7 Best Nontraditional Wedding Gifts

For the couple who has everything — or didn’t spring for a registry.

It’s wedding season, and you know what that means. You’re probably knee-deep in three different registries right now, trying not to break your monthly budget while deciding between a $75 salad spinner or a rustic olive wood serving bowl. Or maybe you’re growing tired of writing out $100 (or $200, $250, or $400) checks. I know I am.

And then there are those couples who decide not to register for gifts. I still don’t feel right about not giving them at least a small token to mark the occasion. Call me old-fashioned, but my mom taught me never to show up empty-handed.

The truth is, you don’t have to spend an arm and a leg to make a gift memorable. We’ve rounded up a list of the seven best nontraditional wedding gifts.

Donate to a Charity in Their Name

Are they animal lovers? Passionate about helping the environment? Or about helping underprivileged kids? Allot the funds you would have spent on a new set of sheets or hand mixer to someone who needs it more.

Not sure where to start? Use a site like Charity Navigator or Charity Watch to find top-rated charities or access ratings of certain charitable organizations. Then, create a handwritten card with that charity’s logo on it and the amount you donated, and tuck that into the wedding card instead. Good karma and a good gift? We’re sold.

Frame It

Have you heard of Framebridge? It’s a relatively new lifestyle brand that professionally frames your digital and hard copy prints for a fraction of the price of traditional brick-and-mortar framing shops.

You can choose your own frame and mat or let a designer choose for you. Send a digital (or hard copy) of that perfect shot you captured on the couple’s wedding day to Framebridge, and have a professionally framed photo at their doorstep before they’re even home from their honeymoon. Plus, the price can’t be beat, and shipping is free! (Custom-framed prints, $39 and up, Framebridge.com.)

Make It Personal

Looking for something super personal? Etsy is a perfect “storefront” for that, and it’s where we found this personalized wine barrel Lazy Susan. Ideal for any wine-lover, it not only marks the occasion of the couple’s big day, but it’s also useful. My coworker keeps hers on her kitchen island and swears by it.

You can also choose whether to wall-mount or keep it as a Lazy Susan, and select your own wood finish. Just keep in mind that ordering items from Etsy — especially those that are personalized — can take a bit longer. (Personalized engraved wine barrel lazy Susan, $89.95 and up, Etsy.com)

Cute and Simple

Love it or hate it, Goop has seriously made waves in the lifestyle category as of late. While many of their offerings are astronomically expensive, we love these adorable Mr. and Mrs. keytags from Various Projects.

Small, unassuming, and affordable, this gift is sure to bring a smile to the new Mr. and Mrs.’ face every time they climb into their car. Considering the traffic I fight through every day, that’s an accomplishment. (Mr. and Mrs. keytags, $30, Shop.Goop.com)

Help Fund Their Honeymoon

HoneyFund is an online crowdfunding platform — think Kickstarter, but for honeymoons. This requires some setup on the couple’s end, but if they’ve created their own Honeyfund, then donating is a great, nontraditional gift idea.

Honeyfund has raised more than $417 million for over half a million couples in its 10-year tenure. And just think: You could help the newlyweds go snorkeling in Hawaii for the first time or treat them to a five-star meal on their honeymoon. That beats a china setting any day.

Try Your Hand at Videography

Gift them a homemade wedding video. This one requires a lot of extra work and planning, but when done right, it can become one of the bride and groom’s favorite gifts — at no or little cost to you. Plus, many couples forgo the wedding videographer for budgeting reasons, so this could be the perfect gift. (Make sure your couple doesn’t already have a videographer, so you don’t step on anyone’s toes!)

All you need is an iPhone (or a phone with high-quality video recording capability) and an easy-to-use movie editing program, like iMovie, which is available only for Macs. Be sure to record the highlights of the day, like the vows, cake-cutting, first dance, and some shots of the venue, as well as the general atmosphere. (Pro tip: record all video while holding your phone horizontally.) Want to go a step further? Recruit some of the couple’s family to give wedding advice on camera, and piece it together at the end of the video. Everyone will have their phones out at the wedding anyway, so the happy couple will be none the wiser.

Then, import your footage into iMovie, add some music to the background, and — voila! — wedding gift competed. Not technically savvy? Record all the videos yourself and then dispatch professional videographers (or a younger relative in school, perhaps) to piece it all together.

Commission a Painting of the Big Day

It’s called live painting, and it’s a top trend in wedding planning today. Here’s how it works: You hire an artist to capture a “snapshot” of the wedding the day of, usually the reception. Check out a reputable company like Wed on Canvas, or search for vendors in your area via wedding resources like The Knot or Wedding Wire. The artist will paint a scene from the couple’s big day in real time, resulting in a momento that will be cherished for years to come.

Worth noting: It’s probably wise to only take this one on if you are close to the bride or groom and are relatively certain they’ll react well. After all, who wants to spring an unwanted surprise on a couple on their wedding day? And be sure to loop in the bride and groom’s mothers/sisters/brothers to help with the logistics of getting everyone set up, transporting the painting home, etc. Another bonus? It’s added entertainment for guests.

Join the Discussion

5 Responses to “7 Best Nontraditional Wedding Gifts”

  1. Karen

    What’s wrong with just giving the bride and groom what requested within your budget? I’m betting that would be preferable to most of these. Cash and gift cards are also good.

    • Sky

      I totally agree. Someone once gave me a nice birthday card and said that their gift to me was to make a donation on my behalf to a charitable organization. I would have been happy with a card, but to hear that I was a little annoyed. It seemed like, a cop-out. Like they preferred to put their money toward their cause rather than spend it on a gift or gift card that they decided I could do without. If it’s a cause you know someone is really passionate about and that they have talked about wanting to donate to, then I’m sure they could donate a chosen amount themselves. Maybe they wouldn’t mind a little gift card to a restaurant they like or cash to help build their account back up after some wedding costs.

    • JKC

      I totally agree, Karen. If the couple has registered for items, PLEASE purchase something from the registry! They have told you exactly what they want – why put more effort into coming up with a “unique” gift they didn’t ask for? As someone who was married in 2015, the amount of Etsy-style junk I received was astounding, and I ended up giving most of it to Goodwill or pitching it. Of course, I would NEVER tell the guest that’s where their present ended up, so I have to plead with writers of articles like this: JUST TELL PEOPLE TO FOLLOW THE REGISTRY. If they didn’t register, that is of course a different story. But if they did, I will repeat for the third time, JUST BUY SOMETHING ON THEIR REGISTRY.

  2. Amanda

    I think some of these are terrible ideas. If you want to give to charity, just give to charity. Unless you KNOW the couple would really want that, it sounds more like just not giving a gift. Also, call me ungrateful but I personally would not want a commissioned painting or a home-video. I’d rather give something personal as suggested (like the gift from Etsy), stay on the registry (it’s boring, but it’s what they want!), or cash which everyone needs. Just because it’s boring doesn’t mean that it’s a bad gift. Get a funny card instead it it’s too boring…

  3. Ellie Jay

    My husband gave me the most non-traditional gift ever and it was my favorite gift. It was a Dreamlines created sketch of my wedding dress and his suit. I love giving this now, because it is so personal and the detail is stunning.