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A guide to a winning wedding gift

The Washington Post
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Wait too long to buy off of the wedding registry? Here are some tips to the perfect gift.

I have always appreciated the one-year rule of wedding gifting; etiquette dictates that you have 365 days from the wedding date to send the couple a present. (If only more items on my to-do list had as much leeway.)

Such temporal luxury means you can save and budget for the gift and/or use the time to find something really special for the couple. But waiting to send a gift has its drawbacks. If you don’t act quickly, for example, other guests can complete the couple’s registry, leaving the much more difficult task of finding (and taking a chance on) something the couple will like.

If, as we enter one of the busiest wedding months of the year, you find yourself too late to the registry, here are some foolproof gift suggestions from experts in the wedding world.

Give an experience

Jeffra Trumpower, creative director at WeddingWire, says to consider giving experiences. “Whether you purchase a delivery-box subscription that allows the couple to have fun cooking together or a gift certificate for a couple’s massage at a spa local to them, the couple will think of you when they participate in these activities,” Trumpower says. She also suggests chipping in for honeymoon activities. “If you know where a couple is honeymooning, purchase them a gift certificate for an activity like snorkeling, a sunset boat cruise or even dinner and drinks one evening.”

Another idea of Trumpower’s: Set up an anniversary photo session. “It’s easy for to-be-weds to be so caught up in planning for their wedding day that they don’t consider how they will celebrate their anniversaries,” says Trumpower. “An anniversary photo session is a great way for them to continue celebrating their love after their nuptials take place.” Donating to a cause the couple is passionate about is another meaningful gift alternative, she says.

Stick to the registry

Jennifer Spector, director of brand strategy at Zola, a wedding registry website, says that if there is a registry, you should stick to it. “Couples spend a lot of time creating their wish list of what they’ll actually use, so even if the dinnerware pattern your friends chose is not your personal taste, it’s what they love.” Spector says that if you can’t find something off their registry, then choose something that fits the couple’s style and has a personal touch. “If the couple likes to entertain, a nice wine opener paired with a really great bottle of wine is one idea, or if they love to cook, give a cookbook along with cookware essentials like a cast-iron skillet.”

But, Spector advises, “if you are going off-registry, stick to shopping at the same stores where the couple registered. This way it will be really easy for them to return or exchange, and you know they already like that store.”

Like Trumpower, Spector says gift cards for experiences make great wedding presents. Her suggestions: a StubHub gift card so the couple can buy tickets to a show or sporting event that works for their schedule, or a gift card to Framebridge for custom wedding photo framing. According to Spector, some of the most popular gifts on Zola are travel-related gift cards for companies such as Airbnb and Delta.

Cash still king

Even though some people feel uncomfortable giving money, it is still a popular gift choice for many. But gone are the days of the cash-filled envelope handed to the newlyweds, says Lauren Kay, executive editor at the Knot. Now, most couples create cash registries on wedding registry sites for big-ticket items they anticipate wanting in the future. “Nowadays, the sky is the limit when it comes to what couples can register for,” Kay says. “Couples have registered for just about everything from help in paying for a down payment for a home to IVF treatments or a puppy adoption fund. By outlining what the couple will be spending the cash on, Kay says, it makes cash gifting more personal, making guests feel more connected to their contributions.

If you prefer to give something more tangible, however, Kay suggests selecting a useful gift such as luggage. Her favorite: Away’s Bigger Carry-On. Technology is another popular gift category, she says, especially smart-home products such as Bluetooth-synced kitchen gadgets and security products.

How much?

When deciding how much to spend on a wedding gift, Trumpower advises that guests consider their relationship to the couple and how many people are contributing; if you are attending a wedding as a couple, then you should spend more than someone who is attending alone. “Etiquette notes if you’re attending solo, you should plan to spend $50 to $75. Whereas, if you’re attending as a couple, $150 is more appropriate,” Trumpower says.

Spector agrees with that range “but,” she adds, “it’s about the thought, not the price tag.”

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