It’s that time of year again, people: wedding season. But before we all start flocking in droves to Big Days and "I Do"s across the globe, there’s a crucial ritual to partake in—buying that perfect gift for the happy couple.
Like many of us who have trawled the web searching for something meaningful from a pre-curated selection, Kathy Cheng—who works as a copywriter for Smart Design in New York—was a bit bummed out by the whole process. "I found myself scrolling through wedding registries pretty often and thinking: ‘Woah, this e-commerce experience is awful. Why does it look like a shopping list? And why is it so clinical and transactional?’ It blew my mind because outside of the invitation and the actual wedding day, the registry is the next significant touchpoint for guests. And it’s just so, so disappointing."
Part of the problem is that the power players are big box retailers—think Target, Bed, Bath, & Beyond, and Macy’s—that aren’t particularly concerned with tailoring the experience into something truly special. "We’re talking about a $15 billion a year industry here," she says. "Together they own seventy-percent of the market. It’s just an advertising opportunity for them and a way to sell a bunch of stuff." Ultimately, the purchase looks and feels the same as if you were ordering something mundane for yourself—which is fine, but not exactly fulfilling, or fun, or anything that in any way captures the spirit and meaning behind the act itself.
And while the past few years brought a new batch of wedding sites and apps to the market, Cheng felt that nothing addressed this part of the nuptial experience directly. So she continued to refine her ideas, brought on Lissette Sotelo as co-founder and operations expert, and set about bringing Thankful Registry to life. Simplicity don’t come easy, but Cheng was determined to make the process a pleasurable one for everyone involved. "When we worked on the UX, we focused on solving for a few truths: For couples, it was about making the design personal and beautiful; for guests, it basically came down to not being annoying. The last thing we want is for a guest to have a bad experience and for it to reflect poorly on the couple."
So how does it work? Couples can add anything, from any site, to their registry using a universal bookmarklet; so, say, a year-long subscription to Monocle might sit alongside a Nike Fuelband and an Oxo salad spinner. The bride-and-groom-to-be can also include personal notes about individual items, and customize their URL. It’s super easy, and it looks fantastic, thanks to the skills of Crush+Lovely, who Cheng hired to helm the design and development. Wantful was an obvious influence, but the team also looked at everything from Facebook’s cover images to Soap.com.
Besides the clear importance of perfecting Thankful’s functionality, perhaps the most important part for Cheng was getting the tone right. "For us, a registry isn’t about getting a bunch of stuff. It’s not even about the wedding itself. What it’s really about is family, friends and celebration. That’s exactly why the site is called Thankful, and that philosophy touches everything we’re doing."
After a soft launch last month, Thankful is currently offering a free one-week trial for newbies, then charging a $30 flat fee to keep the registry up and running. Plus, there’s plans to grow in the future. You know what they say: First comes love, then comes marriage … "Next we’re building out the baby registry section," Cheng says. "Weddings are seasonal, but babies are born all year round, so it’s makes sense to grow in that direction."