In order not to get random gifts from family and friends, we decided to register for some items, despite having lived on our own (and now combining households) for many years.
Registry Experience #1: REI
I looked into a registry with EMS (Eastern Mountain Sports), a favorite backpacking/hiking store, but they do not have a registry service (and I really needed a 'footprint' for my tent...the groundcloth that goes under the tent to protect it). REI, a similar store, does have a registry feature.
It's been effortless -- we've been building the registry only online (have not set foot in the store). Catholicgauze needs hiking boots and a backpack for our adventures, and I'd like to get some add-ons to the JetBoil I purchased at EMS a few years back. We'd be purchasing these items anyway, so if family and friends would like to give them as a gift, that would be great.
Registry Experience #2: Bed, Bath and Beyond
We decided on Bed, Bath and Beyond (BBB) for multiple reasons. First, they have locations all around the country (important for family and friends that are from far-away lands). Secondly, they have a wide variety of merchandise and options. While we already have most household items that we need, there are a few items that would be nice to have, but we're indifferent if we receive them. This registry is structured more towards those that are inclined to purchase a gift off of a registry than give money.
The folks at BBB were great. They took the time to explain the process, and the associates around the store were quick to say "hello" when they saw us coming with the 'scan gun' and when we had a few issues, they were quick to solve it and eager make it easy on us. They even offered us something to drink. You can build the Registry online as well, but it's nice to be able to touch the towels and sheets in order to select the one you like best.