Wedding Gifts
June 17, 2008 7:17 PM   Subscribe

Please help me find something decent to get my sister & brother-in-law as a belated wedding gift.

Just as a disclaimer - I have looked over lots of other wedding gift idea threads here. There are some good ideas, but none that really seemed right.

It's really hard to explain why I am having such a hard time finding them the right gift. It would be harder to do if I didn't explain that they have very East Coast expectations of weddings and wedding gifts. So, my budget of ~$150-200 is kind of pathetic compared to what they expect. In fact, normally I would love to give more, except that I catered to all of their previous expectations in terms of a lavish shower and bachelorette party, and spent a lot of money I don't have ALREADY. So, my budget might be a little small based on East Coast fancy wedding standards, but it's a lot to me right now.

I think if this was just any couple, or even just friends, I could find something and just buy it and not worry too much. But because this is my sister, I feel like it needs to be at least sorta good. But these days, I feel very alienated from my sister.

Here are ideas I've ruled out:

So, I can't give money, because (1) I don't like to give money unless I can cover the cost of my plate at the wedding [it's a NY / east coast thing, I think], and $150-200 doesn't cover that, and (2) I don't want to be too obvious about not spending a lot.

I can't give something off their registry, because everything has been purchased off of their registries. Literally, EVERYTHING. Except gift cards, but that presents the same problem as giving cash.

The other wedding gift idea I liked was one that was given to us -- a gift basket of wines to celebrate different milestones in our wedding. However, I already told my sister about this idea, and she's actually used it for wedding gifts for other people, so it wouldn't really seem very fun or creative at this point. Next time I'll keep my big mouth shut.


In terms of what they do like -- I don't know what to tell you. My sister loves different kinds of food and wine, but my brother in law refuses to eat anything but hamburgers and chicken parm, and I don't even think he drinks anything but crappy beer. Their tastes clash so dramatically that I am afraid to give them anything artistic or decorative. They have a dog. That's all I've got.

What I do want is:

- Something I can purchase online.
- Something that can be delivered to NY/NJ
- Nothing to "weird" as that doesn't go over well with the groom

posted by tastybrains to Human Relations (18 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
A bunch of us got this for our friends who just got married. They haven't received it yet, so I can't give you a first-hand account, but I have received gifts from Harry & David before and it's always been incredibly delicious and comes beautifully packaged.
posted by you're a kitty! at 7:43 PM on June 17, 2008

How about a gift certificate for a professional portrait of their dog? Better yet would be to borrow the dog and have its portrait taken, but still, the gift certificate would be pretty great for a dog lover. There are photographers who exclusively photograph pets and they are amazing at getting wonderful shots that mere mortals could never hope to capture. I would love to receive this as a gift.
posted by HotToddy at 7:52 PM on June 17, 2008

OK I'm a teacher (on the East Coast) and I'm crafty.

Did you take a ton of pictures at the events you previously forked out a ton of money for? Make a scrapbook. That's what I did after my father and stepmother took us to Italy last summer. It is something that they wouldn't do for themselves.
Alternatively, on sites like snapfish and other online photo sharing sites you can upload digital pictures, pick your layout, pay $50-100 and get a beautifully bound book with your own captions and pictures. It takes maybe 3-4 hours of time and you get a lifelong keepsake that is personal and a treasured gift.
posted by sisflit at 7:52 PM on June 17, 2008

Can you get an idea of their tastes from their registries, even though none of the items they chose are still available? Even if their tastes clash, they must have agreed upon the items in their registry; perhaps you can find some inspiration there.
posted by amro at 7:54 PM on June 17, 2008

I realize it kind of fits with gift cards, but get them a gift certificate for a really nice restaurant. Tell them it's for their one month anniversary or something.
posted by jacquilynne at 7:56 PM on June 17, 2008

I just realized the dog portrait gift certificate violates the part about not wanting them to know what amount you're spending. But maybe you could get a friend of theirs or relative to borrow the dog and take it for its portrait?
posted by HotToddy at 8:00 PM on June 17, 2008

Response by poster: amro - Just to clarify, this is from me & my husband, so it's ~$100/plate.
posted by tastybrains at 8:01 PM on June 17, 2008

Response by poster: HotToddy - I like the idea, but it's impractical since I don't really have dog access.

I probably should have mentioned that I'm in NH and they're in NJ so it's not really easy for me to get down there.
posted by tastybrains at 8:06 PM on June 17, 2008

Yeah, registry info would help - it would also tell what they have definitely received already.

How about a nice picnic basket with whatever accouterments go with that, along with a kite and mat/blanket? You could even throw in some fancy chocolates. Happy first Fourth of July!
There are also seat gadgets that make dining outside, sitting on the ground, or sitting on benches (watching fireworks) more comfortable. Maybe they're not into that, I'm reaching.

People seem to like weather / climate things, and you can occasionally find nice-looking ones that go either on an inside wall or outside. Thermometer, barometer, hygrometer, all-in-one. Pick a nice set with no plastic involved (wood or brass).

A really, really nice frame, set of frames, or custom framing for their wedding photo. Be careful here, though - it could get expensive. I'd check with the frame shop. And of course taste becomes an issue, but it's framing a wedding photo; maybe you'll feel safer with that.

Finally - you say you're feeling alienated from your sister. It sounds like the issue of money is a key one dividing you. This is a great opportunity to talk with her, tell her how you love her, how you want to do justice to the specialness of the occasion, but you're not sure how to do that with your current budget. Try not to give her a hard time about how much you spent before -- those were your decisions -- and give her a chance to be "understanding" no matter how much the thought galls. Come on, it's your sister, she loves you, and you love her even if she sometimes seems to have different priorities from you.

In other words, have some ideas, but why not talk to her about this? Present her with a couple of options -- as the pretext/goal for the conversation -- but really, it's a way of broaching the subject. You have to be in the right frame of mind, of course, but if you can get there it could be the best gift for both of you.

Assuming you don't actually hate your sister, of course.
posted by amtho at 8:19 PM on June 17, 2008

I don't know if you can do this online, but mooshing up a bunch of ideas (the wine, the basket etc) above:

Take one basket, and place in it a quite cheap gift for each of the standard anniversaries to your price limit:
Year 1: paper - a book of love poems (???)
Year 2: cotton - matching pillowcases
year 3: leather - I don't know.
and have a little note attached to each expressing a nice thought for that particular anniversary and here's the cruncher:
The wedding card says something like you didn't want to just celebrate the day they got married, but their actual marriage, and so you have sent a selection of gifts for the first X years of what you expect will be a long and happy marriage.

That link for anniversary materials was the first I saw, probably not the best.
posted by b33j at 8:34 PM on June 17, 2008

Penzey's Spices has some wonderful collections of spices intended to be wedding gifts. The wedding gift crate is $115, and it doesn't include anything too wild - taco seasoning, chili powder, pizza seasoning, cocoa, parsley, vanilla, cinnamon, etc.

The Penzey's stuff is very high quality, beautifully packaged, and it makes great practical gifts. You can order online. I have ordered from Penzey's for gifts before, and it has always been very well-received.

They probably got tons of kitchen gadgets/flatware/china for their wedding - this is a nice complement.
posted by Ostara at 8:42 PM on June 17, 2008

Anything here look good? There's a number of things in your price range.
posted by MadamM at 8:46 PM on June 17, 2008

I usually go for something from where I'm living. It makes for a nice connection, and nobody can look up online how much the thing cost.
-Nice wooden cutting board from local artisan
-Nice wood salad bowl w/tongs from local artisan
-Nice ceramic bowl or bowl-and-platter or teapot-and-cups etc from good local potter
-Nice not-too-weird vase from good local glassblower

Things that are classic, reasonably expensive looking but hard to tell how much they actually cost:
-Clock - you could get a nice wall clock or mantel clock for your price range, something middle-of-the-road in style but still very classy and nice
-Mirror - middle of the road (or check similar stores) or more interesting
-Silver photo frames with pictures

Handmade is always best, if it's a possibility for you (sounds like it might not be):
-Handknitted/crocheted throw blanket
-Handmade quilt (if you have a sewing machine, making a log cabin quilt is actually not hard)

-Hammock, if their living situation permits
-Tailgate kit (folding chairs, cooler, small grill etc)
-Barware; cocktail shaker etc.
-Nice picnic basket with "picnic for two" equipment - painted enamel cups, plates, some cloth napkins
posted by LobsterMitten at 8:48 PM on June 17, 2008 [1 favorite]

A great gift that most people don't think to ask for is an Ulu knife. In fact if you're not a West Coaster you may not even have heard of these, but they are absolutely great if you do any cooking at all; in fact, a lot of people who have tried them have said that it's basically the only knife they use anymore. You can spend anywhere from $50 to $200 for one and, optionally, a matching bowl. There's no need to buy from the site I linked to above; there are lots of sites that sell various designs, just Google it.

(I intend to get my sister and her husband-to-be one of these for their upcoming wedding.)
posted by kindall at 8:53 PM on June 17, 2008

I'm not sure how appropriate this is (I don't really know what "East Coast expectations" are for gifts), but there are businesses/artists online that will create a portrait from a photograph and mail it to you. You could get a portrait made from their wedding photo. I can't recommend a specific artist, but maybe someone else can?
posted by btkuhn at 9:52 PM on June 17, 2008

Second the picknick basket. I thought of a wine decanter, but it might not fit with his drinking tastes.

By the way: If their gift registry is already completely gone, I would point that out to your sister. Others might have the same problem as you do.
posted by lord_yo at 1:21 AM on June 18, 2008

These cutting boards are both functional and beautiful and have become my standard wedding gift.
posted by a22lamia at 5:01 AM on June 18, 2008

An ice-cream maker and recipe book. No one else will get them this, and it's memorable and fun.
posted by xammerboy at 10:34 AM on June 18, 2008

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