Great Wedding Registry Gift Ideas
We spent 30 hours researching the best way to construct a registry, surveying married couples to figure out their best registry choices and interviewing couples with a collective 94 years of marriage. We’ve curated this list with new picks and favorites from our existing guides, creating a mix of big-ticket investment items and less-expensive gifts for your loved ones on tighter budgets.
It’s easy to get carried away registering for entire catalog pages depicting one impeccably arranged room after another, only to end up with stuff you don’t use or a bunch of products that don’t fit your needs or lifestyle. Stay focused on what’s important: designing a life for yourself and your partner with minimal friction around the day-to-day items that shape the space you share.
Table of contents
- Why you should trust us
- Bed and bath
- Around the house
- Fun and games
Why you should trust us
To draw up our list, we surveyed nearly 300 people to find out what wedding gifts they used constantly and what products they regretted requesting. We also read articles from Apartment Therapy, The Knot, Real Simple, and other sources in our effort to compose the ultimate collection of items. In addition, we interviewed long-married couples we know to hear their personal stories about equipping a marriage: We talked to Debi Ogg, who has been married to her husband, Steve, for 35 years; Sarah Dillon, who has been married to her husband, John, for 43 years; Rob Pegoraro, who has been married to his wife, Katie, for 13 years; and Liam McCabe, who has been with his wife, Natalie, for eight years.
Most couples told us they wished they had put fewer, more high-quality items on their registry as opposed to many low- or medium-quality ones. “The extra cost is usually worth the extra reliability and product life in terms of overall value,” said Debi Ogg. But this is not the same thing as splurging on fancy things, she explained. “Couples should really think about the viability of putting formal items, like china, crystal glasses, and vases on the registry,” she said. “We have found we have used them very rarely over the years, they take up storage space, and are often delicate items for handling.”
It’s possible to equip a kitchen on the cheap, but the most seamless operations run on tried-and-tested, familiar tools. “My pots, pans, baking sheets [are ones] that my parents used forever and that I am still using almost daily…. They are all bordering on being at least 75 years old and working fine,” said Sarah Dillon. Rob Pegoraro called investing in a kitchen “a good strategy,” noting that “stuff to make food is more useful than stuff to serve it with.”
*At the time of publishing, the price was $187.
After testing 16 different blender models for three years, we like the Oster Versa. This workhorse is seriously good at blending, but it can also fit under most cabinets more easily than fancier models, and it comes with a tamper for breaking up air bubbles. The Oster Versa has 10 speeds and is even capable of making butter out of nuts, as long as you feed it two cups at once.
If your household intends to do a lot of blending, including mixing soups or smoothies with fibrous materials, your conscious coupling may be a good occasion to upgrade to the Vitamix 5200 Series. Although this model ranks among the priciest blenders you can buy, it simply cannot be beat for construction quality or the smoothness of its puréed output. Whereas Oster covers the Versa with a seven-year warranty, Vitamix guarantees its blenders for 20 years.
If an immersion blender is more your speed or style, or if you’d like one for situations where dumping a pot of hot vegetables into a regular blender canister doesn’t seem safe, our immersion-blender pick is the Breville BSB510XL Control Grip Immersion Blender. This stick blender is also capable of turning peanuts into peanut butter, and its sharp blades can crush ice. The Breville was one of the only models we tried that didn’t suction itself to the bottom of pots or cups, and it has a wide speed range.
*At the time of publishing, the price was $320.
If you’re seeking an heirloom-quality Dutch oven for your family that cooks as well as anything and will stand up to decades of use, we recommend the classic Le Creuset Signature Enameled Cast-Iron 5½-Quart Round French Oven. Offering the most comfortable handles of any Dutch oven we tried, as well as the most resilient enamel finish, the Le Creuset compensated for many of our deliberate cooking mistakes during our tests. In the event that it does chip, Le Creuset offers a lifetime warranty, and the company has in the past offered up to 75 percent off a new Dutch oven even when the owner was at fault for the damage.
If the Le Creuset is too expensive, our standard pick for most people is the Lodge Color 6-quart Enameled Cast Iron Dutch Oven. The Lodge’s cooking surface is about half an inch smaller than that of the Le Creuset (less room for browning meat), and its handles are not quite as big and comfortable, but it cooks just as well, and Lodge offers a limited lifetime warranty covering any damage that arises from normal use.
Few things in a kitchen get less respect and more use than a toaster oven. If you don’t have quite so much room, our recommendation is the Panasonic FlashXpress. This model has a small footprint—about that of a four-slot toaster—and heats evenly thanks to its combination of infrared heating elements (quartz and ceramic). Reviewed.com describes this oven as having a “cult following” of people who were disappointed when it disappeared from the US market for a brief time in 2014.
If you have the counter space, go for the Cuisinart TOB-260 Chef’s Convection Toaster Oven. This toaster oven can hold nine pieces of toast at once. It can also handle many other big tasks with ease and pinch-hit on full-size-meal tasks when you’re hosting a big dinner or holiday party. On top of that, the Cuisinart cooks more evenly and has a better warranty (three years) than other models we tried.
After engaging in a combined 41 hours of research and expert interviews over the past two years, and brewing hundreds of cups of coffee in 12 machines, we like the OXO On 9-Cup Coffee Maker best for everyday use. Much easier to work with than other models we tested, it makes coffee that tastes close to pour-over, and you can program it to brew a fresh pot in the morning (so long as you grind and load your coffee the night before). The OXO also has a thermal carafe that’s easy to clean and to pour with.
After 16 hours of research and 30 hours of side-by-side testing, we found the KitchenAid Artisan to be the best stand mixer. The Artisan can whip cake batter and cream butter more effectively than any other model, but it can also knead whole-wheat bread dough without straining or walking around the counter. Note that a big, powerful stand mixer isn’t for everyone: If you don’t bake at least once a week, skip this item. If you don’t need or don’t have room for a stand mixer like this one, consider instead our hand-mixer pick.
If you regularly prepare meals at home, a high-quality skillet will make cooking a lot more enjoyable and help you progress as a cook. After 20 hours of research, we found that the All-Clad 12-Inch Stainless Steel Fry Pan is the best skillet you can buy. It’s dishwasher-, oven-, and broiler-safe, and professionals, enthusiasts, and home cooks alike love it for its superior heat conductivity, balanced handling, and durability. It even comes with a lifetime warranty. This skillet’s base isn’t so thick that it takes forever to heat up or becomes difficult to maneuver, but it isn’t so thin that it requires you to make constant adjustments to avoid burning your food. It’s also tough as nails. Ask anyone who has been in the food industry long enough, and chances are good that they’ll have an All-Clad that they’ve been using for a decade or more.
In our most recent round of skillet testing, the Tramontina Gourmet Tri-Ply Clad 12-Inch Fry Pan emerged as a solid runner up for a lot less money. But the All-Clad is still better in every aspect so it’s worth the splurge for a dedicated home cook.
A 2-quart saucepan is the workhorse of any kitchen—one of the pots you’ll reach for every time you cook. After whisking 9 quarts of pastry cream, making 16 cups of caramel, and simmering 21 cups of rice pilaf in nine different saucepans, we recommend the All-Clad 4212 Stainless Steel Saucier. It comes with a lifetime warranty, and it can handle all of the basic, everyday functions of a small saucepan, plus more advanced techniques.
The rounded sloping corners of this saucier make stirring easy and fluid when you’re whisking thick custards or banishing lumps from gravy, and the bent lip helps you avoid making a mess when pouring. The long handle is comfortable to hold and stays cool during cooking. Bonded tri-ply throughout the saucepan means you won’t get hot spots, and food will cook evenly. This pot is an heirloom-quality item that you could hand down to kids or grandkids.
*At the time of publishing, the price was $145.
A kitchen can have a lot of tools, but few are as integral to the cooking experience as a chef’s knife. After 75 hours of conducting research and testing 13 different blades, we found that the MAC MTH-80 8-inch Chef’s Knife with Dimples gave us the best experience, thanks to its incredibly sharp blade. We were even able to slice basil without causing the edges to brown, as well as to cut a butternut squash straight down the middle. The MTH-80’s blade has a high carbon content, so it will stay sharp for an incredibly long time. It makes clean cuts, and the handle is small and nice to hold. We are certain it will last a lifetime with proper care. For our additional picks, including a German-style, more traditional knife, read our full guide.
*At the time of publishing, the price was $38.
After performing more than 100 hours of research and testing, cooking more than 200 pounds of rice, and talking with rice experts specializing in Japanese, Thai, and Chinese cuisine, we recommend without reservation the Hamilton Beach Digital Simplicity Rice Cooker and Steamer. It makes delicious short- and medium-grain white rice—the variety most commonly made in a cooker—faster than the high-end models we tested, and it’s one of the simplest machines we tried.
If you make rice at least a couple of times a week, or if you’re particularly discerning about rice texture and flavor, consider the Cuckoo CRP-G1015F 10 Cup Electric Pressure Rice Cooker. It’s considerably more expensive than most rice cookers, but it uses pressure cooking to deliver even tender brown rice in half the time of conventional fuzzy-logic cookers.
After researching for 41 hours and considering 39 different models for our casserole guide, we came to a surprising conclusion: Most of the dishes we tested, ranging in price from $10 to $180, cooked food pretty similarly. But some features, such as roomy handles and classy styling, can make a dish stand out from its peers. The Revol Belle Cuisine 3.8-Quart Rectangular Roasting Dish is extremely easy to carry even with potholders, and this heirloom-quality piece is good-looking enough for you to set it right on the dinner table whether you’re serving your family or guests.
Once you learn to use a thermometer for testing the doneness of meat, frying in oil, or making yeast doughs, you won’t know how you ever lived without one. We tested 19 instant-read thermometers and found that the ThermoWorks Thermapen Mk4 is the best all-around model. At about $100, it is a splurge, but the superfast Thermapen Mk4 gives a close temperature estimate in two seconds and a precise reading in three. The Thermapen has a long fold-out probe, an automatic backlight, and automatic screen rotation, and it uses a AAA battery.
A wooden cutting board may require more careful cleaning than a plastic board, but the 20-by-15-inch Proteak Rectangular Edge-Grain Cutting Board is the better addition to your registry for a number of reasons: It’s visually striking, it feels better (and more natural) under a knife than anything plastic, and it’s easier to maintain than other wood boards. After spending 120 hours on research and testing, including interviewing chefs and materials experts, chopping 23 pounds of produce, and using and abusing 22 cutting boards, we concluded that no other wooden option could best it.
For millennia, boat and furniture makers have used teak for its moisture-fighting properties, and that’s exactly why the Proteak excels beyond every other wood board we tried. It requires regular oil treatments and needs to stay mostly free of moisture, but its time-tested and sustainable materials, joined in expert fashion, will last you many years.
A salad spinner will clean greens better than handwashing and with less mess and hassle, so if you eat salad regularly, this is an item worth adding to your registry. After doing 25 hours of research, interviewing three authors of salad-centered cookbooks, comparing 31 models, and performing hands-on testing of eight salad spinners, we found that the OXO Steel Salad Spinner is the best option for anyone who loves the look of stainless steel. In our tests, its pump spinner was the easiest to operate, drying both hardy greens and more delicate parsley without bruising—something the competition failed to do consistently. This spinner’s base is completely coated in a nonslip, rubbery material to help keep the bowl stable while you’re pumping, and it can double as an attractive serving bowl.
For gift givers with smaller budgets, round out your registry with some of the smaller items we recommend: the Victorinox 3¼-inch paring knife, the Zeroll ice cream scoop, the Lodge Logic cast-iron skillet, and the Nordic Ware Baker’s Half Sheet.
With the overwhelming amount of dinnerware collections to choose from, picking a set of dishes for your wedding registry can be a big decision—after all, whatever you select, you’ll be eating off these dishes for years to come. While you can find plenty of fine-china sets marketed toward new couples, our research on this subject determined that registering for a fine-china set was one of the top regrets among long-term couples: The dishes simply don’t get used enough, and they take up too much storage space. A basic but high-quality whiteware set will look just as impressive in many settings but will be a lot more usable in everyday life.
After spending over 30 hours researching more than 60 whiteware collections and testing and evaluating seven of them, we’ve found that the Fitz and Floyd Nevaeh Dinnerware Collection is the best for most wedding registries. It’s made of high-quality bone china with 50 percent bone-ash content, which gives it a bright whiteness and an elegant translucence that’s missing from the thicker, duller porcelain typically found at this price. This Fitz and Floyd style has a white classic look with defined rims free of excessive patterns; although the set has been available for years, it has changed little in design. And if you need to replace a dish, the pieces are also sold open-stock.
Our testers liked the simplicity of this Fitz and Floyd set, finding it timeless and elegant enough for formal dinner parties but not so classy that you’d hesitate to use it every day—after all, these dishes are dishwasher-, microwave-, and warm-oven-safe. The Fitz and Floyd dishes remained free of scuffs after our fork-and-knife test, which consisted of scratching the plates’ surface with a fork and knife 50 times. The surface has an even glaze, unlike that of the drippy, inconsistent Macy’s Cellar Whiteware Rim Collection. The flat-bottom teacup doesn’t wobble in the saucer, and while the handle may be a bit dainty for larger hands, the teacup is comfortable to hold. And the cereal bowls have an appropriate width and depth, in contrast to the bowls in the Crate and Barrel Maison Dinnerware Set, which are too deep and awkward to eat from.
This Fitz and Floyd style is available in four- or five-piece place settings, as well as open-stock, so you have the freedom to customize your collection. For example, you can choose shallow soup bowls or deep cereal bowls, hearty mugs or dainty teacups and saucers, and different-size dinner and salad plates. (Pay close attention to the dish sizes when purchasing items open-stock so that you match sizes appropriately.) Unlike some other lines we looked at, this set even offers multiple serving pieces. While this set is sold exclusively at Bed Bath & Beyond, Fitz and Floyd is a trusted brand that has been around since 1960, so replacing any broken items in years to come shouldn’t be an issue.
One of our writers has owned this set for four years and has encountered no breakage, although the plates have developed minor scratches on the surface of the glaze—most likely due to improper stacking. After prolonged use of any whiteware, scratching can occur. If you’re concerned about the possibility, most manufacturers suggest placing cloth or paper plates between each plate when you stack them.
If you prefer a less-expensive porcelain set, we recommend the Williams-Sonoma Open Kitchen Dinnerware Collection. This set has almost no pitting and a very even glaze plus a similar weight to the Fitz and Floyd set, but its color is grayer and lacks the translucency of bone china. Aside from being more casual, it offers fewer pieces to choose from than the Fitz and Floyd set. This collection doesn’t come with teacups and saucers, but it has a good-size mug with a wide, comfortable handle that we preferred over the square, dated mugs in the Macy’s Hotel Bone China Collection. The Open Kitchen collection comes with the option to purchase cereal and/or shallow soup bowls and is available online in open-stock sets of four, though you can buy by the piece in stores. The Open Kitchen collection has proven longevity, with one reviewer on the Williams-Sonoma site saying they haven’t broken a single piece in over 13 years. We’re confident this set will remain in style and pair nicely with other serving pieces in years to come.
If you’re partial to heavier dinnerware that’s substantially thicker than our other picks, we suggest the porcelain Williams-Sonoma Brasserie All-White Dinnerware collection. Although our testers liked the Fitz and Floyd and Open Kitchen sets the best, they favored the size of the teacup in the Brasserie collection. This style also has a brighter white hue (in contrast with the slightly gray blue of the Open Kitchen set), almost no visible pitting, and a very even glaze. Some of our testers, however, found that the saucers were a bit wide and didn’t match the rims of the plates. The Brasserie style is considerably more expensive than our top pick and available only in place settings or in open-stock sets of four, but this set has been around awhile, with one customer review on the Williams-Sonoma website praising it after 18 years of use. There’s no denying its durability—Williams-Sonoma advertises it as being sturdy enough to go under the broiler—but most of our testers found this collection to be a little too heavy, though not as clunky as the Williams-Sonoma Apilco Tradition Porcelain Dinnerware.
The set of spoons, knives, and forks you like comes down in large part to taste. But the best options all meet a few objective criteria: The pieces feel comfortable and balanced in the hand, the fork tines and spoon bowls are well shaped for eating (as opposed to just looking pretty), and the design works well across a range of settings. We spent 80 hours over six months testing 23 different sets to find the most balanced options in a variety of styles. For a simple and elegant set, you might like the Aston Flatware Place Setting, which offers basic detailing, unassuming outlines, and a heft that feels solid in your hand. If you want a more timeless look, Reed & Barton Pomfret flatware has handles with a classic flare but narrow necks and high arches. The pieces have a softer finish, so they don’t feel as aggressive as some highly polished sets. If those two styles aren’t to your taste, our panel selected eight other flatware sets in designs suitable for most settings, including architectural, ornate, mid-century modern, and more.
When steak—or any serious cut of meat—is on the table, a set of steak knives should be, too. After 40 hours of research, interviews, and testing, we found that the Messermeister Avanta Pakkawood knives were not only beautiful to look at and comfortable to hold but also as high-performing as knives six times their price.
The Messermeisters have a long and upswept blade—the ideal steak knife shape, resulting from centuries of evolution. The length allows the knife to slice through even a thick steak in one stroke, and the upswept tip lets your elbow move up as you slice instead of back, where you might strike your chair or a waiter. Moreover, these knives are extremely sharp, with edges that are evenly ground and finely honed.
The handles are finished with pakkawood—an industry term for resin-impregnated natural wood—instead of the more-common cheap plastic or unfinished wood, making them stronger, more durable, and more stable than other steak knives in their price range. Depending on the size of your family or how frequently you entertain, you may want to register for two sets.
After 28 hours of research, a year of long-term testing, and time spent flinging dozens of glasses off a roof to see which ones could survive the drop, we’ve decided that the Duralex Picardie tumbler is the best drinking glass you can ask for. It’s a classic, durable glass that’s stackable, dishwasher-safe, and more pleasurable to drink from than anything else we found. Made in France, each tempered glass tumbler is durable enough to survive an 8-foot drop onto a linoleum floor. Houseguests and testers reached for this glass more than anything else we had in our cabinets. Multiple sizes from 3 to 17 ounces are available.
*At the time of publishing, the price was $60.
Wine glasses are key for entertaining and relaxing at home (shoutout to one of our institutional heroes, Tami Taylor). They are also one of the most vulnerable pieces you can set in front of a guest, however, so durability is as important as how well the glass enhances the flavors of the wine. We considered more than 130 different glasses and subjected 33 of them to an eight-hour blind-tasting session, and the Riedel Overture Magnum came out on top.
When we presented our selection of testing glasses to one of our experts, professional winemaker Jeff Cohn, he set aside the Riedel Overture Magnum, noting that it was “simple” and “easy,” and that everything, including both red and white wines, “[showed] well in it.” Belinda Chang, a James Beard Award–winning sommelier, told us, “[It’s] the be-all, end-all best glass if you’re only going to buy one and, in fact, in my house it’s what I have—and I have access to pretty much anything.” Its superiority is due in part to the shape of the bowl, which strikes a balance that helps to direct aromas and keeps white wine crisp and acidic but is big enough to swirl a red. While the look of the glass is pretty sturdy, it has a very fine lip and overall excellent craftsmanship. For varietal-specific picks, read our full guide to wine glasses.
A great pepper mill is a buy-it-for-life kind of item, and after 45 hours of researching pepper mills and testing 16 models, we found that the Peugeot Paris u’Select Pepper Mill is the best pepper mill for most people. Since its introduction in 1874, the Peugeot pepper mill has been a favorite of professional cooks and design enthusiasts alike for its inimitably sharp case-hardened steel grind mechanism and sleek look. Peugeot made the first pepper mill ever, and the company still makes the best. In our testing, this mill ground half a teaspoon of pepper faster than nearly every other contender. The grind mechanism produces even grinds at every level (unlike much of the competition) and comes with a lifetime warranty.
Bed and bath
If it gets cold enough where you are to merit having down comforters on the beds in your home, they’re the perfect registry investment item. You can find lots of feather-bags out there, but a high-quality comforter weighs no more than a few pounds, warms you evenly, and is constructed well enough to last you for decades, with a warranty to cover it. After performing 85 hours of research and considering 150 products, we found that the Feathered Friends Bavarian Medium 700 Down Comforter is the best investment comforter. It has a loft of about 3 inches but remains incredibly light, so it settles like a layer of cumulus over your bed. The Bavarian Medium 700 is guaranteed to last 30 years, with sewn-through edges that prevent the down from shifting. As of 2015, Feathered Friends is filling its comforters with material that complies with the Responsible Down Standard, and the company provides a website and tracking number through which customers can see the source of their down.
If you’re allergic to down or just don’t like it, our alternative-material pick is the Sleep Better Beyond Down Gel Fiber Comforter from Costco. It was soft and warm but didn’t make our testers too hot, despite its weight. The gel fiber is a bit heavier than down, but it’s even cheaper than our budget down comforter.
People spend up to a third of their lives sleeping, so you should request a few sets of bedsheets that are comfortable and durable. After more than 100 hours of research and testing, we think that L.L.Bean’s 280-Thread-Count Pima Cotton Percale Sheets can’t be beat. They combine the cool, crisp feel we often look for in sheets with superior sweat wicking, heat retention, and durability.
They’re comfortable and breathable, soft and cool against the skin, and they only get softer over time. In our tests, thanks to their superior extra-long staple cotton, L.L.Bean’s sheets lost the least amount of mass after washings and shrank the least. Durable stitching means these sheets should last a long time, but if they do shrink, tear, or unravel, L.L.Bean’s lifetime guarantee means you can exchange them at any time. We recommend asking for at least two sets per bed so that you can trade them out on laundry days.
If you prefer the smooth texture of sateen, we recommend the Royal Velvet 400tc WrinkleGuard Sheet Set. In our tests for shrinking and durability, these 400-thread-count sheets outperformed all the other sateen sheets, including three new competitors we brought in for our most recent round of testing. Unlike L.L.Bean’s sheets, these even come in California King size. Many sateen sheets snag easily because of their weave, but the Royal Velvet sheets exhibited no wear over the course of two rounds of testing.
A good towel is the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have. It’s also a luxury any newlywed couple would be happy to add to their daily routine. We think Pottery Barn’s Hydrocotton Bath Towels are a worthwhile investment. In addition to being thick, soft, and fluffy, these Turkish cotton towels can absorb five times their weight in water. In our tests they also dried as quickly as thinner, lighter towels we tried thanks to zero-twist cotton terry, which features loops that are flat and relaxed instead of tightly twisted as in many towels.
If you plan on doing any traveling, or if you frequent the beach or pool, we recommend the quick-drying Turkish Towel Company Peshtemal Towels. These towels aren’t meant to be plush like the Pottery Barn ones above, but they absorb water quickly and dry out more easily than other towels we tried. Their biggest plus is that they’re very light and compact, so they’re easy to tuck into a beach tote or suitcase.
Electric toothbrushes can’t do anything for your teeth that a regular toothbrush can’t. But what they can do is help to automate your habits and smooth the process of brushing your mouth evenly for the full two minutes necessary to maintain a healthy mouth. After 100 hours of research, we found that the best electric toothbrush is the Oral-B Pro 1000. This brush has a built-in two-minute timer and gives you access to a wide range of brush heads, so you can find one that you like best.
Around the house
Most households need only one vacuum, but we have a handful of picks that address different sizes and types of homes. After putting in 280 hours of research over three years, we’ve found that the best all-around upright vacuum for the average home is the Miele Dynamic U1 Twist. The U1 Twist has excellent filtration, and because it’s a bagged vacuum, upkeep is easy. This vacuum also has side-suction ports, so it can work right into the very corners of your house. Even when we deliberately fed it clogs and tangles, it didn’t take special tools to clean.
Although the U1 Twist is highly maneuverable, it’s bulky and potentially hard to carry up and down stairs. If you have a smaller home and need a model that’s a little easier to store, consider the Miele Compact C2 Onyx. This canister vacuum is easier to store and even easier to maneuver than the U1 Twist, and it’s adept at cleaning both bare floors and carpets.
If you’re going to have a big home, our vacuum pick is the Miele Complete C3 Kona. This big canister vacuum has a large bag and a separate head for thick carpets. A HEPA filter comes standard in the C3 Kona, and the vacuum has foot-tappable suction controls.
Miele vacuums have stellar reputations for longevity. They are built to last 20 years, according to the company, and they have seven-year warranties. Brian Driscoll, a vacuum service technician and shop manager known as the Vacuum King of Reddit, told us it’s not uncommon to see 30-year-old Mieles still up and running. If you’re looking for a vacuum that will withstand the challenge of keeping your house clean through a couple of decades, these models are your best options.
You might never think to put a smart thermostat on a registry, but it can be a fun and useful tool for making any home comfortable. After a month of passively testing the top three thermostats and actively testing for 12 hours, we can say that the third-generation Nest Learning Thermostat is our favorite model. The Nest programs itself and learns about you and the thermodynamics of your space, so it knows what temperature your home should be at all times and how long it will take to adjust to warmer or cooler settings during the day or night. If you’d rather set a manual temperature program, the software makes that easy, too. For a pick that works for larger homes, read our full guide.
You’ll use the trash can in your home multiple times every day, so you should ask for the best. After more than 30 hours of research and tests of a dozen finalists, we recommend the 10-gallon (38-liter) simplehuman Rectangular Step Trash Can. It has the best balance of size, shape, features, and durability that we’ve found. It also offers some useful features that the competition lacks, namely a sturdy step, an easily removed liner, and a stay-open switch.
This can, like all simplehuman cans, has a foot pedal that the company designed to withstand 150,000 steps, or 20 steps a day for 20 years. The can opens and closes smoothly and quietly, stays open at the peak, and closes slowly enough for most trash-dropping needs. What’s more, you can keep the lid open with the flick of a switch underneath. This easy-to-clean can also holds smells very well and works with a standard kitchen trash bag.
Whether you’re in a small apartment or a big home, occasionally you’ll need tools to assemble flat-pack furniture or to fix household items, and a $6 IKEA kit won’t cut it. If you’re not ready to start building out a full toolbox, start with a good drill—our top 18-volt pick is the Bosch DDS181-02. Compact and lightweight, this model placed at or near the top in drilling tests among the 10 models we tested.
Fun and games
For newlyweds who are planning to travel, we’ve found no better carry-on roller bag than the Travelpro Platinum Magna 2 22″ Expandable Rollaboard Suiter, even after testing 31 bags over the past three years. The Travelpro lets you pack five days’ worth of clothes into the maximum-allowed carry-on dimensions (without resorting to the expansion zipper, which provides an additional 2 inches of depth) and offers many of the premium build-quality touches you’d expect from a $500 suitcase for about half that price. Plus, its lifetime warranty covers airline damage, which is a rarity at any price.
Though the Platinum Magna 2 is similar to the original Magna it replaces, it’s better balanced, with a sleeker, higher-end aesthetic. It weighs 8.4 pounds empty, a light-to-average weight among carry-ons. The tie-down straps inside the bag are made of two broad nets that you can cinch down; they do a great job of compressing clothes without wrinkling, a problem we encountered in some of the other bags we tested.
The Platinum Magna 2 is also available in a four-wheeled spinner configuration if you value upright handling over better wheel durability.
Cash as a gift to a new couple is the standard in many cultures, and in our modern times, many couples find that it’s the optimal way to get their footing. Although such gifts are easy enough to do via check or literal cash, a number of online services now promise to make things a little easier, or more visible, if the couple or the gift givers would like that. Some online registries also allow gift givers and couples to peg their cash gifts to goods or experiences such as a honeymoon or a big-ticket item that would be too much for one gift giver to purchase.
Of the registry systems out there, the best one we’ve found after doing seven hours of research and creating many registry accounts is Zola. It does not require a PayPal account, as most do, and it allows you to pay with a credit or debit card instead. Zola does deduct a fee from the transaction, but whereas some services, such as Simple Registry, have fees as high as 5 percent, Zola’s fee is 2.65 percent with no additional expenses. Gift givers can choose to absorb this fee in their gift amount during the transaction.
Zola has a robust interface for setting up group gifts like expensive items or trips. The site uses a bookmarklet that allows users to pull items into their Zola registry from any site with a few clicks; however, they must choose at the time of the transaction whether they want to allow a single buyer to purchase the item directly or to post it as a group gift (meaning the couple will receive the cost of the gift in cash and will have to buy the item themselves later).
The only thing Zola lacks is the ability to pull in existing registries, so if you run across it after you’ve already combed the catalogs of other stores, you will either have to painstakingly reassemble everything on Zola or keep your registries balkanized and use Zola only for group purchases, cash, or experiences.
If you want to centralize multiple registries, MyRegistry.com allows couples to create regular registries as well as to import their existing registries. The downside of MyRegistry.com is that it has a low transaction fee but hits each guest with an additional handling fee of at least $3.95 for cash gifts, a fact the company keeps separated from the discussion of transaction fees. Because of this extra charge, we don’t recommend using MyRegistry.com as a cash registry specifically.
(And one last note: If the couple simply wants cash and doesn’t feel the need to paint a picture for guests about how the money will be spent, it is increasingly common to use PayPal directly.)
Everyone loves their personal gadgets and home entertainment systems, but there’s still no substitute for activities that involve only people and no screens. A great board game draws out people’s personalities and preferences, helps new acquaintances get closer, and lets old friends learn even more about one another. We polled our readers and married couples to gather info on the games they return to again and again, and we trawled BoardGameGeek and Amazon for recommendations of great party games.
Dixit is a deceptively simple party game that draws all of its complexity from knowing your opponents. It’s a card-based game similar to Apples to Apples or Cards Against Humanity, but if you don’t like those games, don’t skip this one just yet—Dixit’s concept compensates for a lot of those games’ weaknesses.
The beauty of the game comes out in learning who is literal, who is ironic, who goes for the joke, who notices the smallest details, or who summarizes the broad strokes. Few games rely so much on trying to play the people around you while balancing the unknowns of interpreting art. Dixit is extremely easy to learn, even for children, and it helps you get to know new people and learn more about old friends. Because of the vast number of combinations of cards and people, the game has infinite replay value, but the company also sells several themed expansion packs.
Ticket to Ride is the closest thing we have to a modern-day replacement for the dusty Monopoly box in the closet. Unlike Monopoly, Ticket to Ride is not one of the worst board games ever invented. Everybody stays engaged in a fast-moving, beautifully illustrated, easy-to-learn game that deftly blends strategy and luck. Crucial for entertaining guests is the fact that someone can learn it in 10 minutes, and it takes less than an hour to complete.
Also available are alternative versions with maps of Europe and the Nordic countries in particular (as well as many more maps that require the original game), with slightly more complex rules and options. Any version gives you a great excuse to gather your family and friends and learn how they think.
If you’re looking for something a little less strategic and you want to bring out the competitive edge among your loved ones and friends, I’m the Boss is all about negotiation. In each round of this game, players get a structured deal with a certain amount of money and number of players involved. They then barter with one another based on their positions and their relative power to get the biggest cut they can. As with our capitalist economy, you have few rules in I’m the Boss, and you are mostly limited by your own assertiveness and ambition. What better venue for everyone to test one another and explore their own ability to lean in?
Most outdoor games are just throwing things at other things—cornhole, ladderball—but we decided to go for some activities that involve a bit of strategy.
Most people are familiar with bocce, a game that involves tossing balls underhand at a target ball, scoring each round by however many of one team’s balls are closer to the target than the nearest opposing team’s ball. The similar game petanque still involves throwing balls at a target ball, but players must keep their feet on the ground inside a small circle and can throw the balls however they like (underhand or overhand), and the scoring is a little simpler.
Petanque and bocce sets are similar too, so you can play either game with the same set. The size of the balls can vary in diameter from around 70 millimeters up to 115 millimeters, but the international standard size is a 107-millimeter, 920-gram ball. The Italian-made Perfetta Club Pro Bocce Ball Set is regulation weight and size, with four balls each in green and red, a white target ball, and a small carrying case. The balls have a solid composition, unlike balls in other sets that are made with discarded resin and can chip or roll unevenly. The set also carries a 10-year warranty from the retailer, so if a ball does chip or crack, you can exchange it for a new one for the cost of shipping.
Kubb (pronounced “coob”) is your standard outdoor game of throwing things at other things, but it requires a little more strategy and finesse. It’s portable and easy to set up on any terrain—sand, snow, grass, dirt, pavement—as long as you have enough space. You need at least two people, but you can bring in as many people as you like, and because the game requires some dexterity but not necessarily athleticism, people of varying ability can play. Though there’s no historical basis for the claim, people say that Vikings played this Swedish game, and it is commonly known as “Viking chess.” Here’s a simple breakdown of the rules, and here’s a match played at the 2013 US Kubb National Championship (they warm up for a while, but it starts just shy of the three-minute mark).
The Viking Kubb Game Official Tournament Set is championship-regulation size and made of poplar; it also comes with a travel bag to pack the pieces together. The retailer does not offer a warranty, but the set is just several pieces of wood; used as intended, they should last a lifetime.
Originally published: March 9, 2016