Better to Give

Your engagement party. Your shower. Your bachelorette party. Your wedding: The two of you are going to be drowning in wrapping paper. So why not revel in being on the giving end? Your beloved friends and family, who have given so much of themselves to celebrate this time with you, deserve only the best. Whether you go traditional or deviate from the norm, here’s how to give something back.

When you stand in front of everyone to say your wedding vows, it’s your friends who stand behind you. As a token of thanks for all that they do, put some thought into picking out something beautiful that they can enjoy long after their bridesmaids’ dresses are stowed away.

For a gift that is traditional, beautiful and completely practical, Linde Meyer, owner of the Philadelphia jewelry boutique Linde Meyer Gold & Silver, suggests pearl studs or necklaces (starting at $150). “They’re very appropriate and apply to a large group of people,” says Meyer. Or, pick identical items, but customize them for each girl. Silver bracelets or necklaces can have an engraved charm added to them with your friend’s initials and the date of the wedding for a touch of individuality (engraving starting at $15). “It can’t be too personal, because you must please everyone at the same time,” says Meyer.

At Town Home in Philadelphia, owner Dana Bank stocks her store full of gorgeous items that all seem destined to be wrapped in a bow. “I’ve had brides come in to buy both for their wedding party and parents,” says Bank. To fill a little gift bag, try pretty French-milled soaps from Gianna Rose shaped like animals or girly mannequins ($18-$26). Or pick from any number of gorgeous candles:Fred Segal’s Burn candles ($55) come in many scents, have three wicks and last a really long time, says Bank. “Then there are ones from Seda France and Alora, which are packaged just beautifully.” The shop’s frames, photo albums and cashmere throws are other ideas.

If you’re having a summer wedding, don’t forget the beach. “A great idea for warm-weather weddings is to get a canvas beach tote, personalize it with the bridesmaids’ initials, and fill it with pretty towels and all sorts of cute beach stuff,” says Mark Kingsdorf, owner of Queen of Hearts Wedding Consultants in Philadelphia. But you can customize each bag for each attendant. “The gifts don’t all need to be the same,” says Kingsdorf. “Even if you’re doing jewelry, make it their own so they can wear it long after the wedding.”

When you are shopping for groomsmen’s gifts, remember that guys will be guys. “One of the best things to get them is tickets to the home team,” says Kingsdorf. “They can definitely use something like sporting-event tickets, and it always goes over very well.” You could even get everyone tickets for the same day, and make it a post-wedding outing.

Cuff links are always good for the traditional gift. At Linde Meyer, they come in stainless steel or sterling silver (starting at $120), which can be engraved with initials or the date. “I suggest always to engrave,” says Meyer. “It makes that date important—and it is.” Plus, she says, every man can use a pair of cuff links.

For some manly bonding, head to Holt’s Cigar Company in Philadelphia, where the staff can help you choose cigars or accessories that can be personalized for each member of the groom’s party. Greg Kushner, retail sales manager for Holt’s, sees many grooms coming in to gather up goodies both for their groomsmen and their fathers. Among the things they are buying: flasks ($19.95-$85), which come in stainless steel, pewter, silver or leather-clad; pens by Cross and MontBlanc ($50-$2,000); sterling-silver or gold money clips ($100-$350); and, of course, cigars.

“We had a guy recently come in who bought 15 humidors ($80-$3,000)—one for each member of his wedding party,” says Kushner. “They happened to all be cigar smokers, and he wanted the gift to be something to remember the wedding by.” These wooden chests—Kushner recommends those by Savoy or Ashton—hold anywhere from 25 to 300 cigars and are appropriate for any cigar smoker.

At Town Home, leather cases by Amano ($45-$185) come in three sizes and are like caddy boxes for the dresser. “Guys can throw their watch in there, their cuff links, keys, anything,” says Bank. Some grooms buy these boxes and then fill them with high-end shaving kits from eShave and manly-smelling products from Mor.

If the groom wants to help his buddies engage in some post-wedding celebrations, Bank carries vodka shot-glass sets from Salviati ($110 for a set of six colored glasses, $125 for a set of six etched glasses). “These are a very popular gift, and it’s mostly guys buying them,” she says. Town Home stocks a wide selection of specialty sports books that you won’t find at your run-of-the-mill bookstore, such as picturesque The 500 World’s Greatest Golf Holes (Artisan, $29.95). “They’re really different than the generic baseball books,” says Bank. And just the thing for a group of old buddies.

Whether it’s your darling niece or your neighbor’s son, make sure to remember your younger attendants when gift shopping. Let them know how much you love having them there by giving them something they can play with—it even might help them forget the uncomfortable clothes they’ll be wearing.

“The thing we get the most positive feedback on is our wedding-day baskets ($15-$100),” says Lisa Crichton, co-owner of the children’s boutique Once Upon a Wish in Marlton. The shop will put together a basket, bucket, or whatever you like filled to the brim with all sorts of goodies for the kids to play with while the grown-ups are having fun.

“We put in bubbles, crayons and coloring books, clipboards, snacks and sippy cups, and will embroider or paint their name right on there,” says Crichton. The store offers larger versions of the baskets meant for sharing, in case your guest list includes a large number of children.

Flower Girl baskets with silk flowers and ribbons, and silk Ring Bearer pillows from Marcella Creations (each $48 and up), can have the child’s name embroidered or painted on them, says Crichton, as can little photo albums with designs like a train. Personalized T-shirts ($18 and up) will help everyone know what a good job they did on your Big Day.

It’s hard to know where to begin when it comes to thanking your parents and his for all the time, energy and funds they put into your wedding, but a lovely present is a good place to start. “The most important thing to remember when getting presents for the parents is to stay on a level playing field,” says Kingsdorf. “Make sure the gifts to each set of parents are the same thing if not identical. The quickest way to offend parents is to get them something that’s disproportionate to the others.” So even though it’s most likely the bride’s parents who have spent a small fortune on the wedding, he says, don’t be tempted to make their present bigger or better. There are plenty of ways to show all of them your thanks for the contributions they made to the day.

“One couple who came in here bought their parents beautiful champagne flutes—which isn’t necessarily an original idea, but these particular pieces are,” says Bank, referring to the distinctive hand-etched crystal flutes by Salviati and Artel, which come in a set of two ($100-$250), and can be put at your parents’ settings for a toast during the reception.

Leather-bound photo albums by Cavallini and hand-bound wedding albums by Rag & Bone ($55-$150) also make good gifts for proud parents. And Bank carries a variety of frames in mother-of-pearl, wood, leather, bronze, silver leaf and glass ($30-$60) to fill with pictures your parents can show off at home. Or, says Kingsdorf, “A gift that always works is if the two of you got an engagement portrait done, to get it matted and framed, maybe with the wedding invitation engraved in the frame.”

To give each dad a little something extra, include him in guys’ golf or sport outings, and raise a toast to him while sharing those fancy cigars.

To treat the moms to some luxury and well-deserved relaxation, give a day at the spa. “This is a very popular gift that brides give to their mothers and to the groom’s mother,” says Rosie Silva, wedding coordinator at Calista Grand Salon & Spa in West Chester. All gift cards come in dollar amounts, so the recipient can get exactly what she likes. “You don’t want to schedule a pedicure for someone and then find out they don’t like their feet touched,” says Silva. To make picking and choosing easy, certificates come with a menu of services, and spa staffers would be happy to help with recommendations.

And when all else fails, there is always that one thing that works for everyone. “Gift cards to restaurants are perfect,” says Kingsdorf. The certificate amount should be based on the size and expense of the wedding—and the size of the bridal party. (For instance, he says, if your budget is $20,000, and you have eight bridesmaids and eight groomsmen, you cannot give each of them a $100 gift certificate.) This is something the bride and groom can determine together.

Either way, after the planning and time that goes into a wedding, everyone deserves a little pampering. After all, not everyone gets a honeymoon.