Is a wedding about the love between two people? Or is it really all about the loot? A new study of retail's role in nuptials shows that the introduction of gift registries has made weddings more bountiful for couples, but less meaningful for the guests.
Tonya Williams Bradford, assistant professor of marketing at the University of Notre Dame and author of the study, said that gift registries might seem more convenient for all parties involved. But they tend to de-emphasize the traditional role that family members once played in helping a new couple arrange its household.
"Decades ago, the main role of the mother of the bride was creating the new home for the union of two families," Bradford said. "By turning to bridal registries, we've outsourced to the marketplace the sacred traditions of planning and outfitting a new family space."
But taking the burden of setting up a household away from Mom and giving it to Macy's doesn't seem to bother most folks. In fact, Bradford said, many people are happy to outsource the wedding planning role to retailers. And retailers are thrilled to take over the job.
"For the retailer, it certainly has increased the revenue," said Bradford. "And for the bride and groom, there is a broader net for those who can participate, because all that is necessary is to communicate the registry website to potential gift buyers."
The study found that over $19 billion in wedding gifts were purchased from registries in 2010, putting wedding retail revenues second only to those of the Christmas season. And Bradford said that this staggering figure means stiff competition among retailers to be the gift registry destination.
"But registries also have changed our social fabric," Bradford said. "The notion of gift giving used to hold much more sentimental value. Now, everything is pretty much purchased, and, sadly, many people don't put a lot of thought into customizing those purchases."