Wedding season is officially upon us, and we’ve found ourselves scrolling through the wedding registries of friends and family, trying to decide the best gift for their next journey in life. It’s akin to tossing a Hail Mary of friendship before they settle into domestic life and you see them only occasionally, always surrounded by their screaming kids.
So, two weeks ago, we asked our readers about wedding gifts. It quickly became clear that while the the wedding registry is a good place to get what the bride and groom need — pots, pans, dehumidifiers, a picture frame that says “Together Forever” — it’s not a great indicator of what they want. So we asked, and you delivered. You gave us an overwhelming response: we now know that cash is above all the gold standard for a gift, blankets are a useful dark horse and cooking classes go far if none of them have done anything but get take-out.
Below we’ve rounded up a dozen of our favorite answers, either for their practical advice, for their great story or for being weird enough to give us a laugh. While we enjoyed hearing everyone’s story, ultimately we had to pick two winners for a free subscription to the Gear Patrol magazine. Clayton, who attended a wedding in Los Angeles, and Molly, who was a guest at a Cincinnati wedding are our picks. We’ll be in touch shortly. The rest of our picks are below. Keep your eyes peeled for our next survey right around the corner.
What They Want, Not What They Need
Guns, Handmade, Pappy
From: Ty, a guest at weddings in Michigan, Illinois and Minnesota
Gift: Skydiving lessons
Backstory: My college buddies and I vowed to only give groom-centric, impractical wedding gifts to each other. The first guy to get married got a pocket bike that’d do 50 mph — at the time, his bride did not want him to have a real motorcycle. We gave a foosball table to the biggest soccer fan I know. We gave a massage chair to one guy. The best/worst gift we gave, however, was skydiving lessons to our buddy who really wanted to learn how to skydive (not just a tandem jump — AFF lessons). We made a presentation on the dance floor of his wedding that involved one of those toy parachute army men with a little paper parachute. Well, the bride immediately started crying — on the dance floor — of her wedding. Evidently she did not want him to go skydiving. We ended up just giving him the cash. He bought something practical (I think he told us he bought a grill or a bike). That was the end of our unusual wedding gifts; now we just give boring cash.
From: Oliver, part of the wedding party at a wedding in Houston, Texas
Gift: Beretta 686 Onyx over/under shotgun, left-handed version
Backstory: Having recently gotten married at that time, I knew the official registry would be full of things my best friend wouldn’t care about. So I got all of his closest friends to chip in and we got him the shotgun. For the bachelor’s party, all the guys had planned to shoot sporting clays at the American Shooting Center in Houston. We presented the groom the shotgun right before we all started our round. He loved it.
From: John, a groom at a wedding in Connecticut
Gift: Pappy 20 Year Old Bourbon
Backstory: One of my groomsmen gave me a bottle of Pappy 20 Year. He traded a commission with another broker to get the bottle. When we were all getting ready for the wedding he pulled out the bottle and poured all the groomsmen a glass. The best part was, the toast he gave came from the heart and was way better than any store-bought card. Then when my wife and I were opening gifts, there was a mystery box, and it was crystal glasses and a decanter to go with the special bottle. I know he had to work hard to get me that bottle and I knew it couldn’t have been easy to give it away. This summer he gets married, and I was able to track him down a bottle of Pappy — I just have to get started on the pre-wedding toast. I know it isn’t about the bottle: it is all about making a memorable moment.
Lasting Craftsmanship for a Lasting Relationship
Woodwork and Restoration
From: Molly, a guest at a wedding in Cincinnati, OH
Gift: A hand-carved wood ring dish, featuring the new initials of the couple, an illustration of their actual rings and their wedding date etched into the wood with a laser
Backstory: The couple vacations in Maine, and they hope to own a house there someday. It’s a destination that’s very close to their heart. They are loaded, and I am broke (from having eight weddings to attend this year). Fortunately, I have a very sexy woodworking boyfriend who lives in Maine. I convinced him to carve this ring dish. The design was my idea; he did the handiwork and used a laser at the local art college to personalize it. The wood is heart of pine from a 100-year-old warehouse, so there’s a bit of history around it as well. We gifted it to them with a little card explaining the story and design, and we hope it will be a keepsake they will carry with them through marriage and set beside the sink in their Maine vacation home someday!
From: Cornelius, a family member at a wedding at the Kaiserin Elisabeth Hotel by Lake Starnberg, Germany
Gift: Antique furniture
Backstory: The wedding couple was moving into a new house after the wedding and the bride was constantly looking for nice old furniture. So we checked out her eBay watch list, bought some pieces and got them professionally restored.
Puppies, Photos, Wine for Aging
From: Caleb, a guest at a wedding in Sedona, Arizona
Gift: Undeveloped film
Backstory: I have a couple Leicas (M7 / M240). One of my favorite things to surprise couples at weddings with is undeveloped rolls of film I shot during the day from the view of a guest — very candid photographic moments I capture during the ceremony/reception. Its always a total surprise to them and often yields some cool perspectives they’d otherwise not receive from the official photographer. Photography is one of the greatest gifts we can ever give/receive. That and Black Maple Hill…
From: Hunter, a guest at a wedding in Dripping Springs, TX
Gift: A 2012 bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon, a pair of Waterford wine glasses and a note suggesting they enjoy the bottle and relive the memories of the night in five years
Backstory: I wanted to give the couple a gift that would keep the memories of their wedding fresh in their minds. A bottle of wine picked with aging in mind is an experience to look forward to, as well as something that they can enjoy while thinking back on the joy of their wedding. The glasses are something that they can keep for the rest of their lives. Giving a pair instead of of set says that these glasses are just for them, for the occasions when it’s just the two of them.
From: Jorge, a guest at a wedding in Barcelona
Gift: A coupon valid for a dog
Backstory: I knew the couple wanted one, but prior to the wedding they haven’t had the time nor the money to adopt one (it costs around 400€ taking into account paperwork, first vaccines and sterilization in Barcelona). So I thought better than money it was to give them a coupon valid for a dog so they don’t have to think on adoption paperwork or fees, they would just have to choose one when they were ready. :)
For the new homeowners
From: James, a guest at a wedding in Canada
Gift: The absolute best gift to give is a tool box with the basics: a drill, hammer, socket set, etc.
Backstory: Many young couples are moving into their first house around the time they’re getting married. All of a sudden, a few pictures need hanging, something needs replacing, something needs to be tightened… Unless you’re a handyman, there’s a good chance you don’t have too many of your own tools! A tool box is guaranteed to be useful, and you will probably be the only one who thought of it.
My father began giving these “tool kits” away years ago, and they became his go-to wedding gift. He collects tools as they come on sale throughout the year, and he’s always got a kit or two ready to go during wedding season. They’ve been such a hit (he’s gotten many thank you notes indicating how thoughtful, and handy the toolbox was), I had no choice but to adopt the tradition as well.
From: Louis, the groom at a wedding in Norfolk, UK
Gift: Picnic blanket
Backstory: No one is sad enough to put picnic blanket on their list. We received three. One is still going strong after 20 years, and its the only thing I think of in our home as a wedding gift. No idea who gave it to us. But it has brought a lot of pleasure: bright young things picnicking alone, huge family events. A faithful companion.
From: Keith, the groom at a wedding in Chicago, IL
Gift: Pendleton Yakima Camp Blanket
Backstory: It’s a great gift — it’s incredibly high quality, has timeless style, and it’s something my wife and I use all the time — either on our bed or, during the winter when we switch to a down comforter, on the couch for watching TV. How can you not love something that hits all those marks?
Cash, Checks and Vouchers
“The last thing we needed was more pots and pans.”
From: Matt, the groom at a wedding in Lancaster, Pennsylvania
Backstory: After living with my wife for nearly five years before we got married, the last thing we needed was more pots and pans, knives, coffee pots, mixers… The best gifts we received were in the form of currency, whether it was a check or cash. It is without a doubt the most useful and universally accepted wedding gift. Period.
From: Joshua, the groom at a wedding in his dad’s backyard in Washington state
Gift: Alaska Airlines vouchers
Backstory: My wife and I had long desired to travel and this was the literal ticket to do so.
From: Robert, part of the wedding party at a wedding in Delaware
Backstory: Let’s be honest, there are enough family members to buy most of the gifts off the registry, which clearly these days aren’t even that necessary with everyone living together. After everything is basically paid for, which is partially covered by majority of the parents, offer something useful, and no, not a gift card to a store you think will be beneficial: CASH. Hopefully you at least cover the cost of your plate and a little extra. Bringing a date? Double it up. The bride and groom are embarking on a new chapter in their life, and like most newlyweds, keep a list of what they received — most of which, more than likely, you would expect to receive in return at your wedding should the day arrive. It’s a fair gift, and after an expensive wedding and romantic honeymoon, it’s really helpful to know that there is some extra cash in the bank when you get back to reality.
From: Garrett, the groom at a wedding in Palm Beach, Florida
Gift: Gift certificates to Relais & Chateaux hotel and Gramercy Park Tavern
Backstory: Two gifts stand out as distinctly memorable to my wife and me. We value our experiences together, be it overseas trips, weekend vacations, or dinners at some of our favorite restaurants in New York. A friend of ours gifted us a $400 gift certificate to any Relais & Chateaux hotel in the world. We plan on using it for a long weekend in Guanajuato, Mexico this winter. Another close friend of ours gave us a $400 gift certificate to Gramercy Park Tavern in the city — one of the better dining experiences in the city. These experiences will leave us with memories that we’ll be able to take through life and share with our children and families.
From: Brandon, the groom at a wedding in Brookhaven, Massachusetts
Gift: 50 one-dollar bills taped end to end and rolled into a roll of toilet paper.
Backstory: We were moving into a new place and the extra cash was a hell of a lot more useful than matching pewter bowls.
From: Clayton, a guest at a wedding in Los Angeles, CA
Gift: Check plus nice bottle of champagne and 2 champagne flutes
Backstory: Couples usually have a registry, but you also have to consider their situation: Do they have roommates? Where do they live? Is it an apartment or a house? Are they in the same city as the wedding? Will they have to transport your gift later? In this particular situation, a registry gift would have been easy, but my friends were paying for the wedding themselves and were also saving for their honeymoon, and it’s never easy to ask for money (which we know is what would be greatly appreciated). I went with an amount that I thought would cover the cost of my attendance at the wedding and added an additional sum as a gift, but a check can seem pretty impersonal by itself. I also included a card that expressed my genuine joy for their union (something you actually spend time thinking about and writing), a bottle of Veuve Clicquot and two champagne flutes (all wrapped in a special styrofoam box that protected all three), and a little note that said, “To help celebrate your big day!” They told me later that the combination was perfect because: 1) it helped them financially, 2) it was a very personal memento, and 3) they could continue celebrating and toast to themselves in private. This has been my go-to gift for weddings and it’s always done well for me. Oh, and sometimes I swap out the champagne for a nice bottle of wine (sometimes a magnum) that requires aging and include a note that says, “To be opened at your 10-year anniversary.” That one’s a hit because it shows that you believe in their success and future.