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Wedding gift guide for nontraditional guests

Hate buying whatever is left on the bridal registry? Amy Goodman of InStyle magazine shares tips on how to choose the perfect gift .
/ Source: TODAY

The invitation has arrived, and now it’s time to buy the gift. But before you veer away from the registry, give some thought to the couple for whom you’re buying the gift. Amy Goodman, a contributing editor at InStyle magazine, has some helpful suggestions on how to come up with fresh and creative wedding presents. Goodman was invited on “Today” to share her tips.

As a refreshing twist for the modern day wedding guest, going off-registry is completely acceptable — especially if you're very close with the future Mr. and Mrs. Consider this a welcome adventure for the creative gift giver.

That said, now what in the world do you buy? Consider purchasing from a boutique or store where the couple is already registered (and get a gift receipt for ease of return). Use the colors and choices from their existing list as a guide for what they most need. Think of the personality of their home décor ... if modern minimalist, then skip the eclectic. Bohemian? Avoid the streamlined. Think in ways that you can add complimentary accessories to existing items: if you buy wine glasses, supply the vino; if bath robes, a gift certificate for a couple’s massage. So dust off your traditional concepts of registry, and celebrate this union with a present they’ll love, from this day forward.

Twist on tradition

Dessert platesUsually every couple will have fine china on their list, but go a bit beyond the obvious with these fashionable dessert plates from Williams-Sonoma Home. Accent pieces, like these made of porcelain and inspired with a Moroccan-tile motif, are a hot item for first-time homeowners for their sheer versatility. With uses beyond just dessert as an appetizer, salad or accent plate, they add instant pizzazz alongside regular china. The design of cobalt blue floral vines with exotic flair make a style statement this season and for many years to come. Dishwasher and microwave safe, 9-inch diameter. Set of four, $68; at Williams-Sonoma Home, 888-922-4110.

Champagne flutes & ice bucketStemless glassware is in favor, and chic and modern champagne flutes ($30 each) by Aero make one appreciate bubbly on a whole new level. With an attractive smoky blue finish and matching ice bucket ($50), there will be no end to the dinner party toasts to the hosts. To ensure the celebration continues, give a bottle of their favorite sparkling wine, to be opened on their first anniversary (champagne and sparkling wines will last up to one year if stored in a cool, dark place). That is, if they don’t drink it before then! Aero, 212-966-1500.

Steak knivesWhen so many other registry items are downright feminine, a complete set of eight stainless-steel steak knifes makes the perfect present for a male friend. Knives, once frowned upon in the past as a gift symbolic of bad luck (as in cutting the bond between man and wife), are currently one of the most requested items by couples who love to cook. Ask a chef her most valuable asset, and she’ll tell you it’s all in the knives. So take a cue from the professionals: this gift cuts to the chase of culinary harmony in the kitchen. Set in an elegant beechwood box, J.A. Henckels, $100; at Bed Bath & Beyond, 800-462-3966.

Fashion & functionHamilton Beach mixer
The beauty of the Hamilton Beach Eclectrics mixer is not just in its retro appeal, which evokes images of your mom mixing a “homemade” cake out of a box (or maybe that was only my mom). Voted a “Best-Buy” stand mixer, it has all the bells and whistles of a modern appliance, including 12 speed settings and a 400-watt power motor, assuring any couple of the perkiest whipped meringue in town. With seven colors to chose from and names as delectable as their hues (Mocha, Seabreeze, Sugar, Apple, Pineapple, Licorice and Moroccan Red), the couple’s countertops will certainly look stylish. Now as for the cake? We’ll have to leave that to them. Hamilton Beach in Seabreeze, $200; 800-851-8900. A portion of each sale of the HB mixer in Moroccan Red made between January 1, 2006 and February 28, 2007 will benefit the American Heart Association, for a total of $350,000.

Stainless steel vacuumThere’s nothing like a gift that promises to clean up a marriage. Or at least the dust bunnies that collected while the couple was off on their honeymoon. Practical yet powerful, the Italian-made, stainless-steel handheld vacuum by Alessi is nearly too sleek for words, and attracts both male and female consumers alike. They can use this two-speed wonder, available at the Museum of Modern Art design store, to pick up solids or liquids or simply hang in its wall-mount recharging base as a testimony to the true art of modern appliances. Comes with two attachments that aid with cleaning up liquids and narrow spaces, rechargeable 6V batteries included, $140; MOMA, 646-613-1367.

Monogrammed linen napkinsPersonalizing a gift always shows an extra element of thought, and upgrading standard napkins with these linen beauties by La Maison Marina will inspire everyone to have a napkin in their lap ($143 for six). Presented in an exquisite box, that’s one less level of packaging that you need worry about. Also available for couples who retain their surnames, request two-letter monogramming using the first initial of the bride and groom’s first names (price available upon request). Allow one week for monogram; La Maison Marina, 212-343-9911.

The decorative arts

Bird bowl
While couples tend to register within traditional categories like china, flatware and linens, artistic décor for the home is flourishing as a relatively new category. If you know a couple well and understand their design aesthetic, feel free to go off registry to purchase them something they may have overlooked or to add a striking element to their home. Full or empty, this platinum-glazed ceramic bird bowl by Jonathan Adler makes a stunning addition to any table. Fill with lush blooms during spring and summer, nuts and pinecones in fall and berries or chocolates in winter for a design accent that reflects each season. Medium size, $115; large size, $145; Jonathan Adler, 877-287-1910.

Stoneware platterNow here’s a novel concept that goes beyond the standard turkey platter. This sand-cast stoneware 21-inch platter by Marston & Langinger has a sublimely contemporary design. One of the best pieces of advice I received from a renowned party planner as I registered was to overload on the request for platters and bowls. Not only have my extra orders of both proved invaluable for entertaining, but also for dressing up my regular cooking on an average Tuesday night. It’s amazing how much sweeter sliced fruit looks on a gorgeous plate instead of on my casual dishes, and my guess is that it will immediately up the ante of any couple’s everyday meal. $280; at Marston & Langinger, 212-965-0434.

Cake stand and coverNearly every couple will select a standard cake stand, but here is an elegant update that will look as gorgeous as the cake housed within. A scalloped stoneware cake stand ($98, also in cappuccino brown, ice-blue or white) is a gift in and of itself, and when paired with the Isabella-style glass dome ($212; 10” by 12”) the combination is clearly irresistible. The glass dome is also available in an equally beautiful Amalia-style, same dimensions and price; at Juliska, 888-414-8448 or

Honeymoon essentials
Beach towelsFor a twist on your typical bath towel gift, plush cotton beach towels from Missoni Home leave a lasting and colorful impression — especially atop a lounge chair. Perfect for their island honeymoon, the bride and groom are sure to remember you every time they hit the beach. $150 to $160; at Missoni Home, 212-719-2338 for stores.

Matching bathrobesTo create a relaxing spa experience in their home, consider gifting matching Egyptian terrycloth bathrobes from Waterworks’ Gotham collection ($175 each). To further personalize, show how well you know them by monogramming their pet names (how about it, “Princess” and “Papa Bear”?) or nicknames on the robes ($225 with monogram), allowing four to six weeks for completion. But be sure you get the lovebirds’ names right, for once monogrammed always monogrammed and non-returnable. Waterworks; 800-899-6757.

Digital cameraOh, the over-the-moon newlyweds! What if they drop their camera on the ground or accidentally take their clicker for a dip in the pool as they swoon in each other’s eyes? Well now they can, with the latest and greatest from Olympus. The waterproof (up to 10 feet) and shock-resistant (up to 5 feet) 7.1-megapixel Stylus 720 SW camera will have them pointing and clicking to their heart’s delight, despite any adverse conditions. A 2.5-inch LCD screen assures that they won’t be blinded by love and will get the shot framed just right. If you decide to opt for this slightly pricey present ($400;, heed this advice: send it in advance of the honeymoon, so they can master all the cool functions without cramming the manual on the flight to paradise.