It has been fascinating for me over the past several months to examine the differences between US and UK culture, particularly as they relate to the whole wedding thing.
Interestingly, for a country seemingly so enamoured of pomp and circumstance, England certainly seems to be lacking in traditions and expectations when it comes to weddings. Hmm. Perhaps I should rephrase. “Lacking in…” makes it sound like it’s a bad thing, and I don’t necessarily think that’s the case. James would most certainly object to that characterization. So let me put it this way: it has been my observation that in the U.S. there is a whole heck of a lot more flapping and fuss surrounding weddings and many more traditions for every part of the process from announcements and showers to the actual ceremony itself. They don’t even really do ‘bridal’ showers as such, one factor which led to a very curious UK registry experience.
James and I decided that it would be helpful especially for our non-web savvy UK wedding guests if we registered at a UK department store. We selected John Lewis since it’s a nice store and there’s a very large one within easy walking distance of James’ house. They also happened to be advertising their Gift List services in their display windows. So on a Wednesday afternoon 45 minutes before we were scheduled to be somewhere else (which we figured would give us plenty of time to get a registry set up and scan a few gifts), we moseyed over to John Lewis, took the escalator to the top floor, and asked about setting up a gift list. We were asked to wait for the next available associate and were seated at a registry station to wait for her. Within a few moments of her joining us and starting the process, several realizations dawned on us: a) she typed verrrry slowly + b) she was not very efficient or knowledgeable of their computer system = c) this was going to take a long time. The set-up process did, in fact, eat up all of our available time and we had to dash before we had a chance to actually scan any gifts into our registry.
Throughout the process, several things struck me as very strange. First of all, the default option for when guests make purchases from the gift list is to have John Lewis collect all of the gifts at one of their locations and then a week before the wedding, ship all of the gifts to the bride and groom. We actually had to request that a pop-up note be added to our registry so that when our guests make purchases the sales associates can see that we would prefer that guests take their purchases with them. Gifts purchased online, however, apparently cannot be shipped to the buyer but will be sent to the bride and groom’s registered address one week before the wedding. (We gave them James’ parents’ address since we’ll both be here by then.)
Secondly, the gift list is only available to the guests from six weeks before the wedding through two weeks after the wedding. This will seem very strange indeed to any Americans who have done a registry and are used to it being available to the general public as soon as the registry is set up. It’s kind of annoying for us, but I guess if you don’t have showers, why would guests want to purchase a gift more than six weeks before the wedding anyway? Oh well, not much we can do there. But don’t go to www.johnlewis.co.uk expecting to be able to look up our registry before September 10. (If you’re really curious, you can look up our registries on Amazon, Crate and Barrel, or Bed, Bath and Beyond.)
Finally, if a guest attempts to purchase an item that is no longer available, John Lewis will not inform the guest that the item is, in fact, no longer available but instead will issue us a voucher for the value of that gift. That just seems kind of rude to the guests if you ask me. But that’s how they do things.
Anyway, we went back the next afternoon and registered for our bed and bath linens along with some other cool stuff that we really liked there – placemats, whiskey tumblers, teaspoons, a mortar & pestle, and Emile Henry pie plates which seem to be cheaper to buy in the UK than in the US. If you’re coming to our wedding, feel free to shop there. But not before 10th September.