gifts they might actually want

The Strategist’s Nonobvious Wedding Gift Guide

Photo-Illustration: Retailers

Now that weddings have cautiously returned, you might be taking more care than ever to find a good gift for any you’re invited to. It isn’t easy. There’s implicit pressure to overspend on a piece of pricey kitchenware (looking at you, Le Creuset and KitchenAid) that your couple might receive from another guest anyway, and shopping for people with design-y tastes is particularly difficult. Luckily, we here at the Strategist have honed a pretty good sense about what makes a great wedding gift. For this guide, we combed through our archives, cherry-picking the best things that any newlywed would want as well as adding a few more unique pieces that we’ve had our eyes on more recently. Whether you’re looking to give something off-registry or trying to find the just-right thing to put on your own, we’ve come up with a megalist of all of our favorite items. It’s the ultimate alt-registry. (If you’re looking for gifts to mark a wedding anniversary, we’ve got you covered, too.) To help you shop, we’ve broken the items up into the below sections; if you know the type of thing you’re looking for, you can click on any of the links below to jump straight to that category.

Bath and bedding | Pantry and kitchen | Home goods and accessories | Electronics and tech

Bath and bedding

An entire bed is a lot to ask for (or gift), but this mattress topper that we adore is the next best choice. (And if you want to go ahead and put a mattress on there, we will not judge. Here are our favorites.)

In our big roundup of the best linen sheets, Strategist writer Tembe Denton-Hurst said these Belgian linen sheets “have this automatically lived-in look, soft and rumpled and ultraluxurious.” There are plenty of color options to choose from, too, like forest green, terra-cotta, and peacock blue.

We found that these more affordable linen sheets from West Elm held their own against some of the fancier ones. The set includes a flat sheet, fitted sheet, and two pillowcases, making it nice and substantial.

From $109

The gift of two fluffy down pillows will make any couple’s bed feel more like one at a fancy hotel. Alex Savy, the founder of sleep-product review website SleepingOcean, describes Brooklinen’s down pillow as a “fairly affordable option that does not sacrifice quality for the price tag.” It comes in three densities, including plush, mid-plush, and firm. Whichever you choose, Savy says they are “nicely made, with neat stitching and a 100 percent cotton cover that uses a sateen weave and feels heavenly soft and silky to the touch.”

A non-fusty coverlet, recommended by writer–slash–creative consultant Harling Ross, who put it on her own registry. “I’m just as big a fan of the brand’s home stuff, and in warmer months, this seems like a really practical alternative to a heavier comforter,” she says.

The natural hemp fabric on one side of this reversible duvet feels so soft to the skin that interior designer Elizabeth Gill recommends it for those who like to sleep naked. Those who prefer a crisp cotton can use the other side or flip back and forth.

One of our favorite cooling weighted blankets, the Bearaby Tree Napper “allows a lot of air to get through, making you feel less trapped in your body heat,” according to Logan Foley, managing editor at Sleep Foundation. The open-loop-weave design distributes weight evenly over the body so it feels soothing and not suffocating.

These large, lightweight towels are quick-drying as well as soft and cozy. According to Strategist senior writer Karen Iorio Adelson, “They actually dried me off quicker than my old towels and didn’t get wet and soggy in the process. Apparently the secret is the towel’s loose weave, which promotes air circulation.”

If you’re looking for something a little simpler, as big fans of Parachute’s bedding and linens, we can vouch for the quality of these towels, too.

These bath salts — a mix of CBD with relaxing epsom salt, Himalayan pink salt, and essential oils — are stylist Kara Welch’s “absolute fave.” We also like that the packaging looks classy and doesn’t scream CBD.

Strategist editor Alexis Swerdloff owns this bamboo bath mat and much prefers it to her formerly soggy cloth one. “No longer must I step on a sad and flattened terry-cloth bath mat,” she says, “and my bathroom suddenly feels like a spa.”

Matching bathrobes make a nice gift. These plush ones from luxury linens brand Frette come recommended by Dinah Cooke, who directs social media for the Joanna Vargas spa. “I’m absolutely in love with mine. It’s luxurious yet simple,” she says. “I wear it after taking a long bath or while I’m sheet-masking.”

Pantry and kitchen

Strategist writer Emma Wartzman considers this olive oil from Wonder Valley her personal favorite. She describes the flavor as “distinct but not particularly overpowering” and likes to use it “over a delicate piece of fish or a pile of roasted veggies.”


Hands down, no question, this is the chef’s knife to get. We talked to more than two dozen experts and even tested some ourselves: It’s the best.

Experts have told us to forgo the standard cheese knife set and instead buy a universal cheese knife, like this stainless-steel version from Swissmar.

Photo: DEBORAH FLETCHER PHOTOGRAPHY/2018 All Rights Reserved

They likely already registered for a Lodge cast iron pan or Le Creuset Dutch oven which are both fine for baking bread. But Mia Leimkuhler, manager of audience engagement at the Strategist, tells us this is the best option for flavorful loaves with crisp crusts.

We predicted this bright blue sheet pan (made from aluminized steel and reinforced with steel rods to prevent warping) from start-up cookware brand Great Jones would be a hit, and sure enough it became an instant Strategist reader favorite.

This John Boos cutting board has been recommended not once, but twice, by brides in our Steal My Registry column. “Cutting boards are one of those things that people kind of overlook,” says chef Eden Grinshpan Nivron, “and a solid, really thick, good-quality cutting board that can really manage your food prep is something everyone needs to have.” Herman Miller designer editor Kelsey Keith, who got the board in a maple finish, adds, “We got the 24-by-18-inch; it’s nice to have a huge surface for whatever chopping needs arise.”

One of our favorite gifts for home cooks, this Dutch oven (that’s made from carbon steel so it’s lighter than cast iron) can also be found in the kitchen of chef Samin Nosrat, author of Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat and host of the Netflix show of the same name. She has a vintage yellow version.

Even if they have (or registered for) one of Lodge’s cast-iron pans, a couple would still get a lot of use out of this griddle. Breakfast lovers can use it to make pancakes, bacon, and eggs, while grillers can use it to get those perfect marks on meat when they can’t fire up their outdoor Weber.

Sure, All-Clad is great, but this copper pan from Mauviel is a work of art. It’s the favorite of Vic’s, Rosie’s, and Cookshop chef Marc Meyer, who told us why he loves this pan: “It’s beautifully made, and the handle stays cool, even when using high heat. It’s a pleasure to cook anything in this pan.”

They’ll have no trouble throwing a festive and delicious hot-pot party if they have this dual-sided pot (and follow chef and writer Natasha Li Pickowicz’s tips). Guests cook their own proteins and veggies in separate chambers, so the vegetarians’ broth stays separate from that of the meat-eaters.

The stylish Always Pan is another alternative to the All-Clads of the world. It functions as eight different pieces of cookware, so it’s especially great for couples with limited kitchen space.

As for what to do with all that new cookware, they’ll get plenty of ideas from this cookbook from chef Joshua McFadden. Janna Gur, author of Shuk, loves Six Seasons for its “beautiful writing, terrific (and meticulously developed and tested) recipes, mouthwatering photos, lots of veggies and seasonality.”

For the couple with no clue how to use any of their new kitchen gear, a subscription to a meal delivery service will help them hone their techniques. Strategist writer Lauren Ro likes that the recipes from Martha Stewart’s meal service, Marley Spoon, “come with step-by-step instructions on a sheet with pictures and are pretty straightforward.”

Sierra Tishgart, a co-founder of cookware brand Great Jones, loves this leather-bound edition of the classic Joy of Cooking. While “it’s definitely a little bit more expensive than the regular edition, it’s really beautiful,” she says.

For a more affordable coffee maker that’s just as striking, there are few (if any) pour-over systems more elegant than this Grosche version, which doesn’t require disposable filters, thanks to its mesh metal one.

For those who prefer to press their coffee, here’s a stunning pitcher made from heat-resistant colored glass.

Breville One-Touch Tea Maker

If they (or you) are serious tea drinkers, consider the Breville Tea Maker, which Strategist contributor David Schwartz dubbed “the most artificially intelligent machine a tea enthusiast can buy to brew at home” after researching and trying several top-of-the-line models. It can brew tea at custom temperatures and be set to brew automatically, but Schwartz says “the Breville’s pièce de résistance is a metal-mesh basket that robotically dunks loose leaves in boiled water for the exact steeping time and then removes them, resting above the water’s surface to prevent too-bitter brews or totally weak souse.”

If you’re worried about purchasing another extraneous kitchen appliance to clutter up your couple’s counter with, trust us. We’ve written about Zojirushi rice cookers before, and they really do turn out perfect rice every single time.

Newlyweds can prepare cake, fish, meat, and more with this Cosori appliance that “does everything you want an air fryer to do,” according to Rebecca Abbott, one of the writers and recipe developers behind Air Frying Foodie.

Sometimes you want to finish a whole bottle; sometimes you don’t. The very best sommelier-approved system for preserving open bottles of wine is the Coravin.

Julie Mulligan, owner and designer of cocktail lounge and restaurant Lot 15, recommends this set of Dailyware Bodega glasses from Bormioli Rocco that includes eight double old-fashioned glasses and eight highball glasses. She says the “versatile and low-maintenance but still chic” design makes them suitable for all kinds of home drinking and serving.

[Editor’s note: This 16-piece set is currently out of stock, but you can get a six-piece set of both the double old-fashioned and highball glasses at World Market for $12 and $18, respectively.]

Tracie Battle, a senior designer at online interior-design service Havenly, likes that these sleek drinking glasses feature a rounded, weighted base for some heft. The best part? A full set of 16 (eight tall glasses and eight rocks glasses) will cost you less than $50.

Newlyweds looking to broaden their wine horizons will appreciate a subscription to this sommelier-recommended delivery service. Each box features at least four bottles of wine grouped by a theme like a specific growing region or grape variety.

In various sizes and shapes, this set of IPA glasses are made for different kinds of craft beers and seem like just the kind of extravagant nonnecessity a wedding calls for.

Nobody could object to these delicately speckled dinner plates that are reminiscent of the stoneware at Two Hands.

Photo: Courtesy of Vendor

These hand-painted plates look like the ones you’ll find from status-y ceramic brand Hasami, but at a fraction of the cost. They’re designed to stack up like bamboo dumpling steamers, nestling together into a tidy tower.

And here’s some wedding china for quirky artist types, from Italian design hub Seletti.

Heart-shaped spoons from fancy Italian homeware brand Alessi will make them feel classy even if they’re on the couch eating Half Baked straight from the carton.

Photo: Retailer

This set of “playful yet still refined” flatware from Mepra is a bit more fun than your average bistro set. It’s a favorite of Liza Curtiss, the principal at Le Whit design studio, and comes in 19 different color options (some of which include multiple colors like the set shown). The flatware comes in sets as small as service for one and as big as service for 12, so you’re likely to find an option that works for your budget.

Former Strategist senior writer Lauren Levy obsessed over flatware sets for her registry. Although she didn’t ultimately choose this tortoiseshell cutlery, it was a strong and worthy contender.

If you’ve been to Blue Hill at Stone Barns, you’re probably already familiar with these ceramics by Julie Hadley. They’re so much more original than Heath.

These Mosser Glass mixing bowls are handsome enough to keep out on the counter.

This tablecloth has a very lazy-lunch-in-the-Italian-countryside vibe. Always a good feeling to channel when they’re stuck inside a small apartment.

Someone’s great-aunt might be gifting them fancy cloth napkins, but we bet they’ll be grateful to skip the ironing and whip out these chinoiserie-style paper napkins recommended by Strategist senior editor Anthony Rotunno.

These, from Sferra, are interior designer Delphine Krakoff’s favorite place mats because they’re “affordable and come in tons of colors.”

For a picnic-friendly bag, try this L.L.Bean insulated tote. It comes recommended by Julie Lindenman, owner of an eponymous event-planning company, who says it does as good of a job at keeping cold food and drinks cold as a Yeti cooler — but at a fraction of the price.

Home goods and accessories

These sheer slips of fabric turn ugly cord piles into statement décor, and will add a bit of post-wedding whimsy to any couple’s shared space.

A perfumed detergent will make the shared chores that are unfortunately essential to married life a lot more fun — and we can vouch for this one’s clothes-cleaning powers, too.

DII Swedish Dishcloths
From $15 for 3

These Swedish dishcloths weaned Strategist contributor Ashlea Halpern off her (not so environmentally friendly) paper towel habit.