Today on the Forever Bride Podcast we are talking all things wedding registries with Forever Bride member, Sarah Eckert. Sarah is the wedding registry expert at Ampersand, the ultimate gift and home decor store for your wedding registry!
[Ashley] Ampersand is located at the Galleria and has been a staple in the Twin Cities for a long time. When did Ampersand first launch?
[Sarah] Local entrepreneur, Barbara Armajani, opened Minnesota’s premier store for tabletop, and tabletop accessory in 1995. Barbara's vision for Ampersand Shops is to create a collection of branded shops giving our customer a convenient way to shop the widest selection of premiere designers. It’s like a one stop shop for everything you need!
[Ashley] Your specialty is wedding registry, correct? And you just re-did your website! Check it out here. Tell us a little bit more about the registry side of the business.
[Sarah] We started doing the registry about 5 years ago. We have made it super easy for customers and brides to start their registry on our website. It is very easy to shop and also to find the registries online! My part of the registries is to create a personal experience with my clients. So I reach out to every registry, whether they started online or just walked in the store and I create an appointment with them to personally walk them through the store and answer any questions they might have. I help guide them through this process that can be very overwhelming. I make it easy, fun, and stress free. That’s really my goal. And honestly, I form relationships with these brides because I continually email with them back and forth during their time with us. I really answer any of their questions about wedding registries.
[Ashley] So it is more than handing them one of those guns and letting them go wild?
[Sarah] Yes, it is much more of a personal experience and I give them lots of attention. That way they don’t get lost or overwhelmed in the store and I am there helping them through the whole entire process.
[Ashley] I remember when I went through this process. I had never registered for anything in my life and I had no idea what to do. I can imagine having somebody help you with that process is so needed. Let's talk about why people should register.
[Sarah] First of all, it is nice for their guests to really know what the couple wants. I can’t tell you how many times customers come to our store, “Oh my gosh this couple didn’t register and I have no idea what to get them!” It is very stressful. So it is very nice to have a put together list of what the bride and groom would like to have. Also, our culture has changed. Back in the day it was more traditional for the bride and groom to come together after the wedding and live together. So then, they would register for everything! Nowadays, a lot of couples live together beforehand or during the engagement. So it is nice to have that conversation with your fiance and really decide what is most important to us, what do we want to register for, what is not needed, etc. It doesn’t make sense to get a toaster if you both already have one and then you have to go return it. Having a registry is less of a hassle at the end of the day for the couple and their guests.
[Ashley] What is some advice you could give to a bride that is starting the registry process? Besides coming to you of course! Should she start with a checklist?
[Sarah] I think a checklist is always good. I always encourage my couples to really talk and think about their future and their style. Like how do you see yourselves entertaining down the line? Do you want to have formal holidays at your house? Do you see your whole family coming over? Do you want to do casual dinners out on the patio? Are you more formal or more contemporary? They are many avenues they could go down so it is good to have the couples talk together and really narrow what their likes and dislikes are, how they see themselves entertaining, and then go from there.
[Ashley] I feel like registries have totally evolve from what it was even 10 years ago when it was mostly dishes, china, flatware, kitchen items, to now it is more household items, backyard pieces, activities, etc. It's fun because we were going through our blogs today and you'll see that registries can be for anything now, like honeymoon registries, activity registries. What are some of the unique things that you have at Ampersand that you think are less typical or traditional registry items?
[Sarah] I would say in general, the products we have at our store are very unique themselves because they have been brought in from all over the world. They are not the products you will see in every department store. So that in itself is very unique. Our customers love buying those meaningful, special gifts that our registry couple will take out and remember who purchased that for them because it is so unique and different. We have everything from bathroom accessories to fine china, flatware, lots of melamine, outdoor entertaining items, and tons of decor, apothecary, candles; I can’t tell you how many of our brides register for dip tea candles!
[Ashley] You know what's funny? Before you and I started working together and I knew about Ampersand, I received a gift from my wedding years ago that was from Ampersand and out of all the pieces we returned, because like we said earlier, we were young and we didn't know what we needed. We thought we were supposed to register for really fancy china even though we don't entertain at all and had no idea what to do with it, but we registered for it. We got the most beautiful platter and I still use it! Every time I bring it out someone compliments it and it starts a wonderful conversation! I got it 10 years ago and it still looks brand new. The quality is amazing. I think that is the difference of registering for some of those nicer pieces. These are not things you're going to buy yourself, especially when you are 20 something years old. Now I look back on that as one of the nicest pieces to my kitchen.
[Sarah] Exactly! The quality of our products are beyond compare. Everything we have in the store is meant to last a lifetime. We want you to be able to entertain with it forever. That is something that is really important to us.
[Ashley] One of the things I see often when I get invited to weddings, bridal showers, and bachelorette parties, is that these girls are registering at 10 different places and I never know what to do!
[Sarah] Yes, it can be way too overwhelming! So I always suggest keeping the registries at 2-4 at the max. Even 4 is a lot, it becomes way too overwhelming for your guests. They begin to overthink it and they don’t know where to go first. If you register at too many places it becomes to overwhelming and too much to handle. I think 2-4 is the perfect amount. I get a lot of questions about Zola and if Ampersand is okay with that. The answer is yes! Zola kind of keeps everything all in one place. I have had brides use that and it works seamlessly with our website.
[Ashley] Can you tell me the etiquette in returning or exchanging a gift? How often does someone, and bring a piece back to ampersand?
[Sarah] It is pretty rare. I feel like now, especially since I’ve started working with our brides and couples, because I really help them find out if they love the piece. I ask questions like, do you see yourself using this? Is it functional and something that you like? Of course returns happen and that is not a big deal. Basically everything in our store we can resell. Return are fine. There are a few vendors on our website that we don't have in the store, but I always go over those policies with our couples.
[Ashley] Again another bonus to having someone help you with the registry process. When is the right time for a bride and groom to start this process?
[Sarah] I have many brides and grooms come in like two months before the first bridal shower, which is great. But even before that would be better so you don’t feel as rushed. I also have couples come in before an engagement party, which I think is a new trend. A lot of people are having these engagement parties and people want to buy gifts for that. So I am seeing a lot of people like 9 months beforehand and that is totally fine. The more time you give your guests the better. Also, a registry is one of the easier things to check off your list. So don’t be afraid to come in if you think it’s too early, because it's not. :)
[Ashley] As a new couple, how do you know what your style is going to be? Because I remember when I went through this I was so overwhelmed by all the different styles. So how do you work with the bride and groom to figure out what their style is? (TUNE IN TO HEAR WHAT ASHLEY’S STYLE IS!)
[Sarah] Usually, I first bring them around the store and I introduce them to the different styles, because a lot of people don’t know what contemporary, for example, is or looks like. That is totally fine! No questions is dumb. I love walking through the store and guiding them. I always say, start with a white plate. A classic white base plate. Everyone needs it, whether is is for everyday use or even the fine china, I think that is the perfect place to start. Then, if you want to mix in patterns or colors. I love mixing in different dessert or salad plates or even the side plates. I love a good eclectic look. So I think that is the easy way to change a look. Then, down the road you can get table linens, napkins, and you can change it over again. So the possibilities really are endless with the classic white plate as your base. Then, you can build off of that.
[Ashley] That is a really good recommendation, because I think back to how much my style has changed in the last 10 years. I love that, so you are recently married! What are some things looking back that you would have done differently with your registry? Or something that brides need to know when starting this process.
[Sarah] Things that I left off my registry or even returned at some point were things like table accessories. I didn't really think long term into the fact that I do like to entertain. I do eventually want to host Christmas or Thanksgiving, but guess what, I don't have a gravy boat, a cute salt and pepper shaker for the table, or a butter dish. These are all things that really do add up if you want to host a party and you have to go out and buy them. I should’ve just registered for it and kept it. Also, nice barware. I love a good stocked bar! I think that is really trending now too. Like the pretty decanters, the beautiful carafes for the table, pretty glassware. So I wish I would’ve put more of that on my registry as well.
[Ashley] We were talking earlier to about thinking long-term. If you are living in a smaller living situation, maybe you don't need ten place settings, but maybe you won't be at that apartment much longer. So you were telling me about when you did your gift opening, you did it at your parents house, right?
[Sarah] Yes, we opened all of our gifts at my parent’s house and it was great. At the time we were living at a small house, so we politely asked our in-laws if they would store a lot of our gifts until we moved into our bigger house. And they did! I am so happy that I didn't let the size of our house limit what we registered for because it was really fun to move into our big house and open our gifts all over again. And we had plenty of space for everything. I'm so happy I continued to register instead of saying, “Oh we don't have space for this,” don't let that limit you. Register for whatever you’d like and you have to think long term. Not just right now, but in 10 or even 15 years from now. Things will change. You'll have a bigger space and more room to store things.
[Ashley] We have a group page on Facebook for brides across the country (HERE) and one of the questions I see pop-up often is, “How much should I register for?” Or “How much is too much?” And of course everyone has a different opinion, but can you tell us is there such a thing as registering for too much? Or an item that is too expensive that should be on there? Is there an etiquette or rules of that?
[Sarah] There are no defined etiquette rules about wedding registries. I always say you need a variation of price points first of all. So if you do have some more expensive gifts on there, do have some on the lower end so everyone feels comfortable going to shop. So I always suggest that. Then, I would suggest to think about how many bridal showers the bride plans to have because that plays a huge part. If they are going to have only one shower, that is totally fine, but i have so many brides that have four showers! So you have to take that into consideration. You are going to have four different showers that people are going to buy gifts for, and the wedding, and possibly an engagement dinner, so really the sky's the limit. I always encourage to not hold back. Make a large registry list, but at the same time make sure these are items you will love and you will use. You don’t want to register simply to register. You do have to put some thought into it.
[Ashley] And that is just another reason why you should do it sooner, because I can imagine, like when I go to bridal showers and weddings I prefer to only go shopping once. So if I can go to one store, pull up the registry, and say, okay I'm going to get this for a shower, this for her bachelorette party, and this larger one is for the wedding. All the better! I don't want to have to go there three times.
[Sarah] And a lot of people do that. They come in and want to get it all done today. It is so nice to have a wide range of gifts to look through and choose from different price points and styles.
[Ashley] So how does this work when a guest comes to Ampersand and they are shopping for the couple? Do they get the same customer service experience? I can imagine no disrespect to some of the big box stores, but I hate standing at the little kiosk and printing out two piece of paper and not understanding what any of it says.
[Sarah] Yes! And then you are searching through the whole store for hours!
[Ashley] And next thing you know I'm trying on shoes and that's not helping anyone. So how does that work when someone comes to you?
[Sarah] It is still a very hands on experience with our customers that come in to purchase gifts. We do not have a kiosk. You have to ask one of our Sales Associates and we bring it up on an iPad and we walk around the store with you or we can print it off for you as well. We do have some guests that prefer to take it home and come back or what not. But yeah, we still do help guide our customers and talk about, “What are you looking to spend? How much? What is something that is special to you and the couple? Is there something you want to hone in on?” It is still a very one-on-one great interaction with our customers so they feel great about what they buy!
[Ashley] Not to compare, but I would like to know, what are the differences in registering at a place like Ampersand vs the big box stores? What are some of the things they are going to get from you that they could not get at the other stores?
[Sarah] I would say number one, our customer service. Our Sales Associates are some of the best out there. They really have extensive knowledge on all of the products in our store and we genuinely love teaching our customers and our registry couples about what they are registering for or what they are gifting. Every piece in our store has a story behind it and we do monthly trainings with all of our vendors and they teach us everything that you need to know about the products; Product care, where it came from, the aesthetic, how it was made, etc. We just have such passion about the store and for our customers. That is a big thing that sets us apart. And again, our products. Barbara has put together the widest selection of table top and gifts probably in the nation
[Ashley] People can find you on your website, AMPERSANDSHOPS.COM, but more importantly they should come visit you at the Galleria in Edina, which is really easy to find and they have underground parking!
[Sarah] Plus, they have redone so much of it recently, it is beautiful! So come check us out. We would love to see you all!
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