One thing nobody tells you about getting married is that you’ll receive a flood of packages a month or two before the wedding. Without fail, day after day, a new pile of boxes found their way to our porch step. For most people, these wedding gifts are bowls and spoons, pots and pans, a cake knife from an eccentric grandmother. For us, these boxes also included gear.
We registered at REI, an easy choice—we shop there constantly, and it’s an easily recognizable brand for the family member who might otherwise be confused as to why he’s buying you a camping mug for your wedding.
Initially, asking for these gifts felt exorbitant, like we were swindling our family and friends into buying us gear. But the more we thought about it, the more right it felt. The outdoors has always been a shared passion of ours. I met my wife while the two of us were in college in Kansas, a state not known for its access to outdoor recreation (though I’ll always go to bat for the beauty of the Flint Hills, home of the Dirty Kanza). During our first few dates, we talked about how we wanted to live near mountains and spend our weekends in Colorado bagging fourteeners and skiing at Vail and Keystone. We did what we could to be outdoorsy, skiing at the much smaller Snow Creek in western Missouri and camping at Clinton State Park, 20 minutes from home.
After college, we both moved to Colorado ten months apart and finally found ourselves in the large-scale playgrounds we’d long dreamed of. From road-tripping to Great Sand Dunes National Park and postwork climbing in Boulder Canyon, the outdoors continued to help us establish our relationship. Now they’re a big part of its foundation. I proposed at the top of the Second Flatiron. We got married on a farm with a view of the Indian Peaks Wilderness, and in true outdoor fashion, friends wore Hawaiian shirts and went barefoot. Our centerpieces were named after climbing areas, and instead of a limo, we rode away in a friend’s Dodge Sprinter.
Registries are a physical manifestation of your goals as a couple: you want to start a home together, so you order stemless wine glasses, 1,000-thread-count sheets, and a Rachel Ray cookset; you want to travel, so friends give you foreign currency, maps, and Lonely Planet guidebooks for your first trips as spouses. For two people who go on climbing trips to Las Vegas and Moab, Utah, and who regularly spend Saturday mornings crawling through Front Range traffic to ski, a registry full of gear made sense to us.
The process was easy: I created an account with MyRegistry and specified that it was a registry through REI. Immediately, I was given suggestions on popular items (a double sleeping bag, a double camp chair, lots of tents to choose from), and most of the stuff we selected was equipment that had been on our REI wish lists for the past few months—carabiners, a new bike pump, the inflatable Sea to Summit backpacking pillow that my wife had mentioned after a restless night in the backcountry. REI also includes the option to specify quantities on the registry site, in case you both need new headlamps.
Guests could buy things online or in-store and mark that it was for our registry, and the item would appear on our list as purchased. The only downside for things bought online was the lack of delivery tracking—a few days after the wedding, when we hadn’t received something, we worried that it had been stolen off the porch. (In reality, it just hadn’t been delivered yet.) Additionally, there isn’t an easy way for people to purchase REI classes or trips, in case someone is set on giving you a backpacking lesson. Gift cards are purchased through a separate page on the registry site, adding a bit more confusion. But the process was otherwise simple and convenient, and I’d recommend it to any couple heading into their nuptials.
The day after our wedding, we sat in our living room with my new in-laws to open a mound of cardboard boxes, most of them inked on the sides with REI’s logo. We sifted through packages of Metolius belay goggles and matching Teva camp moccasins. As it turns out, we got everything on our list (except for a $350 sleeping pad, but, you know, we’ll live). Now looking at the gear hanging in its place, some of it already a bit scraped up with use, I realize that we weren’t taking advantage of our newlywed status; our friends and family know that eating a meal on expensive plates isn’t how we’re going to continue our lives together. Climbing a classic multipitch on a perfect summer day is more our style.