Quirky bridal party gifts add a memorable touch
Vicky Katz Whitaker
Creators News Service
Traditional gifts may have the edge when it comes to choosing what to give your wedding party as a token of appreciation. However, there's nothing in the rulebook that says you can't pick something that's trendy, funny or unique, like a cowhide koozie, bed slippers with light-up toes or a ticket to a major sporting event or concert.
Experts say you should set aside between one to 1.5 percent of your total budget for wedding party gifts, but on average, couples spend $25 to $45 per person, finds Shirley Tan, chief executive for americanbridal.com. And while choosing time-honored gifts, like cuff links for men and cosmetic kits for women, often reflect a decision with a secure, feel-good comfort level, manufacturers and retailers are paying attention to a new generation of couples who want even these traditional gifts to be both practical and trendier in terms of design, she said.
Not every bridal party gift is something you can wrap your hands around, pointed out Rebekah Rendell, Philadelphia-based professional wedding planner and recent bride. In lieu of traditional gifts, she finds that many grooms now take their groomsmen to sporting events or concerts, "which seems to be a real hit."
Choosing one-of-a-kind items such as purses and jewelry made by artisans offer unique gift options for bridesmaids, Rendell added. A good source for these is etsy.com, a leading online marketplace for custom-made products.
Before she married last fall, California public relations account exec Jackie Crystal didn't have to look far to find an unusual gift for her wedding party. In the six months following her nuptials, each bridesmaid and groomsman received two bottles of wine every other month from one of her agency's accounts, the California Wine Club. With the wine came a copy of its monthly magazine, "Uncorked," that provided tasting notes and recipes paired with each shipment.
"We figured we could spend about $100 per person on our bridal party gifts," Crystal said, and at about $35 per month that the Club charges for its wine package, it was right on target.
Sometimes you can mix old and new to create a distinctive gift. Taking a cue from a famous wedding tradition -- placing a sixpence in the bride's shoe to guarantee wealth -- New Yorker Meg Geraghty gave each of her bridesmaids a silver bracelet with a single charm: one of the silver sixpence coins she brought back from a trip to Ireland. Geraghty, who also slipped a sixpence in her bridal shoe, said she wanted to "share the good luck and love associated with the sixpence so that my bridesmaids would have good fortune in their future."
But if you'd rather put the accent on fun and/or practicality, you might want consider these bridal party gift ideas:
* Cowhide Koozie: For weddings that are more country than city, the hand-stitched cowhide koozie may be the perfect gift for your groomsmen. Priced at $15 and available online from the Southern Brand Collective (southernbrand.com), the koozie keeps a can of beer at 40 degrees or below for 35 minutes and is designed with a cutaway at the base so it can be flattened and easily slipped into a back pocket.
* Hip Flask Card Box: This two-in-one stainless steel product comes with a 2.4-ounce flask and a set of poker cards. At $29.90 and manufactured by WMFAmericas, it can be engraved if ordered directly from the company at wmfamericas.com, or purchased without engraving at the Museum of Modern Art Design Store or Gracious Home in New York City, Crystal Crate and Cargo in northern Michigan and Cooks & Connoisseurs in New Bern, N.C.
* BrightFeet Lighted Slippers: Your bridal party will never lose its way in the dark with this $39.95 gift for both men and women. The slippers, in five colors, have a built-in LED headlight in the toes that turn on in the dark and automatically shut off when they sense light. They can be ordered directly from brightfeetslippers.com or through a number of mail order catalogs including Herrington and X-treme Geek.