Thoughtful Wedding Gift Guide on a Budget
In honor of my wedding anniversary yesterday and the two weddings I have coming up later this month I thought I would share some wedding gift ideas that won’t break the bank.
As a 20-something many of my weekends consist of weddings and/or wedding related activities. (sidenote: I’m not even really sure when “wedding season” actually is because we have been to weddings all year round but mostly in the range between April and October, which is half of the year and spans three actual seasons.) In the past four years, my husband and I have attended 30+ weddings and we still have two more this year, one of which I am in the bridal party. We have three or four on the calendar for next spring already. We are pretty much wedding professionals at this point (like the guys from Wedding Crashers except actually invited). Our time spent getting ready has been cut in half and we always have coordinating outfits. While we are very happy to spend these special days with our friends and family, we can’t afford to drop tons of money on every wedding gift while we are digging our way out of debt.
After a quick google search it seems the average cost to attend a wedding is $703. That adds up to a whopping $24,605 that we would have spent over the last few years and the next upcoming 9 months. Of course this does not account for the 7 weddings we have been in (add an extra $40 for each) or the one we paid an average yet completely unreasonable amount ($25,000ish) for when we got married.
That is so much money! I could have paid my student loans in full within the first year of attending weddings with the average amount spent alone and used the remainder for a down payment on a house and avoided paying any PMI. Luckily, we tend to save money where we can so we haven’t spent anything close to this to actually attend any weddings. Not that our friends and family are not worth it, because they are great. But because no panini press or set of fancy towels that sit in a cabinet collecting dust is worth prolonging our indebtedness. So how do you give someone a gift to show your well wishes without the fear of looking cheap or delaying your progress to your financial goals?
Here’s a list to get you started. Be creative with this list and consider your friends’/family’s taste and interests when making your selection. It truly is the thought that counts when you give a meaningful gift regardless of cost.
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1. A spa visit in the comfort of their own home
A friend of mine that got married shortly before we did loves to go to the spa. We gave her a basket of tea light candles and a decorative candle holder and some bubble bath and bath beads. Given the candle holder we bought was on clearance, this gift cost us only about $20 but will be a nice opportunity for them to continue the romance after the honeymoon ends.
2. A handmade blanket
This has been our go-to gift for about half of the weddings we have attended. My mother-in-law loves to crochet, and most of the time when we have given a blanket as a gift, we didn’t even ask her for one. She would hear, either from us or another friend, that we had a wedding coming up and the next time we saw her she handed us a beautiful blanket. The cost for us was free but you can get the yarn pretty cheap and watch Youtube videos if you don’t know how to crochet.
3. Utensils/ kitchen gadgets
If the couple has not been living on their own, they likely will need all the random stuff for their kitchen that you don’t think of until you go to use it. Some examples being a potato peeler, ice cream scoop, tablespoons, melon baller. These items could be arranged in a utensil holder and tied with a bow to almost look like a floral arrangement. You can keep this within the budget by buying as many utensils as are affordable for you.
4. A bottle of wine or champagne
Accompany the booze with a classy and heartfelt note about sharing this bottle on a future anniversary. Protip: Check Ibotta for rebates on wine.
5. Romantic Dinner in a Basket
Combine some non-perishables in a basket with a pair of candles & candlesticks. Think boxed pasta and pasta sauce or canned soup.
6. Movie night in a basket
We actually got this for Christmas one year, super cute idea and can be done very inexpensively. You can get fancy with this popcorn style basket with candy and some popcorn and include a DVD or two to the tastes of the couple.
7. Picture frames/ photos
I have this really bad habit of collecting picture frames and never putting a picture in it. I have a very diverse group of people on display at my house. Buy a picture frame and order a print of a picture of the happy couple (stolen from social media or put their wedding invitation in it and they can choose to include a picture or not).
Scrapbooking in general can get pretty expensive, but if you watch the sales you can usually get a decent book for a reasonable price. Just be careful when you go to buy the “extras,” they add up fast.
9. Custom mugs
With a blank mug and some paint (and maybe a stencil, if you are like me), you can create anything you want on the side. We recently bought mugs that say “Mr. Right” and “Mrs. Always Right.” I bet you can’t guess whose idea that purchase was.
10. Desserts in a basket
Again with the baskets! This one would also be cute in a mixing bowl. Hit the baking aisle at the grocery store and throw in some cake mix and brownie mix and a wooden spoon or two. Insert a cheesy note to the bride and groom about how “sweet” they are together.
11. Love map
Either with one big map or small pieces of a map in a collage, mark the locations with special meaning to the couple. Some favorites to include where they met, where he proposed, where they live, and where they are getting married.
You can go buy a regular generic cookbook, or you could get a blank cookbook and pass on your family’s recipes. We actually both got these for “house warming” presents from our moms when we moved out shortly before we met each other. It saves a lot of time from looking up a recipe online or on Pinterest each time before you go grocery shopping.
13. Custom pillow
Pillows are super easy to sew. I made my first one a few months ago. you can go buy any kind of fabric and even personalize it.
14. Christmas ornament
It is unlikely that a wedding will fall during the holiday season, so you may be able to get Christmas decor at a reduced price. Personalized or a generic “first Christmas together” ornament will be something they can treasure for years to come.
15. Selfie Stick
We have maybe 3 pictures of the two of us together on our honeymoon and none from our reception other than first dance, cake cutting and speeches. It would be nice for the couple to be able to get some pictures with the two of them together and not from such an up close angle like a regular selfie. Bonus points for giving this gift prior to the reception.
16. Address Labels
The newly married couple will have tons of thank-yous to be sending in the next few weeks so why not help them out with some address labels with the bride’s new last name. Throw in a book of stamps if you really want to make their lives easier.
17. Your services
If your budget is really tight but you have an abundance of time, offer your help. There is plenty to do before a wedding and with juggling families and friends it can be overwhelming. Offer to help with any DIY like centerpieces or other decor. Offer to help set up at the venue or tear down after the reception. If you are skilled with a camera or video/DJ equipment, you can offer help with these as well but don’t take it personally if the bride and groom would rather hire someone. If none of these ways to help are your cup of tea, the bride and groom may need a house/dog/baby sitter for while they are on their honeymoon.
18. Group gift
If the couple has expensive tastes or has everything they could possibly want, you could always ask a few mutual friends to go in together on a more expensive registry item. Or go off-registry and pay for spa credits for them to use on their honeymoon.
19. Cash/ gift cards
Although it does seem impersonal, trust me, they will not be disappointed with this gift. They just spent tons of money on a big celebration and even more to go on a romantic vacation. This is my go-to last minute gift, specifically a gift card to the store where the couple is registered. Most stores offer a registry completion discount after the event so your money goes even further. Cash can be helpful because they will probably open the cards before they leave for their honeymoon, giving them some extra spending money. There is no “standard” amount to be given, I typically give $50 to friends or $100 to very close friends/ family. Given that most gifts on this list are cheaper, there is a reason this is last on the list. There are websites where you can purchases gift cards at a discounted rate- restaurants.com, groupon.com & giftcardgranny.com.
While there is no “official” amount that is required for a wedding gift, it may be considered tacky to show up empty handed. You don’t have to spend hundreds every time you get an invite, but at least let them know that you are happy for them and show them with a meaningful gift.
What other inexpensive wedding gift have you given or received? Would you rather have cash/ gift cards?