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8 Unique & Creative Wedding Gift Ideas on a Cheap Budget

By Heather Levin

wedding gift goldWithout a doubt, weddings can be expensive. I’m not talking about throwing a wedding, which can cost a small fortune in and of itself. I’m talking about attending a wedding. You need something nice to wear, there’s the flight and/or car expense, you often have to stay in a hotel, and you absolutely must bring a gift. If you’re on a budget, all of this can derail it very quickly!

However, despite the costs, you likely want to see your friends tie the knot and start a future with someone they love. Plus, you probably want to commemorate the occasion with a special gift. But how do you find a gift that’s unique, valuable, and frugal at the same time? Here are a few creative ideas you can use.

Unique Wedding Gift Ideas on a Budget

1. Framed Pictures

Framed pictures make wonderful gifts because they’re extremely frugal and very personal. With a digital camera, you can print high-quality pictures at most major drugstores and stores like Costco if you don’t have a good photo printer. Prints are usually 10 cents or less. Make sure you search coupons before you go since most drugstores, like Walgreens, put out weekly coupons for their photo department.

You can also score great vintage frames by hitting up flea markets and second-hand thrift stores. Pick up several to gift an “instant collection” of photos.

2. Experiences

Giving an experience is often a wonderful gift because it’s likely something the recipient will never forget. What could you give?

  • Restaurant gift certificates
  • Yearly (or daily) memberships or tickets to an art museum, zoo, science center, theme park, or historical society
  • Gym memberships
  • National or state park passes for the year
  • Tickets to a local wine tasting or vineyard
  • Hot air balloon rides
  • Massage packages
  • Netflix subscriptions
  • Kayaking/whitewater rafting/tubing adventures
  • Archery classes at your local rec center

As you can see, you’re only limited by your imagination. Now, a word of warning: Sometimes, giving an experience can be expensive. For example, the massages and hot air balloon rides are often pricey. For this reason, it pays to keep an eye on daily deals websites like Groupon and LivingSocial. You can find amazing deals that can significantly offset the cost of your gift.

Alternatively, you can give your newlyweds an experience you create yourself. This is a much more frugal option, and it does require work on your part. But this type of experience is often the most memorable. What could you do?

  • Cook and pack a gourmet picnic for an afternoon excursion.
  • Cook a gourmet dinner.
  • Cook a gourmet dessert (like cheesecake or cupcakes) and bring them over one night.
  • Offer to clean their house or apartment from top to bottom. This is a great gift to give right before they return from their honeymoon. That way, they can come home to a sparkling clean house!
  • Offer to watch their kids or pets (for free, of course), so they can have a night out alone or even a vacation to themselves.
woman purple gift

3. Handmade/DIY Gifts

Are your friends taking a honeymoon road trip? Why not make them some mix CDs full of music perfect for road trips? Are they buying a new house? Why not make them coffee bag planters for their front porch plants? Stretch your imagination; there are tons of creative gift ideas you can easily make yourself!

4. Books

Books make a wonderful, frugal wedding gift. Not only are they inexpensive, but they can even change lives. Think about what the new couple is interested in. What hobbies do they enjoy?

Or consider books that will help them survive and thrive in their new lives. For instance, there are several personal finance books that aim to help couples specifically. Smart Couples Finish Rich by David Bach is a good one as is Your Money or Your Life by Vicki Robin. Cookbooks can also make a great gift, especially if you have a favorite or one of the newlyweds is an avid cook.

5. Gift Baskets

Gift baskets are one of my favorites to give because I can pick out everything individually, and there’s nothing more delightful than getting a basket full of themed goodies to pick through. For instance, you could create a “movie night” basket. Throw in some gourmet popcorn, a DVD, some champagne, and dark chocolates, and you’re good to go! Or create a “green” themed gift basket full of eco-friendly household cleaners, biodegradable sponges, and microfiber towels to help the new couple safely clean with the environment in mind.

I love giving “100% local” gift baskets as well. I hit my farmer’s market and pick up gourmet handmade soaps, local honey, locally made barbecue sauces and spices, and a few handmade, crocheted dish towels. I usually don’t spend more than $35 and it’s a wonderful gift because you can’t find the items anywhere else. If you live near a farmer’s market or urban farm, this is a great option! You can also easily make gift baskets at home with cheap supplies.

6. Plants/Trees

The thought of gifting a plant or a tree for a wedding might seem a bit strange. However, when one of my friends got married, another friend gave her a small cherry tree. She planted it in the front yard of her new home and every spring that cherry tree blooms and spreads white petals all over the front yard. She says it makes her really happy because when she sees the tree, she remembers her wedding and friendships.

Giving a gift of plants or trees is a wonderful way to spread life and memories that will last years. Another idea is to put together an herb garden the new couple can grow themselves in their kitchen or on a sunny windowsill. This will give them fresh herbs all year long and help them save money too!

7. Scour Etsy

Etsy is a wonderful place for wedding gifts because everything is either handmade or vintage, and you can often find incredible gifts on a budget. For instance, you could gift hand-printed, artistic dish towels, wall art or photography, or a vintage quilt. You really have unlimited options here, so if you’re scrambling for ideas, this is the place to look.

8. Antiques

If you’re an antiques or estate sale shopper, look for jewelry boxes, picture frames, decorative bowls, clocks, bookends, and other items. These cost a lot less money and have a lot more history than something bought brand new from Pottery Barn. Keep an eye out as soon as you get the invitation, so you have time to find the perfect gift.

Final Word

I’ve long since given up on “traditional” wedding gifts. Yes, most new couples need glassware, mixers, and casserole dishes, and they’ll likely put these items on their wedding gift registry. But not only are those gifts pricey, they’re also a bit boring. I’d much rather make a gift myself or put together something personal that will be appreciated and remembered!

What are some frugal and unique wedding gift ideas that you’ve used?

(photo credit: Shutterstock)

Heather Levin
Heather Levin is a freelance writer based in Detroit, MI. She's passionately committed to living green, saving money, and helping others do the same in their life.

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  • http://www.pffirewall.com Jesse

    The wedding pictures are an awesome idea. My wife is a photographer, but the weddings we have attended since she started doing photography professionally already had photographers hired so we took photos, and between the wedding and reception, touched them up, got them developed at a one hour photo and put them in some nice frames we picked up that same day. So we gave them fresh pictures from the very day, it was pretty cool to hear how surprised they were, especially since they didn’t get the pictures from the photographer they hired for a month.

    • Kira

      That is really awesome, and kind of sneaky too. :) Love it!

    • http://www.uniquegifter.com/ Anne @ Unique Gifter

      That is such a neat idea! Good for you! That definitely shows a high level of thought and care for the couple.

  • http://www.1minime.com/ Mark Fichara

    Thanks for the wonderful list of wedding gift and I do like to add one stuff in antiques which is personalized bobblehead statue. It is perfect and unique for a couple as their wedding gift.

  • http://www.clairestelle.com/ clair estelle

    some great wedding gift ideas there!

  • Emily

    There is a dollar store by my house and I love the idea of getting a regular basket from there and then go to the Farmer’s Market, which I frequent every weekend and getting a bunch of small items to add. A friend is getting married in another state and I think this would be really personal to send something that is “local” from where I live.


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