Arts & Culture Corner

Bringing Meaning Back

Gift registries are incredibly efficient—there’s no doubt about that. With a click of a button, you can get your loved ones exactly what they want without having to make much of an effort at all. And, because there are no unwanted or duplicate gifts, the process of registering is ultimately a timesaver for the registrant as well.

But are registries too efficient? Professor Tonya Williams Bradford believes so. In her ethnographic study, “Orchestrating Rituals Through Retailers: An Examination of Gift Registry”, Bradford examines registries as part of a larger set of wedding rituals, with mass-market retailers playing a central role.

Bradford found that the "convenience" of registries may come at a cost. By shifting the once-personal ritual of gift-giving to the marketplace, registries have changed our social fabric. Decades ago, for example, the main role of the mother of the bride was to help create the new home for the union of two families. Now, that role has been outsourced to Macy’s or Crate and Barrel. In essence, we’ve outsourced sacred traditions to home stores.

And, before registries, the notion of gift-giving held much more sentimental value. As Bradford describes, “We used to make beautiful gifts to celebrate the birth of a new baby. Friends and family would crochet blankets and knit hats and booties. Now we simply shop at Babies R Us.” And, truth be told, most of us don’t even head to the store. We simply head over to the online registry, and send off the gift in between scrolling Facebook and sending an email.

But is there a way to reclaim the meaningfulness of gift giving in a world where everyone seems to be so short on time?

We believe we’ve done just that with SoKind.

New Dream's SoKind Registry was designed as an alternative to the traditional, retail-based gift registries. We wanted to create a platform that allowed registrants to receive meaningful, customized gifts from their loved ones while still making the process for the gift-givers easy and elegant. In other words, our aim was to revive the sentimental and personal aspect of gift-giving without losing the convenience of online registering.

With SoKind, engaged couples can register for a family recipe book, dance lessons, or a homemade wedding cake, as well as the bread maker they’ve always wanted. Expectant parents can register for crocheted blankets, babysitting help, home-cooked meals, and a stroller.

Our goal with SoKind is to allow individuals to ask for gifts that not only
reflect their lifestyle, values, and needs, but also have the potential to
create meaningful interactions with their loved ones.

SoKind users have also registered for practical yet creative gifts—from playdates for an older sibling to craft beer from their loved ones’ hometowns to everything in between. And they’ve used the platform for more than just weddings and baby showers. They’re helping refugees and teachers and caregivers.

Our hope with SoKind was to make it easier for folks to strengthen relationships and build community while also reducing stress and waste. And our SoKind users have done that and more. One group of registrants described their use of SoKind as the “web-era equivalent of a Mennonite barn-raising, where people can come together to give their talents and gifts to someone who can’t do it alone.”

To learn more or to create a registry or wishllist on SoKind, visit sokindregistry.org.

Edna Rienzi is Director of Programs at New Dream.


SoKind is a registry and wishlist service that encourages the giving of homemade gifts, charitable donations, second-hand goods, experiences, time, day-of-event help, and more. Here's to more fun and less stuff!

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