Everyone has a different notion of what makes a wedding present a winner. Some givers go for the Big Statement that a lead-cut crystal vase, er, vahz makes. Others go for the sentimentality of something old. Then there are the practical gifts--towels, television sets, nonstick woks. Of course, budget and taste are the two wild cards when it comes to the moment of truth.
Here is how some people rank their most prized gifts.
At the Peninsula Hotel in Beverly Hills, through the doors of which many newlyweds pass, general manager Ali Kasikci quickly catalogs the mountain of gifts he and his wife received 10 years ago. Kasikci and wife Donanne consider the best gift of all to be the beautiful wedding they gave themselves.
"It was at the Four Seasons Hotel in Newport Beach where I was working," Kasikci recalls. "We had 98 guests.
"As for tangible gifts, what stood out were the many, many silver picture frames. They've always meant a lot to us. A frame has lasting power. You put a picture in it, and it brings memories alive. When somebody gives us a frame, we try to put a picture we had taken together with them in it."
When she married for the fourth time, Valerie Sarnelle, makeup artist and owner of Valerie of Beverly Hills, and husband Robert registered for 12 place settings of Wallace's Grande Baroque sterling silverware, the same pattern her mother had. "Everyone knew I wanted it," Sarnelle says 14 years later. "It's always been my favorite. It's timeless."
A loyal client and friend surprised her with the entire set.
"She's a very wonderful person, this lady," Sarnelle says. "She was one of the first people I made up. She drove a Rolls-Royce and would come in and throw her sable over the chair. I had no money, and she knew I loved beautiful things. I was just amazed."
On the Lookout for a 'Forever' Present
Cece Karz, who celebrated her first anniversary in April, also includes sterling silver as her No. 1 gift: a clean, modern tea set with mahogany handles by Cazenovia.
"It was at the top end of what I registered for. It's extraordinary looking. But I didn't think I'd get it," says Karz, who is executive director of national publicity at Paramount. Her husband, Mike, is a film and television producer.
In this case, the giver imparted the present with extra meaning.
"My parents gave it to us. They have an antique tea set in their house that I admired all my life. When I got mine, I thought of my children looking at it forever."
Precious metals held no sway over Jane Summer. Last year Summer, who owns a public relations firm, was married for the first time to Bruce Colen, a restaurant writer who had been widowed after 36 years of marriage. As Summer puts it, "At this point, we're adults. I'm 45-plus. Bruce is 70-plus. So there's not much we needed."
That made a matching set of monogrammed white terry cloth robes her favorite gift. The robe is the only thing she owns with her new initials--JSC.
"I loved having my brand-new last initial sewn onto the robe," she says.
Twelve years ago, when jewelry designer Cynthia Bach married fellow jewelry designer Jim Matthews, now her business partner, his wedding-day homage to her is the most memorable for both bride and groom.
"When we finished our ceremony, there was a table lined with 10 gifts," Bach says. For health, there was a bag of brown rice. For wealth, a gold Krugerrand. For happiness, an antique tin clown penny bank. For love, a book of poetry by Harrison Fisher. For art, a book on Claude Monet. For life, a Chinese jardiniere. For beauty, an antique silver repousse mirror. For wisdom, Dante's "The Inferno."
For devotion, Matthews gave his bride a white dove (because doves mate for life).
"For the little girl in me," says Bach, her groom gave her a teddy bear--with one-carat diamond stud earrings for eyes. "To me, jewelry is the ultimate," Bach says.
'I Was so Moved, It Gave Me the Chills'
Film producer Judith Wolinsky says that when she married management consultant Lanny Ziering her favorite gift was the one from her mother--a white damask tablecloth and napkins that were part of her grandmother's wedding trousseau.
"I was so moved, it gave me the chills," Wolinsky says. "My grandparents were married in Dresden in 1913. Each napkin has the initials 'JS,' for my grandmother's maiden name, Johanna Schenker, embroidered on it. I had seen it a few times when I was growing up, but I never understood the true value of it."
For many people, usefulness is the most prized quality. People magazine columnist Mitchell Fink says that, after 15 years of marriage, wife Lois' favorite gift continues to be a state-of-the-art toolbox containing "every kind of tool known to man." "I never use any of them," Fink says. "Just the thought of it and I run away. But my wife was overjoyed because she's the handy one." (Her second-favorite gift? A Cuisinart, says Fink.)
Cindy Gironda, who was married in November, says her husband's family introduced her to the Italian custom of giving cash.
"I was totally new to this," says Gironda, activities director and special events coordinator at Sports Club/LA, where husband Dominic is a hairstylist.
"I come from a long line of people who give china, crystal and things that you never use," Gironda says.
"So at the wedding when people asked me where the money bowl was, I didn't know what they were talking about. We went and got a silver bowl, and all these guests from his side started putting envelopes inside."