Attending to Gifts

Your wedding party is an entourage of childhood friends, college roommates, siblings and other close family members. Most have been by your side, contributing their time, energy and love throughout the entire wedding planning process. So, when the big event is about to happen, how best can brides and grooms offer their thanks?

As one would when shopping for any gift, it’s best to keep each individual in mind, choosing imaginative and stylish gifts that come from the heart, say bridal advisers at

Are traditional gifts the way to go?

“Brides can give the bridesmaids something to wear on the wedding day such as a necklace or earrings,” said Kathleen Murray, weddings editor at The Knot. “For the guys, a wine set, Swiss Army knife and golf kits are great traditional ideas.”

Looking for something a little trendier?

Owen Halpern, co-owner of OwenLawrence, an Atlanta boutique, prides himself on offering shoppers items they won’t see in every other shop.

For bridal attendant gifts he suggests a crystal bedside carafe, Italian crystal clocks by Arnolfo Di Cambio or beautifully boxed Italian vodka shot glasses by Salviati — all gift items that are as special as the occasion they mark.

He also said people are “loving” gift items called Elton Rocks, made out of colored, scented resin — “sort of an alternative to potpourri.” (According to Halpern, Elton John allowed his name to be used on the product because a portion of the proceeds are donated to his AIDS foundation.)

Halpern indulges OwenLawrence shoppers with champagne or signature bellinis, offered “only in crystal with linen napkins — no paper or plastic,” to help everyone enjoy “the finer things in life.”

“It’s a stressful time. Brides and grooms can relax and enjoy the shopping experience,” Halpern said.

Anything monogrammed is also popular for attendant gifts.

“Monogramming anything from jewelry to flasks to sandals for a beach wedding is hot right now,” Murray said.

While fountain pens may have become the joke of traditional bar mitzvah gifting, pens are popular as gifts for grooms’ attendants.

“We’ve sold everything form Mont Blanc, Cross and Watermans to Parker and Cartier. Generally we engrave initials of the groomsmen. It’s a small gift, but it’s a valued one,” said Steve Light of Artlite.

No matter how much appreciation you might want to lavish upon your bridal attendants, the sheer quantity can tally a daunting price tag. Be sure to ask yourself how much you plan — and can afford — to spend.

Murray normally advises bridal couples to spend what they can, but on average it’s usually $75 per person. The best man and matron or maid of honor should get something a little more lavish.

Yet, if a tight budget is cramping your style, there are great ways to get by.

Inexpensive gifts for bridesmaids can include an engraved silver photo frame or compact mirror, nice jewelry or beautiful candles.

For groomsmen, engraved pewter beer steins, silver pocketknives or cigar holders are usually low-priced.

Murray says it’s all about being a smart shopper.

“Inexpensive gifts are really just being able to find a great buy,” she said. “The bride may find a bracelet worth thousands of dollars, but if they look harder, they can find one for a lot less.”

Of course, if you decide to splurge on the wedding party, the options are endless. “The Knot Complete Guide to Weddings in the Real World” offers ideas ranging from remote control cars for guys, a certificate for an acclaimed restaurant or spa certificates to tickets to a game or play, silk pajamas, beauty baskets or cigars.

For bridesmaids, Murray says classes are always a popular item.

“Cooking, wine tasting, photography classes are all great options,” she said. “Again, base your decision upon each bridesmaid’s specific interest. For groomsmen, look into golf or ski lessons or even a bottle or case of wine from a great vineyard.”

Still stuck on what to get? Consider using your own talents. Artists can create drawings, paintings or pottery, while musicians can create a CD of their own music.

“If a couple does not feel they have such talents, or do not have time to make their gifts, they can have gift baskets created that are personalized to each attendants’ tastes and interests,” Murray said.

Laura Vogltanz of Copley News Service contributed to this article.

It’s All About You

It should be pointed out that once upon a time I wrote a little book titled "Life Sentence." It is the definitive treatise on the state of human relations between men and women, vis-à-vis engagement and marriage from the male perspective. Some people think it was anti-marriage, although on page three it clearly states, "For the record — [I] strongly recommend getting married." It remains, in my opinion, the best written and the least-read book on the subject. Ultimately, it seems that the man’s point of view on the subject of marriage is somewhat irrelevant.

In fact, the guy seems to be incidental to the whole marriage process. When I went with my long-suffering fiancée, Alison, to register for wedding gifts, there was a catalog with a beautiful bride (there is no other kind, evidently) on the cover, shot with slightly out-of-focus artiness. By contrast, the yellow, 72-point headline was clear enough that I could read it from across the room. It said: It’s All About You.

Later that day, Alison bought one of those brides magazines at the newsstand. There are tons of these things, all 2-inch- thick monsters, with yet more beautiful brides and recycled stories full of clichéd advice. (Have you noticed that there is not one magazine for grooms?) I leafed through it when she wasn’t looking, and was somewhat surprised to find that there was scarcely one picture in the 500 pages of glossy color ads with a guy in it. As if the whole marriage thing would be so much simpler without those unseemly men mucking it up. Just whom do they think all these brides are marrying, anyway?

We went shopping for wedding rings the other day. Alison took me to a joint called Cartier in Beverly Hills. When you ask to see the women’s wedding ring selection, they do a whole choreographed number, with "I Feel Pretty" playing over the sound system, great velvet-covered trays of sparkly jewels being proffered by eager, perfumed saleswomen.

By contrast, when you ask to see the selection of men’s wedding rings, they snap back, "Gold or platinum?" The girls get to choose from 31 Flavors, and we get chocolate or vanilla. (I found it interesting that the women’s rings seem to be somewhat more expensive than the men’s. Fascinating.)

Even the registry is all about her. Why don’t we go to the Home Depot? Do we really need a cake plate more than a nail gun? Which is going to be more useful in the future? Have you ever tried to install molding with a cake plate? They’re useless.

Alison didn’t want it to be all about her. She didn’t even want a bridal shower where your friends give you all that kitchen stuff. To be fair, Alison doesn’t know her way around the kitchen. Not at all. If left to her own devices with a raw chicken, some vegetables and herbs, she might starve to death.

I, however, am a very handy fellow to have around in the kitchen, and I like all that stuff — the All-Clad pots and Le Creuset pans, for example. (While writing this story, I was informed by The New York Times that I’m a "metrosexual," a straight guy in touch with his inner Julia Child.) So my sister, who also happens to be my gender-bending best man, threw a kitchen shower for me and all her gal pals. We had a spa day at which I had a scrub, a wrap and a massage. I was going to get something called a "polish change," but was told it didn’t apply to me.

Over salads (with the dressing on the side), the gals took turns offering me marital advice. In turns, it boiled down to this: empathy, focus, persistence, don’t sweat the small stuff, and the "Serenity Prayer" (Lord, help me to accept the things I cannot change). How can I go wrong?

It’s all right with me if the wedding is all about her. There would be no "us" without her, no wedding plans to fight over, no honeymoon to look forward to. I just hope I get my picture in the wedding photos next to the beautiful bride.

It’s all about J.D. Smith at