A fun way to reenact The Hunger Games is to stick a bunch of women in a room and say no one leaves until they agree on a universal wedding registry code of etiquette. Not to mention that the whole process of registry-making seems to have been designed as a test of whether your fledgling marriage can survive screaming matches over the competing merits of two different flatware sets.
Well, it seems the very busy founder of Gilt Groupe wants to wade into this morass. Hence today’s launch of Zola, a new wedding registry startup cofounded by Kevin Ryan (who’s also largely responsible for Business Insider and MongoDB), along with Gilt alums Shan-Lyn Ma and Nobu Nakaguchi.
“I’ve wanted to do something in the wedding market for years,” Mr. Ryan commented to Betabeat via email, inspiring us to imagine him sneaking glances at Brides between meetings. “I saw a big market with lots of passionate brides, but there was no one online wedding destination that they universally loved. That’s always been an attractive opportunity to me.”
How it works: You sign up, and Zola immediately recommends several products, like the ubiquitous Kitchenaid stand mixer ($349.99), a Sodastream starter kit ($129.99) and a Liam throw ($265). From there, you can add from among the thousand items on the site.
You’re not limited to overpriced plates and dust-gathering novelty appliances, though. Other options include furniture, “experiences,” like a $350 accessories and color consultation from Tastemaker, or straight-up food, like a collection from Murray’s Cheeses. Also an option: cold, hard cash.
“When we look at registries today, it feels like they haven’t changed since the 20s,” which is when they were invented, CEO Ms. Ma told Betabeat. Back then, couples were typically moving in together for the first time–plus stores had all those newly invented electrical devices they wanted to sell. But now, ”they already have a lot of they want” for their households, she pointed out, so they’d rather have “experiences” or money for a down payment. Concept in hand, the pair ran it by Mr. Ryan.
This bride spots a few trouble spots, though. You can’t add items from popular stores like Williams Sonoma or Pottery Barn. (From whence I’ve picked out a nice blue-banded brasserie pattern IN CASE anyone is interested.) It’s not a unified registry like YC-backed RegistryLove, which means you’ve got to pick from among the selection on the site or register elsewhere, as well. Says another bride from my gchat contact list: “USELESS.”
Correction: Apparently, you can backdoor additions from other sites. You add the product, it creates an entry on your registry, and your mom’s best friend can now easily purchase that duvet cover. BUT you don’t actually get it–Zola sends you money once the item has been “purchased,” and then you buy it yourself. You probably wouldn’t want to do that with many items, unless you want to trick loved ones into providing a down payment.
Also, the return policy is iffy, varying from item to item. That means you can’t count on having them hold it all and swap out your half-completed set of fine bone china for a really nice vacuum cleaner. Nor are you going to get the raft of discounts offered by department stores (which regularly knock 15% or so off the cost of everything unbought).
In fact, it’s basically Gilt Groupe sans the flash sales, but somebody else pays. Your batty great-aunt is probably still going to give you crystal, though.