I was on my fourth plane transfer when I arrived in a small town on the west coast of Norway to attend my best friend's wedding. To a Viking.

As you might imagine, the wedding registry consisted of Hermes-branded plate sets worth my car note. As the bridesmaids and I gathered around to watch her unwrap silver platters with her initials embossed on them, I wondered if any of this stuff would ever be used. Little did I know that her wedding registry, consisting of luxury items beyond my imagination, would raise questions about their practicality.

A lot has changed since then.

Fast forward to the present, and my friend is no longer married, and Amazon wish lists have become the norm for typical wedding registries. Today’s edition of Lovers and Outlaws delves into formulating a wedding registry based on the married couple, and how the registry itself influences a relationship's outcome. As the dog days of the wedding season encroach upon our budgets, and I endlessly scroll through couples' items they want to live happily ever after in their first year, let's examine the decision-making processes of newlyweds and the choices they methodically make as one. 

By examining the intersection of traditional department store narratives and somatic decision-making frameworks within modern consumerism, this article aims to spark a casual conversation about the wedding season and the shopping habits of newlywed couples. After all, the choices we make together can profoundly shape our future. So this begs me to ask, do the stores represent a realistic approach to grocery shopping, whether at mainstream supermarkets like Whole Foods or high-end retailers such as Erewhon, or even the convenience of online platforms like Amazon? Every couple fits into a specific shopping experience and how retailers' messaging resonates with newlyweds.

Navigating Shopping With Your Partner

In my inaugural post, I discussed the four factors that affect consumer behavior and how the framework for decision-making has evolved since we've gained access to fancy social internet tools to influence us. One of these factors involves making a personal decision from a somatic lens. This refers to something that triggers an emotion that makes us purchase a product.

Studies have shown that couples who don't indulge in impulse buying have a greater chance of keeping the peace in their relationship. When I met up with my friend years later, she revealed that their supermarket preferences were starkly different; she loved shopping at Whole Foods, and he instead preferred Winn Dixies. 

Since 2013, about 40% of consumers spend as much online as they do in-store

What’s more, spouses who yield the most power in relationships are often considered the most relevant when decision-making and purchasing products. I don't know who wore the pants in the relationship, but food labeled with Kirkland says a lot about who someone is. Maybe they're a chef, or they care about budgeting or meal-prepping? In the last two decades, countless studies have been conducted on how people connect with brands and the products they purchase. So, exploring why married couples buy products and how there's little deviation from the shopping list would be interesting.

If there is, then Houston, we have a problem.

The Role of Retailers in Newlyweds' Decision-Making

Picture this: shopping with your new boo, strolling down the grocery aisle post-honeymoon, wedding bands glistening in the frozen food aisle as your love grabs you behind the waist and whispers seductively in your ear, "Should we do frozen cheese food or get Mediterranean from the fresh counter?" This may be a dose of dopamine when it comes to somatic decision-making and can offer a glimpse into how well you will work together.

In the most recent season of Indian Matchmaker on Netflix, the main character excitedly laments that her first date was at Costco. By the end of the season, the couple is strolling through an aisle, talking about marriage and their future wedding plans. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the recent closure of Bed, Bath and Beyond has sparked drama associated with recovering purchases and returning items, including distressing stories featuring a woman's wedding dress being held hostage — all because of an unpaid bill. I can imagine the turmoil that's erupting in their household.

It turns out couples these days want it all. They want stellar customer service and more choices to make choices, like live chats, video, and click-to-call. They want excellent tech components, rapid and free delivery, reports IBM. 

Figure 1: The Grocery Store Coupledom 2x2

So when it comes to modern retailers, the point is to keep couples happy. Amazon offers lenient return policies, providing a hassle-free experience. What follows is how this decision-making starts from their choices in the wedding registry program. These days, many couples are abandoning traditional registries altogether and opting for a "Honey Fund" and "Zola" platforms to alleviate the stress of choosing physical items.  While gift registries have evolved to encompass more practical items like Amazon wish lists and donations for local community gardens or honeymoon funds, certain retailers still need help adapting to modern couples' needs. This is due to how much traditional companies struggle to embrace a hybrid purchasing model.

In the most recent season of Indian Matchmaker on Netflix, the main character excitedly laments that her first date was at Costco.

As our understanding of what makes a "perfect" union evolves, so does the decision-making process of traditional and nontraditional couples. It wasn't that my friend's wedding registry was the breaking point of the relationship; the wedding registry tools in 2009 were nonexistent. They didn't know their purchasing styles would set the vibe of their living styles. It was either bougie or Bed Bath & Beyond towels and blenders. I've sifted through dozens of studies from the early '90s to now. Many of them reveal that it's not about the brand and what they sell; it's how they sell it. What are the various touch points that bring ease to the couple's lifestyle?

I was reading through a particular study released in1997 about the purchasing decisions among gay and lesbian couples that piqued my interest. Apparently, "decision-making among gay male couples is less likely to be affected by resource-related characteristics," as opposed to lesbian couples, who usually share similar socioeconomic backgrounds. Hence, purchasing products is not an issue. But many studies need to get to the crux of what I'm examining: types of products, couples, and purchasing decisions. It's 2023. We have choices. What makes people go to Erewhon vs. Costco? People either care about the brands they buy and where or are more practical and do what makes them feel great and spend more time on forging better relationships based on other things not related to purchase power. 

After all the Hermes plates were unwrapped and delicately placed in a cabinet off the kitchen, the newlyweds insisted on setting the table for dinner with Ikea flatware. Suddenly, my mind swirled with questions. Why ask for something you’re not going to use? Years later, my observation on how our relationships intertwine with our material choices and possessions based on the stores we frequent will continue to serve as a framework for how people and couples work together in holy matrimony. This is the very essence of consumerism. In this beautiful dance of perspectives, we witness the diverse landscape of human attraction based on food choices. 

Tune in next week to discover how dupes and dating apps are transforming the “single till marriage” modern philosophy.