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After a year of nearly no weddings, the 2021 wedding season is now happily in full swing, and that includes all the pre-wedding festivities — like a bridal shower. According to the experts at Zola, an online wedding registry, wedding planner and retailer, 79 percent of 2021 couples are planning to have some type of wedding shower. Whether you’ve known the bride-to-be for a few months or a few years, it can be a struggle to figure out what to buy her, especially if all the gifts are loaded into one major wedding registry. As a wedding planner myself — serving the DC Metro region with my company Fête du Jour Events — I can say that the major difference between wedding gifts and bridal shower gifts is who they are meant for. The average wedding registry includes gifts for the couple, such as kitchen appliances, home decor and funds for the honeymoon or future home down payment. During a bridal shower, on the other hand, the bride is the star of the show and is typically showered with gifts specifically for her, though guests can also shop from the main registry.
That said, according to that same Zola poll, 41.3 percent of couples said their partner was involved in the shower planning process, with the majority of those noting that their partner will attend the shower. So while the bride is technically the guest of honor, it could also be smart to get more personalized gifts that both the bride and groom can benefit from. “If you decide to go rogue and get a gift not on a registry, make sure the gift is useful and be conscientious about their personal style,” said Dana Watts, owner and lead planner of Thyme & Details, a sustainable event planning business out of Columbus, Ohio.
So, where are you supposed to shop for these gifts? The general consensus from the experts we consulted is that it’s always safe to buy from the registry. If a couple doesn’t have a registry, opt for a personalized choice or buy something that the bride wouldn’t normally splurge on herself (or both). Popular stores for bridal shower gifts include classics like Crate & Barrel and Pottery Barn for the common registry gifts and sites like Etsy and Mark & Graham for personalized items. To help give you an idea of the possible, we’ve rounded up some gifts the bride (and her spouse-to-be) will likely enjoy receiving.
Best personalized bridal shower gifts
Since bridal shower gifts are usually given with the bride in mind, you have a little more flexibility with what to give. “The most meaningful gifts are not always the most over-the-top, but often the ones that she wouldn’t get for herself,” said the experts at Minted Weddings, the design marketplace and gifting one-stop shop. While personalized gifts are often monogrammed, they can also emulate your personal relationship with the bride-to-be. “Find or even make something that represents that so when she opens it, she knows exactly who it's from,” said Kim Pestalozzi, owner of Chère Rosalie Wedding Planning and Design, a boutique wedding planning firm serving the New York Tri-State area.
If the bride and her betrothed have plans for a tropical honeymoon, a chic hat with her new initials could be the perfect addition to her beachside photos. With five different colors to choose from, there’s sure to be one that will suit the bride’s style.
Whether or not she’s traveling, a girl always needs a place to put her jewels. Unlike the normally boxy jewelry organizers, this one is light and small enough to fit in a tote bag. This option — which holds rings, bracelets, necklaces and earrings — is also chic enough to double as a clutch for a night out.
Made with pebbled leather, this tote can give a luxe touch to her everyday tasks. For $12, you can add a personalization in the form of a single letter or monogram. “Fill a personalized tote bag with all the bride’s favorite things (snacks, flowers, lotions, etc.) for an all-in-one gift,” suggested Alex Austin of Nashville-based Alex Austin Events & Design. It’s also big enough to fit a laptop for the working girl on the go.
A welcome mat is a decor piece that is often overlooked. Even if the couple already has one, a mat with the new family name on it is something that no matter where they live, they can take with them and make a new place feel like home. This one is made with ink rather than vinyl, so it won’t peel under the sun.
This crystal set could be a gorgeous addition to the couples’ China cabinet, but is also simple enough for everyday use. “Throw in a nice bottle of champagne to make it feel luxe, plus it’s an excuse to use it right away,” suggested Austin. They can even take these to the wedding for a personalized touch.
“A personalized set of stationery is an ideal and timely gift for any bride who will inevitably write numerous thank-you notes in the near future,” said Becca Atchison, founding partner & creative director of Rebecca Rose Events, servicing the Winston-Salem region. “If the bride will be changing her last name, it’s also a lovely way to acknowledge that and equip her with stationery she can use for months and years to come.”
A classic denim jacket with her new last name is not only trendy, but she can also wear it after the wedding without feeling cheesy. “Really, you can’t go wrong with monogramming or personalizing anything,” said Esther Lee, senior editor at The Knot. If you’re one of the bridesmaids, you could surprise the bride by having the whole wedding party get them with their names on the backs for an adorable photo on the special day.
Perfect for the couple who just bought a home together, a watercolor portrait of their new house is a great gift idea. Thoughtful, tasteful and personalized, the bride will know that a lot of thought went into this. You can get a digital version to print and frame for her yourself, or get it in a rustic wood frame. (Just be sure to keep their home decor in mind when picking a frame.)
It’s likely been awhile since the bride used her passport, so you can give it a little upgrade with a classy new cover. The matching, personalized luggage tag in this set will make it easy to spot on the carousel for a faster start to her future vacay. “A travel accessory with a custom touch is just as practical as thoughtful,” said the experts at Minted. Help her out by gifting this set along with a passport name change application to make sure she’s all set to travel under her new name.
Tug at the heartstrings with a gift that showcases the start of the couple’s love story. A hand-embroidered vintage map with a heart can signify many things for the couple — where they met, where they got engaged or where they are getting married. The possibilities are endless and this will likely be something they enjoy hanging in their home.
Best last-minute bridal shower gifts
It’s easy to lose track of time and before you know it, the shower is a few days away and you haven’t ordered a gift. This is also a common scenario if there isn’t a theme to the bridal shower or a lack of a registry completely. Pestalozzi said it best: “If there is no registry, rely on your relationship with the bride.” If you are a newer friend of the bride-to-be and don’t know her that well, attempt to step into her shoes and think about what you might want when starting this new exciting chapter of your life. “When in doubt, ask the bridal shower host,” added Watts. “They are the key – they are someone who knows the bride and her needs best.”
Wedding planning is often stressful, so the bride deserves a little “me” time. This pack of skin and hair care minis will give her a spa day in a bag. According to the brand, the set is vegan, cruelty-free and comes in recyclable packaging. And, since they’re all in travel sizes, she can take them on the honeymoon.
“Something the bride would usually not treat herself to, like cashmere slippers, would make for an easy gift that she is sure to love,” said Ms Wedding Planner Lynne Goldberg, who has offices all over the country. Easy to slip on and off, these super soft slippers can make even the most mundane house chores feel special. Offer to bring them to her the morning of the wedding so she doesn’t forget them when she’s getting ready.
Whether the bride and her future spouse have just bought a home or are in the middle of some renovations, Home Depot is a one-stop shop for all the necessities. If you’re really in a bind over what to get the bride for her shower, you typically can’t go wrong with a gift card. Plus, the Home Depot gift card is the most popular option on The Knot Registry Store.
You can certainly sign the bride up for an introductory wine club membership, but with all the craziness that comes with hosting a wedding, she might end up forgetting to cancel if she’s not really interested. Another option is to give her a gift box of wine from a wine club so she can try a selection before she commits. Not sure what type of wine the couple prefers? Get a mixed box, like this combo of reds and whites from Firstleaf. It comes with six bottles of wine that they can use to celebrate or unwind after a stressful day of wedding planning.
For the future Mrs. with a green thumb, adding a new plant to her collection is a great option. For an added touch, you can put the plant in a gorgeous planter, like this ceramic one with a glaze finish. “A potted plant that the couple can grow together can be at any budget level and is super memorable and meaningful,” said Austin. Complete the gift by adding a cute watering can or other garden tools.
While this juicer requires a little more (wo)man power compared to the electric ones, it still gets the job done at a relatively affordable price. It has a strainer to catch the seeds and pulp when you make your juice, and according to the brand, it’s ideal for lemons, limes and small oranges. Plus, it has a vintage vibe that will look cute in any kitchen.
This cotton throw pillow from Mudpie is not only affordable, but the simple black and white design also won’t distract from any of the couple’s current decor. On the couch or the bed, this will add a subtle bridal touch to any room in their house.
A timely gift filled with recipes for their future get-togethers, this cookbook is a great option for any couple who loves to entertain. Whether she’s a cooking novice or gives Gordon Ramsay a run for his money, she’s bound to learn something new from this cookbook designed specifically for newlyweds.
The soon-to-be-married couple is going to be so busy the week (and even month) before the wedding, so they will likely need all the help they can get. A meal delivery service can start them off on the right foot and save them precious time. With a Freshly gift card, they can choose exactly when they want to redeem the gift so it suits their busy schedules and arrives when it’s most needed.
Best affordable bridal shower gifts
There’s a lot of gift-giving that comes with being invited to a wedding. Between traveling to the event, buying a new outfit to wear and a wedding gift, these monumental events come at a pretty penny — both for the couple and for their guests. Thankfully, it is possible to get an affordable bridal shower gift that’s equally special. “Even if you get something 'less expensive,’ it is all about how you present it. Wrap it up really nice — maybe tie fresh greenery to the packaging — and write a heartfelt letter to the bride,” said Austin. Here are some amazing bridal shower gift options that the bride (and your credit card) will likely appreciate.
Stylish shampoo and conditioner containers can make any bathroom instantly feel like a spa oasis. Refillable containers like these are also great for the eco-conscious bride looking to cut back on single-use plastic.
Tampons, Band-Aids and a bleach stick are just a few good things to have in a wedding day emergency kit. A good wedding planner will bring all of this and more to the big day, but it doesn’t hurt to supply the bride with her own kit. Add in a pack of bobby pins and some airplane-size liquor bottles and she’ll be ready to strut down that aisle.
This classy, white-stringed bracelet is simple enough for everyday wear, and it’s the perfect shade to accessorize all her white, bridal event outfits. The bracelet features a braided cord accented with an Ivory Mother-of-Pearl. Get a matching one for yourself, and wear it to the event as a subtle reminder of your close bond.
She can use this mini fridge at home as a skin care fridge and then bring it to the getting ready suite on her big day to chill some much-needed refreshments. “Add on a gift card for a mani-pedi to help the bride-to-be feel pampered and beautiful,” suggested Atchison. At 4 pounds, it’s relatively lightweight and portable and conveniently comes with a USB cord.
Keep her new ring shiny with an at-home jewelry cleaner. Ultrasonic sound waves create a powerful yet gentle clean that can polish even the most precious of jewels — and with five different speeds, this cleaner is easy to adjust based on the jewelry placed inside. It’s perfect for home use as it runs on tap water.
Getting the bride a mini version of her favorite perfume feels extra personal, and she can bring it with her on her special day. “These small details laid out with a few flowers from her bouquet and her invitation make for an Instagrammable photo opp that her wedding day photographer can capture,” said DC area wedding photographer Lauren Dieckhaus of Lauren Dieckhaus Photography. Plus, in a travel-friendly size, it can fit in a clutch to take straight to the airport for the honeymoon.
A custom hand-poured coconut wax candle in a personalized mason jar makes for a rustic and sustainable present. With 10 different scents to choose from, you’ll likely find one the bride will enjoy. And when it burns to the end — according to the brand, it has a burn time of 60 to 80 hours — she will have a nice keepsake jar to use in her kitchen or add to her decor.
An apron may seem like an odd present nowadays, but wearing it while making old family recipes can bring back happy childhood memories of cooking with her mother or grandmother. For the true cooking queen, you can add matching oven mitts, and personalization comes free of charge. There’s several designs and city theme options, so pick one that resonates with the couple’s love story.
Whether the couple is just starting their sustainable journey or actively operate a low-waste home, a reusable home cleaning set will likely get used. “If you are looking for something a little more unique or unconventional, think about what would make the bride's life easier,” advised Watts. This set from Blueland comes with four refillable bottles for hand soap and surface cleaners. Cleaning experts previously recommended Blueland’s all-purpose spray as one of the best eco-friendly cleaning products.
Quality, unaltered leather usually lasts for years to come, and the chic tassel on this bag adds some flair. A gift that gives back, the brand claims that each purchase helps employ women in Ethiopia. “She will think of you and your generosity each time she uses it,” said Lee.
Best luxury bridal shower gifts
Wedding pros know that luxury doesn’t always have to mean expensive. “I find that the term ‘luxury’ is personal to each couple as some lean into luxurious experiences, while others associate anything luxury to top-notch designer products,” said Lee.
From venue walkthroughs and floral meetings to cake tastings, planning a wedding can tire a girl out. Upgrade her post-pandemic loungewear with a trending tie-dye set she can be both comfy and cute in. This one from Bandier comes in several colors and is made of a blend of organic cotton, recycled polyester and recycled rayon.
This stemware set, which is a Zola bestseller, will add a fresh pop of color to her kitchen. With nearly 20 bold shades to choose from, you’re bound to find one she will like. It’s also available in multicolored sets for the indecisive bride.
A timeless fashion statement that she will likely covet for decades, she can use this white satin clutch at the remainder of her nuptial events. It features a silver clasp closure and an interior zip pocket to keep all of her essentials safe.
She and her fiancé may not need this right now, but marriage is a rollercoaster of ups and downs and there will likely be rough patches down the road. This box encourages talking through the issues at hand, stopping fights before they start and just continuing to learn about each other. The bride will appreciate you thinking about their future with this gift.
A personalized vow writing gift is a great option for the bride who has a hard time expressing herself. If she simply needs a template to get her thoughts in place, XO Juliet also offers a vow workbook. Who knows — you may even get a shoutout during the ceremony as a thank you.
For an ultra luxurious gift, go all in on a fancy backgammon board they can whip out for game night. “The design is exquisite and each board can be personalized with the couple’s names, monogram or crest, or artwork that speaks to their personal interests,” said Atchison.
This electronic bartender is ideal for the couple who loves entertaining. If you include some of the Drinkworks Pods, she can take it for a test drive at the shower. Just like the original Keurig, you simply pop the pod in and press start, and you’ve got a homemade cocktail in under 60 seconds.
If the bride is hosting a lingerie-themed bridal shower (yes, it’s a whole thing), by all means, get her some sexy lingerie. However, if it’s a shower sans lingerie theme, “keep in mind that it should be something that the bride won’t be embarrassed to be opening in front of her mom and grandmother,” said Grace Lee, CEO and co-founder of Birdy Grey, a site for bridesmaids and bridal gifting options. A cute yet tasteful robe — like this one from Anthropologie — is definitely a safe option.
"If a bride makes a separate registry for their bridal shower, they will definitely include some ’treat yo' self" items,’ said Watts. A silk sleep set definitely qualifies, and the soon-to-be Mrs will get some much-needed beauty rest on her upcoming travels with this pretty set. Whether traveling by car, plane or train, a silk pillow is actually better for her skin and hair, according to experts we previously spoke to in our guide to the best bedding for your skin, so she will wake up not only refreshed, but also glowing.
Jumpstart the forever memories your friend and her fiancé will make with the gift of a fun experience, right in their own backyard. “This is a great way to give the couple something meaningful and memorable, while also making sure you're not buying a duplicate gift,” said Emily Forrest, director of communications at Zola. If the honeymoon is already planned, you can always opt to gift them an experience like a site-seeing tour or romantic dinner in whatever city they will be traveling to.
The marble design and rose gold case of this watch is right on trend and will match all her white bridal outfits. Plus, you can take a watch to any jewelry store to get her wedding date engraved on the back.