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It's time to rethink the wedding registry. 11 therapists share what modern couples should ask for.

Julia Naftulin,Samantha Grindell   

It's time to rethink the wedding registry. 11 therapists share what modern couples should ask for.
  • Classic wedding registry picks like china and bedding can feel a bit outdated.
  • Insider asked couples and sex therapists to share modern ideas for the couple committed to personal and mutual growth.

A wedding registry, that long wishlist of gifts for the newlyweds-to-be, seems to be an unspoken requirement for saying "I do."

If you've been invited to a wedding, you've certainly scrolled through an itemized list of the couple's supposed dream gifts, wondering when on earth your loved one would actually use fancy china when you're used to eating pizza on paper plates on their porch.

If this sounds familiar, you're not alone in your skepticism of the practicality of a wedding registry, though catch-all wedding planning sites like Zola and The Knot make them easier to access than they were in years past.

As Landis Bejar, a wedding therapist and the owner of AisleTalk, told Insider, the traditional wedding registry just doesn't work for most couples today. When registries were first used, couples typically had not lived together before they got married, so they had nothing to fill their home with once they got back from their honeymoon, Bejar pointed out.

Mixing bowls, home appliances, and bedding made perfect sense as wedding gifts then, but most people getting married today already have many of the home goods they want and need.

Likewise, Bejar said entertaining has become more relaxed, so couples don't need those traditional gifts like formal china.

In response to those evolving needs, registries have changed to meet modern couples where they are, according to data from The Knot and Zola, wedding websites which allow users to add outside items, like special events or savings funds, to create personalized wish lists.

Cash funds are also popular with couples. In 2022, 81% of Zola users added one to their registry, hoping to foot the bill for the honeymoon and future home expenses, or even helping to pay for the wedding itself.

Likewise, 60% of couples added "virtual gifts" to their The Knot registries in 2022, which are experiences that can range from a wine tasting class to tickets to a professional sporting event.

Items like this are a wise choice, says therapist Isabelle Morley, adding that experiences that can help deepen your connection with your spouse and allow you to support their interests are worth considering.

When you're registering, Bejar said the most important thing to remember is to stay true to who you are as a couple, rather than holding onto antiquated ideas of what your registry should look like.

Therapist Amelia Kelley agrees, saying that items like connection-focused card games and self-help books and tutorials can help newlyweds continue prioritizing each other, strengthening their bond for whatever married life may send their way.

With newlywed couples' changing needs and interests in mind, Insider asked 11 relationship therapists to share the items and activities couples should consider adding to their wedding registries for a satisfying long-term union.

Even if you don't put these items on the registry your guests see, you can make a point to invest in these therapist-approved picks with your spouse.

Games for deepening your connection

Being married doesn't mean you know everything about your partner. Successful spouses make a commitment to learning and growing together, and intimacy-boosting games can be a great way to do that, Bejar said.

Picks from our experts:

Esther Perel card game

Bejar recommended this game, designed by renowned therapist Esther Perel. This 250-card deck is filled with prompts which can inspire users to open up about relationships, family dynamics, personal values, and beliefs.

Date Night Card Deck

For a more sex- and romance-focused option, therapist Tammy Nelson created this 52-card deck for boosting intimacy. Cards include suggestions for exploring each other's sexual fantasies and boundaries.

Toys and tutorials for sexual exploration

Sexual exploration, both solo and with your spouse, can help ensure you both feel satisfied and connected to each other, said Rachel Wright, a sex therapist and sex educator. These tools can help you explore your sexual desires and feel more pleasure.

For couples who don't feel comfortable sharing these picks with all of their guests, you might consider creating two registry links that you can share at your own discretion.

Picks from our experts:

Sex how-to tutorials from OMGYes

Shadeen Francis, a sex and relationship therapist, suggests using research-backed website OMGYes because its short online video tutorials, like for different ways to touch a partner's clitoris or how to quiet your mind to enjoy sex more, are clear and non-shaming. There are also interactive images and demonstrations you can apply to your own sex life.

Sex and intimacy workshops

"We're not taught how to communicate, identify our emotions, ask for what we need, or set boundaries in our relationships," Wright said. Sex workshops, led by professionals like Wright, can provide that vital information for newlyweds and help them get started.

A sex-therapy intensive

Nelson also suggested signing up for a private intensive with a sex therapist like herself. These one- or two-day sessions can help spouses pinpoint areas for personal growth and co-create a vision for the marriage they want, Nelson said. A simple Google search for sex therapy intensives for couples can put you on to options in your area.

Wicked Sensual Care Lube

A great lube can make playtime more fun and pleasurable for both partners, Wright said. She suggested checking out Wicked Sensual Care's line of products, since they offer personal lubricants for various uses like anal sex, sex toys, and for those with extra-sensitive skin.

Womanizer DUO

"It's like the Mercedes Benz of air-pleasure technology," Wright, who tests sex toys and reports the results on her Instagram, said of the vibrator. The toy has a light suction that's similar to the feeling of tongue flicking against the clitoris. It can be used solo or with a partner.

WeVibe Chorus

Wright said that this sex toy can be a welcome and helpful third during partnered sex. It's inserted into the vagina during penetrative intercourse to stimulate both the clitoris and the G-spot at the same time. It can be controlled by remote, or on the device itself.

CockBlock dual stroker

Christopher Wilson, a sex therapist who primarily works with queer men, said this stroking device, which moves in a way similar to a hand stroking a penis, is the first to ever feature openings at both ends. It's a great option for when both partners don't want to bottom, or receive penetration. Instead, they can have a partnered experience with this toy, said Wilson.

Maude vibrating band

Francis suggested this vibrating cock ring, which has five speeds. She said the soft and flexible silicone is comfortable, and that the ring's buzzy features can also be pleasurable for a partner who isn't wearing it.

Books for support and guidance

"Remember, relationships take work. Saying yes to a relationship is saying yes to working together through the easy and hard times," Moraya Seeger Degeare, a therapist and the in-house expert for relationship-care app Paired, said.

Reading about how to fight better and communicate more openly about your emotions and sexual desires is a great way to do that work, several of our experts said.

Picks from our experts:

"Nonviolent Communication" by Marshall Rosenburg

Francis said this book offers a direct and compassionate approach to communicating about tough stuff in a relationship. She uses the framework Rosenburg writes about with her own clients.

"The Come as You Are Workbook: A Practical Guide to the Science of Sex" by Emily Nagoski

Wright said this book, which comes with exercises couples can complete together or individually, is a crash-course in human anatomy, sexuality, and pleasure. Learning these basics, which we typically don't get in school, can help couples deepen their sexual connection, she said.

"How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk" By Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish

Matt Lundquist, a couples therapist and the founder of Tribeca Therapy, said he wants all adults to read this children's book on communication. "It's the best book I've seen that really breaks down the fundamentals of what it means to actually listen to each other," he said.

"Fierce Intimacy" by Terry Real

Morely suggested this book on how to fight fair with a partner. "I recommend this audiobook to every couple I work with because it provides a foundational understanding of what happens for each partner during arguments and, very practically, what to do about it," Morley said.

Subscriptions for prioritizing connection

"A recurring theme in couples conflict is exhaustion, not the kind from the repetition of core conflicts, but literal physiological exhaustion from poor quality sleep or inadequate amount of time for rest," Francis told Insider.

Sometimes, automating your life with online and mail-delivered subscriptions can help reduce unnecessary stress so you can focus more attention on your spouse.

Picks from our experts:

A meal kit subscription, like Blue Apron or Hello Fresh

Therapist Sara Tick suggested asking gift-givers to help you invest in a weekly or monthly mail-order cooking kit, in lieu of the classic registry item of brand new cookware. She said that cooking a meal together can be a great way for a busy couple to reconnect and nourish each other after a long day.

The Calm app

Consider investing in your mind-body connection through a guided meditation app like Calm, Francis said. The app also has guided stretches and wellness courses. Meant to be done individually, these daily practices can allow you to prioritize yourself, in turn allowing you to be a more present and supportive spouse.

A trustworthy support system

A marriage may be between two people. But it's an entire community of loved ones around those two people that make a marriage last, even through hardship, Seeger DeGeare said.

"It's about the community, feeling loved, supported, and guided," Seeger DeGeare told Insider. Adding that couples must accept that strength doesn't always need to come from within, and sometimes we find strength through the guidance of others we trust.

Picks from our experts:

A Couple's therapy fund

A trusted therapist's guidance can help you build a strong foundation, especially during the first year of marriage, according to therapist Sara Elysée, the founder of SoundMind Wellness.

She suggested meeting with a couple's therapist once a month to navigate the transition from being single to being married, and to address any challenges that may come along the way.

"You don't have to wait for a problem to happen to do this," Elysée said.

Just for fun

Marriage should also be a chance to have fun with a person you love, Naiylah Warren, a staff therapist and clinical content manager at the Real app, told Insider.

Finding little ways to bring out each other's silly sides is a great reminder to not take yourself, or some of your disagreements with your partner, too seriously, Warren said.

She said that it's also important to create intentional moments of fun and novelty together, like through date nights, to make sure you're doing more than simply sharing a home with each other.

Picks from our experts:

The Adventure Challenge: Mini-Dates scratch-off cards

If you and your boo often find yourselves stumped about what to do for date night, Warren suggested these cards that provide 30 unique date ideas. They're organized by category, including things like recipes to cook, playful activities to try, and intentional conversations to have.

Kelty Loveseat Double Outdoor Camp Chair

Kelley said she loves sharing this chair with her husband, rather than having individual seats, while they spend time together at concerts, by a campfire, and the beach. "It surprises me all of the time how much more connected we can feel when we can be close," Kelley told Insider.

Nerf Super Soaker Water Blaster

What better way to bring out your silly sides than with a toy that will make you feel like a kid again? That's why Warren suggested expanding your registry to the toy aisle.

Couple's tarot card reading

Having a mystical experience with your spouse can spark interesting conversations and remind you why you're together, Seeger DeGeare, said. She personally enjoys booking in-person or virtual readings with Black Satin Venus, she told Insider.

A hobby fund

"A healthy marriage requires both partners to maintain their individuality and keep pursuing their personal passions. Many couples lament giving up on things they cared about, and people in the happiest relationships have interests and activities they enjoy separately," Morley said. She said that this fund can be a way to pour into each other's personal hobbies.

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