Perfect wedding Gift for Mr. and Mrs. America?
May 17, 2007 11:05 PM   Subscribe

Best Wedding Gift Evar?

I am maid of honor for a wedding two weeks from now, and I still have no idea what to buy the couple. It's awfully strange to not know what to buy one of my best friends and her husband-to-be, but they're just way more normal than I am. For my other best friend, my partner and I made a gargantuan Doc Ock lookin' chandelier, which she loves, so this gift has to be spot-on to compare.

I would like the gift to be (loosely speaking) romantic or intimacy-related. I can't buy for their decorating taste, you see. Something the couple can enjoy or do together, and bond. The only catch is, they don't do anything in particular together, that I know of. They watch tv, they don't really cook, no pets, not big readers, just workaday fun-loving people. He likes sci fi, she likes an aesthetic I would call California wine country. They are registered at Blandscorp and Bed, Bland and Beyond. I don't even want to look there except as a last resort. They are honeymooning in Paris, if that helps. My budget is under $100.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur to Shopping (31 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
- Wine glasses. Wine rack. Set of wine stoppers.
- Very nice bedsheets. (honestly one of our favorite and most-used gifts from our wedding)
- Cocktail dishes, martini shaker, etc.
- Pretty framed mirror.
- Hammock, if they live in the right kind of house/climate.

If they don't have a lot invested in aesthetic creativity, they will be happy with whatever you get them. Don't drive yourself crazy.
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:20 PM on May 17, 2007

I'll second the idea of nice sheets.

I've given wedding gifts that can't be broken or (more dramatically) thrown - thankfully for symbolic reasons rather than from experience. So I've given Hudson's Bay blankets in the past - probably more than your budget - but the idea is something, like you said, intimate or cozy; something soft that they can share together even if what they like to do is watch tv.

Also, if you can't think of anything perfect on your own, don't be too bummed about defaulting to their registry; at the end of the day, that is the stuff they would like to have. As the maid of honor you'll give a great gift by being there for your friend and helping her not have to sweat a bunch of wedding day details.
posted by asparagus_berlin at 11:30 PM on May 17, 2007

It is at least 5 times your budget but maybe you could pool some money from friends but how about a hot air balloon ride over Paris?

Or, something similar close to their home?
posted by hariya at 4:06 AM on May 18, 2007

At the risk of sounding harsh, you need to understand that this is about them, not about you. They registered at Blandstores because they want bland stuff. So, you'll be giving them exactly waht they want, not what you want them to want.

My husband and I were sort of bland when it came to gifts too. One of our friends gave us a sky-diving jump. We never used it - we regifted it. I know that they gave it to us for the exact same reasons that you are talking about here.

That being said, if you're determined to depart from the list, the sheets proposed above are a nice idea (just make sure that they're in the color scheme of your friends' bedroom).
posted by Flakypastry at 5:11 AM on May 18, 2007 [2 favorites]

If you have a lot of photos of your friend, or know people (her friends/family) who have photos of your friend, you could put together an album (either of her or her with her fiancée). This is the kind of gift that you can't "buy" and in that way is very special. For my wedding, my best man took photos and created a photo book which was even better than the photos from the professional we had hired. That was the best gift we received.
posted by gen at 5:16 AM on May 18, 2007

I'm gonna disagree with Flakypastry. I had a registry, and yes, I wanted those things I registered for, but all of my very favorite gifts were non-registry.

Let me back up the really nice sheets (you know what color will always, always work? White.), possibly beautiful champagne flutes and a bottle of good champagne, or a gift certificate to a nice restaurant.
posted by mckenney at 5:28 AM on May 18, 2007

I've had excellent luck giving really nice sheets with the upper hem and pillowcase hems embroidered using these patterns. I've mostly done the birds holding banners with the couple's name. Typing it out, it sounds somewhat cheesy... If they're not into that kind of thing them just consider me seconding the really nice sheets idea.
posted by zem at 6:10 AM on May 18, 2007

I like to give gifts made by artisans. That way you can mostly say that gift is "the only one like it in the world." Give somebody something from BB&BY and they might see the same thing in a neighbors house. It also helps if you can imbue a handcrafted piece with a purpose.

I once gave a couple a hand-made wooden box I bought from a booth at a local craft/artists fair. Told them it was to hold incoming bills so they wouldn't clutter up the kitchen counter. They still use it.

Most large shopping malls seem to have a store or two that carry such items. (A store called Rare Earth comes to mind.)

A gift like that is unique and they'll always associate it with you. And if I recall, the box I gave was somewhere in the $100 range.
posted by lpsguy at 6:13 AM on May 18, 2007

Money. In a card. With words to the effect of "Put this towards a bed."
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:22 AM on May 18, 2007

I gave a set of these personalized mugs, a really nice teapot, and a big selection of my favorite loose teas. It was a hit. She also has other designs: laundry on a clothesline with their initials on a shirt, a birch tree with the couple's initials carved into it, and dessert sets. Total cost was under $100 and it was personal since tea was a common bond between us. The mugs themselves are lovely to hold and look at -- the designer was very fast and couldn't have been sweeter to deal with.
posted by fionab at 6:38 AM on May 18, 2007

Get creative. Perhaps contact a local press and get a beautifully bound book made (I credit my brother with this idea, and it will get you a big "wow"). Incorporate phootgraphs, stories, and heartfelt messages from all your friends and family. They will no doubt treasure such a gift forever, and it will mean a lot more than Swarovski crystal salt shakers or whatever it was they registered for. It may be kind of cliche, but with the right design aesthetic , it could be the coolest thing ever. And if you made a chandelier, you probably have artistic talent and I suggest putting it to use again, however that works itself out.
posted by Lieber Frau at 6:39 AM on May 18, 2007

Maybe she has sheets on her registry? It's worth a look.

My friend is also getting married in two weeks, and nothing on her registry (also Bed Bath & Beyond) really caught my eye. So I'm compromising -- half her present will come from the registry, because I know she wants/needs what's on there, and the other half is something I've picked out.
posted by phatkitten at 6:44 AM on May 18, 2007

A few years ago, I was flailing around trying to come up with a thoughtful wedding gift for a couple with conservative tastes. Like you, I didn't think I could match their aesthetic and, like you, I was on a budget, so I couldn't splurge and buy them something lavish from their registry.

Finally, I went to a big outlet shop and put together a picnic kit. With the bride's favorite colors in mind, I bought:
- an insulated picnic basket
- colorful acrylic plates, cups, and flatware
- cotton napkins
- a vinyl tablecloth, to keep them dry on damp ground
- a cheap cotton tablecloth to lay over the vinyl
- citronella candles
- a corkscrew
- two inexpensive but sturdy wineglasses
and several other little $1 things I can't remember that I threw in willy-nilly.

I also picked up some shelf-stable picnic foods: jarred olives, fancy crackers, chocolates, any little thing that seemed appropriate and would keep, as well as an inexpensive bottle of wine.

The insulated basket had exterior pockets, which I filled with the tiny things one usually forgets to bring on a picnic (matches for the candles, handi-wipes, sunscreen, a disposable camera, packets of salt and pepper), and some joke items (a crappy little solar-powered fan; a packet of plastic ants).

Unbelievably, the whole thing came together for about fifty bucks. I wrapped some small items in the cotton napkins, tied with ribbons, and presented it all packed in the basket, lined with the tablecloth and with a big damn bow on the handle. It looked fabulous, and in the year or two after the wedding, the bride wrote me or called me several times out of the blue to say "Hey, we went on a picnic again this weekend!"

A great success in my estimation.
posted by Elsa at 6:45 AM on May 18, 2007 [2 favorites]

I once got a friend a picnic baskets with a full set of picnic dishes (something along this line). Then I bought a nice table cloth that was good for picnics or casual dinners at home to wrap it in. If you find a cheaper one, you could spend the rest of your budget filling it with good wine and gourmet preserves and pate and such.

Some other thoughts, based on the theme of intimacy: season tickets to a local theatre. Tickets to a sporting event that they both like. Dinner at a vineyard that does wine pairings with it's courses. A really fancy bottle of wine that needs to be aged for X years, for them to drink on their X anniversary.
posted by carmen at 6:48 AM on May 18, 2007

When my wife and I got married, we'd been livning together for a while, so we didn't really need anything. The best gifts we got we experiences, not things. One couple gave us a meal at a fabulous restaurant. Another group of friends pooled their money and sent us on a trip.
posted by MrMoonPie at 6:57 AM on May 18, 2007

Assemble a Paris survival kit for them. Include enough silly stuff (berets, etc) to make it fun, but make it mostly useful. Include a "gift certificate" to have you make a photo album or some other creative keepsake of their honeymoon pictures.
posted by adamrice at 7:00 AM on May 18, 2007

A friend of mine commissioned three different art students (read: cheap, but still "real" art) to paint pictures of the wedding location during the actual event. I forget whether it was the church or the reception location, but you could probably go with whichever looks nicer from the outside. Afterwards, she picked the painting that turned out best, had it framed, and gave it to the couple with a note explaining its origins. Even though the end result is the same as if someone had painted that location at any other time, something about it being created during the event makes it seem really special.
posted by vytae at 7:19 AM on May 18, 2007 [2 favorites]

We regifted nearly every single thing that people gave us off-registry because? We didn't want it. I obviously have no idea whether your friends are like us in being nearly insane about superfluous stuff, but I would be inclined to recommend things that can be used up and that don't take up space. So

*gift certificate to restaurant
* excellent bottle of wine that will be coming into its own at around their 5th anniversary
* book of gift certificates to movie theaters
* tivo, if they don't have it
*subscriptions to netflix or something else like that
posted by gaspode at 7:33 AM on May 18, 2007

something off the registry. or a gift card. and homemade card with a note explaining how much they mean to you. seriously.

while I understand your desire to give them something you find fun and charming and meaningful, think about what they'll really WANT.

i'm with flakypastry, they registered for a reason. people like to rail about how a registry is "impersonal"--but the fact remains that the couple registered for stuff they want. How is that impersonal?

off-registry gifts can be lovely, but 99% of them are true mind-bogglers, handcrafted or not. And taste is subjective, especially when it comes to anything artisan, antique or handcrafted. Not to mention, artisan, antique and handcrafted are also impossible to return and can be hard to regift.

my husband and i got a couple of off-registry gifts, including handmade artisan pottery, some wierd antique mother of pearl salt cellar shaped like a snail, and a ton of crystal bowls. I love the folks who got us these things, and they are thoughtful people who mean well. But the reason we registered for spatulas is because we WANTED spatulas. And if spatulas weren't in their plan, I would have rather had gotten a lovely card than a freaky snail salt cellar.

but like those above, you can't go wrong with nice crisp white sheets--for an under $100 budget, Martha Stewart from K-Mart are probably the best. and if you're set on adding some kind of touch and a card won't cut it, hand embroider their initals on the pillowcases.
posted by kumquatmay at 7:39 AM on May 18, 2007

follow-up to add: it might be worth asking them, obliquely or directly, what approach they took to the registry. I know people who have a gift registry because they know exactly what they like and (reasonably enough) don't want "a freaky snail salt cellar," and that's great. But I've also known people whose gift registry is simply a gesture to make gift choices easier for those who would have no idea where to start.

Certainly that would be my reason for registering: to give a clue to those who otherwise would be clueless. I would be shocked if friends and family only bought me gifts from a registry. (I'm not criticizing those who only want registry gifts, just posing another viewpoint.)

One way around this, sort of: if they have several small items on their registry, buy a bunch of related items, add some consumable extras, and package them up nicely. Often, the small but useful stuff on a registry gets overlooked precisely because people think it isn't special enough.

Building on kumquatmay's example of spatulas, if they registered for spatulas, silpats, and muffin tins, you could add fancy casting sugar, some favorite muffin recipes, and paper muffin cups.

Or if they requested a salad spinner and salad server (or tongs), you could add a bottle of luxury salad oil (walnut, avocado, pumpkin seed), a nice vinegar, and some fancy salt.

Also, the idea of embroidering sheets really resonates for me: I have a few hand embroidered pillowcases, and I simply adore them and think of the giver every time I use them.
posted by Elsa at 8:08 AM on May 18, 2007 [1 favorite]

It seems that the best gift I gave to a married couple was a photograph I had taken of them a year before at a costume party. I had it properly framed - and they were pleased with how personal it was.
posted by gomichild at 8:17 AM on May 18, 2007

My friends gave us a really sweet wedding gift - a basket with a bottle of wine wrapped & labeled for several "milestones" in our first year of marriage - our 1 month anniversary, our first Thanksgiving as a married couple, our first Christmas as a married couple, our first New Year's as a married couple, our first Valentine's Day as a married couple, the season finale of our favorite tv show, and a few others, ending with our 1-year anniversary. They also included a pair of really unique & gorgeous wine glasses and a corkscrew. Depending on the number of events you did this for, the price could vary, but I imagine it would be easy to do for around $100 if you don't pick a million events or super-expensive bottles of wine.
posted by tastybrains at 8:25 AM on May 18, 2007 [1 favorite]

excellent bottle of wine that will be coming into its own at around their 5th anniversary

Last summer, my boyfriend's brother and brother's long-time girlfriend were getting married. They had a small wine refrigerator on their registry. We bought that for me, and in addition, did a riff of of the "excellent bottle of wine that will be coming into its own at around their 5th anniversary" idea.

In addition to the fridge, we purchased a pair of nice but elegant metal wine caddies (a bride and a groom, coincidentally), as well as a picking out a series of "anniversary" wines: one wine that would peak in a year, one wine that would peak in five years, and another wine that would peak in twenty years. I think that's pretty romantic.

So you could do that, or see if there anything on their registry that you can riff off of?
posted by kathryn at 8:26 AM on May 18, 2007 [1 favorite]

My favorite wedding gift was when someone (OK, it was Jamie Farr from MASH and his wife, no joke) took our wedding invite and had it made into a mirror. The invite was put under glass at the top of the long mirror, the mirror was surrounded by wood, and someone hand-painted the flowers from our invite on the wood. I'm not explaining it well, but I loved it.

You can get personalized wedding pottery from Zotter the Potter.
posted by GaelFC at 9:39 AM on May 18, 2007

Nthing Elsa's suggestion. An unexpected gift Mr. Adams and I got for our wedding was a soft-side suitcase (a little larger than a carry-on, but rectangular like a large picnic basket). It had tons of space inside, including lots of zippered compartments and side pockets. It proved to be perfect for our honeymoon - we took one large suitcase with our clothes and shoes, and all other necessitites and incidentals fit into this new case. When we investigated further, we'd found that the giver had stashed travel-sized shampoos, soaps, toothpaste, packages of AA batteries (for our Walkmen while on the plane), and things like that.
posted by Oriole Adams at 9:57 AM on May 18, 2007

A really nice wooden salad bowl carved of a single piece of wood that will last forever.
posted by donovan at 10:38 AM on May 18, 2007

I was at a shower once where a guest gave the couple an assortment of gorgeous keepsake Christmas ornaments as a "starter" collection for their first holiday as a married couple. Something like this, in a handmade wooden box (I am blown away that you are crafty enough to make a chandelier), might be nice.

Of course, this only works if they celebrate Christmas.
posted by lalex at 11:14 AM on May 18, 2007

Often, the small but useful stuff on a registry gets overlooked precisely because people think it isn't special enough.
We did this--some friends had registered a bunch of gardening equipment, you know, rakes and hoes and gloves and such, as well as a lot of fancy stuff. They'd just bought a new house, and my wife and I are very much into gardening, so we bought all the gardening stuff on the registry, 10 items or so. It was kinda fun at the shower, as each item was wrapped seperately, and mixed in with their other presents: Oh, look, a nice set of napkins! and a rake! and a salad set! a hoe! wine glasses! pruning shears!

Another time, I bought a cousin the pooper scooper she'd registered. I like to think she thinks of me every time her dog takes a dump.
posted by MrMoonPie at 11:49 AM on May 18, 2007 [1 favorite]

I have two no-fail wedding gifts. They aren't as personal as some that others have suggested, but what the heck.

#1) Gift Certificate for framing. People, especially newly-married people always have stuff they'd like to frame. But framing is expensive and a lot of folks procrastinate and don't frame. People have pictures from the wedding to frame. They have art they bought on their honeymoon to frame. They have compromise posters to frame. They have stuff that they need to frame.

#2) Buying the small stuff on the registry [usually kitchen gadgets] and making a fabulous basket out of it. A lot of stuff on their registry they will buy themselves if they don't get it. And a lot of registry stuff people will buy for them. Small stuff tends to get overlooked. Personally I was really happy to not have to buy my own salad spinner and jar opener. I use these things all the time and think with great fondness on the person who bought them for me. The person who bought them for me made a bouquet out of the kitchen gadgets [except the salad spinner] and arranged them with some silk flowers. It was an original presentation of a very thoughtful gift.

I'll add a third that some friends experienced...

3) Find out what hotel they are staying at. Call or e-mail the hotel concierge and arrange a special room service dinner or breakfast. Or arrange some other romantic surprise like a violinist.

You sound like the sort of person who can usually give an off-registry gift. But if you haven't come up with an idea you like yet, and you are the maid of honor, just buy them sheets or a place setting or their wine glasses and be done with it. I know it feels unoriginal. But it's what they want. This is supposed to be about the couple.
posted by Mozzie at 12:24 PM on May 18, 2007 [2 favorites]

Thanks for all the good tips! As for "just get them sheets or dishes if that's what they want," she's my best friend. She didn't have to say right out that she wants is for me to break the mold with this one, after seeing what we did for the other bff, and she registered where she had to, based on where people could shop. Thanks again!
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 1:00 PM on May 18, 2007

We honeymooned in Paris, and stayed in a friend's apartment. Her copy of an early 20th century edition of Baedeker's Paris guide was a great companion to our rambles, and would have been a great gift had anyone thought of it.
posted by Scram at 3:01 PM on May 19, 2007

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