7 out-of-the-box wedding gift ideas that are way better than Tupperware

8/20/2011 Wendy and Glen Swearengin take the plunge on the Intimidator at Carowinds Saturday morning. Glen proposed to Wendy on the coaster last year and the couple decided to tie the knot on the ride's platform. Todd Sumlin - tsumlin@charlotteobserver.com

It’s wedding season, and if you’re sick of getting your friends boring gifts off their registry, you’re going to need some fresh ideas. One of the main reasons: Couples are getting married later, which means they often have all the household basics they need. According to U.S. Census data, in 1960, the median age for a first marriage was around 21 years old. In 2010, the median age was 27.

So, what do you get them? Here are seven experiential gifts that will be more fun and more memorable for your just-married friends than if you bought them a fine-china place setting.

(1) Annual pass or day pass to the U.S. National Whitewater Center.

Cost: $199 per person (annual) or $59 (day)

A season pass to the U.S. National Whitewater Center would ensure adventure with unlimited rafting, kayaking, ropes courses, trail rides and ziplining, as well as access to other special events. If you know the couple is hard-core about the outdoors, go in together with friends and opt for the annual pass. The center also offers $59 day passes, which give the holder access to all of the same activities. This is a great option for a couple with a busier schedule.

(2) Cooking classes.

Cost: $50 to $150

Chef Alyssa Gorelick

To go with all the more traditional gifts they’re sure to receive and the kitchen appliances they already have, cooking classes are the perfect gift for newlyweds. Not only does a class make for a great date, but it’s also practical and will give them fond memories when they cook that same meal in the future.

At Chef Alyssa’s Kitchen in Charlotte, classes (offered at five different skill levels) range from $50 to $70 per person. Upcoming classes include: Korean cooking, light summer desserts and Tex Mex.

At Whole Foods’ Salud! Cooking School — where classes range from knife skills to summer party bites — prices are $45 to $65 per person and $125 per couple.

Another option: the Cocoa Lab at The Ritz-Carlton. For $150 per person, students learn how to make exquisite desserts and leave with a recipe collection and apron. If you don’t know the couple’s schedule, opt for a gift certificate, so they can choose what class they want to take.

(3) Season pass to Carowinds.

Cost: $108 per person

Carowinds Afterburn roller coaster.

What better to gift a thrill-seeking couple than a season pass to the Carolinas’ largest amusement park? Gold season passes give you unlimited visits to Carowinds, Scarowinds, and Winterfest, as well as free parking. Bonus: Carowinds just added four new rides. You might even want to grab some passes for yourself.

(4) Membership to the NC Zoo Society.

Cost: $79 per couple

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This is the perfect gift for the couple that loves animals. When you purchase the $79 companion membership, the couple gets unlimited access to all of North Carolina’s zoos and aquariums for a year. They’ll receive their membership ID in the mail, as well as other benefits like free or reduced admission to other zoos and aquariums across the country and a subscription to Alive magazine. This Zoo Society magazine is published quarterly and includes exclusive information about special programs and events for members only.

(5) Mint Museum annual membership.

Cost: $80 per couple


For an art-loving couple, a dual membership to the Mint Museum is the perfect gift. They’ll get free admission at both locations (Uptown and Randolph) for one year. They will also get access to special events and exhibitions, discounts at the museum shops, and a subscription to INSPIRED magazine. This gift is especially cool because the buyer gets something in return. If you purchase the membership online, select the box next to “This membership is a gift,” and the museum will donate another membership to a family in need. You’ll also receive automatic entry into a drawing to win a gift from the Mint Museum Shop.

(6) Wine & Design class.

Cost: $35 to $55 per person

Who doesn’t want to channel their inner Picasso while sipping on their favorite vintage? At Wine & Design, a different painting class is offered nearly every day, and all the necessary supplies (except wine and beer) are provided. The instructors give you step-by-step guidance on how to recreate their masterpiece. The best option is to get the couple a gift certificate so they can decide which painting they’d like to do together. You could even give the couple a favorite bottle of wine to bring.

(7) Sponsor a child in the couple’s name.

Cost: $39 per month

Many couples are opting to have wedding guests donate to charities in lieu of receiving lavish gifts. One way to give back is to sponsor a child in the couple’s name through World Vision, a global humanitarian organization. For $39 a month, a child can have access to clean water, food, education, and a better life. The best part? Sponsors get to communicate with the children through letters. The couple will receive their first letter within six to 12 weeks of signing up. There’s even an app, myWorldVision, where sponsors can see what’s going on in their child’s community, view photos, and stay up to date on their child’s life.

Feature photo: Charlotte Observer 2015 file photo, Todd Sumlin
All other photos: Charlotte Five file photo


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