Answers to Questions You May Not Have Had- Week 1

1. When was the bridal registry invented?

-Officially, the bridal registry started in 1924 at Marshall Field’s in Chicago, with the goal of minimizing returns. However, the nature of bridal gifts didn’t shift much. China and silver were still common presents even after brides began making their own decisions. One tradition that did change mid 20th century was that the gifts were no longer just addressed to the bride.

Here’s an article from The New York Times published on May 30, 1966 about the nature of wedding registries.

The Bride Registers Her Preferences”

By Virginia Lee Warren

The younger bride the more thought she gives to wedding presents. That is the opinion of people in such stores at Tiffany’s, Cartier’s, Altman’s, Baccarat and Georg Jensen– all of which keep bridal registries. Although the young bride-to-be may take two or three visits to decide which patterns to choose, the stores report, the girls evidently consider presents as an important part of being married.

“With older brides getting a man is the main thing,” an employe in one store commented. “They’re not incline to bother with a big wedding or waste much time thinking about presents.”

The eagerness of young brides to let friends and relatives know what they want is matched by a similar zeal on the part of the young prospective bridegrooms, the stores report.

In fact, the keeper of the registry at Altman’s believes the young men evince too much interest.

Bridegroom’s Opinion

“They want to show their authority more than anything else,” she says. “They aren’t so interested in patterns, and things like that, as in letting a girl know ahead of the ceremony who is boss.”

Tiffany’s on the other hand, reported at least one future bridegroom who was very interested in patterns. He came in alone to register his choices and was annoyed to discover that he had to bring in his fiancée to sign the book.

Jensen’s has found that there are generally two kinds of prospective bridegrooms:

“The ones that have been dragged in say they are pleased with everything, and this lets them out quickly. The ones who really wanted to come find fault with everything to show off their masculinity.”

What happens when there is a collision of views? The stores have found that the girl inevitably loses, though there may be a tearful scene before she abandons her preference.

Mothers, the stores say, are even more dictatorial than prospective bridegrooms. And grandmothers can be the most difficult of all. Many of them deplore bridal registries (“It’s like asking for presents; we didn’t do that in my day”), and some seem to go out of their way to ignore the girl’s choices.

Ignoring the Registry

The stores are surprised at the number of people who consult the registry and then balk at sending the gift because they don’t like the pattern. The china department of Baccarat reported that a recent donor insisted on sending plates that were pleasing to her, ignoring the bride’s requested pattern.

Price also turns away some prospective donors. Each store says it tries to persuade girls not to list the most expensive things, but to choose those that their friends can afford.

What are the girls putting down in the books?

In silver, most want what the stores call traditional, a term that encompasses the simple designs of the 18th century as well as more ornate ones.

At Jensen’s the most popular pattern among the Danish silver is Acorn, but when American brands are chosen, the store reports a taste for the baroque. Tiffany’s starkly plain Faneuil and its new Bamboo pattern are the most popular choices. But another pattern chosen often is the rather ornate English King.

Altman’s says there has been a witch in the last couple of years from modern to traditional, with 75 per cent of the registrants now preferring the latter. About 50 per cent of the girls who register at the department store list a stainless steel pattern as well as a sterling silver one, and a pattern in earthenware as well as in china.

Stemware does not show up on many lists at Altman’s.

“That’s because entertaining is more and more informal; you can’t use stemware when your’e serving buffet,” says the keeper of the registry.

At Baccarat the news is that cut crystal is coming back. Most girls choose water goblets, all-purpose wine glasses and champagne glasses. Champagne glasses can also be used for sherbets and other desserts.

Baccarat, famous for its thin stems, tries to dissuade brides-to-be from listing thin stemmed glasses, pointing out their fragility and replacement costs. Tiffany’s also warns against extremely thin stems.

In silver, luncheon knives and forks are preferred to the larger dinner size. This is partly because they are more likely to come in a place setting, partly because they are more suitable for today’s informal entertaining and partly because they are cheaper.

Some of the brides-to-be, according to the stores, do not know how to set a table and have to ask what some of the pieces are for.

But possibly the most appealing girl who ever signed a book was one who asked if she would have to pay for all the articles she listed if she did not receive them as gifts. (The answer, of course, was no.)

On July 24 of this year, The New York Times website had a “Room for Debate” about wedding registries. The big argument was whether or not they are still necessary and if it’s an antiquated tradition. Now that most couples live together before marriage, they’ve already bought all the necessities. It’s not like they’ve been using paper plates and plastic utensils in anticipation of eventually getting married and having a chance to ask their friends to buy them real adult dishes. So what’s the point?

Couples now use them as an excuse to ask for indulgences. Expensive coffee makers from William Sonoma, knives that would make Dexter jealous, and fancy dust collectors (a.k.a $10,000 statues from Bloomingdales). For my cousin’s wedding, he registered for a statue of lips. Because no newlywed’s apartment is complete without a pair of red lips on the mantle.

What’s the solution here? The honeymoon fund? Donating to charity? Just straight up asking for money? Let it be known, if I ever get married, I would like gift cards to Trader Joes. Free groceries for a year? How great would that be?!

2. Why did Omega name their new watch line the Ladymatic?

I saw this ad the other day in Vanity Fair.

My first thought was why would they use the name Ladymatic in 2014? Horrible name. So I did what any curious person would do. I checked the Omega website. Apparently, the line is debuted in 1955 and is being revived. Makes a lot more sense.

I looked into the origins of the -matic product ending. The first time the NYTimes mentions something with that ending is in 1926 with the Oil-O-Matic. 

According to the Omega website, the Ladymatic was one of the first self-winding watches specifically designed for women. Even though wrist watches were originally worn almost exclusively by women (they looked like bracelets and were seen as effeminate), they became a military necessity during the 19h century and gained a more manly appearance. A full history of wrist watches can be found here.


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