Like many topics on this blog, this too leaves me in a bit of dilemma. I cannot choose side, yet, however find topic interesting.
When we have weddings in India, our guests bring us gift and present in reception during photo ceremony. Those who are close to couple bring gifts (for bride/groom/household) and those who are not, gift cash. It's little silly actually but that's how it has come to be and it is good in general for people who don't know whether what they will get will be useful to couple or not. Indeed in many cases couple amasses multiple wall clocks, Ganesha statues, and such stuff. After the program there is painstaking process of evaluating worth of gifts and noting it down against name of gift giver - useful in reciprocating in future. Since cash is evaluated at its value while gift is always evaluated below its price ("this Sari doesn't look like more than 300 bucks!"), cash gift custom is useful in another sense. Nevertheless, couple, or their families, never openly state what they want. It will be too rude to ask. After all, their gesture itself is worthwhile, at least outwardly.
No such shame in halfway round the world though. Gift registries are common in US for weddings and other family events. Couple select types of items they would like, in some price range, and inform these choices to their guests (many online shopping sites have special provisions where link of list can be sent with invitation). Guests simply go to registry, pay what they would like, buy, and gift. And they better hurry for if late, only expensive items will be left from registry to buy. It is a nice arrangement actually, because couple get exactly what they need in their life, know the monetary value of every gift, and guests don't have to think hard to decide what to gift. One problem for guests is that they cannot chose value of gift they would like to give, specially if they are late. I am sure there must be a way out of it, I am just not aware. Perhaps registries are suggestions, which guests will do good to follow, but are not binding rules. In some extreme cases, not common but not unusual either, couple even ask for sales receipt, so that they can return the gift and get back cash. Surely, what would you do if you didn't like as many things in acceptable price range as there are number of guests?
Practically speaking registry system is great idea in India too. But there is this idea of rudeness I mentioned even though it will be good in practice. And yet many times we bear huge inconvenience and costs to continue those traditions which nobody likes in private but praises in public. Would gift registry system catch in India? Since online shopping for low value products is yet to catch, we need special infrastructure were this to work in India. People buy at their local shops rather than at national chains in US. Sending list of items may solve problem of couple's choice but it will be quite rude to receive an invitation and list. I am not certain if our culture would accept that.
Shadionline.com lists some more benefits of registry.