Let me preface this post by telling you that I am the sort of un-creative rule-follower who buys super pragmatic gifts directly from the registry. The thought of buying an off-registry wedding gift gives me hives.
I will happily march into Target, scroll through that list till I find something in my price range and then buy it – even if it’s a collection of video games, a gold-plated turkey baster, or a copy of Everybody Poops. You wanted it? I bought it for you.
But I realize not everybody rolls like this.
Maybe you’ve got five weddings this summer and you can’t afford five $75 gifts (in addition to the flights and hotels and new dresses). Maybe you waited just a bit too long and all the $40 gifts on the registry have already been purchased.
Maybe this is your best friend and it feels ridiculous to buy her a silver-plated gravy boat when you’ve talked her through seven breakups, two career changes, and grad school. Perhaps you’re just a rogue.
Whatever the reason, I rounded up 10 clever ideas for gifts if you’re going the off-registry route. And these gifts would also probably be appreciated by new parents, the newly retired, or a new college graduate!
How often have you cried “I need a vacation to recover from my vacation!” (probably while throwing up your hands and staring at an empty fridge). Returning from a big trip usually brings with all sorts of un-sexy logistics (laundry, piles of mail, an overflowing inbox).
Make your friend’s reentry to Real Life a bit easier by having groceries delivered a few hours after they return. You can even have the groceries left on their doorstep if they’re not home!
If you know where your friends are staying call ahead and pay for a few hotel extras – maybe a spa treatment, room service credit, or some sort of outing. It’ll be such a sweet surprise!
Boarding your pet is expensive and finding a babysitter you trust can be an emotionally trying ordeal. Offer your friend a session or two of free pet or babysitting services – bonus points for sending them photos throughout the weekend of what their pup is up to.
People always appreciate these gifts but frequently forget to cash them in or they might not be sure how serious you are. Make it more official by wrapping up a cute dog toy or children’s book and printing out some sort of gift certificate. I’ve even been known to email friends and say “I owe you a dog sitting! Tell me when I can help out!”
Are you good at spackling/priming/painting? General around-the-house improvements? Replacing door knobs or hanging shelves? It feels a lot better to have a friend/professional do these things – rather than doing it yourself (crookedly) or badgering your partner till they do it (badly).
Again, make this more official by wrapping something (paint chips? a home improvement book?) and list something specific that you’ll do for them – “Good for two faucet replacements” or “Good for one new paint job and three hours of landscaping.”
Friends don’t let friends become a boring old married couple who only hangs out with each other and watches Netflix. Buy your friends a membership to a theater or museum you know they like or a something-fun-of-the-month club.
Another way to prevent your friends from holing up? Buy them tickets to something fun you’re going to. I’m pretty sure I overheard the groom saying he wanted tickets to the Beyonce Jay Z ‘On The Run’ tour.
Things that are stressful: combining two households and learning to deal with the fact that your partner views laundry as ‘optional.’ Help your friend remove some of that stress by buying them a few sessions with a professional cleaning service. If you’re feeling clever, check Groupon first – they frequently offer discounts.
If you’re a photographer, IT person, interior designer, chef, dog trainer, or financial consultant I bet your friends would rather have a few hours of your professional insight rather than a table runner from Macy’s. You can offer to photograph their new baby, troubleshoot their laptops, cook for their next big party, or help get their retirement accounts in order.
Yes, this is technically a registry, but I personally believe this to be 150% more fun than buying frying pans at Target. These sites allow guests to cover the cost of specific aspects of your trip (like visas or a meal at a specific restaurant in Moscow). Some particularly good sites are Travelersjoy, Honeyfund, Honeymoonwishes.
Someone terribly intelligent once told me “Instead of fighting about using coasters on the coffee table, just get a glass-topped coffee table.” And then my brain exploded into a million pieces of light and my relationships got exponentially better.
If you know the couple well enough to know the points of contention that come up again and again (and we all have them) think about a gift you could give that will help reduce those fights.
If they’re always arguing about who’s the designated driver, get them a big certificate to Uber. If neither of them cook and there are lots of dinner-time fights, get them a gift certificate for a restaurant near their house that delivers. You get the idea!
Obviously, resist the urge to tell them “I’m giving you this gift so you’ll fight less. Because I know Dana always drinks too much when she says she’s going to be the driver and I know you hate that.”
When you got married, what off-registry gifts did you like? And did you register for anything that you now regret?