10 Life-Improving Off-registry Wedding Gift Ideas

Looking for off registry wedding gift ideas? Or budget wedding gifts that are super thoughtful? Click through for 10 wedding gift ideas any couple would love!
Let me preface this post by telling you that I am the sort of un-creative rule-follower who buys super pragmatic gifts directly from the registry. The thought of buying an off-registry wedding gift gives me hives.
I will happily march into Target, scroll through that list till I find something in my price range and then buy it – even if it’s a collection of video games, a gold-plated turkey baster, or a copy of Everybody Poops. You wanted it? I bought it for you.
But I realize not everybody rolls like this.
Maybe you’ve got five weddings this summer and you can’t afford five $75 gifts (in addition to the flights and hotels and new dresses). Maybe you waited just a bit too long and all the $40 gifts on the registry have already been purchased.
Maybe this is your best friend and it feels ridiculous to buy her a silver-plated gravy boat when you’ve talked her through seven breakups, two career changes, and grad school. Perhaps you’re just a rogue.
Whatever the reason, I rounded up 10 clever ideas for gifts if you’re going the off-registry route. And these gifts would also probably be appreciated by new parents, the newly retired, or a new college graduate!

10 lovely off-registry wedding gift ideas

1. Fresh groceries to be delivered right after they return from their honeymoon

How often have you cried “I need a vacation to recover from my vacation!” (probably while throwing up your hands and staring at an empty fridge). Returning from a big trip usually brings with all sorts of un-sexy logistics (laundry, piles of mail, an overflowing inbox).
Make your friend’s reentry to Real Life a bit easier by having groceries delivered a few hours after they return. You can even have the groceries left on their doorstep if they’re not home!

2. Spa treatments or extras on their honeymoon

If you know where your friends are staying call ahead and pay for a few hotel extras – maybe a spa treatment, room service credit, or some sort of outing. It’ll be such a sweet surprise!

3. Pet (or baby) sitting

Boarding your pet is expensive and finding a babysitter you trust can be an emotionally trying ordeal. Offer your friend a session or two of free pet or babysitting services – bonus points for sending them photos throughout the weekend of what their pup is up to.
People always appreciate these gifts but frequently forget to cash them in or they might not be sure how serious you are. Make it more official by wrapping up a cute dog toy or children’s book and printing out some sort of gift certificate. I’ve even been known to email friends and say “I owe you a dog sitting! Tell me when I can help out!”

4. Home maintenance

Are you good at spackling/priming/painting? General around-the-house improvements? Replacing door knobs or hanging shelves? It feels a lot better to have a friend/professional do these things – rather than doing it yourself (crookedly) or badgering your partner till they do it (badly).
Again, make this more official by wrapping something (paint chips? a home improvement book?) and list something specific that you’ll do for them – “Good for two faucet replacements” or “Good for one new paint job and three hours of landscaping.”

5. Memberships to cool clubs or museums

Friends don’t let friends become a boring old married couple who only hangs out with each other and watches Netflix. Buy your friends a membership to a theater or museum you know they like or a something-fun-of-the-month club.

6. Tickets to exciting events

Another way to prevent your friends from holing up? Buy them tickets to something fun you’re going to. I’m pretty sure I overheard the groom saying he wanted tickets to the Beyonce Jay Z ‘On The Run’ tour.

7. Cleaning service

Things that are stressful: combining two households and learning to deal with the fact that your partner views laundry as ‘optional.’ Help your friend remove some of that stress by buying them a few sessions with a professional cleaning service. If you’re feeling clever, check Groupon first – they frequently offer discounts.

8. Access to your awesome skillz

If you’re a photographer, IT person, interior designer, chef, dog trainer, or financial consultant I bet your friends would rather have a few hours of your professional insight rather than a table runner from Macy’s. You can offer to photograph their new baby, troubleshoot their laptops, cook for their next big party, or help get their retirement accounts in order.

9. Honeymoon registry

Yes, this is technically a registry, but I personally believe this to be 150% more fun than buying frying pans at Target. These sites allow guests to cover the cost of specific aspects of your trip (like visas or a meal at a specific restaurant in Moscow). Some particularly good sites are Travelersjoy, Honeyfund, Honeymoonwishes.

10. A glass-topped coffee table (metaphorically) 

Someone terribly intelligent once told me “Instead of fighting about using coasters on the coffee table, just get a glass-topped coffee table.” And then my brain exploded into a million pieces of light and my relationships got exponentially better.
If you know the couple well enough to know the points of contention that come up again and again (and we all have them) think about a gift you could give that will help reduce those fights.
If they’re always arguing about who’s the designated driver, get them a big certificate to Uber. If neither of them cook and there are lots of dinner-time fights, get them a gift certificate for a restaurant near their house that delivers. You get the idea!
Obviously, resist the urge to tell them “I’m giving you this gift so you’ll fight less. Because I know Dana always drinks too much when she says she’s going to be the driver and I know you hate that.”
When you got married, what off-registry gifts did you like? And did you register for anything that you now regret? 
Photo by zelle duda on Unsplash

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  1. Paige

    We did a honeymoon registry and it was awesome. Our guests loved being part of our adventure and we loved not filling our house up with a ton of stuff (especially since we'd been living together for years already).

    That said, one of the coolest off-registry gifts we received was $101 cash with a note instructing us to not put the money toward our honeymoon, but to use it for our first date night as a married couple. When we went out, we had fun trying to get our bill as close to that dollar amount as possible. (And luckily our restaurant server very patiently helped us.) It was a blast. Obviously the amount we received was very generous, but it was a fun gift that could be easily adjusted for any budget.

  2. Claire (Eat Well. Party Hard.)

    Did you read my mind? My brother's wedding is at the end of June, and I'll have JUST returned to the country–so it's highly likely that a) all of the registry gifts left will be out of my price range, and b) it just seems weird to buy my brother and his fiancee something from a list on a computer.

    In other words: this list is perfect. Thank you.

  3. kerry22

    My husband and I received a digital picture frame from a friend of ours, which we loaded up with photos from our honeymoon!

  4. Manisha

    We eloped so we didn't have the usual wedding deal. But the thing that I like to give is books. A book about financial health, a small guide to the constellations in their area, a cookbook and of course, Rumi.

  5. Katie K

    If I'm in the wedding, I try to do something non-registry. I've bought monogrammed wineglasses for a few couples, but monograms trip me up when the bride keeps her name or hyphenates, which has happened more and more often as of late. So, I've been buying cutting boards from this site: http://www.etsy.com/shop/AHeirloom?section_id=7044086&ref=shopsection_leftnav_1 I get the state where they got married and then have the seller add a little heart for the city. Who doesn't love a good cheese board?

    • melinda christina

      Your point about monogramming is spot on! I got married recently, and hadn't really told anyone what I was doing with my name, so when some friends gave me a monogrammed gift it was really awkward. I kept my maiden name as a middle but they monogrammed it using my previous middle name… which resulted in my father-in-law's initials, not mine. Of course I didn't say anything because it's something I can easily fix and I didn't want them to feel bad, but I definitely cringed when I opened it!

  6. Traci

    These are all great ideas. I had a good friend make a honeymoon registry on honeyfund.com, which meant I bought him and his now wife drinks in Germany and tickets to an opera in Austria instead of sending a toaster or a monetary gift. It was really fun! Also, I like #4.

  7. Jess Lonett

    My recently developed signature go-to wedding gift is a lyric poster of the first dance song. Sometimes I enlist a bridesmaid friend to do the detective work and other times I just casually ask the bride what song they've chosen. I'm super into music, so I feel like it has a perfect combination of personal connection to me and sentimentality for the couple.

    • lissymissy

      Um that is an awesome idea! Is there somewhere in particular you go to get the poster made up?

  8. Shireen

    I'm a new reader here, and so far I am really digging your posts! FINALLY something on the Internet worth reading throughout the workday! And these tips are 1000% helpful–I have 3 weddings to go to this summer! 🙂 Thanks!

  9. Ashley

    We had a Traveler's Joy registry, an we loved it. And more importantly – our GUESTS loved it. For a couple who has been together off & on for 10 years, who lives together, who is older… well, we have almost everything we could need in a home. Our family & friends loved being able to give us memories instead of stuff we didn't need.

    Guests – go for it! It's not weird.
    Brides & Grooms – go for it! You don't really need a new duvet, do you?

  10. Caitlin

    My favorite idea is #1 – GROCERIES. I hope someone is creative and does this for my fiance and me! One of my friends is super into gardening and a group of her friends got her a raised bed gardening kit so she and her husband could plant a garden in their tiny backyard. I thought it was a super cool idea and not something you would think to register for. It's gifts like that that show the couple that you really "get" them. 🙂


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