I know that there are lots and lots of articles & posts out there on this subject already, but I want to put my two cents in. I am not telling you what objects you Have to Have, but I wanted to help by giving a framework for how to think about registering.
Tip #1: Register for what you know you'll use and not for what you hope you'll use.
You'll feel bad sending that still brand new, but now 5 years old, bread maker from your Aunt to Goodwill. If you aren't one for hosting frequent fancy dinner parties, you're probably not going to use that China enough to warrant the money spent and the space taken up. And if one day you are ready to make your own pasta, go buy an unwanted pasta maker from the thrift store! Just be realistic when you pick.
Tip #2: If people are spending money on you, make it money well spent.
Pick out things you really like & need and will be happy to have. As you use various things around the house you can remember who gave it to you and think of them fondly. Also read Amazon reviews, and use a 2 week free trial of Cooks Illustrated's website to pick out the kitchen things so you're getting good stuff that will last. You only get one wedding shower (season) so use it well!
Tip #3: Make sure you have things across all price points.
Some people who love you don't have a lot of money to show it right now, so make sure you have a good amount of stuff under and at $20 to balance out the more expensive stuff.
Tip #4: Don't add stuff just to add stuff.
If you're registering in a store don't let the salesperson talk into stuff you don't want. And if you see the registry is pretty empty and you still have another shower, add some things you WANT, or add that 1 thing you thought might be too expensive, or add gift cards to different stores for stuff you think of later. Don't just add random junk that you don't like/love/need/want to fill up your house. Refer back to Tip #2.
Tip #5: Think outside the kitchen.
Maybe you are pretty set with kitchen stuff or you don't cook much or you need to add stuff to your registry. Would it be nice to have new towels? Or a second set of sheets so you can do laundry at your leisure like a queen? Do you want that cute stuff (picture frames, pillows) at the end of the aisle in Target, but you have been trying to save money for the wedding? Would you like matching bedside lamps for your bedroom like a grown up? Want some nice soft blankets for the couch? Really think about what would be nice to have in your home and go from there.
Tip #6: Read lots of articles titled "What I Wish I'd Registered For"
This will give you tips on specific items that people love and will help you avoid other people's pitfalls. I read so many of these and it helped a lot. Don't register for everything they say, but pick the things from their lists that make sense for you.
Tip #7: Use a site like myregistry.com that allows you to register wherever you want all in one place
This is best for online shopping since you can't look at the registry in the store (but you can on your smart phone), which can be tricky for your older relatives. But I did not want to be tied down to a couple of stores. I wanted to get whatever was the best option, and not the version that Bed Bath & Beyond sells or whatever. Anything that is online can be added to your registry, which includes websites for artists you love or Etsy (though I learned in my research for Friday's post that Etsy now has a wedding registry option). For example, I discovered that Kmart actually has the best towels. They're egyptian cotton, crazy soft & fluffy, have beautiful color options, and are only $13. But that's all I wanted from Kmart so it wouldn't make sense to do a registry there. But with myregistry.com I could do whatever I wanted!
Tip #8: Don't be a douche who registers for stuff and then returns it for cash.
You are terrible and don't understand the point of helping a couple to start their home together. If you don't want the typical housewares stuff please read Friday's post and register the classy way.
I hope this helps! Congratulations on your engagement!