a few times. I bought all of my own furnishings and got most of them 2nd hand from flea markets and craigslist; he really didn’t bring much furnishings-wise to the table. As we move to our first HOME together, I want to have “our” things, not “my” beat up things that I’ve had for 10 years and he just adopted. Maybe I’m tacky, though I know I’ll find a tactful way of mentioning the registry to my guests and not make them feel obligated to buy us stuff.

  8. I don’t think it’s fair. I’m 37 and I physically can’t have children, so I’ll never have a baby shower, and I’ve never dated and don’t see myself getting married in the future but when I move out of my parents’ house into my first apartment it would be nice have a housewarming party – because without it it’ll take me several years to save enough money to afford all the things it takes to run a household!

    • I agree with you! People think its tacky for those of us that will never marry or have kids to actually throw a party for ourselves where THEY bring US gifts. What about all the wedding showers, baby showers, christenings, kids first birthdays or any child birthday etc where WE are invited (more often than not) just for the gift. But, according to the majority, that isn’t tacky.

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  10. I don’t know what to think of housewarming registries really. I have a friend who has a GF and they lived in an apartment and moved into a house and had a housewarming with no registries but did state that gift-cards were welcome, although I don’t think I would ever state that I didn’t think negative. My husband and I got them a bottle of booze with a gift card attached.

    My husband and I moved out of a trailer we were at and moved in with my mom while our house is being built. We do plan on having a house warming party…I was wondering if I could register for things but not mention it unless someone asks if I’m registered anywhere?

    For our wedding we didn’t register anywhere and were asked all the time where we were registered so I just want to be prepared or should I just say don’t get us anything? lol


  11. So, my husband and I married 17 years ago, and because of life circumstances we’ve had to start from scratch on several occasions. We’ve accumulated, donated, accumulated, donated, accumulated….you get the picture. BUT now we’ve purchased our first home…after 17 YEARS and 3 children. Previously our home has been adorned with hand me down décor that, well, let’s just call it “eclectic”. We’ve never had the means to decorate in our own taste, and though I am very grateful for those who have blessed us with their once loved possessions, we’d love to have this new home reflect us. As far as a down payment, we were blessed with a program that helps first time home buyers with the up front costs involved in buying a home, so I don’t feel like we are flaunting our ability to come up with a large sum of money. That said, we will be hosting a housewarming AND have a registry. I don’t plan to buy another home, but if we do, we will more than likely NOT register and opt to just eat and drink with friends. I do think that a first purchased home is quite a big deal, especially after waiting 17 years to be able to ourselves. We did not have a wedding registry because we moved in with family. I was pregnant with our first when we got married, so some people opted to bring wedding type gifts to the baby shower LOL.
    So, if any of you want to come to my housewarming, and would like to bring a gift, I am registered at Target, and Bed Bath and Beyond, but gifts are not required, the registry is just there for your convenience…unless we are not friends; in that case don’t come eat my food without a gift. 😉 (FYI: most of this is said in jest…no panty wadding please LOL)

    • I have been invited to housewarmings for a new home, but never seen an invitation to one for a rental. The invitation also listed specific places to purchase gift cards. The couple moved from an apartment to a small home.

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  14. We have been invited by friends to go to their “Housewarming Party” and I’m beyond angry. They have been together 35+ years, have had multiple residences (some owned, some rented) have grown children together and are in their late 60’s. They did buy a new home a year ago but I find it INCREDIBLY tacky and selfish to invite people over to get presents. They have a fully furnished home! This afternoon, i received a reminder to attend and along with it came a HUGE list of items they want. We are stuck going (we said yes) and I feel it’s a ruse to get presents. We have given gifts to their children’s weddings so it’s not like I’m being cheap. Personally, I’d show up empty handed but g-d forbid I make a scene. Any thoughts?

  15. I’m conflicted with this myself. My fiance and I recently bought a house and we won’t really have too much of anything moving in. A good amount of our friends and family already know about some of the expectations. A few keep asking for a date super early into our move in and a few more keep telling us this is a good opportunity to get stuff we need for our house. We really weren’t expecting gifts from people because we don’t have the type of family and friends who put a lot of money into things like this, but the idea sounds so helpful because we know we won’t be able to afford to replace a lot of items we had that are going to fall apart or lose it’s use a month into living in our house. I’ve really debated the whole “Housewarming registry” thing since we already have a wedding registry, but we’re not really planning on having our wedding until 2019 or we might even just elope. I was thinking we can just use the gifts we wanted for our wedding registry for the housewarming and use what’s left over for the wedding if we decide to still have it. I just don’t know how to ask without feeling like an ass or even announcing it because it would be helpful for us if people did feel inclined to bring gifts. I’m actually still not sure if I even want to go through with it.

    • To add, this is our first home we’ve ever bought. We moved into a small apartment together and had a small gathering with friends(no gifts, of course), then had to move in with his parents before we bought the house. When we stayed in our apartment we bought the cheapest stuff we could get to last for the year.

  16. While I would not put the registry on my invite, I have one. I do not EXPECT gifts, but should my family and friends like to buy me something and are interested in what I would like, I can send them a link to the registry. I am not married and I do not, nor will I, have kids. I see no problem with the registries at all. This is the biggest event in MY life. I think it’s funny the emotions this subject invokes in some people.
    I feel like EXPECTING gifts ANYTIME, be it wedding or child, is tacky.

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