Bridal registries, like so many things, favor the proactive. Popular items get snagged by the early birds, leaving the rest of us with a short list of catchpenny choices that just don’t seem quite right. What’s a procrastinator to do?
“Be thoughtful and splurge a little,” said Sarah Newell, lifestyle editor for TheKnot.com, “It’s a good time to go for those larger-ticket items they wouldn’t have bought themselves.”
Newell suggested that those late to the gift game glean the couple’s interests from their registry and then shop accordingly: “If you see that they picked out a lot of wine-related items, such as glasses or wine racks, consider getting them a decanter or tickets to a wine tasting.”
Also, consider where the couple is honeymooning. If you’ve been there before or know the hotel they’ll be staying at, give them a gift certificate to a nearby restaurant or slip spending money into a guidebook of the destination.
For guests who are stumped about how much to spend, consider all of the wedding-related events before shopping. Of your total budget, Newell suggests spending 20 percent on the engagement gift, 20 percent on the bridal shower and 60 percent on the wedding gift.
While inspired gifts are a welcome surprise, resist the urge to get overly inventive.
“Sometimes, guests spend so much time thinking outside the box that they wind up getting the couple something they simply aren’t interested in,” Newell said. “The key is to balance thoughtfulness and personalization with practicality.”
Here’s a list of go-to gifts for every aisle-bound couple this season. If an item blows your budget, remember that group wedding gifts are common. Go in on it with a friend.
Oven mitts and a cooking class
Wrap up a pair of his-and-hers oven mitts and send the couple to a cooking class. There, they can learn to create everything from baby food to homemade ice cream from expert chefs. Here’s one suggestion: Hill’s Kitchen, a cooking and housewares boutique on Capitol Hill, which offers evening classes in its basement teaching kitchen. Starting at $6.50 for mitts and $30 for classes at Hill’s Kitchen, 713 D St. SE, 202-543-1997, www.hillskitchen.com.
Williams-Sonoma Wicker Picnic Basket
Whether they’re celebrating Fourth of July on the Mall or going for a morning drive into the country, this is an indulgent item they’re not likely to buy for themselves. $249.95 at Williams-Sonoma, available at area locations or www.williams-sonoma.com.
Hand-stenciled accent pillows
These shabby-chic French pillowcases by designer Heidi Devlin are available in any monogram or message of your choice. For more handcrafted gifts, check out Etsy’s marketplace. Mr. and Mrs. Pillows, Heidi Devlin Designs, $72 at www.etsy.com/people/heididevlin.
Bookends by Timothy Richards
These bookends by British architectural sculptor Timothy Richards are works of art. Richards, who works in a small studio in Bath, England, has designed models for the queen. Pictured are two single bookend models of the homes of Jane Austen and Charles Dickens. Starting at $150 and available at the National Building Museum, 401 F St. NW, 202-272-2448, www.nbmshop.org.
Brahm’s Mount Herringbone Blanket
A luxury blanket for the couple whose ideal Friday night involves a glass of wine and a movie. Available in seven colors, they’ll match any lovebirds’ new nest. Starting at $261 for a twin at Timothy Paul Bedding and Home, 1529A 14th St. NW, 202-234-2020, www.brahmsmount.com.
Assouline Survival Kit
Thinking of buying the couple a book? The experts at Assouline publishing have assembled Survival Kit collections, divided into four categories: art, design, fashion and lifestyle. Within each category are four of the company’s finest books. It’s a bibliophile's dream. $150 per Survival Kit, Assouline Publishing, www.assouline.com.
Film and camera by The Impossible Project
Escape from the digital world with the next generation of Polaroid. After rescuing the last Polaroid factory from near extinction in 2008, the Impossible Project has since brought analog back to life with new instant films for vintage and hybrid Polaroid cameras. Film currently ranges from $18 to $171, cameras range from $120 to $249 at www.the-impossible-project.com.
Kiehl’s Pampered Pooch Collection
Treat a couple’s canine companions to a spa day or two with high-quality shampoos and soap (their owners will thank you for the olfactory improvement). This set by Kiehl’s includes a spray for dry shampooing between bath sessions. $44 for the set of three, Kiehl’s, 3110 M St. NW, 202-333-5101, www.kiehls.com.
Virginia’s Wine of the Month Club
Set up a romantic weekend getaway by giving tickets to a local winery. The Monticello Wine Trail has four routes to 21 wineries along Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. If the schedule doesn’t allow for day trips, add their names to the Virginia Wine of the Month Club. They’ll be delivered a bottle of wine each month for the first year of their marriage. $15.95 per month at www.vawineclub.com.
Bannerman Pitcher by Ralph Lauren Home
Elegant and sturdy, this pitcher is a staple item for any kitchen and is great for entertaining. It has a wide, turned-out lip for easy pouring. $395 at Ralph Lauren, available at area locations or www.ralphlauren.com.
The average number of stores in a registry.
The share of registries that draw from Bed, Bath and Beyond, Target and Macy’s.
The average number of items couples register for.
The portion of the registry items less than $50.
The average cost of a family member’s gift.
The average number of wedding showers brides have. 14% plan three or more.
Sources: TheKnot.com; Last Item from Brides 2010 American wedding study
Cast your vote in our online poll at washingtonpost.com/home.