I have been a bridesmaid in six (count 'em, six) weddings. Even though I have put every dress I've ever had to buy on consignment, gone in with other bridesmaids on shared hotel rooms, taken full advantage of free breakfasts (and happy hours), and cashed in rewards travel whenever possible to get there and back, we're still talking hundreds of dollars in cash that I've spent over the years just to attend friends' weddings. And that doesn't count the gifts I've bought.
Thankfully, I'm finally in an age range when most of the folks I know have wed. Whew. But just today, another wedding invitation arrived…complete with detailed registry information. So I decided to research some creative options to celebrate my friends’ special day without burrowing into my savings to do it. I hope the ideas I've uncovered might be helpful to you too!
1. Give your time
If you have talents in wedding-centric areas, consider volunteering your service as your gift. You could arrange flowers, take photos, plan the bachelorette party agenda or even plan the wedding itself (one of my friends did this–she planned another friend's entire wedding and didn't charge the bride and groom a dime). Giving your time is personal, meaningful and (except for your time, of course) free.
2. Go in with a friend
I have gone in with friends for several wedding gifts, sharing the costs to buy more gift than any of us could afford on our own. This is a great strategy to buy something big from the bride's registry that she really wants or needs, but that is too pricey for one individual to offer.
3. Make something lovely
While I’m not personally a "crafty" person, I have several friends who are. At the last wedding shower I attended, the maid of honor had scrapbooked together a beautiful recipe book full of traditional "family recipes" donated by the bride's mother. There wasn't a dry eye in the house—and all it cost the maid of honor was a binder and some materials "borrowed" from her five-year-old's craft box.
4. Give cash or a gift card
A newly married couple always appreciates gifts of cash and gift cards. The truth is, there will always be items on the registry that are really needed but not purchased. Also, cash and/or gift cards can help defray honeymoon costs. Finally, giving cash or a gift card is an easy way to give only what you can truly afford, while still giving a gift you absolutely know will be appreciated and used.
5. Think "personalized"
A personalized gift doesn't have to be pricey, but will certainly appear to be. Thanks to the global e-marketplace, online vendors compete with one another (as well as their brick-and-mortar counterparts) to offer products at increasingly low prices. Whether you opt for a monogrammed towel set or a photo pillow featuring the bride and groom, your gift is sure to be used and treasured—but it won't cost you a bundle to give.
6. Check into "experiential gifts"
Websites like Living Social and Groupon use the power of aggregate shopping to discount great experiences for their customers. You can get fabulous discounts on everything from couples massages to hot air balloon rides.
It may not be ideal, but if you’re close to the bride and/or groom, and your budget won't allow for a gift purchase (and you are out of other ideas), consider re-gifting something that was given to you. As an alternative, if you have something that is particularly meaningful or precious to you, offering that item along with a handwritten note explaining its significance will trump a pricey store-bought new gift any day!
8. Buy two or three small gifts instead of one big gift
Here’s where the wedding registry can really come in handy. By selecting two or three smaller gifts, you can show that you poured effort and thought into your selection, and also camouflage the fact that you didn't spend a bundle. (The bride and groom will likely not have memorized the registry pricing, so you’ll be safe here!)
9. Start shopping early
If you happen to know a wedding is on the horizon, and you already have an idea of what the new couple might like, start shopping early for it. Chances are, if you keep your eyes peeled, you’ll stumble across a good deal, a coupon, or even a way to use a gift card or loyalty points to nab the item for much less than you'd pay by shopping at the last minute.
My mom keeps a closet full of great "generic" gifts at home. Whenever she gets an invitation to a birthday, wedding, baby shower, or other special event, she just wanders into her own closet to "shop" for the perfect gift. Best of all, all the gifts she has stored up were gifts she got at a huge discount! (Note: Here’s where being a dedicated KCL can really come in handy!)