Washington - Earlier, the main role of the mother of the bride was to create the new home for the union of two families, but now bridal registries have taken over that task.
"By turning to bridal registries, we've outsourced to the marketplace the sacred traditions of planning and outfitting a new family space," said Tonya Williams Bradford, assistant professor of marketing at the University of Notre Dame.
"For the retailer, it certainly has increased the revenue. And for the bride and groom, there is a broader net for who can participate, because all that is necessary is to communicate the registry website to potential gift-givers," Bradford stated.
In her ethnographic study with Notre Dame Marketing Chair John Sherry recently, Bradford examined gift registries as part of a larger set of wedding rituals, and the implications of retailers playing a central role.
The research found that in 2010 an estimated 19 billion dollars in gifts were purchased from registries by invited guests, making wedding industry revenues second only to those of Christmas.
"Roles formerly held by parents and grandparents, we as consumers now outsource. And we're happy to do it," Bradford said.
The study reveals a number of findings about shifting the once very personal ritual of gift-giving to existing squarely within the marketplace.
"There is stiff competition among retailers to be the gift registry destination," Bradford says, "but registries also have changed our social fabric. The notion of gift-giving used to hold much more sentimental value. Now, everything is pretty much purchased, and, sadly, many people don't put a lot of thought into customizing those purchases."
The study considers how gift registries in general have changed the act of gift giving, as well as family traditions associated with various occasions, from welcoming a new baby to sending a teen to college.
"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 a registry at Babies R Us," Bradford said.
The study was published in the Journal of Retailing.