Despite having started a business upcycling vintage fine china that helps preserve family heirlooms, I don’t really think of myself as sentimental about objects.
When people asked me for gift suggestions when I got married, I pointed them to the wedding registry my husband and I had put together on Zola. But believe it or not, and to the disappointment of older relatives and family friends, our registry didn’t contain any requests for fine china or personalized Judaica. Instead, it was focused on our honeymoon fund and unique experiences we could have together as a newly married couple.
Having lived together for a few years before marriage, we had most of the everyday stuff we needed. And our one-bedroom Brooklyn apartment couldn’t really absorb more. This is all to say that I wasn’t thrilled with the idea that anyone would go “off registry” and give us gifts we hadn’t requested. (Unless it was a check—that was perfectly fine!).
Ironically, when I reflect on the generous gifts we received, the ones that stand out, and that we continue to use and appreciate years later, are the custom ones that we never would have thought to put on our registry.
Now, I’m not telling you, prospective wedding guest, to always go off-registry and get something expensive and customized that the couple can’t return if they don’t like it. BUT, if you know the couple pretty well and want to give them something meaningful that you know they’ll appreciate, here are a few of the best gift ideas I’ve come across that will be sure to set your gift apart from the rest.
When in doubt, remember that your gift should be something you know or feel very confident the couple will want and appreciate… not just something you want the couple to have.
Entertaining & Servingware
If you’re going to give the couple something customized or personalized, going with something they’ll use at holidays and special occasions is usually a safe bet.
1. Cheeseboard/cutting board with a built-in knife set: $66
A custom cheeseboard or cutting board (ideally with a built-in knife set) is an entertaining staple that shouldn’t be overlooked. Not needing to rummage around for serving implements when company is over is…genius. One tip—I highly recommend going with a coated board like this one I found from this well-reviewed Etsy seller. These are always easier to wipe down than the raw/ uncoated boards and tend to stay intact over time. Also, and maybe it’s just me, but don’t you feel like the porous wooden boards never get clean? Ick.
2. Vintage Tiered Cake Stand: (~$79)
If the couple enjoys entertaining or appreciates vintage decor, they’ll love The Brooklyn Teacup’s 2-Tier & 3-Tier Cake Stands, which are perfect for way more than just tea parties. Choose from a large and growing selection of vintage stands or place a custom order to create a serving piece that perfectly complements the couple’s aesthetic or décor.
And if you really know the couple—like, you’re in the family—you could surprise them by upcycling their china: turning family heirlooms, perhaps grandma’s dishes, into beautiful serving pieces that they’ll be far more likely to use than grandma’s service for 12. Whether or not the couple has registered for fine china, a tiered stand made from vintage china makes for an incredibly unique, practical, thoughtful and eco-friendly gift. Extra points because it can easily be configured into a variety of sizes, taken apart, and stored compactly.
3. Custom Engraved Cutting Knife and Cake Server: ($78)
An engraved cake or bread/challah knife and server is a gift that the couple will use countless times—at birthdays, holidays, or any special celebration involving cake—and love you for it. Perhaps if you buy it for the couple in advance of their wedding, they’ll actually be able to use it on the Big Day.
If you’re looking to create this gift at affordable price, silver-plated pieces are the way to go. I really like this custom engraved cutting knife and cake server from another well-reviewed seller on Etsy.
Just keep in mind that anything silver will tarnish and need to be polished (which kind of stinks, in my opinion). Same thing goes for copper—I learned that the hard way.
4. Custom Photo Mosaic: $175+ (with frame)
If you’re really close with the couple, a photo mosaic might be the best, most personal gift you could possibly give. A photo mosaic is one large photo made up of many smaller photos. My husband and I created this photo mosaic for my sister’s wedding using the website Mosaically and had it framed. The mosaic took some work and thought—we pulled together over 100 pictures of my sister and her husband from over the course of their relationship. We decided to give it to them after they got married so we could use one of their favorite wedding photos as the main photo. The 36” square framed print now hangs prominently on their living room wall. My sister insists it’s “by far” the best wedding gift they received… and I legit don’t think she’s saying that to flatter me.
5. Book Clock: ~$75
Couples that love to read or appreciate classic books will love the beautiful books that the business Book Clocks transforms into… you guessed it—clocks!
I discovered Book Clocks when I was visiting the Melrose Trading Post in Los Angeles, CA. These pieces are just so unique and easily customizable and are even better looking in person.
Does the couple love Harry Potter? Shakespeare? This artist/maker has a large collection of ready-made titles.
Or, let’s say the couple met in a law school and bonded over studying for their Constitutional Law exam—the Book Clocks’ designer takes custom orders and can turn most hardcover books and textbooks into clocks. If you’re going for a premium gift, opt for one that’s leather bound.
6. Wedding dress replica statues ($400+)
If the bride you're shopping for is obsessed with her dress, and you were planning to spend upwards of $400 on a gift that she will certainly display and have forever, then this might be one of the most wonderful and creative wedding gifts out there.
I discovered these stunning hand-sculpted clay statues at a crafts market in downtown Philadelphia. I was walking briskly to to escape this certain patch of onlookers slowly browsing the stalls when suddenly I caught a glimpse of one of the artist's statues out of the corner of my eye and shimmied my way in to her tent. I was in awe of the level of detail that the ceramicist, Renée Weiss Chase of Cloth2Clay incorporates into each 17" statue.
I learned that Renee typically creates her custom orders off of just photographs of a wedding dress. So, depending upon how well you know the bride, you could send the photograph in advance and have the statue in time for the wedding. YouIt could even be displayed on the "big day" itself.
7. Custom Mezuzah ($120)
If the couple is Jewish and/or has indicated that they plan to keep aspects of the Jewish faith around their home, a custom mezuzah may be a thoughtful gift. According to Jewish custom, mezuzot mark every doorway in a Jewish home to remind residents of their covenant with God and symbolize to the outside world that their dwelling is constituted as a Jewish household.
Anyway, most Jewish couples that I know, whether they’re religious or not, have at least one mezuzah on their front entryway.
Even if the couple already has one, they’d probably be touched to have a mezuzah for another doorway, especially if it reminds them of their wedding or a special memory.
This Etsy artist designs custom mezuzot from couples’ ritual of breaking a wedding glass.
(You could also turn the glass into candles. People are so creative… it’s worth checking out what Etsy makers can do with broken wedding glass!)
8. Cork Globe / Travel Map ($85-$125)
Like many couples I know, my husband and I love to travel and collect keepsakes and souvenirs from our adventures. Personally, I collect magnets from every major city or country we visit (ok, fine—maybe I am a little sentimental). My in-laws also take joy in documenting their travels: on the wall in their basement, they keep a gigantic world map poster. Using multi-colored pins, coded to identify the different members of their family, they place pins to show where each has been and where they’ve gone as a family.
I just love that tradition, which is probably why this unique 10” Cork Globe from CB2 or UncommonGoods speaks to me. Who knows, if you give this as a gift, you could be responsible for sparking a similar (and less space-consuming) tradition of their own.
Also, not that they’d want to… but if for some reason the couple didn’t want the gift, this one is returnable.
9. Framed Vintage Travel Map ($149)
If you want a more customized gift for the travel-loving couple, go with this 18" by 24" framed travel map which can be personalized with the names of the couple and their anniversary date. It has a nice vintage look too, so it won’t ever end up looking dated or out of style.
10. Customizable street map wooden puzzle ($205)
This customizable wooden street map puzzle would make a unique and memorable wedding or anniversary gift. You can choose to feature the location where the couple lives, where they met, where they got married, or any other location of significance along with a message that they will need to puzzle together. This one spells out “Home Sweet Home.”
I hope you enjoyed reading this post and at least got some inspiration out of it. Since you likely stumbled on this post because you searched for meaningful or custom wedding gifts, it shows you already care a lot about the couple. That’s great—they’re lucky to have you in their lives, so don’t sweat the wedding gift too much. The most important and meaningful gift you can give is being there for them as they embark on this new chapter in their lives. Everything else is just stuff—even if it’s really great stuff they'd probably love to have 😊.
Would love to hear if this post was helpful in coming up with a gift. If you have other ideas, let me know those too! I’m always on the lookout for great wedding gift ideas to add to my collection.