Lifestyle

Forget cake and love: Zola focuses on most important part of a wedding — gifts

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Love, marriage, and commitment are great, but let’s be honest — getting married is really about the gifts.

Today, Gilt Groupe founder Kevin Ryan and Gilt alumni Shan-Lyn Ma and Nobu Nakaguchi launched Zola — a wedding registry for the “modern couple.”

Zola is an e-commerce platform that features a mix of traditional wedding gifts (like blenders, cookware, and fancy linens) along with more eclectic offerings like bicycles, art work, and hygrometers. It also features “experiences,” like a farmers market subscription or interior design consultation. Couples may also use it for contributions for a honeymoon or cash fund.

The basic idea is to fill a registry with stuff a couple may actually want and use, rather than six blenders, four sets of crystal stemware, and ambiguous grilling gadgets.

“Today’s engaged couples are passionate about many things – food and wine, design, world travel, outdoor activities, and more,” said Ma, Zola’s CEO, in a statement. “Yet wedding registries often lack modern offerings to meet their unique needs.”

The average American wedding last year cost an astonishing $27,021 — the same as a year of college tuition and close to what the average American makes in an entire year. It’s one of the largest expenditures a couple will make, aside from purchasing a house.

The “industrial wedding complex” comprises a $51 billion industry, once you factor in dresses, florists, reception halls, event planners, foods, photographers, musicians, and gifts. Around $19 billion of this is spent on wedding gifts a year — $10 billion on traditional gifts and $9 billion in cash and alternative gift registries.

This cost is only offset by the piles of stuff that couples get in exchange for tying the knot. After a wedding, all that is left is memories, photographs, some leftover wedding cake, and gifts.

The costs pile up for guests as well, who are the ones buying the gifts.

A study conducted by the University of Notre Dame found that gift registries actually make weddings less meaningful for guests. They just pick something off a list, pay for it, and that’s the end. There isn’t much of human interaction going on.

If this amount of time, effort, and money is going to be spent outfitting a couple for the nuptial life, the retail experience for the betrothed and their guests might as well be streamlined.

Other sites like TheKnot, MyRegistry, NewlyWIsh, and RegistryLove have tools for pulling items from around the Web into one consolidated registry.

Zola’s platform also puts a strong emphasis on clean design and ease-of-use. It offers Starter Collections, which include popular items based on specific preferences, as well as featured registries. Couples create unique URLs and can personalize their registries with photos, stores, and anecdotes.

Gifts can also be marked for group gifting, where friends can basically crowdfund more expensive items, and Zola notifies the couple when each item has been purchased. The system tracks and organizes all of the transactions so couples can make sure they get all the goodies. And write thank you notes.

Zola’s cofounders have extensive experienced in high-end e-commerce through their experience at Gilt Groupe. After getting invited to, buying gifts for, and attending a large number of weddings, they saw an opportunity to capitalize on the rampant consumerism surrounding them. Zola takes a curated approach to wedding registries and provides useful tools for keeping track of the loot.

Its inventory currently has about 1,000 products, and couples can add items from external websites into their collections by pasting a link to those products.

Of course the average age when people get married is going up, and many of these couples are already co-habitating. They’ve started their life together, pre-wedding, and don’t need to rely on friends and family to furnish their home.

But fundamentally weddings are parties, gift-giving is a tradition that people like., so it might as well not suck so much.

Zola is based in New York City, where the average wedding costs $65,824.

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