12 Brilliant Wedding Gift Ideas From D.C.'s Savviest Shopkeepers

During wedding season, it’s easy to find yourself shopping with a mostly fulfilled gift registry in hand — you slept on buying the cool stuff, and now all that’s left are shower-curtain rings. Don’t worry, there's another option: the off-registry gift. Uncharted territory? Maybe. But we’ve got tips from three local gifting pros on what to buy and how to deliver it. Bride(zilla)s, we know what you’re thinking, but we guarantee you’ll love these perfect prezzies.
You couldn’t find cheese cloth or parchment paper on Capitol Hill before Hill's Kitchen owner Leah Daniels set up shop near the Eastern Market metro. Thankfully, her store caters to the neighborhood and supplies the basics in cooking, baking, grilling, and entertaining, as well as classes for those of us who aren’t exactly sure how to use the wok we just bought. Daniels is also a go-to source for advice on wedding gifts — not only does she know the ins and outs of stainless-steel pans, but she’s also been helping couples set up wedding registries for years.
What should we consider before buying an off-registry gift?
“When someone comes in to buy a gift that’s not on a registry, my first step is to look up where the couple is registered to make sure the gift isn’t a duplicate. I also like to check the registries to learn about the couple and what they like — it’s a great guide for what to buy them elsewhere! Do they have a pizza stone on the registry? Buy them a pizza peel, a pizza cutter, high-heat oven mitts, and a pizza cookbook. Did the bride register for saucepans? Get her a classic cookbook on sauce-making, and a whisk. [And] always include a gift receipt and a note that explains your thought behind the gift!”
What if there isn't a registry, or I can’t remember where they're registered?
“If it’s a total vacuum, go with something you share with the couple. Do you all like to drink together? Get them barware. You can add anything to make it your own. A wedding gift is a remembrance, a celebration — I want it to be personal!”
What’s the best wedding gift that you have given?
"I love pies — baking them with friends, eating them with friends — so I love to give an Emile Henry pie dish, a pastry blender, a pie bird, and James Peterson’s Baking book. If I wanted to go bigger, I’d add a pie server, aprons or potholders. I like to include a recipe of my favorite thing to make with the gift – I always give my blueberry pie recipe!"
Any go-to gift items in your store?
"I almost always get the Staub cast-iron Dutch oven! I’ll include a recipe for my favorite tomato sauce, sweet potato chili, or beer-battered cheese curds to fry in it."
What’s the right amount to spend on a wedding gift — for a shower, an engagement party, the wedding itself?
“It really varies; there’s a comfortable spot for everyone. When I work with couples who are creating registries, I suggest that they try to hit varying price points. For example, a guest can purchase a salt-and-pepper grinder as a complete gift set for $40. As a general guideline, $30 for engagement parties and $75 for a wedding gift [if you’re going solo] is a good starting point."
Baking by James Peterson, $28.79, available at Amazon; Staub Round Cocotte in Cast Iron, $195, available at Royal Design; Emile Henry Pie Dish, $20-$50, available at Emile Henry; Le Creuset Pie Bird, $11, available at JCP.
Hill’s Kitchen, 713 D Street SE; 202-543-1997.
Amy Rutherford is NoVa’s resident expert on all things rustic and charming. As the owner of Old Town’s Red Barn Mercantile, Rutherford specializes in vintage and antique decor, leather and grommet-studded Cisco Brothers' armchairs, and quirky alternatives to your everyday kitchen basics. It’s an essential spot to find unique items with high style, mostly sourced from under-the-radar vendors and flea markets during Rutherford’s travels. Note: Our favorite RBM item is the “You’re Right” needlepoint pillow — perhaps the perfect way to resolve a spat between newlyweds.
What do you get for the couple who has everything?
“Last year, a dear friend got married. It wasn’t either person’s first marriage, so they pretty much had a household full of stuff. I found this wonderful company on Etsy that made personalized glasses with a combination of whimsy and sophistication. Instead of a monogram, they had ‘A + P’ written in turquoise handwriting, as if it was carved on a tree.”
Any guidelines we should follow when trying to buy an off-registry gift?
“It’s important to always think about the couple and what they are passionate about, first and foremost. I like to start with a 'theme' that is relative to the person receiving the gift. For instance, if the couple loves to cook or make craft beer, then start there. Find something that reflects your relationship with the couple. It’s equally important to infuse it with a small sense of your own personality. That way they will remember you and the love you have for them when they look at or use the gift.”
What’s your go-to gift idea for a couple who likes to entertain?
“I would start off with the most amazing hot-off-the-presses cookbook you can find, pair it with beautiful heirloom-quality napkins, a slate cheeseboard, and a fun bottle opener or the world’s most amazing corkscrew.”
Red Barn Mercantile 10x14 Slate Cheese Board, $35, available at Red Barn Mercantile; Kebo Bottle Opener, $28, available at Restoration Hardware; Home Made Summer by Yvette van Boven, $23.45, available at Barnes & Noble; Alder & Co. Linen Napkin Set, $70, available at Alder & Co.
Red Barn Mercantile, 1117 King Street, Alexandria; 703-838-0355.
Dupont Circle boutique Tabletop is a longtime local source for designer home goods (think Jonathan Adler and Marimekko wares) and a go-to spot for engagement gifts. Co-owner Daphne Olive has mastered the art of giving gifts by sourcing them for the store for years; ahead, her take on how to get creative to benefit a bride and groom.
If you're married, what's the best wedding gift you received?
“My husband and I had just been backpacking in Asia for the year before we got married. We had almost no possessions at that point. All of my college friends chipped in together to buy us a great rice cooker. We've used it almost every day ever since — for 18 years!”
What's the best wedding gift you have given to someone else?
“As you can imagine, I enjoy putting together gifts from our store for friends and family. I [also] am a jewelry designer, and my favorite gift was making the wedding rings for my dear friend and business partner in the store and her husband.”
What tips would you give someone who wants to go off the registry and get something a little more creative/unique?
“The best part of going off the registry is to buy them something they wouldn't have allowed themselves to ask for — or even better, something they would love but hadn't even thought of. The best thing to keep in mind is that you are celebrating the couple — never forget that this is all about happiness and fun. I love finding a gift that suits their interests and offers them something they can enjoy together.”
What is your go-to wedding gift?
“I like to go [in one of] two directions with my gifts: One way is to give them a bold decorative item that wouldn't be on a registry full of very practical gifts. I love the symbolism of sets of two birds. I have given both of Jonathan Adler’s bird bowls and a set of Blackthorne Forge herons. Both objects are beautiful by themselves, and I like the symbolism of the fact that they actually look better when displayed as a pair.
The other way to go is to create a beautiful and playful setting for the couple to do something together — like how they start their day. [I’ll give] the Lotta Jansdotter sugar and creamer set with the Stump teapot, or the infusion coffee maker and the Jonathan Adler Mr. and Mrs. Muse mugs."
What's the right amount to spend for a shower gift? And wedding gift if you're going solo, or if you're bringing a date?
“I am sure there are rules about dollar amounts, but in my eyes, the important thing to keep in mind is the concept of celebrating the couple and treating them to something special. A good store will be able to ask the right questions to help the customer find a great gift for that couple, and offer a range of gifts at many price points to offer the opportunity to give a special gift on any budget.”
Zojirushi Rice Cooker, $154.95, available at Crate & Barrel; Stump Teapot, $26, available at Tabletop; Jonathan Adler Mr. and Mrs. Muse Salt and Pepper Shakers, $48, available at Jonathan Adler; Lotta Jansdotter Creamer, $16.95, available at Fishs Eddy.
Tabletop, 1608 20th Street NW; 202-387-7117.

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